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Unfortunately, for all its improvements there are quite a few things to complain about as well. It seems Blizzard has lowered their standards a bit recently since the good old days of Warcraft. Diablo II core, while an exceptionally fun game, had a highly outdated game engine, and fairly flawed as well, that of course is highly noticeable in the expansion with higher resolution where the frame rate can dip to 4 on my super-system. There is really no excuse for such poorly optimized coding, especially from a game that was delayed twice from the original release date. Even back on Starcraft, when Blizzard released a game, it was flawless in nearly every way, in terms of the technical aspect of the game. It's sad to see the once-perfect company begin to show its age a bit, though, hopefully, they'll make up for it in the already once-delayed Warcraft III.
As always (even back in the days of Warcraft), Blizzard's concept of "balance" would make a D&D druid go insane. They still seem to think that by limiting gameplay, it balances it. Attaching incredibly high level requirements to unique items, the scaling of the skill tree, the lack of ability to buy mana potions from the stores are all done in the name of balance, though, in the end, it simply makes the game less fun to play. Especially the lack of mana potions; that can be crippling to some player classes and would make life so much more enjoyable if it were able to be purchased, even if the mana drop-rate is about 10 times what it used to be.
Another amazingly simple thing that should have been in the game, and I was still hoping would make it into the expansion is re-allotable skills in the skill tree. Just being able to right click a skill to return the point for distribution, or even being able to purchase a scroll of skill allotment from the shop or something would really have, not only made the game more fun to play, far more cat-proof and child-proof (cats or children tapping the mouse button forever destroying your character's skill allotment), and would have even introduced new strategy to the game, by being able to test new skills, test them at higher levels, try different skills for different areas, and just work your way down from high-level early skills, by migrating the points to higher skills. The possibilities of how it could have enhanced gameplay are limitless. Unfortunately we're still stuck without it.
The ability to remove gems, jewels or runes from items without damaging the item, even if it destroyed the gem or rune would have been great for cat and child-proofing the game too. My cat destroyed a socketed gothic plate I was saving for the Stealth runeword by dropping a chipped skull into it. Truly annoying.
Another of the "it should have been done" features is the need for more inventory space, and a swappable inventory. First of all, they doubled the stash size. That's good. But considering all the new items and the runes you'll be sure to collect they really needed four times the space. Without it, you're still cramped into the same small amount of space, no doubt, deemed critical for "balance". One thing that could at least help to alleviate this problem would be stacking gems and runes. If you could stack them, even a few at a time like keys, it could save on inventory space by an astounding amount. Perhaps removing one at a time by right clicking on it, similar to how gold piles worked in Diablo 1 could have worked extremely well. Adding a "shared" tab or something to the inventory could have also proved highly useful, for passing items from one of your characters to another, or being able to give something from one character to another in the selector screen would be good. Right now, to pass something to another character, you have to join a game with someone you know, ask them to hold the item while you rejoin, connect again, then take the item. This is an excessive strain both on players and on the battle.net servers. A simple tabbed inventory for more space, and a shared tab that all characters on the account can have access to really would have lessened this strain. I think Blizzard really missed the mark on a lot of needs by omitting these features, especially the inability to unlearn skills, and the inability to stack runes and gems.
Some of the things like runewords are absent from the single player game, open characters, and LAN games, in favor of server-side patches until 1.09 comes out and patches single player. The idea is nice, but since runewords are really a huge part of the expansion, as well as other things such as player speeds (noticeably slower in single player than multiplayer until 1.09), losing it from single player alienates a good portion of the D2 owners.
Finally, Battle.net. What can I say about Battle.net? Lord of Destruction is geared toward online play, but Battle.net doesn't seem to be able to handle it at all. You may recall my having some problems with the Realms when I reviewed Diablo II a year ago. I attributed it to the fact that the game just came out and they were still working out kinks. Well, I've heard that over the winter they were actually almost stable. Then in June I decided to go back and play a little Diablo II again with LordHavoc, our senior editor here at GV. A year later, and the realms were down nearly every day whenever I logged on. Ok, it was the first time in a year, they were setting up for the expansion, that's understandable. I was all set to give it a nearly clean-slate until two days before I wrote this review (which is a few days before the post-date you see at the top of the page.) I spent a day and a half trying to build up a sorceress. Every ten minutes or so, the servers would kill the game, causing me to lose all my quest items for that act as well, because it "forgot" and rolled me back a bit. I completed all of Act II three and a half times with that sorceress. Finally I had actually gotten up to the palace. I logged in on Tuesday night to find my sorceress, my level 34 druid, and my level 33 assassin were standing there naked. Their entire inventory, cube, quest items, hireling, stash, and everything inside were missing, making the characters effectively useless. It appears that nearly everyone on Battle.net USEast that logged in after 8:00pm PST that Tuesday lost most of their inventory. Fortunately, they did take the realms down and, rolled back the servers to when we all had our items (hence why I found time to write the review.) Unfortunately, all still is not well. My sorceress and assassin are as they once were. My druid is as he once was...a week and a half ago. Yep, my Level 34 druid is now a level 27 druid, and is missing his +2 druid skills antlers, his rather nice crafted maul, and a few other things that he acquired in the time between level 27 and level 30. Fortunately I did get my two Ort runes back since I never crafted the mauls yet in this druids timeline. The antlers are forever lost, because LordHavoc was storing them for me at the time when my druid was level 27 to give me when I hit level 30. His character was restored to the later timeline after he had already given them to me, however, my character was restored to the time before he gave them to me (sounding like a bad Star Trek time paradox episode yet? It feels like it!) It makes me frightened to think of what the possibilities of having a Realms character get corrupted are, and makes me think of reverting to open characters.
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