There isn't a lot to explain as far as hints or tips are concerned. I'll lay out the optimum shard setup and damage upgrades you'll want for Hard mode.
Shards (in order of preference)
- Triple Jump
- Spirit Surge
- Reckless/Magnet/Sticky/etc (your preference)
Overflow + Catalyst makes you regenerate Energy until it's full, then Life whenever energy is full when hitting enemies with a melee attack. The spirit blade will be your primary weapon for that reason. Lifeforce adds 30% damage when your health is above half full. Triple jump is obvious. Finesse is a 20% chance to do 50% bonus damage when upgraded. Spirit Surge adds an unknown amount of damage when you have spirit light, up to a cap of 6000 spirit light when it is upgraded. Resilience reduces the damage you take, and Reckless adds 35% to your damage when upgraded, but you take 35% extra damage.
You will need to get the Burrow ability in Windswept Wastes at the start of Act 2 to complete the overflow/catalyst/lifeforce combination. Those three shards can be found in these locations:
Also get the two 25% permanent damage boosts at the end of Act 1 or beginning of Act 2. On your way to meet up with Ku at the end of Act 1, make sure to go up through the first opening above you in the area with the grey one hit kill sludge to meet a guy who gives you a branch for a quest (talk to seed guy in town after than, then warp back and talk to him again for a seed, and finally seed guy again). This plants a tree in town that gives you a 25% damage boost.
The 2nd 25% damage boost is from a hidden tree near the entrance to Midnight Burrows. The hanging light flowers match the stones nearby to the left (high flower = tallest stone, etc). Bash off them without touching the ground to open Midnight Burrows or the tree to the right. Numbering the flowers 1 2 3 from left to right, the order is 1 2 1 3 3 2 1 to open the tree door, and 1 2 3 3 1 2 1 to open Midnight Burrows. Can be obtained before finishing Act 1.
For boss fights, buy the Spirit Spike ability from the vendor in town and upgrade it. That ability combined with the above shard setup and damage boost trees does insane amounts of damage. It will one-shot each phase of the spider fight on Easy difficulty. I haven't tested it yet on Normal and Hard, but rest assured if the damage from my basic blade is any indication with that setup, the spike will be just as potent on the higher difficulties.
The only other major thing to remember is that any time you bash off an enemy or hit them with your blade in mid air, it resets your jump. You can use this to 'save' jumps you may have missed, or extend them. That also goes for the Launch ability once you get it. Launch resets your jump, bash, and dash abilities. Bashing off an enemy or hanging light will also reset your Launch ability. This is why the mop-up of collectibles at the end of the game, once you've completed the Hand to Hand quest and revealed everything on the map, is so easy and quick. You will be flying around the game so quickly that the Xbox can't keep up at times (on the current build at least). I will have maps of each area below once I do a run on Easy and do the quest to reveal everything on the map without collecting anything (to be added later).
Maps of each area are below with all collectibles revealed. I tried to snapshot them in a way that the edges overlap a little so you don't have any areas omitted. Some of the things (especially spirit light orbs) in the village don't show up on the map until you do their respective sidequest, and on the run I made the maps I only did the Hand to Hand quest to reveal all the collectibles, none of the others. So just make sure to do all the sidequests and check inside all the houses in the village once you've done the rebuilding tasks with Grom. These probably aren't necessary as I still suggest you just do the Hand to Hand quest chain (detailed in the Mark of the Trader achievement solution by yours truly) to reveal all this on your own map, but maybe it'll help you grab upgrades on your way through. I'll try to touch them up with all the Shards named so you know where that one you're seeking is when I have time.
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