Normal difficulty had mostly gone well, at least by the low standards of this pitifully weak class. Here's a look at where my characters stood in terms of stats after the conclusion of the first difficulty level:
The health and mana totals were still almost laughably low. My Barbarian had 533 HP at the same point in time, more than double the lifebar! You bet that was a lot easier. In terms of the upgrades for the Miner class so far, I had been spreading them around to lots of different areas. That's generally the best way to maximize the effectiveness of your gold, since additional levels get more and more expensive while delivering the same benefits. But of course more levels in Health are pretty much always going to be better than more levels in Haggle, so you still need to make decisions with some thought in mind. I needed to keep adding to magic damage alongside physical attack, since the Miners were simply too weak to go with pure physical attack for the moment. As the upgrades continued to get more expensive I figured that might change, but for now it seemed like a good plan. I used the massive gold haul from the previous run for another collection of stats across the board, unlocking the Armor Up category and grabbing Randomize Children for ease of future runs. My Miners now had all four of the most important utility stats finished: Gold Gain Up, Potion Up, Mana Cost Down, and Invuln Time Up. Future gold could concentrate heavily on real stats.
Unlock: Invuln Time Up (maxed), Health Up x6, Armor Up x6, Attack Up x4, Magic Damage Up x4, Crit Chance Up, Randomize Children, Unlock Shinobi, Upgrade Shinobi, Haggle
15) Level 138 (Health 33, Attack 16, Magic Damage 16, Armor 6, Equip 19, Mana 12, Crit Chance 1, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 20): 37,651g
Still Hypergonadism and the flame barrier spell. Lady Priscila had significantly upgraded her stats in all around areas. She was introduced to the challenges of New Game Plus difficulty when a gray knight hit her in the very first room. That did 107 damage, and my poor Miner lady had all of 240 max health. Once again there was little room for mistakes along the way, just not enough life for these Miners. The castle area had a very strange layout this time, mostly horizontal and with the boss door, forest entrance, and tower entrance all right next to each other at the far eastern edge. I worked my way slowly through these rooms, taking some hits along the way and with vampirism lifesteal almost but not quite keeping pace. The biggest aspect of this run was the equipment dropping along the way. Jumping into New Game Plus mode always seems to turn on the spigot in this regard, stuff that won't drop until you hit the second difficulty level. This Miner found the Holy Chestplate, Imperial Limbs, Dragon Helm, and the best of the lot, the Royal Helm. That's top tier in that item slot, a very nice find indeed. Eventually I made it through the castle and entered the forest. Fighting was even more difficult in there, my Miner's paltry 66 damage forcing anyway from six to eight melee hits per monster. The flame barrier did great damage, although once again I would run out of mana almost immediately any time that I used it. There were lots of the ball and chain monsters in the forest, and their bouncing spiked balls after they were defeated caused all kinds of annoyance. My Miner couldn't avoid getting hit again and again, argh! I ate all of the chickens at the teleporters, but still couldn't quite make it through the second area. This Miner fell with the forest about 80% finished. The gold went into purchasing the Royal Helm and the Imperial Limbs, enough equipment weight to wear them, and then more general stat upgrades. Under 100 gold left after more careful spending.
Unlock: Health Up x5, Equip Up x3, Armor Up x2, Attack Up, Magic Damage Up, Royal Helm, Imperial Limbs
16) Level 150 (Health 38, Attack 17, Magic Damage 17, Armor 8, Equip 22, Mana 12, Crit Chance 1, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 20): 880g
Endomorph and Coprolalia, two fairly unimportant traits along with the chakram spell. This Miner was sporting a brilliant light blue set of armor, one that popped on the screen. It's a shame that the endgame Royal and Dark equipment always looks so dull. With exactly 300 HP to work with, I hoped that this Miner would be able to make it further than his predecessor. Umm, that did not happen. Not at all. In a shamefun run, I was smacked around repeatedly in the castle and failed to clear more than four rooms. Embarassing.
