I was inspired to create this video guide by Farizle/br0wner's awesome "Very Hardcore" challenge run. After seeing it, I felt that it would be nice for the DS2 community to have a guide that was of comparable quality to that while also being under more "normal" conditions (mainly, with upgrades allowed). Hopefully, my guide will fulfill that role.
Note that the "No Ammo/Med Pack Purchases" part isn't really a condition, it's simply how I play normally. I just figured I would put that in the title so people will immediately know that they can expect a more efficient playstyle coming into it.
Anyways, here's a brief primer about Hard Core, quoted from the first segment's video description:
I'm sure everyone knows by now what Hard Core mode is all about; but, just in case, I'll go ahead and briefly discuss it:
Hard Core mode removes all checkpoints from the game, and only allows you to save a total of 3 times (none of the save stations are removed; when you activate a save station, you're shown how many saves you have left and are asked to confirm if you want to save there or not). If you die, you're sent back to your last save (or the beginning of the game, if you haven't saved yet). Xbox 360 players also get a free checkpoint at the disk swap until they turn their system off.
As far as difficulty is concerned; you get the same amount of ammo per drop as you would on Zealot, but the enemies are Survivalist-level (note that, much like Hard/Impossible mode in the first game, the only difference between Survivalist and Zealot enemies is the damage they dish out; enemies have the same level of durability on Survivalist and Zealot). While enemies don't hit quite as hard as they do on Zealot, you don't have the luxury of simply restarting from the last checkpoint if you do get hit, so there's less margin for error.
Also, you cannot start a New Game+ on Hard Core.
I could post a whole bunch of stuff here detailing strategy and such, but I think I'll just let the videos do most of the talking for me (note that I make frequent use of annotations within the videos if I feel something needs to be explained):
If you have any questions, feel free to comment on the video in question, or send me a message via Youtube:
Just for the heck of it, I figured I'd list some questions regarding Hard Core that I see asked a lot, and try to answer them as best as I can.
Q: What are the best places to save?
A: Honestly, this all depends on you--which parts you have the most difficulty with, which parts you feel comfortable going through without saving for a while, etc. There are no three "perfect" save spots for every player.
The main commonly-used/recommended save spots I've seen are:
- Chapter 5: pretty much anywhere, due to multiple instant-kill hazards/sequences
- Chapter 6: before the first encounter (the Lurker/Pregnant-filled room)
- Chapter 7: before the Tripod elevator sequence, or the dive sequence following the alignment of the solar arrays
- Chapter 8: before the processing section, which is filled with instant-kill hazards
- Chapter 9: before the large Stalker room, or before the Tripod nest
- Chapter 10: before the decontamination room
- Chapter 12: before the drill ride sequence
- Chapter 13: near the beginning of the Chapter, or before the "needle" sequence
In general, I tend to see most people making their first saves around Chapter 6 or 7, their 2nd save around 10-12, and their final save on 13.
I, personally, just divide it up evenly (5, 9, 13) for convenience's sake, but that might not work as well for you. In particular, I've practiced all the "trouble spots" enough that the main thing I have to worry about is just random screwups.
Q: What weapons should I use?
It's mainly about what you're comfortable/good with, but two guns I would highly recommend for anyone are the Ripper and the Detonator. Honestly, I'd say they're good enough and easy enough to pick up that they could even be considered "staple"-worthy.
With fully-upgraded Damage and Duration (which should be priority upgrades if you're planning on using it), the Ripper's primary is simply amazing against anything that doesn't explode in your face (and the secondary will handily take care of anything that does). It's highly efficient, being capable of easily tearing up 2-3 black necros with one blade. It's also a better panic weapon than the Force Gun in some ways, since it doesn't have the "dead zone" where it barely affects enemies if they get too close.
The Ripper is an excellent "main" weapon, better than the Plasma Cutter or the Pulse Rifle in many respects.
As for the Detonator; what's not to love about a grenade launcher whose rounds turn into sticky trip-mines when they hit a surface, taking out specific enemies before they can become a threat and preventing you from getting flanked/back-attacked?
A particularly nice thing about the Detonator is that you don't really even need to upgrade it. One round pretty much guarantees a kill against anything less resilient than a Puker. It can even kill enhanced enemies in one shot if you hit them just right (even enhanced Pukers, which I wouldn't think was possible if I hadn't seen it several times myself), but it's not particularly reliable in that regard. Again, all of this is without a single damage upgrade.
