After the success of Diablo II, it is only natural for Blizzard to release an expansion for the game, not only to satisfy their fans, make an unearthly amount of money, or to add replay value, but rather to tie up loose ends from the 1st 2 games, Diablo and Diablo II.
Diablo II: Lord Of Destruction adds a 5th Act to Diablo II, to allow players to hunt down Baal in the Barbarian Highlands. The game's story is simply an extension of the original. Diablo had possessed the body of the hero who had slain him in the 1st game and is headed across the world of Sanctuary to revive his brothers, Mephisto and Baal from their confinement, so as to bring eternal damnation upon us poor humans.
Players choose their hero or heroine and set forth to battle against the evil horde that has been unleashed. Of course, when the journey starts, the world of Sanctuary is already pretty messed up by Diablo and his brothers. In Diablo II: Lord of Destruction, the chase continues for the last remaining brother, Baal the Lord of Destruction who has left a wake of destruction as well as having laid siege to remaining city in the Barbarian Highlands, Harrogath. Baal seeks the Worldstone in the mountains and the player is charged with the duty to catch up with him and stop his evil ambition. Story wise, it's simply adding the finale.
The game, in standard Diablo fashion, allows players to choose a character from the available classes. Players can choose the Barbarian, Amazon, Necromancer, Paladin, and Sorceress from the previous game, as well as the 2 new classes in the expansion, the Druid and Assassin. Each class has its own strength and weaknesses as well as their own style of fighting. Players determine which skill their character learns upon level up and creates his own unique character in the process, as Skill Points and Status Points are limited.
The expansion adds to the already large number of weapons, armor and items with class-specific equipment, ethereal equipment that cannot be repaired and disappear when its durability wears out, and crafted items, which are made from the Horadric Cube, which has new formulas.
In addition, there are new prefixes and suffixes for items, and monster stats have been changed to balance out the game for the inclusion of all the new things. Exceptional and elite items can be purchased in their respective difficulties as well. There are also many new unique items that make this game an item hunter's paradise. The stash size has been increased as well!
The Expansion's 5th Act is very big and also a 'new' experience altogether, as players will have to face new challenges from siege engines, forts and their defenses. The added plus is that old characters can be brought over from the second game to clear the 5th Act.
The quests are more planned out this time around, and could take a while to complete. New, unique rewards abound as well, such as the ability to put your characters' names on their equipment, increasing elemental resistance, or add a socket to your equipment, making the 5th Act's quests an extension of the previous quest's rewards in the earlier Acts.
The graphics have been further improved… well, depending on your graphics card, that is. Monster and character movements are quick and varied, as expected, and the new spells and skills are as impressive as ever, although some have been toned down to reduce slowdown in the game. The best new feature in the graphics department, though, has to be the option to play the game in 800 x 600 resolution. It's a whole new experience all right, not to mention allowing crisper graphics and seeing enemies earlier!
Control is, as usual, smooth, something pretty important for an action-intensive game such as Diablo. Characters can now equip a secondary weapon and switch between primary and secondary weapon with just the press of a button; a good feature indeed, relieving players of opening their Inventory to switch their weapon in the middle of a battle. There are also hot-keys for instantly placing potions into the belt and, hopefully, more improvements in the newer patches. The only bad thing is that there is sometimes serious slowdown, even on high-end PCs, when a certain group of monsters appear near the end of Act 5, something that can be potentially fatal.
The music in the expansion is orchestral mostly, but indeed a good effort is made to set the mood of beginning a new adventure in the 5th Act (although I have to admit the Harrogath tune sounds like a cheesy remix of a certain Star Wars theme.) The sound is great, the explosions, monster growling, lightning cracking, weapon attacks and many others are a varied range indeed, which adds to quite an enriching game experience. Expect to hear lots of noise, that's for sure! The voice acting is well done, as usual, and great effort is taken by the voice actors. Certain game companies could learn a thing or two from Blizzard!
I have to conclude that the expansion lives up to the expectations. Diablo 2: Lord Of Destruction will be a thrill whether you go solo or play with friends. Some bugs plague the game, but then again it's nothing serious. Besides, what PC game doesn't have bugs? That's what patches are for! This game is a definite must buy for those who already own the original Diablo II!