Continued from part 1
I don't intend to write an entry a day for the next three months; after the initial excitement settles down, a post a week about this seems more likely.
I started the day having dropped to 70th or 80th place on the softcore leaderboard. The Europeans are pretty good at this game as it turns out.
I rushed through Asterkarn in Normal, picking up the groble shrine and hitting a savage totem on the way. At Fort Ikon, I skipped the Tomb of the Archon and went straight for Creed and Lucius. There isn't any particular piece of Kymon's Chosen gear that I have my eye on for later, so they're kinda low priority. I gave the supplies to the Black Legion - while I want lots of Homestead rep, the Legion is harder to earn it with and easier to lose it with (by, for example, making friends with Anasteria). I zoomed through the Fields of Strife and the Necropolis exterior, hitting the outdoor shrine but not initially going for the Black Sepulcher shrine. In retrospect, I should've just done the Black Sepulcher while I was here the first time. Tomb of the Watchers and Log were pretty easy; the biggest threats were the Cthonian Harbingers' death explosions. I really need to get some points into Rebuke for the %health reduction resistance.
I ran into an unfortunate crash while looting Log's chests, but fortunately my progress was saved. I then went to Ugdenbog, less efficiently than I had through Asterkarn, as I made some detours for Nane's stash, Garret Torvin, the Gloomwald shrine, a couple totems, and the shrine in the Tomb of Ugdall. I made it to Barrowholm and made friends with them but then left the bog.
I decided to push Forgotten Gods in Normal a bit to pick up some more shrines - Hidden Oasis and Cairan Docks. I was also hoping for a titanovore axe, as I think one would be fun to build an elementalist around, but no luck. I did get a decent pair of pauldrons though, and I learned that Blood of the Watchers can drop in the Cairan Docks, so I finished out both of Bysmiel's pre-vanguard quests, then spent some time rebalancing my resistances to move up to Elite.
Arriving in Elite, my defenses held up pretty OK but my kill times for single hero targets went up dramatically. I dropped back to Normal several times, first to try to farm up a better troll bonecrusher without success, then to smith aether shards out of aether crystals to activate the shrines in Elite which let me bring both Assassin's Blade and Maul online before Elite Krieg. Unfortunately my OA is garbage and Assassin's Mark almost never fires against heroes and bosses. The guide says to prioritize OA affixes on gear, but at this point I'm mostly prioritizing resistances. I'm very tempted to sink some points into Presence of Virtue for the OA. I also think this character would benefit a lot from a couple points in Judgment and Crushing Verdict for crowd disruption and OA shred.
On the upside, I was able to get a couple of bounties in - Gelbrand and Zethbrand for Devil's Crossing in the Warden's Lab, then Halion and his rat, and for the Rovers I got a destroy bandit forges bounty run concurrently with the actual quest and one for Voldrak, where I was surely headed anyway. I did end up buying a Rovers writ before turning quests in to them in Elite; I had the cash and it seemed like I might want their augments eventually. I was more right than I knew - it turns out Homestead and the Rovers are the two factions with gloves, not Homestead and Legion like I thought. So now I have Rovers and Devil's at Honored and have started using their amulet/ring augments to patch up my resistances, which has been a big help. The Warden and Shanks Doyle were both kinda nasty fights and I ended up switching to higher-armor pieces at the expense of resistances.
Pushing north through Arkovia, I skipped the mine where you're supposed to get dynamite, using dynamite I already had in my inventory from Normal. I was unable to take the Rocky Coast shrine because I haven't found the recipe for Vengeful Wraiths yet apparently. Around this point I was having trouble with my pierce resistance and went back to Normal for the Black Sepulcher to get the next node of Solemn Watcher for +18% pierce resistance. My defenses thus sorted, Cronley's hideout and the Arkovian Undercity went pretty well.
When I arrived in the Barren Highlands, I considered the season objectives for Elite - the Sentinel, at the end of the Hidden Path quest, and the aetherial Heralds. I decided that I should hit the Guardian of Solael while I was passing through the Highlands to progress the Hidden Path quest, so I went back to Lower Crossing for the Guardian of Dreeg to open the Guardian of Solael. I almost died several times in the Guardian of Dreeg's zone; the bugs spit so much poison, and then my resistances got reduced down to like 60 during the bossfight and I was taking a lot of damage. Solael went better but was still a somewhat close thing. Smuggler's Pass and Voldrak were a welcome relief, where I was able to just facetank, though I again had no luck getting a better bonecrusher.
