Diablo 4’s Hardcore Mode Race Is Already Destroying Bodies and Souls

Hardcore Diablo 4 players are racing to reach Level 100, and the early results are showing just how brutal this competition can be.

Diablo 4 Hardcore Race
Photo: Activision Blizzard

Diablo 4′s Hardcore Mode is a pretty simple concept. You create a Diablo 4 character (as usual), you level them up (as usual), and you try to get the best loot possible (as usual). The difference is that when you die in Hardcore Mode, your character is deleted from the server. It doesn’t matter how hard you tried or how far you got. One death and you lose everything. Mind you, death comes surprisingly easy in Diablo 4.

Hardcore mode has been a Diablo staple since Diablo 2. Some have long considered it the best (or even the only) way to play the game. Realistically, though, it’s a feature that has historically been most popular among the franchise’s most…well, hardcore players.

However, Blizzard decided to make Diablo 4‘s Hardcore Mode a little more appealing by announcing a very special contest. The first 1000 players who reach Level 100 (the highest level in Diablo 4) are asked to submit their names via Twitter. If your credentials are legit, the Diablo 4 team will carve your username into a real-life statue of the game’s main villain, Lillith.

Technically, players have until September 1 to complete that challenge. However, some fans are not taking any chances and are determined to complete this challenge as quickly as possible. It’s early days yet, but we’re already seeing the extreme consequences of that decision.

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For context, the Diablo 4 team estimates that it will take most players about 150 hours to reach the max level with a single character. There are some ways to level up quickly and reduce that number, but it seems to be a fairly accurate estimate. At the very least, you’re looking at a 100+ hours journey.

About 20-30 of those hours will be spent in the relatively safe confines of the game’s campaign. However, anyone that wants to level up from there will need to dive into Diablo 4‘s often wickedly challenging endgame content. More importantly, they’ll need to bump up the game’s difficulty level at that point in order to get the XP/item buffs they’ll need for the rest of the journey.

I can’t overemphasize how much difficult that part of the game is compared to what came before. During my time with the game, I didn’t die once from Level 10 to Level 50. For that matter, I was barely taking damage towards the end of my campaign run. As soon as I bumped up that World Tier, though, I died in the first dungeon I dove into.

Interestingly, a similar thing just happened to popular Twitch streamer Shroud. After playing Diablo 4 with his friends for the entire night and beating the campaign, Shroud died almost immediately in the first piece of endgame content. His reaction says it all:

That’s one of the more high-profile examples of someone losing the Hardcore race at a higher level, but it’s not an isolated incident. Many players are dying during earlier levels, but the handful of participants that have gotten to Level 50+ are now in a bit of a bind. With so many unknowns regarding the progress of other players and the nature of the challenges that lie ahead, some aren’t entirely sure how hard they need to press to complete this challenge in time. Realistically, it will take quite some time for all of those spots to fill up. Whether out of fear or the desire to be counted among the very first, though, some players haven’t stopped pushing for Level 100 since the game came out. For instance, streamer Wudijo (who is at Level 59 as of the time of this writing) has been playing the game for 20 hours straight.

Honestly, the Diablo 4 section of Twitch features a lot of dead eyes at the moment. While these participants will surely have to sleep before reaching 100, it’s clear that some of them are trying to put off sleeping for as long as possible. As the fatigue goes up, the chance to make a mistake must surely rise with it. In a game where a random Butcher spawn will kill most people at some point, it doesn’t take much for even the best Hardcore runs to fall apart in an instant. The challenge demands something close to perfection.

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As such, the race to Level 100 is becoming a bit of a social experiment. The lack of a proper leaderboard system means that players must rely on word of mouth to see where everyone else is in the race. One Twitch channel is keeping up with the known competitors, but even their rankings are based on loose information in relation to everyone that is actually participating. Again, many of the best players likely have plenty of time to complete the challenge. However, that tiny sliver of doubt has been enough to convince people to push themselves to absurd limits.

Like many competitions, this one has also been subject to some controversy. Some players already felt that Diablo 4‘s Early Access period has given some an unfair advantage in this race. Others are calling out certain items and spells that can let certain players “cheat” death as mechanics that destroy the spirit of the competition. Furthermore, it seems that some crashes have already ended some Hardcore runs before they could really get going.

In any case, it’s been darkly fascinating to watch this event play out so far. Diablo 4‘s best and most dedicated players are pushing themselves to incredible limits to not just be in the top 1000 but perhaps complete this challenge before anyone else. How far they are willing to push themselves remains to be seen. What is becoming increasingly clear is that some of those players are about to invest dozens of sleepless hours into a challenge that can be ended in a moment.

So what happens when Level 70, Level 80, and Level 90+ players fail this challenge during those final fatigued moments? Will they restart? Would there be any point in restarting? Will their spirit even survive the setback? Will someone just miss the list simply because they didn’t submit their name in time? The only thing we can really guarantee is that this weekend (and the days that follow) should be very interesting for anyone who wants to see impressive accomplishments and crushing defeats happen at a soon-to-be rapid pace.