Players: | Release Date: 06/27/01 | Genre: Action/RPG
Blizzard's expansion pack for Diablo II adds in a fifth act to the original game along with a whole host of other goodies. So many in fact that it is tough to figure out where to begin.
If you played through the original Diablo II, then you let Diablo's brother, Baal, slip through your fingers. Slacker! (Don't feel bad; I did it too.) Baal has raised an army of demons and taken them in search of new ways to cause some havoc. Luckily, you have two new character classes to help stomp on some demon toes, not to mention the original five.
The druid plays like a combination of the barbarian, necromancer, and sorceress. When he shapeshifts into the werewolf or werebear, he has skills available to enhance his combat abilities. The summoning skill tree gives him access to calling wolves, ravens, vines, spirits, and bears to his aid, much like the necromancer's minions. His last skill tree allows him to cast nature oriented spells to harm his foes directly. With this variety in skills, he sounds overly powerful, but he does have a catch. While shapeshifted into one of his "wereforms", it is impossible for him to cast any spells, except for summoning allies. If you have played Diablo II, you probably know that spreading your skill points around too much can weaken your character, so it is best to stick to either shapeshifting or spellcasting with a dose of summoning thrown in for good measure.
A new female character joins the mix with the inclusion of the assassin. Her skills are broken up into traps, martial arts, and shadow disciplines. The shadow discipline skills generally enhance her overall combat ability. They let her increase the damage that her unique claw class weapons can do, blind her enemies, increase her speed, let her block with her weapons, and give her the ability to summon an ally. Next she can lay out various elementally charged traps to indirectly eliminate her foes. Placing a trap then leading enemies into it can be an extremely effective tactic. Her last skill tree is probably the most interesting; martial arts lets her perform charge up attacks that can be released with finishing moves. The whole process reminds me of how you can charge up for super moves in the Street Fighter Alpha series. Assigning one or more charge skills to the left mouse button and a finishing move to the right is your best strategy for using these skills to the fullest.
What else has been changed in the expansion? So many things that it is hard to pick a spot to start. Your stash (where you can store goods not being used) has grown to twice the size; more magical, unique, and set items have been added; jewels with random magical properties can be socketed into items; runes, which are similar to jewels, can be socketed into items in certain sequences to create even more powerful effects; charms can be found that give the character their effects simply by being in his or her inventory; 800x600 resolution is now playable; and a ton of other small changes.
The one thing that I like the best has to be the way that the NPC's you have hired have been changed ?Äì only with the exception of the addition new Act to wander through. You can now equip them with weapons, armor, and helms (I use my hired buddy to store useful items until I trade them off) which give them increased abilities based on what properties the items contain. You can drag a healing potion onto their portrait in the upper left corner to heal them, when they fall and get a nasty boo-boo, and they can be brought back to life when they run into something a bit more lethal. The best part is that they can travel from Act to Act with you and even across difficulty settings.
While I would have liked to see another additional Act added with the expansion, the bottom line is that it adds to the game things that players had asked for after playing the original: MORE! Some people might complain about how it changes certain aspects of the gameplay from what they knew, but I feel that it adds far more. If you find that a certain character-building strategy does not work anymore, tinker around for a bit and see what does.
I've played my fair share of lemon expansion sets in the past, and Lord of Destruction delivers all the adventure that I expected and more. Just keep in mind that if you don't have Diablo II, you'll have to pick a copy of it up first.