Although Blizzard Entertainment didn’t have a booth in the games area at Macworld Expo in San Francisco last week, the company sent Brian “Doc” Love to give journalists and VIPs their first hands-on look at the Diablo II expansion set that’s due out a bit later this year.
Diablo II was released for the PC and Macintosh this past summer. The game has been an enormous hit on both platforms, with recently renewed public interest thanks to a coordinated release of television ads, a new “gift set” bundle, and the publication of playable demos for both PC and Mac.
Mid 2001 will see the next iteration of Diablo II mania in the form of an expansion set that continues the storyline introduced in the original game, while adding a new storyline, two new playable character classes, and tons of new magic items, weapons, monsters and capabilities to the mix.
The Diablo II Expansion Set incorporates a new story, unveiled within Diablo II as Act 5, that puts players on the path of Baal, the last of the Prime Evils. Baal’s goal is to corrupt the Worldstone — an artifact that has been protected since time immemorial in the lands of the Barbarian Highlands — thus enabling the forces of Hell to overrun the mortal plane.
Players will go on a variety of new quests in Act 5. Two new character classes are being included with the expansion set — the Assassin and the Druid. Players can go back and play the game from the start using these new characters, as well. Assassins specialize in close combat and the use of enchanted items like traps, while Druids call upon the powers of nature, controlling elemental magic and the ability to transform into animal shapes.
Tons of new monster types, thousands of new weapons, armor and magical items, Horadric Cube recipes and other enhancements have been incorporated into the expansion set. Players will also gain an increased stash area to hold new goodies as well, according to Love.
Among many of the new improvements are the inclusion of charms — magical items that aren’t equipped, but provide some tangible benefit, such as increased abilities or protection against certain kinds of magic or properties. Socketed magic items are now part of the game as well, making it possible for players to upgrade certain magic items with new features and functionality.
Players of the original Diablo II game have occasionally complained about some items, spells and characters that seem a bit unbalanced for the gameplay. Some subtle improvements to the core Diablo II game may be made by the expansion set as well, according to Love.
“I’m sure that by the time we ship, any persistent issues presented to us by Diablo II users via our online forums will be addressed,” said Love.
Blizzard is confident the game will be released late in the second quarter of the year, and hopes to offer a more concrete date closer to release. It’s very likely that Mac users will see a similar rollout for the expansion set that they saw for the original game.
“We plan to follow the Diablo II model — to release it within the same month of the PC version’s release,” said Love. “We can’t guarantee simultaneity right now but that is the goal.”
Love explained that development of the expansion set is quite an elaborate logistical effort.
“Right now, I think we’re targeting eight languages for the expansion set,” said Love. “Hopefully all those will be introduced simultaneously, as well.”
In related news, Love informed reporters that E3 — the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles coming this May — would be the place to learn more about Warcraft III, the new 3D role-playing strategy game currently in development at Blizzard. Blizzard has already committed the new game to the Mac platform, as well.
“For Mac-specific information about Warcraft III, people should direct their attention to Macworld Expo in New York this summer,” said Love. “We are planning to show the game running on Macs in New York.”