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In addition to being harder, the hard mode strategy is actually different. I will also cover some advanced tactics that work in normal mode, but become much more important in hard mode.
There is very little information online about hard mode. One might naively assume it’s just normal mode, but harder. In addition to being harder, the strategy is actually different. I will also cover some advanced tactics that work in normal mode, but become much more important in hard mode. I’m not going to address walljumping here, because I’m no good at it.
First off, I don’t recommend hard mode. I found it much more frustrating than fun, though I did eventually finish it. It took me 8-10 hours to beat normal mode, and then another 18 hours to beat hard mode.
Best styles: Arm Spin strategy
Arm spin style and boulder style are the easiest styles to beat the boss with. With Arm Spin, every non-shop cave contains a weapon upgrade. Shops are “rare” in this style. The arm spin strategy:
– Get member’s card upgrade early (I usually try for it in world 1, but you only really need it when you can afford Curry or are about to die and need an HP restoring item.) You definitely want it by the end of world 2, because not every shop carries Curry and you need enough chances to buy it that you aren’t entering the boss with a lot of unspent gems.
– Member’s card negates Arm Spin’s only real downside. Caves no longer contain gems (~150 or so per cave), but 1 HP costs 1000+ and 1 charge costs 600+ and you’re getting 1 HP or 2 charges per cave. It’s a steal.
– Always grab weapon upgrades until world 4 (limbo). What makes Arm Spin good is the steady supply of health or ammo. Both contribute to your survival, and the caves are common enough that you aren’t stuck with a bad upgrade for *too* long. This strategy goes bad if you get stuck with Shotgun or Laser early in a run, but other than that, it’s not bad once you know how to use each weapon.
– By the time you’re in world 4 and have 20+ ammo, your weapon is up to you. You need to start thinking of whatever weapon you have as what you will use to fight the boss. I got told in the Downwell Discord that laser is the best, and I’m inclined to believe it. It’s the only one I’ve used to actually beat the hard mode boss. It lets you stay far away from the boss’s ball attacks.
– Reverse engineering (gun shuffling) is a better upgrade in arm spin style than normally. You can use it to give you a better chance of always giving you health when you need it, or get a gun you like instead of being stuck with one you don’t.
Best styles: Boulder strategy
Boulder starts with 6 HP instead of 4. It’s worse than Arm Spin if you can reliably get 2 HP in upgrades, health wise. You also only can choose from 2 upgrades instead of 3. However there is another benefit.
The game never tells you, but boulder falls faster than the other styles. Normally it just makes the game harder, but there are several benefits of faster falls:
– easier to escape from chasing enemies (angry skulls, eyeballs, etc.)
– faster through world 3 (aquifer), less need for air bubbles
– faster through boss. less chance for the ceiling to do damage to you.
– much easier corpse harvesting (see below)
From this list, it’s clear why levitate style (slower falling) is bad.
The boulder strategy is the normal game strategy. The only difference is you can’t stay in the air as long, and you should get the Youth upgrade ASAP. Youth is good even on the other styles, because it lets you ensure you are going into the boss with almost the exact build you want.
– Reverse engineering to get current weapon
Normal gun modules will never be for your current weapon. And the machinegun upgrade will never appear if you are using your base weapon (gunboots / machinegun). However, reverse engineering can trigger an upgrade for your current weapon. Example: you can have laser equipped, and shuffle a module to reveal a laser module with +1 health.
– Machinegun and stock gunboots are the same
At least according to the Downwell discord.
– Corpse harvesting (knife and fork)
The knife and fork is mandatory unless you’re an excellent player. The Downwell wikia says you get 1 HP every 10 bodies you eat. The advanced part of this is being really greedy and tactical with getting corpses. I saw someone say you can’t eat corpses in world 4 (limbo). Wrong! You just have to be super precise in how you dodge enemies. This works in other worlds too, but is most effective in world four.
You can grab corpses as they fall in mid-air, and boulder catches up to the corpses faster than other styles. Pair it with an area-clearing weapon like laser, and eat up! Most/all corpses also bounce, so get greedy getting corpses in aquifer, even when they land in the coral. You can also snag a corpse that is halfway in something damaging, and halfway hanging over a safe edge.
If you only get 1 HP per 10 corpses, you have to be good enough to get hit less than 1 in 10 greedy corpse attempts. Basically, you want to land on an enemy, fall down to the corpse, and blast away enemies after you eat it. If you have the laser, you can clear a path, so it’s easier to get to the corpse.
– Upgrade order
For hard mode, I ranked every upgrade on a scale of 1-5 for early, mid, and late game. These are the best early upgrades:
Knife and Fork
Apple is good whenever, so save it for later if you have one of these other options early-game. This image has my full ranking.
Hard mode considerations
– Greater density of enemies
There are so many enemies, including those that harass players who stand still, that a conservative run through hard mode does not seem possible. Getting combos also gives the same rewards you’re used to in normal mode, so get those bonus gems, ammo, and health.
Upgrades which deal area-of-effect damage are much better in hard mode. I avoided the blast module and gunpowder blocks upgrades in normal, but in hard, I think the benefits outweigh the downside (making combos harder). You can regularly kill 3-5 enemies at once just by landing on one enemy.
– More bullet sponges in world 1 (cavern)
Hard mode adds enemies similar to the turtles that are immune to bullets. They must be jumped on. Like the other bullet sponge enemies, it’s a good strategy to dump all your ammo as you go into them. You can use your excess ammo on other enemies, or on lining up your jump to land on them.
– Reset on early damage
If you take damage early in the run, just reset. I always reset if I haven’t landed my first 15+ combo and I have taken damage. You need all the help you can get to beat the boss, and taking damage early like that makes getting to the end that much harder.
– Combos at 8, 15, and 25
8 = gems
15 = ammo
25 = health
Land your combo at 25 or greater. If you have Knife and Fork and you’re low on health it might make sense to try eating corpses instead of landing combos, depending on what you’re best at.
I never intended this as a complete guide. Hopefully now you know some things that other guides don’t have. More help is available on the Downwell Discord, and on the Downwell wiki.