I started out by clubbing fallens to death in the Blood Moor like so many other characters. WillPower needed to place a skill point in Might as a prerequisite for Holy Fire so I used that at SLVL 1 while clearing the Den of Evil to speed things up a bit. Afterwards skill points went into Resist Fire (for the Holy Fire synergy) while waiting for CLVL 6 to arrive. This was even useful against fallen shamans - it was fun to run up to them with 78% fire resistance and laugh at their fireballs. I bought a non-magical sceptre with 6-11 base damage on the first trip back to town and that was sufficient to last until Holy Fire unlocked at CLVL 6.
WillPower finally hit Level 6 in the Caves and switched over to Holy Fire full time, flipping the Left mouse button over to "Throw" and resolving to let his auras do all the work moving forward. It immediately became clear that Holy Fire at SLVL 1 was much, much weaker than hitting monsters over the head with WillPower's scepter. Holy Fire only dealt 1-10 fire damage (which could be resisted by enemies with fire resistance!) and that wasn't much even in Act One Normal. To make matters worse, here at the initial skill level it only had a range of 4 yards - yikes! That's pitifully small in terms of the applicable distance, barely more distance than a character can hit when wielding a two-handed polearm. The Holy Fire aura went off every 2 seconds and did nothing in between those pulses which made for an embarassingly slow DPS rate. WillPower's clear speed slowed down drastically the moment that his variant began which wasn't exactly a great sign.
Coldcrow wasn't encountered until after the switch to Holy Fire and it was a pretty disastrous fight to be honest. All that WillPower could do was run up next to Coldcrow and her archer gals, standing next to them with his sad little Holy Fire aura while getting shot to pieces by their arrows. The good news is that nothing deals much damage in Act One Normal and WillPower could tank his way through this fight by drinking through a long succession of minor healing potions. I'm really not sure what else he could have done, I tried my best to dodge arrows and block them with WillPower's shield but it was tough avoiding the shots with no movement speed bonuses and while being slowed from the Cold Enchanted trait on the boss. Then on Caves 2 there was a double boss pack right at the stairs, a Stone Skin rogue archer boss and a Lightning Enchanted zombie boss. Their combined boss packs took ages to whittle down with Holy Fire ticks, WillPower walking around the edges of the mob and slowly working down the health of individual minions one at a time. I had to go back to town THREE TIMES to buy more healing potions for this encounter but I did get it done eventually without dying, sheesh! At this point I realized that I badly needed to pick up a sceptre with +skills for Holy Fire on it to increase its damage. WillPower would have to farm up more gold for that though as he didn't have the 10k money that such an item would demand; no point refreshing the shop vendors until reaching that point.
Fortunately things did start to get easier for WillPower as he was able to add more skill points to Holy Fire. It wasn't even the damage itself (although having more than the paltry 1-10 initial damage definitely helped) so much as the increased range of the skill. Each skill point invested into Holy Fire pushed out the radius a bit further and helped to ensure that WillPower didn't have to be practically hugging his foes in order to deal damage. Keep in mind that all three of the Paladin elemental auras now deal damage relative to their distance from the target, damage that scales in linear fashion according to the patch notes. This means that at its initial range of 4 yards, Holy Fire would only deal 50% damage if WillPower was 2 yards away from his target. But once the range was pushed out to 10 yards, standing 2 yards away would deal 80% of the maximum damage instead! That was a huge difference and a major incentive to keep skilling Holy Fire over anything else since WillPower was effectively getting double benefit on each level up, both higher base damage and higher effective damage due to the range increasing.
Holy Fire is an interesting skill in the sense that the damage stays exactly the same no matter how many enemies it might be hitting at one time, only varying based on the aforementioned distance to the target. This makes Holy Fire an excellent area-of-effect skill for use against mobs even if it's terrible at boss-killing for the same reason. WillPower had his first real test of this against Blood Raven where both halves of that dichotomy were on display. Even at SLVL 2, Holy Fire was highly effective against the zombies that she raised and flattened all of the shambling hordes in short order. Then WillPower was stuck running around after Blood Raven for the next few minutes, trying to keep her in range of the skill as it slowly ticked away at her healthbar. It honestly looked like they were doing some kind of tango together as Blood Raven kept running away and WillPower kept following her. At least the danger factor was nonexistent and the skill eventually got the job done.
