Frivolous Overlong Walls of Text #1 – Blovski's guide to the Vicious Halls of Steel
Warning, spoilers ahead (obviously
How to unlock: Beat Hard Halls Of Steel with a Priest, a Monk and a Paladin.
VHOS is differentiated from the rest of the vicious dungeons by just how normal it is. The dungeon is more or less a regular dungeon - just one level, features 2 bosses, doesn't have any unpleasant surprises and doesn't have any extra resources. So, where's the catch? The answer is in a pretty fiendish selection of mooks and two potentially very dangerous bosses.
It is somewhat similar to HHOS (and has the same layout, I think) but differs in three important aspects. There isn't a random mook (which will often be the easiest opponent on HHOS), the bosses are both pre-set and far harder than the HHOS bosses are likely to be and there is no free Orb of Lusory lying around. Also, Vicious difficulty monsters are tougher than Hard difficulty ones.
The mooks are difficult mostly because there are very few good targets. Warlocks are usually your best option. Higher level Animated Armours can often be dealt with as well, although they'll often take a lot of black space. Fighting both of these normally requires a good health pool or Magic Resistance and ideally a Getindare or Burndayraz glyph. Wraiths are probably the third best option. The other two enemies are Steel Golems (25% phys resist, Curse) and Illusions (50% phys resist, Retaliate Fireball, Weaken). The physical resist makes these hard to take out in one hit until you're high level, and Curse and Weaken discourage you from taking any hits from them. Steel Golems are a reasonable target for magic users. Animated Armours might be nice to have around at low levels, but the death protections make them pretty bad popcorn. Knocking down Animated Armours' protections early when you've some spare health will help your late game situation a bit.
So, essentially, most of your good targets deal fairly high magic damage, you won't have a lot of appropriate late-game popcorn. Which heroes deal with this well?
The easy heroes:
Priest – in my opinion the simplest way to do the VHOS is to take in a Priest with Taurog and a Bear Mace. Finish Indomitable reasonably early, cure yourself and then spike Blahblah to death with your double damage, high health and full restore potions. If you feel particularly cruel and have the same habit I have of collecting fringe case knick-knacks in your locker slots, you can bring along Pepper the Zombie Dog to give you double-damage against Indomitable as well.
Berserker – if you haven't tried the classic Taurogzerker by the time you reach this dungeon, I don't know what's wrong with you. The Magic Resistance and Damage Reduction lets you take on Indomitable pretty early, the dungeon's best targets for getting high-level kills are AAs, Warlocks and Wraiths, against all of which magic resistance is invaluable.
After those two, I'd give it a shot with whatever class you're most comfortable with. My third one this run was the the Earthmother Paladin, which requires reasonable god knowledge but which more advanced players might get a kick out of (I did). If you want Unstoppable, the assassin is almost essential given how hard a lot of the mooks are to finish, and, while Blahblah is not a great boss for Assassins, Swift Hands circumvents a lot of the level's challenges.
Warlords with a prepped Soul Orb are a very strong candidate, since they can attack the Steel Golems and their Cydstepp is very useful against the level's high-damage enemies. Sorcerors can pop two death protections with one attack thanks to Mana Shield, and since the level favours a mix of physical and magical damage, they're also a fairly good option.
The two things that will make your life a lot easier on the item front are, if you want to go toe to toe with the bosses, a Bear Mace and a Burn Salve. The bear mace will help a lot with both bosses for reasons I'll explain later and the burn salve is essential for when you've made it past the indomitable. I personally like taking the Soul Orb along so I have a third safeish target (wraiths) at low levels. If you've got fancier gizmos unlocked, take whatever you like.
More complicated is picking your god. For reasons explained in the Indomitable section, Taurog especially and to an extent the Earthmother are (perhaps overly) strong choices. Alternatively, Binlor is very good, as in all vicious dungeons, since he lets you build up your magic resistance, has several very strong boons, and gives you a source of knockback if you're not bringing the mace. My general recommendation is that if you prep Binlor it's a good idea to prep the Smuggler's Den, since that will give you a nice safety cushion of extra walls to break for piety.
is actually eminently domitable. An Animated Armour boss with 50 death protections, corrosion, a smallish health pool and moderate magical damage. The key point here is that he can and should be engaged as soon as you're comfortable doing so and can do so without wasting too many irretrievable resources. Magic resistance will help. Those death protections may appear daunting, but can be broken two at a time by melee knockback or by a fireball and then popping the death protection on some hapless mook, the other notable feature is that his damage drops as his death protections do, quickly lowering to the point where you can often regen fight him at surprisingly low levels. Be aware that if you do duke it out with him in a melee, you will be stacking up corrosion. It is highly recommended that you have a burn salve available for once you've finished fighting him.
Now, I'm not certain if the following is intentional or a bug, but the way corrosion currently works is that if you have damage reduction greater than the base attack of your enemy, corrosion isn't calculated. The ramifications of this are that a character with damage reduction of 3 or more will get to the point of being invulnerable to the Indomitable's attacks with around 20 of his death protections left, at which point you can just batter him to death, drink your burn salve to cure your corrosion and get on with your dungeon.
This means that either going with Taurog and picking up the Wereward or going with Earthmother and getting three ranks of Vine Form will make this dungeon much easier. I don't have platemail unlocked on my current profile but I imagine it would have a similar effect, though I can't say I like it much with the selection of enemies in the dungeon. Note that your damage reduction is negated by curse, so if you are, say, levelling up by killing low-level golems, make sure you get rid of your curse at the appropriate time. Your mileage may vary on whether DR functions as an exploit in this dungeon.
is the level's real villain. He life steals (30%), he blinks, he deals a lot of physical damage and has a huge amount of health, in addition to being undead and thus immune to poison. Most of the essentials are the same as with the rest of the game - he generally has far too much health and damage to pull off any gimmicks, so you will need to know what you're doing. The thing to watch out for is the blink and lifesteal combo – it makes conventional regen fighting extremely hard unless you're prepared for it. The best way to prepare for it is to get some form of knockback (the preppable bear mace, the half-dragon and Binlor's stone fist boon grant this), because if a monster has moved after being hit it doesn't blink. Try not to hit Blahblah irretrievably into the edge of the map or anything until you've used up all your blackspace. If you can line up a nice long wall to thwack him into, all the better.
Alternatively, I think slowed enemies don't blink – I don't really know how practical it is to rely on that in most situations, but if you have a massive damage hero (for instance, a Rogue with Tikki Tooki or Taurog) and Weytwut, you may be able to leverage that instead of knockback.
I think that's it:
I hope this guide sheds some light on the tricks surrounding VHOS and gives some pointers for coming up with your own combos and strategies to beat it. I've tried to keep it to mostly covering pretty basic equipment (doubly so since that's what I've got this profile) – you don't need any special unlocks, high-end items, Dragon Shield, Whupaz, or lucky god combos to beat the dungeon – obviously if you have that stuff, feel free to integrate it. Enjoy.
Let me know if you feel I've missed something or if you want advice on attempting it with a specific class or for a specific badge and I'll see what I can do.
Other beta vets (and indeed new players), I'm interested in what you guys would suggest is a as a good third character/loadout for the dungeon? Avatar, as the wiki chief, do you want me to see what parts of this I can edit and crosspost to the wiki? I'll probably leave the formatting to others but if I can add something to what's already there on the dungeon's strategy section I'd be glad to.