Diablo II: Lord of Destruction Review
Return to the Mouse-Click Madness
Expansion sets are always a risky gamble. They require the player to have the original, and offer much less new content than an original game would, often for nearly the same price. Therefore the new Diablo 2 expansion Lord of Destruction doesn’t look to give enough bang for the buck on the surface. In practice however, it makes for a vast improvement to an already well done game.
The most obvious new feature in the expansion is the new fifth act, set just after the point where the game previously left off. After finally finishing the hunt for Diablo, players must now follow his brother Baal, the titular Lord of Destruction, to the frozen northern wilderness. Unlike the original four acts, which featured well protected towns in the middle of monster ridden wastelands, this new act conveys the feeling that the local humans are actually at war with the demons. As one first sets out from town, reckless barbarians can be seen charging blindly into battle beside one’s character. The demons meanwhile have a vast array of trenches, walls, siege towers, and catapults to keep characters sweating.
In fitting with this shift in tone, Act V features a pronounced orchestral score in contrast with the previous near subliminal mood music. This comes as a welcome change of pace for a game with a macabre setting. Elsewhere on the audio front, new sound effects have been added throughout the game which make it easier to tell just what type of items monsters drop to the floor without actually looking.
While the new act is nice, the most enjoyable addition by far is the inclusion of two new character classes. The Druid pairs the Necromancer’s summoning skills with some formidable combat prowess, and even has elemental spells like the sorceress. Meanwhile the Assassin brings more adrenaline to the game with combination attacks that require the player to keep one hand on the keyboard switching skills for maximum effectiveness.
As fun as these new features are, they still don’t quite enhance the game enough for a truly fresh experience. Fortunately, a good deal of the core mechanics have also been enhanced. In addition to new varieties of equipment, there are now new magical effects available for all equipment, yielding a plethora of new combinations. New types of items can also be found, such as charms, which bestow magical bonuses at the cost of valuable inventory space.
Thankfully, this increased number of items comes with new places to put them. Characters’ stashes are doubled in size, allowing players leave more in town. Characters themselves can carry more as well, with the added ability to toggle between two sets of weapons, shields, and skills all in one command. Furthermore, both socketed items and things to put in them have become far more common, making both far more useful.
Also helpful is an increase in the effectiveness of hired mercenaries. While before they served only as a momentary distraction, mercenaries now gain their own levels and can be given equipment, as well as be revived when they die, making them nearly as useful as another player character.
Simply adding beneficial things would make the game too easy, thus Blizzard also took some measures to increase the difficulty. Special monsters have a variety of new magical properties, much like equipment. Furthermore, the higher levels of difficulty have been made all the more challenging, with more numerous and more powerful monsters.
Even those features which have always been present have received face lifts. New graphical features have been added to some dungeons. New artwork has been added for some equipment. Most importantly, the balancing of skills has been overhauled, making previously underpowered skills now quite viable.
Nearly every aspect of Diablo II has been improved by Lord of Destruction. New monsters and items to make the game feel fresh again, new classes to justify playing through again, and a new act to keep RPGamers playing longer. While newcomers may still wish to spend their money elsewhere, those already hooked on Diablo II will find this expansion to be worth every penny.