Another plus regarding the Detonator is that you can use the Capacity nodes for a maximum free refill at any time. With other guns, you have to gauge how many shots you're going to use between where you're at and the next Bench to get the most out of those Capacity upgrades. With the Detonator, you just unload your clip, deactivate+pick up your mines, and upgrade.
Other highly-regarded and frequently-recommended weapons are the Force Gun and the Contact Beam.
The Force Gun is simply a solid gun all-around. The primary fire can stun/knock over a bunch of enemies in front of you, kill groups of Pack/Crawlers/Swarmers in one shot, kill Exploders/Crawlers without detonating them, and easily hit switches during decompression. The secondary can kill even the enhanced versions of enemies like Slashers and Stalkers in one shot with good aiming.
However, a lot of people just spam the Force Gun's primary against everything that moves, which is highly inefficient against anything bigger than Pack/Crawlers/Swarmers. Against groups of non-tiny-fodder enemies, give them a shot or two of the primary if you need to get some breathing room, but switch to the secondary or another weapon to finish them off.
The Contact Beam is a good weapon to carry around even if you don't use it. Its ammo is the most valuable in the game per drop, so you can make a decent amount of credits just by selling the ammo.
That's not to say that it isn't a great weapon to use, however. The primary kills anything smaller than a Brute/Tripod in one shot. A single fully-upgraded secondary shot kills any non-enhanced enemy (and sometimes even them, too) in a huge radius around you, and leaves anything that survives in an extra-long Stasis effect.
The Contact Beam is particularly good for sections where you have to deal with multiple enemies in close quarters, such as the decontamination room in Chapter 10, the elevator in Chapter 11, and the first wave of the drill ride in Chapter 12. It's also very well-suited to Chapters 14-15 for Stasis-ing everything that moves so you can easily run away, as well as for the final boss.
Another gun I'd recommend if you're willing to practice with it a bit is the Line Gun. The main selling point of this gun is the secondary, which will wipe out any enemy weaker than a Brute in a huge radius without even needing upgrades (or, at the very least, just the 1 ALT upgrade on the way to the Duration upgrade), and even Brutes will go down with one mine once you have at least 4 ALT upgrades.
The primary isn't bad, either; with just 2 DMG upgrades, it can kill pretty much every non-enhanced enemy type (and even a couple of those types, too) in one shot if you sever all of their arms/limbs/tentacles/whatever at once, and can even hit/kill multiple enemies at once if they're clumped/lined up.
However, if you like the sound of the Line Gun but just can't get the hang of it, the Javelin Gun is actually pretty similar. While it's less ammo-efficient in general than the Line Gun, the Javelin Gun's secondary is more "on-demand", making it a bit easier to use.
Personally, I carry around the Line Gun, Ripper, Detonator, and Contact Beam, subbing out the Detonator/Contact Beam for the Force Gun for certain parts near the end. You can watch my video guide and judge for yourself just how effective it is. =)
Q: What do I upgrade?
A: In general, I recommend upgrading your Stasis and weapon Damage first, as that will help you kill enemies more efficiently/effectively/easily.
While it's not necessary, it's also not a horrible idea to get the first 2 HP upgrades early on, as that will help you survive grapple sequences and random Exploders getting too close. Save the last 2 HP upgrades for later, though, as it costs too many nodes to get to them during the early chapters.
As for which weapons to prioritize upgrades on, it depends on what your arsenal is. If you're keeping the Plasma Cutter, it doesn't desperately need upgrades until around Chapter 10 or so when enhanced necros become much more common.
Similarly, the Detonator doesn't really need Damage upgrades, as I mentioned before, so it can wait.
If you're just using the Contact Beam as a cash cow until the last few Chapters, then it, of course, does not really need upgrades, either.
Other than that, though, you probably want to upgrade a weapon's Damage, or ALT, or Special, or whatever is most useful on it ASAP. To help decide which weapons to prioritize, you might want to do some test runs with the weapons you plan to use to see which ones you use/need the most first, and prioritize upgrades based on that information.
Q: What DLC should I use?
Honestly, DLC is not necessary at all, and all suggestions I make are made with the assumption that you're not using any.
If you're desperate, though, I hear the Supernova pack is the best.
Also note that if you've downloaded and played through Severed, you'll have the Patrol Security Suit and Patrol Seeker Rifle unlocked, if that helps any.
Well, that's all I've got for now. I hope whoever sees this finds it informative and/or entertaining. =)