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GamesFirst! Magazine

Preview:
Diablo II: Lords of Destruction



I was one of the many to be disappointed by the initial release of Diablo II. The graphics were stale. Being able to play only at a 640x480 resolution was unfortunate. The quest structure, in the final acts, became repetitive and uninventive. Additionally, much of the really cool stuff, like equipment sets, was near impossible to assemble. That, however, is all about to change.

If you’ve played through the game you know that Diablo has been vanquished, again, but his brother Baal is still on the loose. The expansion lets you track him down. Getting my first look at the new/improved game, I was literally amazed. The game now supports much higher resolutions and the graphics have gone through some important tweaks. From a purely visual aspect, it looks beautiful.

But more has been improved. Two new classes have been added: the druid and assassin. The druid is a shapeshifter who throws nature related spells and has the ability to summon different kinds of animals to fight with him. At high levels he can whip-up a rain of fire that follows him around, change into a were-bear, and send a pack of wolves after his enemies. The assassin uses different fighting styles and can unleash devastating finishing moves. Also, she sets traps and has a few stealth-related spells at her disposal. The druid looks awesome – and maybe be a touch too powerful. The assassin, on the other hand, will appeal to the player looking for a challenge and a new way to play. For the original character classes, underused skills have been improved.

The equipment in Diablo II has undergone a huge overhaul. Along with new items, new class specific items, items whose affects fire just sitting in your inventory, and elite items found only in the Hell difficulty level, more types of equipment can be socketed, the gem system has been improved, runes (a new type of socketable that can be manipulated to spell powerful rune words) lie about, and the equipment sets now provide benefits when only a few of the items are worn. The Horadric Cube has more recipes and is bigger.

That’s not all. Hirelings can now travel with you between acts, leveling independently. They can wear items and carry an inventory. One of the developers also told me their AI has been improved as well as their statistics.

The expansion features one new act and six new quests. This is the only part of the demonstration I saw that didn’t jazz me. It sounds like the majority of these quests will be similar those in the original game (step-n-fetch-it type assignments). The final quest looks interesting, though. Suffice to say it involves a major fight in which you aren’t able to damage a monster and flee or kill one of several, run away, and come back to take out the rest – popular tactics in Diablo II.

This expansion looks like the game Diablo II should have been. Diablo II is a nearly pure action game. You kill, kill, and kill some more. Therefore, much of the depth-of-play comes from character class and equipment. With this add-on, the range of possible combination of said variables increases magnificently and should provide enough variety, along with eye-candy, to satisfy. Blizzard never says when their games are to be released, but I’d look for this title in June, and when it comes out you can bet that I’ll be crouched over my computer, fighting.

Matt Blackburn

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