On the journey went as it always does in Act One, through the Underground Passage and into the Dark Wood before returning to Tristram to rescue Cain. There was nothing as dangerous as Coldcrow encountered along the way and WillPower gained several levels in the process while also bringing lots of junk back to town to sell for cash. By the time that WillPower had cleared the Black Marsh, I had 40k gold accumulated and started refreshing Akara until she had a scepter with +3 Holy Fire available for sale. That cleaned out all of WillPower's savings (and I even had to sell the crummy rings and amulet he was wearing to scrape up the last remaining gold needed) but it brought Holy Fire up to SLVL 5+3 where the skill had a range of 8.6 yards and dealt 6-25 damage.
This seemed to hit a tipping point and Holy Fire went from being weak variant material to (temporarily) acting as a crazily overpowered uber skill. The monsters in Act One Normal have very low HP totals, especially the various types of fallens which all have single-digit health totals, and even your normal enemies are mostly in the 20-30 HP range throughout the act. I was pretty good at maneuvering WillPower so that his opponents were consistently getting hit by the maximum or near-maximum damage on each tick of Holy Fire, and with more and more points going into the skill, the enemies simply couldn't keep up. WillPower was CLVL 12 while making his way through the Forgotten Tower with SLVL 7+3 Holy Fire which dealt 10-35 fire damage. Devilkin simply died instantly when they were touched by the aura, having no fire reistance in Normal difficulty and nowhere near enough health to survive. Goats, corrupted rogues, skeletons of all types - none of them fared any better so long as WillPower could get close to them. Monsters just exploded into their death animations when WillPower approached, seemingly without being touched by anything, as they were one-shotted by Holy Fire.
I really can't put into words how hilarious it was to watch this in practice. I have never had an easier time with The Pit Level 2, for example, never with any other character. WillPower simply walked down the stairs to the bottom as every monster in his path self-combusted to the power of Holy Fire. This certainly couldn't last for long but holy moley was it ever entertaining while it did!
The back half of Act One was therefore a total laugher for WillPower, virtually all enemies dying immediately in a single tick of Holy Fire. The damage from the skill was temporarily scaling up faster than monster health and none of them could get close enough or last long enough to deal any damage. I had found some modest life regeneration on a belt which was enough to keep WillPower topped off at full HP without any need for red potions. There was one shaman boss that rolled the Fire Enchanted trait and created an immunity to fire, WillPower had to bash in his face with scepter attack and otherwise that was pretty much it in terms of challenge. I tried to zoom in using D2R's new close-up feature to get a picture of the Holy Fire pulse tagging Andariel (wondering what this would look like under the new graphics - Sirian's character Flammicus captured some amusing pictures of this two decades earlier) only to fail to get the snapshot at the right moment. Andariel's weakness to fire elemental meant that her health was plummeting rapidly, even with a skill as bad at single-target damage as Holy Fire, and the whole fight was over in less than a minute. I'd have to try again in Nightmare difficulty.
The arrival of Act Two meant that it was time to hire a defensive mercenary; I picked one named Durga to be easier to type than the other choices. WillPower handed over a Bardiche of Vileness with Prevent Monster Heal on it and then I gambled a breastplate and a helmet (with better armor appearing as gambles than available in the normal shops for the moment) to get Durga started. I discovered in the Sewers that my new mercenary wasn't doing much in the way of killing things, largely because Holy Fire was still tearing its way through the opposition. It took two ticks of Holy Fire to defeat the Burning Dead skeletons (due to their innate 50% fire resistance on Normal difficulty) but the skill hit in an increasingly-large area and that left little time for the mercenary's spear attacks. This was another easy part of the game even with lots of fire resistance. Radament breathed poison on Durgan and eventually managed to kill the merc, however it took long enough that the greater mummy was on death's door by the time that he managed the feat and fell to Holy Fire's cleansing power shortly thereafter. I saved the extra skill point to drop points into both Holy Fire and Holy Freeze together at the next level up (CLVL 18).
