Friday, October 06, 2000

Diablo II: Lord of Destruction | 8.0

Many people complain about the high price of the Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction (LOD) Expansion set. To do so, I think, is to miss the point. You buy the game to play it, and its playability is what matters. People tend to think that an "expansion" merely adds a "10% more" to a game - but the fact is, LOD adds so much to the original game that you will probably never look back.

Why would you give up a doubled stash? The 800x600 resolution pestered for way back in 2000 when D2 Classic was released? Instant switching between two sets of weapon/shield? New class-specific items, new uniques, greatly improved set items (gain bonuses as you collect each item, instead of having to complete them), elite items, runes (and runeword items), crafted items (i.e. make your own rares)? Two new classes (a druid who can summon creatures, cast elemental spells and shapeshift; an assassin who practises martial arts, lays traps and hones shadow disciplines), and an entire new act set in a wintry landscape (bunnies included)? Afraid to play alone? Don't worry, now your hirelings survive more than their first hit, and can be equiped with weapons and armour - they can even teleport when you walk too far! And some even have paladin auras! And they can be resurrected!

How about little little details like: you can now reset the gambling screen at will; gambling prices scale with your level; a repair-all-equiped items button; blue items now get the most powerful prefixes/suffixes, giving them renewed value; click an item on the Horadric Cube to place it inside (you have to do it to realise the convenience); Act 2 Desert Warrior hirelings cast paladin auras; Act 5 Barbarian hirelings use Stun and Bash; town NPCs now sell more items; Act-end bosses can now be repeatedly killed for chance to find top items (in D2 Classic, great stuff only drops once); you can walk through your hirelings/minions (no more traffic jams in the Maggot Lair)... and the list goes on.

Let's be honest though - everyone knows that the game code is not perfect; it has its bugs. Few games (especially of this scale) can claim to be bug-free. But despite this, the game is totally playable. I myself have not stopped playing D2 since June 30, 2000. The important thing to savour is the fact that the developers, Blizzard, are keen on resolving technical problems and gamneplay issues: think about it - Blizzard has released NINE patches to date. This may seem to suggest that the game is wrought full of bugs, but change your perspective - what it ultimately says is that its developer is conscientious enough to keep working at it. How many software developers can claim this level of diligence?

Ultimately, the game is super-fun. As I suggested in my review of Diablo 2 (Classic), the game rewards all kinds of players, from the undiscerning clicker to the meticulous strategist - that is one of Blizzard's secret ingredients: allowing every style of player to find something that suits them in the game, and yet never fully satisfying them. I suppose that's why, after countless games, my wife is still trying to perfect her (deceptively simple?) mace-stunner barbarian...


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