Hard mode implements increased difficulty for the Arisen:
- Enemy damage is doubled.
- The Arisen's stamina usage is accelerated.
- Enemies drop proportionately more gold when killed.
- Experience Points, Discipline Points, and Rift Crystal earnings from the Arisen's pawn's rentals are doubled.
Switching to and from Hard Mode
Switching modes from Easy/Normal to Hard will restart the game from the beginning of the story, but with all current progress with respect to levels and equipment inventory intact. (This prevents easy obtaination of Set of Duke's Clothing and the Abyssinal Outfit by late switching to hard mode)
However, if a player attempts Hard Mode and wishes to switch back to Easy/Normal mid-game, the storyline will continue from where the player made the switch out of Hard Mode.
- All New Game Plus data from Easy/Normal Mode is transferred to begin a new game in Hard Mode. All accumulated inventory, equipment, levels, experience, Gold, Rift Crystals, and skills of the Arisen and Main Pawn are retained.
- The progress restart aspect of a switch to hard mode allows some easy farming of items from Bitterblack Isle without having to full complete all quests - see Exploits for more details.
Difficulty and rewards
Damage and stamina
- The Arisen will sustain more damage than normal and stamina usage will drain faster. Pawns are unaffected by Hard Mode.
- Stamina drain from skill usage and spellcasting is approximately double that of Normal Mode. Stamina drain from running is unchanged from Normal Mode.
- Damage mitigating augments augments such as Apotropaism, Awareness, Fortitude, Bastion, Autonomy, and Bloodlust are boosted in Hard Mode, mitigating as much as 4.5 times as much damage.
- Enemy stagger and knockdown resistance is dramatically increased.
- Enemy health is unchanged.
- Enemy intelligence and behavior is unchanged.
- The online or offline Ur-Dragon intelligence, behavior, and difficulty is unchanged. Entering the Chamber will make the difficulty normal mode, netting the same rewards as Normal and Easy mode. Difficulty then reverts to the player's selected setting upon leaving the Chamber of Lament.
- Some of the Goblin mobs in Gransys will spawn with 1-3 more members.
Gold drop rates are significantly increased in the open world and dungeons of Gransys, including the Post-Game Everfall. Bitterblack Isle Gold drops are unchanged from Normal Mode. Even basic enemies like Goblins, Bandits, Undead, Saurians and Wolves will randomly drop one or two Giant Coin Pouches worth 10,000 Gold each. This is mostly noticeable when travelling the open world at night where large Gold drops increase.
- Mundane creatures like Rabbits, Rats, Oxen, Deer, Spiders and Boars do not drop Gold.
- Post-Game, the Gran Soren guards in the Noble Quarter do not drop more than 100g each.
This video demonstrates that several large gold drops can be obtained within a few minutes of outdoor gameplay. In this example, 143,000 Gold is obtained during five minutes of slaying Hobgoblins in the Verda Woodlands:
Rift crystals and Experience Points
- Random Rift Crystal drops, even with the Fortune augment equipped, seem to be nullified, favoring Gold drops instead.
- Experience gain is double that of Normal Mode for slain enemies. This can be stacked with a Weal item like a Blessed Flower or Martyr's Talisman to quadruple the experience gain over Normal Mode. Quest experience point rewards are the same as Normal Mode.
- Discipline points for vocation leveling is also double that of Normal Mode. The amount of Discipline Points earned depends on the number of pawns in the party, pawn levels and/or items that boosts discipline points gains such as the Ring of Perseverance and Asura Armor.
- Rift Crystal earnings for rented pawns are also doubled in Hard Mode. This effect also stacks with a Weal item.
- Stamina exhaustion can be a problem due to the higher rate of Stamina drain in Hard Mode.
- The augments of Athleticism, Proficiency (for skill use), Conservation (for spellcasting), and Arm-Strength (for climbing), as well as Grit and Sinew can be indispensable.
- Carry a good supply of Stamina curatives at all times to avoid being left vulnerable from stamina exhaustion.
- If possible, wearing Lv.3 Bitterblack gauntlets with the bonus "Restores stamina when you deliver the killing blow to an enemy" will help offset stamina loss.
- Dagger users can use Forward Roll instead of running for quicker travel without stamina loss.
- Exercise skill discipline! Skill-spamming is foolhardy in Hard Mode.
- Dying can be a problem due to the higher rate of damage sustained in Hard Mode.
- When travelling the open world, pay close attention to the enemy corpses slain by pawns. Enemies slain at a distance by Strider and Ranger pawns can drop 10,000 G pouches which can go unnoticed while the Arisen is engaging other enemies.
- Some players have reported losing their unpurified Bitterblack Weapon Lv.3 items from their inventory upon initiating Hard Mode. Further testing and verification is required to confirm this.(verify)
- Some claim max stamina was lost when switching to hard difficulty, in the original Dragon's expansion. This has not been confirmed; claims estimate around 20-30% stamina reduction.(verify)