WillPower ventured out into the deserts next and things only became easier, if anything. The vultures and beetles and spear cats out there lacked fire resistance on Normal difficulty and generally died in a single flash of Holy Fire. This did not change at all in the Halls of the Dead where greater mummies showed up for the first time: a single pulse of Holy Fire would wipe out everything except the Hollow Ones who stood there blinking in stunned surprise for a couple of seconds until the next wave of burning energy finished them off as well. I've never had an easier time with any other character dealing with the greater mummies, not with all of the the builds in different Diablo 2 patches that I've done over the years. Step into a new room, BLAM, everything dead like that. Bloodwitch on the bottom floor couldn't manage to get her Cursed ability off because she died too quickly to three pulses of Holy Fire. Beetles would throw out one shower of sparks when Holy Fire hit them and triggered their death animation, which could be quite pretty in dark areas like the Maggot Lair. If only things would remain this easy on the higher difficulties!
I placed one skill point in Holy Freeze upon reaching CLVL 18 as planned and tested it out in the open desert spaces. Unsurprisingly, Holy Freeze suffered from the same issues at SLVL 1 as I had experienced back when WillPower had first unlocked Holy Fire. It wasn't just that the damage was risible (although it was indeed pathetic at a mere 2-6 cold damage), the real problem was the miniscule range of 4 yards. WillPower basically had to walk up and give the creature in question a hug to get the aura to trigger at all. I tried flipping between the two auras to see if it was possible to "aura dance" between them and get the benefits of both at the same time. Sadly that was not possible: the auras themselves did nothing at all aside from when they fired off their fire or cold damage pulses on that 2 second interval. For example, Holy Freeze did not chill monsters aside from those pulses - simply having the aura active didn't do anything. And the 2 second interval appeared to be a global timer shared by all of the Holy Fire / Freeze / Shock skills which can't be sped up or altered in any way. WillPower could flip between which of the elemental auras would fire off the next pulse but otherwise had no control over them. I resolved to continue maxing Holy Fire for the moment and then go back for Holy Freeze afterwards, leaving it as a uselessly weak aura for the moment.
I haven't been talking about the monsters very much. That's because they were irrelevant for WillPower thus far, nothing rising to the level of even a modest threat. The buffs to the Paladin's elemental auras to make them viable for Nightmare and Hell difficulties have had the side effect of making them a bit too overpowered for Normal difficulty, at least Acts One and Two. Certainly there are no other skills in the game where the player can do nothing - literally nothing! - and result in the monsters keeling over and dying. Even infamously laidback character builds like summoning Druids and Hydra-based Sorcies have to at least cast their skills on occasion. WillPower simply walked across the landscape and the denizens of Hell wilted before the strength of his mind. Even as he proceeded through the Palace, the Arcane Sanctuary, and the Tombs of Tal Rasha, WillPower was still killing everything in two pulses of Holy Fire. It was immense fun hitting goats and vampires across the terrain gaps in the Arcane Sanctuary and walking comfortably into the middle of huge rooms in the False Tombs to watch massive numbers of skeletons and mummies collapse a few seconds later.
Soon enough WillPower had cleared everything out (possibly the fastest any solo character of mine has ever finished all seven Tombs) and found himself facing Duriel. This was the first time that I had to rely on mercenary Durga for taking duty and he performed admirably against the big bug. I was mostly trying to get some practice in using the hotkeys to feed potions to the mercenary; I have so little experience at using them that I lack the muscle memory that I have for normal potion use after all these years. The Shift key plus the number on belt sends the potion over to the mercenary - I kept trying to use potions from inventory on Durga and unfortunately there's no key sequence to do that (outside of dragging the potion up to the portrait in the top left corner of the screen). Anyway, I messed up the hotkeys at the end of the fight and got Durga killed but not until Duriel was down to a tiny sliver of health which Holy Fire immediately finished off. I definitely need to keep practicing to improve here.
