Review by UltimaZER0
"The awesome forces of heaven and earth can send Baal back to hell! Well sort of....."
A WHOLE NEW WORLD
When it comes to games, people want sequels rather than expansions since they offer so much more than a simple addition to the game but surprisingly, the Lord of Destruction expansion fulfills a lot of whatever a sequel can offer while staying true to the Diablo II spirit.
When you first run the space-hefty expansion, you get a new movie and a new opening screen. Progress further and you'll notice something that will definitely surprise you: two new characters have been added to the lineup, which makes up a total of a whopping seven characters. One is the female Assassin, who specializes in martial arts, booby traps, and mind/shadow techniques. Although she could be maybe a tad stronger, her ability to quickly attack with twin claws and unlock chests without keys makes her a fun character to play with. The other is the Druid, a man of nature who has the ability to cast elemental spells, shapeshift into a werewolf/werebear, and summon Dr. Dolittle's animal family. This guy is a weakling as a physical fighter but the shapeshifting and summoning spells are loads of fun. Hey, you anyone else who can summon ravens, wolves, worms, and bears?
The fun has only just begun. In addition to the new guys, you can also convert your original game characters to the Expansion set, unlocking the brand new Act V, which takes place in a mountainous region of the world with some chilly spots throughout the area. With the downfall of Diablo and Mephisto in earlier Acts, Baal is all that remains in your way and in the Barbarian Highlands, it's your job to finish him off. Think it's easy? Think again. Once you reach Act V, you'll have to face off against a difficult horde of new monsters that can intimidate even the strongest of players. It really doesn't sound that bad but take the Succubus for instance; they're fast and are programmed to fight hard in battle. As for the bad news, they have the ability to curse you with an enchantment that causes you to lose health instead of mana when you use your skills and techniques. Of course, words can only tell you so much. You'll need to buy this expansion to experience it yourself, especially at the Hell and Nightmare difficulties. As for the rest of the cast of monsters, there are now new enchanted states that a monster can have. Remember the Champions and other enchanted enemies? Now you have Berserker, Possessed, Fanatic, and Ghostly monsters. Berserkers are homicidal maniacs that will attack with higher strength but have less physical defense. Possessed monsters have incredible vigor and are not affected by a Necromancer's curses. Fanatics are rushers that will relentlessly attack you with blinding speed but lack defensive tactics. Last but not least you have the Ghostly ones, translucent monsters that are very slow but are highly resistant against physical damage. All of this adds to the fun in this game and makes it all the more challenging.
As for the rest of the expansion, it consists of changes to the game's playing mechanics and new features, the biggest one being the ability to fully interact with hired NPCs. As you may know, originally you could spend some gold to hire an NPC to fight for you in battle but there was nothing else than that and once you moved on to another Act, the hired NPC would vanish. Now you may do a lot more with your hired hand. In addition to an improved AI, you may give the poor guy some armor, a helmet, and designated weapons. You may also cure him/her with potions whenever you're not close to town and he/she will follow you from one Act to another, allowing the NPC to further grow in experience and level. Of course, it's not cheap having to buy equipment for both you and your NPC but it's worth it, especially should you choose to hire the skillful Barbarian. The only thing is that you have to take good care of your friend; NPC resurrections are not cheap.
MORE ROOM THAN A VOLKSWAGON BUG
The business with items has also gotten a change. Remember how that storage chest helped to maintain inventory space? Now the chest's storage capacity has been doubled so storing armor and other pieces of large equipment should no longer be a big problem. Also, should you carry more than one set of weapons, you may now equip them as a secondary set rather than storing them in your inventory. All you have to do is press the W key to swap them at any time. With all of this in mind and the Horadric Cube obtained in Act II, you should be as snug as a bug in a rug.
MORE FOR THE MARKET
In addition to item storage, the variety of items has also been improved. Remember the skulls and gems from the original game? Now you also have runes that can offer different combat and field effects such as a boosted Attack Rating or a higher Light Radius. Not only does this further promotes the game's virtual trade market, the Horadric Cube can be used to get some nifty items with the help from some runes. As for equipment, there are now new set items, elite weapons, and other tidbits including ethereal items, equipment that can't be repaired. George W. Bush could learn a thing or two from Diablo II, don't you think?
Now let's move on to the ratings....
The graphics remain unchanged from the original Diablo II. This game is known for some nice 3D effects complete with beautiful environments that has some nifty lighting and weather effects. You can see day become night and night become day with some occasional rain every now and then. Unfortunately, as of this date the graphics are a little aged and it could've used some cleaning. A big plus, however, is the fact that you can now boost your resolution from a basic 640x480 to a whopping 600x800 but such a large size is only fit for your higher-end machines so don't expect it to work well for you if you're playing anywhere close to minimum system requirements.
The soundtrack is one that you'd called you a masterpiece. Its creepy tone fits the mood of the game perfectly and when you're not playing the game, Aimster (not Napster) and other trading programs offers the soundtrack in mp3 form for your entertainment. Likewise, the voice acting is of pure quality. Just as it was done in StarCraft, characters in Diablo II display true emotions in their lines and it's so clear that you won't even need the texts to understand them. Finally, the sound effects are also excellent. Monsters snarl and growl with their cries heard from different directions and of different intensities. It's also clear to the point where you can hear a zombie say ''brains''.
Just as with many PC games of the same genre, Diablo II relies on mainly your keyboard and mouse. The mouse does its point-and-click motions with the two buttons assigned for actions while the keyboard does commands using hotkeys. No matter which way you put it, the controls are all customizable to your liking. It may seem difficult to memorize so many hotkeys and commands but don't fret; it's a lot easier than it looks.
The game is a lot of fun and the story gradually unfolds before your eyes as you complete quests and proceed deeper into the game but sometimes you can't help but notice how the hack-and-slash factor is so obvious. No many how many ways you cut it, Diablo II is basically a hack-and-slash game all the way, which hurts the game in this category. What saves the score, however, is that there are some pieces of the game that makes it a little more than a basic hack-and-slash. The constantly-changing environments, the quests, and other features add to the game's fun factor and thus saves the game in this category.
It may technically not be a sequel but this expansion set is a load of fun and you'll be kept busy for quite some time, especially should you choose to start new games using an Assassin or Druid. It's not exactly a flawless expansion but it's still a great game that refreshes the original game.
When you play online, always beware of pillaging backstabbers and hackers. Backstabbers are the lowest form of scum in the universe, especially those who sell your hard-earned items on EBay. As for hackers, while hacks are a little more difficult to make for such a complex game, it can still be done so watch out.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 08/28/01, Updated 08/28/01
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