Drowning out the blood-curdling screams from the Catacombs below (read: the obscene amount of road construction going on outside my house), I mustered up the courage to take up arms (read: sit at my computer), and venture once more towards Hell.

Having fended off a plethora of unique hell-spawn in my last adventures, my first stop of the evening was Cain, and arguably my favourite character in Diablo 1’s lore. Was amazed to hear that his namesake was actually the result of a contest PC Gamer and Blizzard jointly held, where fans would send in postcards with their names on them, and one would be selected to be used in-game. Only a baby at the time, it was actually Deckard Cain Elder’s father who sent the postcard, and won his son a permanent place in gaming lore. Kudos to Blizzard for using it, and even bigger kudos to Deckard’s father for giving him such a badass name.

With my equipment identified, and my new load-out at the ready, I descended down, back to Level 6. Similar to my previous Catacomb endeavors, the difficulty ramped up again. Rhino’s….err…..Horned Demons were charging at me from all angles, Horror Captains kept parrying my blows, and those goatmen were popping up from every corner. The narrow tunnels had me trapped a few times, but luckily no deaths. This was in large part thanks to a new tip I received when watching Ryan’s stream. Holding down the [Shift] key would plant your hero in one place, making doorways particularly less dreadful. Standing one cell to the left or right saw me chipping away at enemies one at a time, while still avoiding the flaming arrows being shot my way. This was particularly critical when challenging Bloodgutter and his Fire Clan flunkies; and the neon-yellow Overlord, Bilefroth the Pitmaster.

Level 6 was also home to the Chamber of Bone quest. After reading a Mythical Book perched atop a pedestal, a spiral staircase was unveiled.

“Beyond the hall of heroes lies the Chamber of Bone. Eternal death awaits any who would seek to steal the treasures secured within this room. So speaks the Lord of Terror, and so it is written.”

Treasures you say? I’m in! (Though before ascending the stairwell, I highly recommend speaking with Farnham who has some wise words about this Chamber of…Wood).

The newly discovered map lead to dozens of monster closets, each one overflowing with Horror Captains and Archers. Aptly named, Blizzard. I tip my Skull Cap. After slicing through the skeletons (which was pretty easy overall), more horned demons followed. And finally an Ancient Tome guarded by the brutish but clumsy Ormlos the Impaler. Reading the scripts within earned me a (very useless) Guardian spell. That’s it? Well, at least my skeleton looting got me a purdy new Sash. I returned to Level 6, and then descended even further.

Like Level 6, Level 7 also had some ancient literature to unpack.

“I can see what you see not.
Vision milky, then eyes rot.
When you turn they will be gone,
Whispering their hidden song.
Then you see what cannot be,
Shadows move where light should be.
Out of darkness, out of mind,
Cast down into the Halls of the Blind.”

It was the Book of the Blind; which upon reading, unlocked, The Halls of the Blind. It’s here that I encountered the biggest and baddest forms of Hiddens – the Illusion Weavers. Defying my expectations that Level 7 would continue the trend of increased difficulty, they were no match for my incessant hacking and slashing. Though I’ve heard they’re quite the foe of the Sorcerer class. Regardless, I was awarded with the Optic Amulet. Good in its respects, it’s notable boost to Magic once again fell flat. The rest of Level 7 went smoothly. In fact, the only trouble I had was a chance run-in with the Black Abomination. With a full inventory of Full Health Potions (every single slot), I wasn’t able to make a dent on his health (yes; enemy Health Bars – another fine feature brought to us by Belzebub). I decided he wasn’t worth my time, and moseyed my way down to Level 8.

Goat Shrines and ATMs…err…libraries littered this deep dungeon. One such library was more interesting than the others though. A maddening mage ranted and raved as I approached. It was Zhar the Mad. I sensed a soul in search of answers, so giving heed, I took only the scrolls but left the bookcase alone, in respect to the lowly magician.

..Just kidding. I took the book, killed the mage, and sold it to Adria for some well-earned Gold. Though, I should note that the Pulp Fiction reference was a welcomed addition. Familiars flapped their wings, screeching as they dove in, and the Khazra were abundant around every turn. The Waypoint here was heavily used, as I retreated to Tristram, it seemed, after each room was cleared. And finally, once the level was emptied, I was left with 1 more “Arcane Tomb” to read. It led me to Horazon’s Sanctum. A bizarre starscape littered the background of platforms hovering in space. I took a few steps in – and I was dead. No enemies. Just dead. Was it timed? I tried again. Same thing. Took a few steps, and…dead. Too tired to attempt a third time, I returned to Tristram, living to fight another day, but curious about the witchery that cursed that room.

The difficulty is rising at a good pace, and is aligned with my level. Haven’t found things too hard. But certainly not a walk in the park. Impressed with the balance – and looking forward to seeing what the deeper dungeons have to offer. As always, hope everyone’s enjoying these reads – and hope to (continue) reading yours as well!