17) Level 150 (Health 38, Attack 17, Magic Damage 17, Armor 8, Equip 22, Mana 12, Crit Chance 1, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 20): 51,002g
IBS trait and the scythe. This run HAD to be better than the last one. It didn't start out that way, another poor opening sequence of play had me near death's door with less than 100 health. I realized at about this point that I had to start taking things more seriously if I was going to avoid another awful washout. I managed to struggle through the rest of the castle by eating all of the teleporter chickens along the way, but this was not a good series of moves on my part. Way too much unnecessary damage. The forest was the turning point for this run, as suddenly I was able to get things rolling and string together some good rooms. Despite unending hordes of chainex monsters, and the bouncing spiked balls that they left behind upon defeat, this Miner was able to clear her way through the forested environments without any great difficulty. I found three different fairy chests and even picked up a Magic Damage bonus inside one of the non-fairy chests outside the forest boss door. Contrast that to the castle, where three of the first four treasure chests that I found were inaccessible behind walls of one kind or another. There was also a spell altar in there allowing me to upgrade from the scythe to the axe. The forest was the place to be! Sadly the tower was not quite so kind, as I would end up taking a lot of damage from a room full of wolves, and two stupid hits from plant monsters that triggered death. They were very dodgeable, more bad play on my end. In terms of equipment, this run did produce the Royal Bracers, a massive upgrade that increased intelligence by about 30%. Sadly this replaced the brilliant blue arms and legs of the Imperial Bracers with the dull gray color of the Royal ones. Such a shame from a fashion standpoint. The rest went into standard stats.
Unlock: Health Up x4, Attack Up x3, Magic Damage Up x3, Equip Up x3, Armor Up x2, Mana Up, Royal Limbs
18) Level 166 (Health 42, Attack 20, Magic Damage 20, Armor 10, Equip 25, Mana 13, Crit Chance 1, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 20): 29,684g
Hypergonadism and the scythe spell. This run was most notable for getting two different rooms that were packed with the flying cloud enemies, more than half a dozen of them at once swarming my Miner character. I used the scythe as best I could to push them back, but I really would have preferred another spell here. There was also a gradiator (tier three knight monster) in one of the fairy chest rooms surrounded by other enemies, and unfortunately the big black sword smacked me during the course of the fight. That did 150 damage immediately, and it forced me to eat all of the saved up chickens in the castle. Although I did make it through the castle, this Miner was unable to get through the forest before dying. The stupid bouncing spiked balls from the chainex enemies did a whole lot of damage again. Gettin' real tired of them, let me tell you. There was one important equipment upgrade from this run, as the Dragon Sword was in one of the treasure chests found in the castle. That increased damage by about 25% all on its own. Sadly there wasn't enough gold left over to get much more in the way of upgrades after that.
Unlock: Equip Up x3, Health Up x2, Mana Up x2, Attack Up, Magic Damage Up, Dragon Sword
19) Level 175 (Health 44, Attack 21, Magic Damage 21, Armor 10, Equip 28, Mana 15, Crit Chance 1, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 20): 15,482g
Yet another Miner with the scythe spell and the EDS non-trait (you turn while fighting, basically no gameplay effect). The less said about this poor sap, the better. I could not dodge attack after attack, stuff that wasn't hard to avoid at all. This was a deeply disappointing run that couldn't even make it through the castle before falling to a flying ice mage. What was I doing wrong here? Terrible, terrible gameplay on my part.
Unlock: Health Up x2, Armor Up x2, Crit Chance Up
20) Level 180 (Health 46, Attack 21, Magic Damage 21, Armor 12, Equip 28, Mana 15, Crit Chance 2, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 20): 22,267gHypergonadism and Savant. That second trait means that your spell changes every single time that you cast one, in a completely random cycle from one spell to the next. This Miner had another frustrating run, as no less than six different chickens dropped in the opening rooms of the castle. I knew - I mean I KNEW - that they would stop popping up the minute that I started taking damage, and that was exactly what happened. All of those health recovery items completely wasted, and then nothing was left when I actually needed them later. Random number generation at its most exasperating there. Nontheless, this run was on a nice pace entering the forest, until a "defeat all monsters" fairy chest room absolutely crushed my Miner. There was a McRib skeleton bone thrower in the dead center, and because of the Hypergonadism trait he was getting knocked backwards with every sword swing. I actually do not like that super knock back against the skeletons, it makes them significantly harder to kill as they keep getting thrown clear of your melee attack. The Savant trait also made my spells unreliable, no clue what I'd be getting after each casting. That one room probably did 400 damage to my character (including the chickens I went back and ate), and to add insult to injury, I died before getting the rune in the locked chest. Argh! The only salvageable thing about this run was finding the Dragon Chestplate in the castle earlier. +30 armor would help survivability on future characters.
