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Hard mode is a game mode that presents each mission and explorable area on a harder difficulty. A player must complete a campaign on normal mode before they can play it on hard mode. Hard mode exists for all PvE game content except for pre-Searing Ascalon, Monastery Overlook, Lion's Gate, and the Island of Shehkah.
While in hard mode, players earn 50% more experience points from combat.
Completing missions (with all bonus objectives) contributes to the Guardian title track. A player who completes all the missions of a campaign on hard mode is awarded the "Guardian of <continent>" title, where <continent> is one of Tyria, Cantha, or Elona, depending upon the campaign.
Completely clearing explorable areas of all hostile creatures contributes to the Vanquisher title track. If all members of a party are at 60% death penalty and the party is wiped, they are returned to the last visited outpost instead of being resurrected at the nearest activated shrine.
To access hard mode, a player must first complete the final mission of a campaign normally. As long as one character on an account has completed a campaign, all level 20 characters on that account will gain access to hard mode for that campaign. You will retain the ability to access Hard mode even if you delete the character that had completed the campaign. Hard mode is toggled by two buttons above the party display in an outpost; the Normal Mode button is standard mission emblem, and the Hard Mode button is a stylized red helm.
In order to unlock hard mode for a given campaign, a player must log in at least once with a character who has completed that campaign in normal mode. Characters that had completed a campaign but no longer existed upon the release of hard mode do not grant access to hard mode.
All hostile monsters in missions and explorable areas are significantly harder in hard mode.
- Level and attribute rank: Their levels are all increased to be appropriately challenging for a group of level 20 players, usually between 22 and 30 depending on their original level and the size of the group allowed in the area, although certain unique foes have been observed with levels as high as 33, and there are some level 20 and 21 foes (some monsters can be less than 20, such as pets of Rangers which are level 15). Monster attributes are set to either 19 or 20, but only for attributes of their profession(s).
- Speed: Monsters' attack speed, movement speed, skill casting speed, and skill recharge rate are all increased to be 33-50% faster than normal.
- Skill bar: Most normal enemies that did not have an elite skill in normal mode have one in hard mode. However, bosses that did not have an elite originally still do not have one, so no elite skills can be captured early in hard mode. Also, many monsters have been given extra skills such as an extra healing skill.
- AI: Monsters flee from repeated AoE damage earlier than in normal mode, and will avoid traps set by players whenever possible.
The Vanquisher title is granted to a character for defeating all of the foes in each explorable area of a campaign while in Hard mode. There is not a separate Vanquisher title for Eye of the North, but vanquishing areas is required for maxing the Master of the North title track. The Vanquisher page includes details and a table of number of foes per zone.
Quests can be completed in Hard mode, however any creatures or bosses spawned by the quest will be of a level appropriate to Hard mode, and not their normal (lower) level.
In Hard mode for many GWEN Hero's Handbook missions you can get to the transfer point, go in, resign and end up right outside the transfer point with all death penalty removed from the party. Also removes any morale boosts. For instance, in "The Elusive Golemancer," run to Blimm, talk to him, go into the instance, resign and end up right beside Blimm with zero DP.
Drops from all areas correspond to a level 20 party, including max damage weapons and high quality upgrades (except from bosses). Both rare and uncommon items (including rare crafting materials) drop more often in hard mode. However, area- or monster-specific loot, like Globs of Ectoplasm, still only drop where they do in normal mode.
There are certain items which only drop in hard mode:
- Lockpicks are similar to keys. A lockpick is required to open a Locked Chest in hard mode, but can be used on any chest in normal mode too. They have a small chance of not being consumed on use -- this chance is modified by your character's level and progress on the Lucky and Treasure Hunter title tracks. These items can also be purchased from merchants for 1 500 even if your character cannot access hard mode. If a lockpick is not consumed upon use, you gain 250 points towards the Lucky title track. If it is consumed, you gain points towards the Unlucky title track equal to 2.5 times the percentage chance to retain the lockpick. Lockpicks now drop in Eye of the North areas in normal mode, as all the chests in those areas are Locked Chests.
- Skill Tomes allow your character to learn skills that have been already unlocked on your account. The Elite Tome allows a character to learn elite skills and the Non-Elite Tome allows a character to learn non-elite skills. Skill tomes are profession-specific and are not available from merchants. Note that using a skill tome does not consume a skill point, making them an attractive option for lower level or new characters who may not have accumulated many skill points yet.
Henchmen in hard mode are level 20 and have maximum base stats on their equipment. Prophecies henchmen will gain an elite skill if they do not have one in Normal mode, while Factions and Nightfall henchmen, as well as Prophecies henchmen who already have elite skills, will use the same skill set.
All bounties are available in hard mode, even if the "cut-off" point is already reached in normal mode. This allows players to reach the maximum tier for the Lightbringer and Sunspear rank title. The bounty mechanics are somewhat different in hard mode, with an additional bonus for killing bosses, but no double XP. Also, Kurzick and Luxon blessings offer double faction in hard mode. For further details see: Bounty. Also in Eye of the North, Double reputation points are given for level one bounties in Hard mode.