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Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction: Review

Feed Your Addiction: Part 2

By: Paul Koehler


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7
   Interface 9
   Music/Sound 6
   Originality 4
   Plot 4
   Localization NA
   Replay Value 10
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Varies
   Time to Complete

Varies

 
Overall
number
Criteria

Title Screen
More! Give me more!

   I have to hand it to Blizzard. ALL of the games they have released have been successful, with no exceptions. The hype surrounding the release of Diablo II was incredible. How many times do you see a game sell a million copies…with just pre-orders? It's no big surprise that Blizzard decided to capitalize on that success and release Diablo II: Lord of Destruction as an expansion set. They would have been insane not to. With the incredible multiplayer action on battle.net, LoD would have been successful, even if the game were horrible. Fortunately, this is not the case. All though many of the new features implemented in LoD were supposed to be used in D2's original release, they are there nevertheless.

There are no ingenious developments in the Battle System, with the exception of the two new character classes: the Assassin and the Druid. Each of these classes provides a new depth of game play, and two new skill trees. Do I make a Werewolf Druid with an army of Ravens and an Oak Sage, or do I make an Assassin that specializes in the Tiger Slash? Add this to the existing five character classes, and there are many character variations that can be done (as if there aren't enough already!) A word of warning to potential Druid players: be very aware of network lag. Many of the Druid's skills are effective, look cool, and run fast…on a solo-player game. Throw eight Druids on one network game and things can get ugly. In Act V, things get ugly A LOT.

Blizzard had the smart sense to re-use some of D2's existing components and improve them in LoD: and the sidekick (or NPC) is an excellent example of this. NPC's are given more importance in the game, as they can level up, and use different equipment. This is a perfect place to throw a spare suit of armor or sword, as the NPC will make good use of it.


Class Specific Items - Socket me please!  

   If an expansion character (as LoD characters are called) has a shortage of spare equipment, it isn't being played well. LoD has more than enough items to keep everyone occupied, and this is a great pleasure to everyone, as multiplayer characters turn into item hunters after a certain time. The stash size has been doubled, and the amount of gold that a character can carry is no longer capped at a maximum of 200,000. Socketed items are of more use now, as magical and unique items can be socketed with gems and runes.

What are runes? It works like a gem in that it gives an enhancement bonus to a socketed item. The trick is combining the right runes in the right order to make a 'Runeword'. These runewords give incredible bonuses to items, and are some of the most sought after secrets in LoD. With these and class-specific items (like claws that can only be used by Assassins), LoD's item stash gains a considerable boost from its predecessor. This is a very intelligent move by Blizzard, as one of the most challenging aspects of D2 is finding the right equipment setup for characters, largely because veteran players stay with the game for this reason.

To paraphrase a friend of mine with two level 80 characters: "I don't play Diablo II for the plot." While LoD's plot finishes where the original left off, there's nothing of special note. The quests are used for three purposes: a showcase of LoD's enhancements, character leveling, and killing Baal. The plot serves as a background to the game play, as it should.


Cutesy or Realistic Name
Werewolf Druid + Summoned Army = Lots of Fun!  

 Music also serves the same purpose, following the somber tradition of the series. For those with nice speaker setups, as with the original, surround sound and environmental effects are supported. However, LoD also improves the visual quality of the game, with an option to use 800*600 screen resolution (a large complaint with many gamers on D2's initial release). As usual, Blizzard proves their skills in FMV. They may not be on Square's level, but they are getting there. The audio narration of Marius is a bonus.

While not entirely original (this is an expansion pack after all!), LoD serves as an extension to the addiction we've all come to love and know as 'battle.net'. With its devoted followers, D2 gamers have created countless websites, strategy forums, player guilds, and a devoted analysis of item values and exchange rates on the different realms!

LoD would have sold a million pre-order copies even if it were an excuse for Blizzard to make CGI. Several people had feared that this might be the case. Instead, Blizzard proved that they could expand the addiction, and was smart enough to improve on the game elements that gamers discovered after its release. With easy game play, two new character classes, useful tweaks, and an online item hunt that will not end for several years, LoD is worth the investment.

Now, please excuse me... I need to make another Baal run.





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