Arriving at Dead Man's Gulch, I initially planned to head straight for the Herald of Destruction, but remembered shortly before starting my dive into the fire that you have to get to Fort Ikon to get the key. At this point I was around level 50 or so and started intentionally slowing my XP gain so that I don't pass the level limit of 65 on the challenge. I've been doing side quests but not turning them in, and rushing through zones for the most part. I opened Pine Barrens but didn't start the sidequests, and when I arrived in Homestead I did the dermapteran eggs but skipped the hive even though the hive entrance was right on my path. Amalgamation went well, again facetanking with Wendigo Totem and Blood Pact.
After Amalgamation I decided to get the points that were already within easy reach and headed east for the Herald of the Flames and the Herald of the Stars. These were both close fights and required potions; I didn't expect them to spawn flesh hulks but apparently they do in Elite. Getting to the Herald of the Stars was a trial. If I had been feeling strong the smart play would've been to push through Port Valbury after, for another 100 points if done in Elite before level 70. But as close as the fights in Valbury Outskirts and against the Herald had been, it felt like it would probably be a waste of a skeleton key. At least Valbury outskirts fixed my aether crystal shortage...
I believe I maxed out Primal Bond around this time and switched to pushing up the oathkeeper mastery bar. I have been feeling more durable with Primal Bond's damage absorption. In devotions, Scales of Ulcama's proc has come online and given me a source of resistance reduction that actually works, finally, so that's been helping too.
After the two heralds I could reach, I zoomed through the Blood Grove and Darkvale Gate. Zaria went better than I expected, though not as well as in Normal. Some of the void totems have been rough, with groups of Cthonian Harbingers all popping their life reduction at once. Karroz had a couple of close moments; again, my resistances weren't overcapped enough and he brought out resistance reduction and then actually hit me, unlike Zaria who reduced my resistances and then kinda sat there for a couple seconds. I didn't bother with the Chosen's sidequests, but I did pick up legion badges when I saw them and clear out the mill, though I haven't turned either of those in yet.
I also paid Benevald a visit as I was passing through the Grove, and he had a couple of decent bonecrushers, so that was how I finally got a weapon upgrade. He hasn't seen the last of me, I think.
Asterkarn was another easy jog (though not literally zipping - I generally fail to execute zips). I did run into the yeti boss but he wasn't a problem. I arrived in Fort Ikon expecting to be able to get the Herald of Destruction quest but nope, it turns out I need to be Honored with the Legion. I think this is achievable - I'm about 1500 rep short of Honored. I think turning in my sidequests, Lucius, the Legion supplies, doing the Pine Barrens sidequests, and picking up a couple of bounties should do it, and I'm only level 57, so I have quite a bit of slack in the XP budget to 65 for the Herald. I picked up and immediately fulfilled a bounty for Blood of Cthon, which is probably a questionable decision long-term, and locked in a bounty for Mogara, which is basically free rep if I'm going to go do that quest anyway. So I think that's my immediate plan for the next time I get to play - Legion rep to Honored, then Herald of Destruction.
The real question after that is whether to attempt one of the original three roguelike dungeons, which have a level 70 cap in Elite to score league points. I feel like Steps of Torment is probably achievable, and it's the one I'm most comfortable in. Ordinarily I would expect Alkamos to get me since my freeze resist is just 15% from Dire Bear, but Josiah in Homestead was kind enough to sell me a Hoarfrost potion for freeze duration reduction...
At this point I wouldn't be in a huge hurry to earn XP even if I weren't aiming at level-capped season objectives. I'm in the part of the game where the monsters get stronger faster than I do as I gain levels, so most of my gains relative to them are from finding better gear and unlocking constellations. It's one thing to rush heedlessly to 94 when you have gear waiting for you in the shared stash, but I don't. The more shrines and rep I can get with a minimum of XP gain, the better off I'll be later. Pushing the Legion up to Honored isn't even a bad short-term plan independent of season challenges, since they have a two-handed weapon augment with +% physical and +OA, which is exactly what I need.
Maybe the difficulty curve by level of Grim Dawn merits further analysis and another post.
In other resource-management concerns, I had a couple of level 50 legendaries drop today, but for classes and damage types that I'm not planning on playing. So I unlocked the dismantling mechanic and blew them up, getting a manticore eye and an aetherial missive out of the deal, which was better than I expected. Between that, the two dynamite to open the Guardian of Dreeg, the three dynamite to open Valbury outskirts, and skipping Staunton Mine, though, my dynamite supply is now looking a bit thin.
At the end of day 2, I had moved back up to around 25th place, but I don't expect to be able to hold this given that I do, apparently, have a day job.
Character snapshot at end of day. I kind of want to use a Chains of Oleron in my chest armor, but I suspect that when I go up to Ultimate I'll just have to smash it and go back to a silk swatch for the resistances.