The jungles of Act Three were a major step downwards in terms of difficulty if you can believe it. I've noted a number of times before with past characters how the cramped chambers in the Tombs of Tal Rasha are significantly tougher than the wide open spaces of the jungles. WillPower had the additional freedom of movement that all characters enjoy plus an innately friendlier setup for his Holy Fire skill. The Paladin's elemental auras deal higher damage closer to the Paladin's position but otherwise still hit everything in range for roughly the same amount of damage. This means that there's no difference between hitting a single target and hitting dozens of them at once - everything still gets fried by the Holy Fire aura. Thus WillPower loved situations where he was facing large numbers of weak opponents simultaneously and that was exactly what the jungles were serving up on a steaming hot platter. Fetishes, flayers, crows, vultures - everything except the thorned hulks died in a single pulse of his aura. It was especially amusing to watch nearly-invisible gloams that I couldn't even see explode in a puff of smoke. Things had been easy back in Act Two and somehow WillPower was expending even less effort to keep moving forward in Act Three.
The underground areas were slightly more difficult, largely because there wasn't as much room to manuever around for maximum Holy Fire effect. The spiders took two blasts of Holy Fire to drop which was hardly more of a challenge to deal with. Durga actually leveled while in the middle of facing Sszark which was pretty amusing; that was one of the few times that his health dropped out of the green zone. There were undead dolls in the Flayer Dungeon, however here in Normal difficulty their death explosions weren't poweful enough to be cause for much concern. Witch Doctor Endugu was Fire Immune (as he always is) which meant breaking out Holy Freeze aura and hugging him close thanks to its pathetic 4 yard range at SLVL 1 while watching Durga stab him to death. That wouldn't work on a higher difficulty level but it more than sufficed for now; I would eventually have to start pumping Holy Freeze to give it some punch (and more range!) as well.
If you want another indicator of the simplicity of these outdoor regions, it was the fact that I struggled to get any good screenshots of the flayer mobs collapsing in a heap when Holy Fire went off. The whole thing looked awesome to watch and yet it was hard to capture in a static image since the flayers have very short death animations. It's hard to line up an image properly when everything dies instantly on a 2 second cooldown. The other crazy that I have to mention is the fact that WillPower essentially never needed to heal. He had a modest amount of ticking life regen from his belt and that was sufficient to keep him topped off at full almost indefinitely. In fact, I realized that I hadn't even talked to Lysander back in Act Two until the very end of the act; I had just never needed to purchase any potions and thus never triggered his opening text scrawl! I was fully aware that this wasn't going to last forever so I tried to enjoy WillPower's time in the sun.
WillPower came back down to earth a bit once he reached Kurast itself as the monsters lurking inside generally required two hits with Holy Fire to perish. This still wasn't exactly challenging, of course, and progress continued to be incredibly fast. There were undead stygian dolls in the Kurast Sewers which required at least some minimal tactical awareness as they would indeed die in a single flash of Holy Fire and that meant lots of explosions to be dodged. The Kurast Temples were nice and routine here in Normal difficulty; there was still a bad stairs trap in one of them, with a boss pack plus half a dozen corrupted rogues right at the stairs... but all of the rogues died in about 0.5 seconds the instant that Holy Fire went off. Well, so much for that stairs trap! Durga did a good job of drawing out Sarina's crew in the Ruined Temple, luring a bunch of spiders for disposal before the main corrupted rogue mob appeared, and once again they lacked enough health to survive for long against Holy Fire. I think that Sarina herself died on the fourth or fifth pulse of the skill with her minions falling much sooner. Durga didn't have to tank for very long and thus avoided danger.
