Diablo II: Lord of Destruction
Diablo is dead, hammered back to his own little Hades with a little help from yours truly. Only problem is the little devil's got a big brother and he's smokin' mad. So it's time to stock up on health potions and call up your friends because brother Baal is a callin' and he ain't going away without a fight.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Most expansion packs tend to focus on extending the gameplay of a game without tinkering too much with the actual game itself. Not so in.
The most noticeable additions to LOD are the creation of two new character classes, the assassin and the druid, which in itself make replaying the game's original levels worthwhile. Surprisingly, Blizzard managed to create characters that stand out from the original classes in both graphics and tactical advantage, each equipped with 30 unique skills and spells.
The assassin is a master of martial arts, which allows her to do increasingly deadly damage through charge-up attacks and finishing moves, deadly traps ranging from thrown fire bombs to complex proximity-triggered sentries, and the powerful shadow disciplines, a kind of psychic magic which modifies her attributes. The assassin is also the only class that can use the powerful and quick claw-class weapon.
The druid plays a bit like the necromancer with the ability to call creatures to his side, like ravens, grizzlies or deadly plants. He also can manipulate the elements, calling forth volcanoes, twisters or even hurricanes. My favorite druid skill is his ability to temporarily shape shift into a werewolf or werebear, creatures with increased speed, agility and fighting prowess.
The drawback with using the new character classes is that you will need to start the game, multiplayer or single player, fresh and fight your way through to vanquishing Diablo to get to the new levels. But the uniqueness of the new characters makes it a fun ride. If you decide to skip the replay and stick with your old characters you just need to convert them -- a one-time, one-way process.
The game still has lots of new things to play with even without the use of the new classes. Thousands of new class-specific weapons, armor and magic items are included in the game as well as new item sets and new unique items. The expansion adds rune words and jewels to the mix as well, making it easier to create or modify items. There are also charms, items which when held in your backpack grant magical enhancements, and ethereal weapons and armor, which are imbued with magical properties but are irreparable.
Lord of Destruction features a lot of minor changes that make gameplay more fun. Now you can heal and equip your hirelings, and even take them to new Acts. The game allows you to set up two sets of weapons/armor configurations and hotkey switch between them. LOD also features a larger character stash chest, eight new skill hotkeys, "repair all" commands, new automap features and a "fill tome" command. The biggest feature, of course, is the new Act, a fantastic addition set in the Barbarian Highlands and featuring six new quests. Not only does the new Act contain eye-catching glacier graphics, it also includes some of the hardest creatures, 50 new classes and seven new bosses to be exact, and the most difficult quests in the game.
As in the original Diablo II, you can play single or multiplayer, but the added unique items and increased difficulty make multiplayer a near must. Unfortunately the expansion doesn't include any changes to Blizzard's multiplayer Battle.net.
Although the graphics haven't really been changed in the game, the expansion does now allow you to play in 800x600 mode, which gives a wider view and seems to make the graphics less pixilated. Of course you can't forget the cinematic scenes for the new act, which remain at Blizzard's high standard.
Windows 2000, 98 or 95 PC, Pentium 233, 64MB of RAM, a 4X CD-ROM drive, the multiplayer installation of Diablo II, an additional 800MB on your hard drive, and a 28.8 modem or better and internet connection for Battle.net play.
It may cost a bundle at $30, but Diablo II: Lord of Destruction is worth the price. The expansion is so packed with new features, creatures, classes and items that you could mistake it for a new game. And with at least an additional 10 hours of play, the expansion is definitely worth the price. The best game of last year may feature the best expansion of this year.