Unlock: Equip Up x3, Armor Up x2, Mana Up, Dragon Chestplate
21) Level 186 (Health 46, Attack 21, Magic Damage 21, Armor 14, Equip 31, Mana 16, Crit Chance 2, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 20): 138,270gHypochondriac and Coprolalia, both of these were non-gameplay traits. I was fine with that, especially since this Miner rolled the chakram spell. This was another run that began with several chickens dropping in the early portions of the castle, but I had better luck at avoiding damage this time around. It must have been better play on my end, as this castle was on the difficult side compared to normal setups. There were three different "death rooms" in the castle, my term for a tiny room with tons of monsters packed into them like a sardine can. I took hits in all three of them, while still managing to keep the overall health in the green zone. I was able to avoid eating any of the teleporter chickens for the moment, holding them for use later. Just clearing the castle resulted in 25k gold, more than average for New Game Plus difficulty. The forest had several interesting moments, with one treasure chest having a Health Up bonus inside. It always surprises me when that happens, I think there's about one percent odds to get a stat upgrade in a normal chest. Certainly not complaining though! I found the dagger tossing minigame at the back end of the forest and managed to win with the very last dagger available. Expecting to get another worthless piece of Sage garbage, the prize for winning was the Royal Sword, best weapon in the game! Whoa, I was not expecting that one. Good thing I manage to tag that last floating dagger target with a nice throw. From there it was into the tower, where the clear pace remained steady and healthy. I would take hits here and there, but this Miner never fell into a dangerous position or needed to retreat for recovery items. I had the good fortune to find some chickens along the way, but no more than necessary. I think the biggest difference was the chakram spell, which I used endlessly throughout this run. It was great against the normal critters and it was great against minibosses like Botis (who I would kill twice during this run). Eventually the tower was finished as well, leaving me with the basement as the final area left. The dark region presented the greatest challenge, and here I did have to portal out a few times to go back and eat chickens for health. The good news was that there was an entire dungeon full of saved up items at the teleporters, plus a fountain that I'd found in the castle near the beginning. With the help of all those chickens, I was slowly able to work up to a full clear and well over 100,000 gold, plus land the final six runes to complete the set at 55/55. This was finally the breakthrough run that I'd been looking for! Maybe it was the new red armor from the Dragon Chestplate in action. Not that I'd be wearing it for long - I'd found the Royal Chestplate in the tower, and that would be even stronger.
This left the bosses as the only remaining opponents in the dungeon. Khidr was up first, and he presented little in the way of difficulty. The chakram worked extremely well here, and the big eyeball didn't manage to inflict so much as a scratch on my Miner. Alexander was second, and he was much harder to defeat. Alexander flew up to the ceiling at the start of the fight (very unusual for him) and stayed up there breeding his flying skull heads. That was not a good situation. My Miner was nowhere near full health either, and by the time that Alexander came down from the air, my character was already getting overrun by minions. I took a few hits and was on the point of death, so I resorted to throwing chakrams repeatedly at range, not really expecting this to work. Much to my shock, Alexander keeled over dead mere seconds before my Miner was about to be obliterated in the corner. Victory! The instant death of all the flying skull heads even restored close to 100 health through vampirism, giving me a chance against Ponce de Leon. There was also a chicken inside one of the pots in Alexander's room, so my Miner would start the Ponce battle with exactly 200 health. Well the big fireball wouldn't have any luck hitting my character in the tower, but unfortunately the spiked balls in his chamber were placed in very awkward places. There were two on the floor of the room that made walking across the bottom a difficult proposition. They would hit me three times in the battle, dealing 65 damage each time. That left my character with exactly 5 HP remaining when he won - another victory by an eyelash! This made the Herodotus battle completely impossible, of course, but I went in there too and managed to pick up 3,000 more gold from drops before the inevitable death. Full dungeon clear and three bosses down for a total of 138k gold, the most ever in New Game Plus difficulty by any of my characters. I'll take it!