My stalwart mercenary fared worse against the Council where concentrated Hydra fire cut him down before I could pull him back to safety. WillPower tried to kill Toorc with Holy Fire alone through the windows of the main building in Travincal, however that didn't work because the other Council members kept healing him and that outpaced the damage from his aura. So I followed the usual tactic of drawing out the Council members one at a time and that worked well enough, Holy Fire performing just fine once the healing aspect was removed. Durga died again versus Bremm Sparkfish down on Durance 3 and this time I left him dead for the remainder of the floor since I doubted he would do any better against the other bosses down there. Maffer and Wyand didn't put up much of a fight and then WillPower embarked on his 1 vs 1 duel with Mephisto. The great weakness of the Paladin's elemental auras is that they stink at sustained DPS against a single target; they are excellent against big groups and terrible at single opponents. There's no way to speed up the pulses beyond that 2 second interval which meant that WillPower had to walk around in circles dodging Mephisto's attacks while waiting for Holy Fire to slowly tick down the Prime Evil's health. This being Normal difficulty, that worked perfectly fine and took about two minutes in total to achieve. I did make a note to make sure to have more lightning resistance for WillPower when he came back in future difficulties; he only had about 30% lightning resist and Mephisto's lightning element spells hurt when they landed.
Act Four has by far the most fire resistance in Diablo 2 and I was curious to see how this would affect WillPower's progress. To my relief he wasn't bothered much at all, with heavily fire resistant opponents like doom knights and venom lords taking about four Holy Fire pulses on average before they keeled over and died. This may have been due to the fact that WillPower's own Holy Fire damage was increasing at a faster rate than before as I switched from skilling Holy Fire itself over to its synergy skill, Resist Fire. The actual damage on Holy Fire is very low as it only deals 42-110 damage at SLVL 23; I had to give it the initial skilling priority in order to increase its range which was now out to a healthy 18.7 yards. And as mentioned before, having a wider radius made it easier to hit the upper end of that damage range since Holy Fire does not deal random damage (instead increasing as the Paladin gets closer to the target).
WillPower had reached SLVL 20+3 towards the end of Act Three which meant that he was now dropping skill points into Resist Fire for its synergy effects. Each point in Resist Fire increases the base damage of Holy Fire by a full 21 percent - 21 percent! That's one of the largest synergy bonuses in the whole game and it very quickly added up to a huge benefit. Each skill point in Resist Fire translated to 9-23 additional damage added to Holy Fire and that would only increase if WillPower could obtain more +skills gear to take Holy Fire's base damage up above SLVL 23. It was all very noticeable as WillPower made his way across the desolate landscape of the Outer Steppes and the Plains of Despair where he wasn't overly bothered by their fire-resisting residents. I even managed to catch the Holy Fire graphical effect going off in a screenshot against some doom knights; it's hard to take the picture at the right moment since I had to hit PrintScreen an instant before the skill tick went off. Thus it was kind of a guessing game and I managed to time the image correctly a couple of times.
As far as the actual threats were concerned, Normal difficulty has few bosses which meant that WillPower rarely saw much outside of the always-present unique opponents. Izual's high health meant standing right on top of him for the maximum Holy Fire benefit as Durga tanked for the next several minutes. Hephasto had a dangerous Might aura that knocked Durga down into the red but fortunately he has much lower HP and died before things could get out of hand. (Yes, it's true - Izual has about 4x the health of Hephasto.) The Hellforge quest handed over an El rune in a fit of trolling that left me laughing at the sheer awfulness of the quest reward. Oh well! In the Chaos Sanctuary, I found that I sometimes had to retreat to pull Durga back when he tried to tank too big of a mob of opponents. The mercenary was fine against three or four monsters at once, however if he tried to stand and fight against a dozen at a time I'd either have to feed him full rejuvs or pay the resurrection bill. Fights were lively without ever being particularly dangerous.
