Diablo II: Lord of Destruction Review

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Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment


Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Diablo II, Pentium 233 MHz, 64 MB RAM, 1.75 GB HD space (including Diablo II installation, 4x CD-ROM

You have defeated Mephisto and Diablo, but Baal, Lord of Destruction, escaped your clutches... until now. This add-on package for Diablo II brings you a brand new Act V to explore, two new character classes (Assassin and Druid), a king's ransom of new items and treasure, improved hirelings, and... 800 x 600 resolution. Call in sick to work – you've got some playing to do.

Rating:
Kyle Ackerman


The Diablo II Expansion, Lord of Destruction, enhances and improves the original game making it a fun, and almost fresh experience. If you are one of the millions of people who bought a copy of Diablo II, and you enjoyed it, Lord of Destruction will give you a lot of additional pleasure. If you didn't get the original, give it a long, hard thought. In spite of the fairly high sticker price for an expansion, DII:LoD offers not only more gameplay, but is accompanied by substantial upgrades to Battle.net, Blizzard's service that hosts online play. All in all, DII:LoD is worth it.

Many aspects of DII:LoD are welcome improvements. The new Act V area is substantial, attractively drawn, and accompanied by an orchestral soundtrack that adds the right dramatic touch to the battleground around Mount Arreat. A new Act brings new minions of evil. The new monsters are up to the same standards as the pre-expansion creatures, and even include the return of Succubi, an original Diablo favorite. The two new character classes, Assassin and Druid, seem well balanced with the original five character classes, and have well developed skill trees that allow for a number of viable character variants. I focused on the Assassin, while Rob spent more time than I with the druid. I played one assassin specializing in the Martial Arts skills and another focusing on the Traps skills. Each worked quite well, although I used a few Shadow Disciplines to supplement their talents. Other expansion improvements include charms that enhance a character when held in the inventory, runes and jewels that add more variety to socketed items, powerful elite items for high-level characters, new unique items, new magical modifiers for items, new Horadric Cube recipes, and a second weapon slot to allow weapon swapping.

Other facets of the expansion are welcome improvements, but address problems from the original Diablo II. Diablo II should be recognized for everything it did right, but the expansion corrects some of the more glaring issues. My single favorite improvement in the expansion is the addition of 800x600 resolution for players with systems that can support it. Don't plan on using this resolution on the "minimum system requirements." The new resolution doesn't work well on a PII400 with 194MB RAM. This resolution should have been part of the original. The ability to set up a mini-map in the corner of the screen, rather than splaying it across the entire play area is also a great improvement that should have been addressed in the original game. Hirelings are now useful party members, can equip items, and be healed. In the original, hirelings were only useful for distracting Duriel at the end of Act II. Eight new hotkeys have been added. These make the original Necromancer and Sorceress much more fun to play. Lastly, the stash size was increased. Even for those of us who abhor hoarding felt that we needed a little more space to hold that extra sword or staff for a rainy day.

Other tweaks to DII:LoD are more subtle, but fit into three categories:

  • Fixing what was broken
  • Encouraging cooperative play
  • Making the game harder for even the highest level characters
Some of the fixes are meaningless to gamers who have not played Diablo II, but in playing I confirmed that my Berserker Axe Barbarian, Frenzy Dual Sword Barbarian, Zealot, and Venomancer are all functional and free of some of the bugs that plagued them in the past. The Hammerdin is playable, but no longer super-powered. Battle.net performance seems improved, as well. Online playability is much better, especially at peak usage hours. I will defer to Wrathful's discussion of higher level characters, but the game has been made much harder to play solo. In the expansion, Diablo himself was challenging for characters that had slain him nearly effortlessly, and monster immunities encourage a versatile party instead of a hyper-specialist.

The expansion is great, and starts the skill-attaining, item-hunting, monster-killing goodness all over again.


Rob de los Reyes


I am a most happy fella these days. It took me a little while to get a sense of how Diablo II: Lord of Destruction expands the Diablo II universe. The new act is fun to play and, at times, pretty to look at. The higher resolution and new mini-map option get some of the old screen clutter out the way freeing you up to focus on the monsters or just look at the scenery. The two new characters are balanced nicely in comparison to the five existing classes and provide a contrast in playing style that should offer something new for every playing style. The lion's share of "newness", however, comes in the form of treasure. The old "set item" system was revamped to be more useful and scads of items have been added. There is a whole new tier of item quality called "elite" with features and requirements befitting a high level character.

Ah, yes, about high level characters.... The most salient feature of the expansion pack is that Blizzard appears to have declared war on those who would play solo in large multiplayer games. This is pure speculation on my part, but I suspect that Blizzard was surprised by the quantity of and speed with which players produced characters in the level 80-90 range. The old Diablo II could be beaten with little difficulty by any reasonably designed character at about level 50 or so. As a result, players invented their own goals, usually either (1) creating a level 99 character or (2) creating the strangest character capable of winning the game. The former goal was clearly the more prevalent. This meant that you saw an awful lot of high level characters running around who were capable of clearing out the game's ending areas in under 15 minutes. In turn, this meant that playing multiplayer Diablo II frequently became an exercise in trying to find a game with any living monster in Act IV. It also meant that there was no need to team up with other players even at the highest level of difficulty. The only use for other players was to serve as ballast and up the difficulty and treasure quality in the game.

Blizzard appears to have had mixed feelings about that development, as the expansion pack was clearly designed with those level 60-90 characters in mind. On the one hand, die-hard players who put in the time necessary to produce high level characters have been rewarded with the creation of super-items that will never be useful or even seen by players with shorter attention spans or jobs (myself included). On the other hand, the difficulty has been ramped up: elemental resistances are lower, life and mana stealing is restricted, monsters have been given tough new resistances, and so on. It just isn't as easy as it used to be to play solo in an eight-person multiplayer game. To add insult to injury for the solo player, once you have allied with other players, everyone shares the proceeds of the sale of treasure by any member of the party.

Will this lead to better behavior on the realms? A true one-for-all experience like the kind you could sometimes find playing in hardcore mode? I'm inclined to doubt it. We players beat Diablo II once; we'll do it again. Or waste many blissful hours trying.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on July 15, 2001 7:22 PM.

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