The huge haul of cash went into equiping those two Royal pieces of gear, and then a lot of stat upgrades, 32 levels in all before the money ran out. I was starting to approach the maximum number of points in health, although the lifebar remained pitifully low compared to anything other than an Archmage or Lich.
Unlock: Health Up x13, Attack Up x7, Magic Damage Up x7, Equip Up x4, Armor Up, Royal Sword, Royal Chestplate
22) Level 218 (Health 59, Attack 28, Magic Damage 28, Armor 15, Equip 35, Mana 16, Crit Chance 2, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 20): 168,543g
Ectomorph trait (you get sent flying when hit) and the scythe spell. No chakram to play with this time, although this Miner now had over 400 health as a buffer against early failure. Since the previous Miner had managed to make it through the full dungeon, and I'd added another 32 levels of upgrades on top of his stats, I figured that this one wouldn't have too much trouble. That assumption proved to be correct, and there were few obstacles along the way to another smooth full clear. I actually started out in the basement this time, having wandered in there almost despite myself. I would alternate clearing parts of the basement with the castle and the forest whenever health dropped too low. I think that I had to make two or three retreats total. The tower ended up being the last area cleared, highly unusual for me. Probably the most noteworthy pickups were the fairy chests along the way; I would get five of them during this run, all of them granting stat bonuses since the last Miner had completed the full set of runes. The first three chests all had Mana Up bonuses, and the last two had Health Up hearts. That was fine with me, anything to increase the low health and mana stats of this poor class! I was disappointed that there were no minibosses to fight, not a single one in this particular dungeon. I finally had plenty of chickens to spare, and none of the minibosses showed up this time. Scaredy cats!
The success or failure of this run was going to come down to the bosses at the end. I still had Heredotus sitting around in the basement, and the scythe was not the ideal weapon against the blobs. Unfortunately I found that I needed four melee attacks to kill each blob, making this a repeat of my epic battle against Herodotus in Normal difficulty. The biggest difference was the health total; in Normal I'd only had 210 HP to work with, but now my Miner had 418 health on the lifebar. That was almost exactly double, and the blobs weren't doing twice as much damage. The net result was an easier battle overall. I dropped as low as 130 health at one point but no lower, and there were no true close calls in this fight. Whew, now on to the final bosses. Neither one would be easy. Johannes smacked me three times at the start of the battle, and it looked as though this would be a very quick game over situation. Instead, I was able to beat him back repeatedly, staying safe and dodging all of those daggers and axes that he likes to throw out. The scythe really wasn't what I wanted here, but I used it the best I could and did quite a bit of damage with the thing. I could melee attack and immediately follow it up with a scythe toss, much as I'd done with the Spellsword and the empowered blade wall, getting in a quick one-two combo. I had 142 health and only 20 mana when Johannes fell - those chickens and flasks he drops were going to be needed here.
The Fountain's huge character sprite meant that he could not get out of the way of my scythes. I threw them repeatedly until I was all out of magic points, and sadly the boss still had well over half his health remaining at this point. That left it up to physical attack, while trying to dodge the flying blade projectiles all the while. I did find a new safe spot to dodge the horizontal swords, on the edge of the screen if you can reach that little safe around before the Fountain starts to summon them. Each hit from the boss did 85 damage, and I could only take four total hits before the fifth one would spell my demise. In another extremely close fight, I managed to win with 50 HP remaining. Another nailbiter! The run finished with 168k gold, by far my personal best for a run in New Game Plus difficulty.
Most of the way there now. Unfortunately the final difficulty level would be the hardest one yet. Two down, one to go, until the Miner could claim everlasting glory.