Amongst the seal bosses, the Vizier was of course Fire Immune which meant a cameo appearance from Holy Freeze aura. Durga had no trouble cutting down the Vizier with physical attack even with his sad little Prevent Monster Heal bardiche. De Seis was Extra Strong / Fanaticism aura which I handled by retreating backwards a bit to let Holy Fire burn down his minions followed by Durga tanking the boss. The Infector was handled in the same fashion and indeed this is one of the places where the Paladin elemental auras truly shine, while kiting backwards against a huge mob. WillPower didn't have to stop to cast a skill or refresh an ongoing effect, nothing like that, he could simply keep walking and walking while letting the Holy Fire ticks do their thing. The Sorceress' Blaze skill is about the only other one that I can think of which works this way and even it needs to be refreshed eventually. Finally Diablo himself killed Durga almost immediately (though not until the mercenary got in a few jabs with his Prevent Monster Heal spear) which was followed by several minutes of walking around dodging his attacks. There was a convenient Resist Lightning shrine right next to the pentagram that WillPower happily employed as he avoided Diablo's flame wave and Lightning Breath of Doom abilities. I did my best to balance staying close to Diablo to increase the damage from Holy Fire with being far enough away to avoid his various attacks. There was little real danger here, WillPower drank some red potions and otherwise walked in circles for a few minutes until the big guy croaked.
Act Five was a noticeable step down in difficulty from the end of Act Four. This is something that I've mentioned a number of times with past characters, the place where the gameplay of the original game and the gameplay of the expansion are mashed together most awkwardly. After gaining something like three levels across all of Acts Three and Four, suddenly the player gains another ten levels across the expanse of Act Five - and while fighting monsters which are mostly much easier to boot! The enslaved and death maulers in the Bloody Foothills put up no fight at all, usually collapsing after a single flash of Holy Fire and occasionally requiring two of them. The imps in the Frigid Highland were even more of a joke with a mere 77 HP and no fire resistance at all. Are you kidding me?! Their teleporting antics were completely useless against Holy Fire and they died en masse without ever doing anything at all. Even the barricaded towers and doors died immediately here in Normal difficulty thanks to low health totals and no resistances. It was hilarious to walk up to the fortification lines and watch the various stone barriers simply collapse in an instant.
The only enemies that posed any kind of a threat were the minotaurs down in the Abbadon and the Pit of Acheron subdungeons. They had vastly more health than their monster compatriots and their Frenzy attack was legitimately something to watch out for once it was wound up. There was one point in time where WillPower was cornered by a group of minotaurs and knocked down to about half health, a far cry from basically everywhere else in the outdoor regions where he was permanently sitting on 95% HP or higher. The underground ice caverns were much the same as the outdoor areas, with witches and the prowling dead skeletons all dropping dead instantly from a single pulse of Holy Fire. Oftentimes the skill was even killing things that I couldn't see at the edges of the screen off in the darkness. Particularly amusing was watching the prowling dead fall over, get back up again, and then instantly fall over a second time without WillPower interacting with them in any way. I was able to make my way through these areas quickly while still pumping the Resist Fire skill for additional synergy damage.
Probably the most noteworthy thing to take place in these areas was the discovery of a useful new item. WillPower identified a random amulet that dropped from the monsters and I was shocked to find that it rolled the Captain's modifier: +1 to Paladin offensive auras! That was one of the first +skills items that I'd seen thus far and it added another level to Holy Fire, now up to SLVL 24 for the base damage. This was effectively as good as the standard Monk's amulet with +1 to all Paladin skills (since Resist Fire was only being used for synergy purposes) and I could make due with this for a long time until reaching a high enough character level for +3 Paladin offensive auras to appear as a gambling possibility. WillPower also found a rare circlet with minor resist all and a few other useful goodies which would be a nice fit until he could turn up a Sol rune to make a Lore runeword for an additional +1 skills.
Nihlathak's Temple was pretty boring here on Normal difficulty without any of the guest monsters. The place was heavy on the prowling dead skeletons which I was getting tired of seeing by now; at least they usually died to a single puff of Holy Fire. The area-of-effect nature of Holy Fire made it highly useful against Nihlathak himself, quickly downing all of his minions and leaving the traitor by his loneself self. Nihlathak seemed surprised to be stuck on his own and I made sure to stay away from the big pile of minion corpses. Afterwards, WillPower was able to hit on a really nice pair of boots in a gambling session that I ran after completing the quest: 20% faster run, 29% lightning resist, 18% fire resist, half freeze duration (useful for movement purposes on WillPower even though he didn't attack), and some modest magic find. This was good enough that I could probably be content with it for his whole journey and save money to focus on gambling amulets and circlets.
I expected that the ancients would kill my mercenary hireling Durga, only to discover to my surprise that they largely ignored him to chase in cicles after WillPower. That was fine with me and Holy Fire did a nice job of whittling them down over the course of about two minutes of real-world time. Durga needed a couple of red potions when the Ancients focused him a bit and otherwise was OK. I was curious to see if Holy Fire would tag Korlic in the middle of his Leap Strike animation and no, it didn't, but he would take fire damage as soon as he landed from the attack. That was a weird interaction and caused him to be the last of the three Ancients standing. Talic and Korlic both have 70% fire resistance on Normal difficulty and they still didn't put up much of a fight (Madawc and his 0% fire resistance died almost immediately), a great sign for when WillPower had to come back again in higher difficulties.
The Worldstone Keep is another place where the lack of guest monsters is highly noticeable in Normal difficulty, just new color-swapped versions of the same monsters from the rest of Act Five: walking dead skeletons, imps, witches, and finally minotaurs on Worldstone 3. The minotaurs remained the only enemies that required some caution on my part and even they weren't going to kill WillPower unless I did something unbelievably dumb, not with him having 650 HP on the initial difficulty. I've had characters in Hell difficulty with less health than that! The Throne of Destruction boss rush did up the challenge level a bit, starting with Colenzo who was Fire Immune and forced WillPower to run his sad SLVL 2 Holy Freeze aura. Achmel and Bartuc fell quickly, however Ventar and especially Lister took a good while to be downed by Holy Fire. Both of them are heavily fire resistant at 70% and Durga had died almost instantaneously which meant that WillPower had to walk in circles for minutes on end with Holy Fire ticking away at about 100 damage per pulse. Lister has 8200 HP on Normal difficulty so... yeah. The danger level was low and I got the job done fine but sheesh, it did take a while.
Baal is a pretty sad final boss for Diablo 2 and he didn't do much of anything against WillPower either. I had my Paladin stand at medium distance outside the range of his big orange blast and that seemed to stymie the Prime Evil. Baal's Festering Appendages perished instantly to Holy Fire and the only other thing that he did was summon his clone - a clone that also kept taking constant damage from Holy Fire as well. I expected Durga to kick the bucket again only to find that Baal was too feeble to do him in; red potions were sufficient to keep the mercenary alive. Geez, maybe Lister should be the one running the place! Baal has an astronomical health total for Normal difficulty (12 times that of Ventar and Bartuc!) so this took some time without the end result ever being in doubt. Eventually it was all over:
WillPower successfully full cleared everything in Normal difficulty, all monsters slain, no deaths, no need to Save and Exit out of trouble. Holy Fire was an amazingly strong skill for Normal difficulty, way better than I had gone into this variant expecting. Right up until the end of Act Five every non-boss opponent was dying in two or at most three pulses of the skill, and there were still lots of enemies like the imps who remained in one-shot territory. The biggest weakest of Holy Fire was on display at the end of the act: it's simply a poor tool for single-target damage and therefore bad against the major bosses. I figured that things would start to get significantly tougher as the difficulty level kept climbing while Holy Fire itself was nearly capped out on damage. At least I'd be getting more +skills modifiers from runewords in the near future. Oh, and Baal dropped a really nice rare ring with modest resist all plus more half freeze duration and some magic find. WillPower's rings had been really sad up to this point and I was more than happy to swap over to the new ring for Nightmare difficulty.
Plus I did run the Secret Cow Level; no other skill was better suited to the big cow mobs than Holy Fire. Nothing interesting dropped in there but it was still entertaining. Mooooooo!