Description: Reviewed by Darkmage for the Phrozen Keep.
Categories: Mod Reviews
HoE is one heck of an undertaking. It's not going to be possible for me to fit every new feature or idea of this mod into this review, but I shall do my best. First, let me mention the graphics. Hell on Earth features a ridiculous amount of new item graphics. Almost all of the weapons, armor, and a bunch of new item types have new pictures and do not seem to suffer much do to the way palettes work in D2 as some other mods have. Most all of the items have been renamed, and a bunch of new ones have been created to outfit your characters with. Every class has it's own unique type of armor, amulet, and ring, and all of them carry class specific bonuses if you choose to use them. Outfitting your characters just got a whole lot more involved.
Prefixes and suffixes got a huge overhaul as well, and you'll be hard pressed to find the same item twice. The pool of affixes seems endless, and as of right now, my level 91 Barbarian is still finding new gear he actually equips on a fairly regular basis. There's just that much good stuff to be found. Gone are the +1 mana after each kill and +1 light radius affixes, replaced with multi-function affixes and tons of +per level types. You have to like items that grow with your character. Rares seem much more likely to spawn with a bunch of modifiers, making the all-powerful uniques of D2X actually have some competition. I didn't see many 3-affix rares in this mod. Speaking of, item drops are much more generous in HoE than in regular D2X, and since 95% of the stuff isn't like what's in regular D2, you'll be checking most of it out.
Unique and set hunters like myself have plenty to look forward to in the mod as well. All, or nearly all of the unique armor in the game has been replaced with more impressive items. This includes gloves, boots, belts, helms, shields, and regular body armor. Jewelry is all new as well, and a few of the pieces of jewelry are better than anything you'd ever find in D2X. The set items from D2X remain intact, but a handful of brand new sets are in place as well. Some interesting additions such as a set that works better in daytime, and another that works best at night await your discovery. I'm not sure if there are plans to eventually wipe out all of the old sets and make new ones or not, but what is there is really nice. Weapons are still a work-in-progress at this point.
Character skills definitely need a mention here as well, as very extensive work has been done in this area. Even classes like the Barbarian who have next to nothing for a modmaker to work with have had their skills rearranged, retooled, and otherwise modified. Warcries and combat skills have been mixed up into the two non-mastery trees, and some of the lower-level skills have been cranked up and moved further down the list. Mana costs all around are lower, as leech has become a little less common. But with the much larger +to mana affixes and the leech on some of the nicer uniques and such, it is very workable and a nice change of pace. I only played a few of the other classes briefly, but from what I saw of the Necromancer, he looks MUCH more interesting than he was in D2X. Also, all of the characters that I tried have a free skill they can use early on. The game, at the onset, is pretty tough compared to D2X. Eventually you'll find some really incredible items and you can be as much of a badass as you can find items for, but it's very difficult at the beginning. Luckily, the Barb has a free find potion skill, the Necro has free Bone Spears and Bone Armor, and the Assassin can keep her burst of speed skill on permanently. I've not checked out the other classes, but I'm sure they've all got some tools to get those first few levels.
Lastly, I should mention the Horadric Cube. The cube has about 100 times more uses than it did in regular D2X. You could outfit your entire character with nothing but items of your own creation, and you could be almost godlike in power with enough time. You can combine gems to create spheres, which take on the abilities of the gem in all different item types (ie: one sphere does the same thing as a gem in a weapon, armor, and a shield). Then there's the crafting. Mixes of stones, metals, and a huge assortment of different precious items can be combined to create runes and crafted equipment. The runes have multiple levels of power and the items can be good enough to get you through all of Hell difficulty. Personally, I didn't really use the cube much. I'm more of a finder myself, and outside of making a bunch of perfect gems and a pair of gloves that got me from Act II normal all the way through nightmare, I only used the cube for quest-related tasks. I hear that all of the best items you can get come from runes and other crafting recipes, but I can't really comment on it anymore than that. But for crafters, you'll be set.
What Needs Work
The old sets (non-exceptional) and unique weapons could really use replacing. The weapons are a work-in-progress as far as I know, so that will not be the issue soon, and the sets are probably in the same boat. From what I've seen of the new unique items though, I can't wait for the new weapons. Finding old items like Rixot's Keen and Sigon's Shelter are fairly disappointing when you've seen stuff like the 'Grow Ring', and I'd like to see what awesome new swords await my Barbarian when they come about.
I've yet to determine if the class-specific items are really a good thing or a bad thing. As of this moment, I'm not using any of the barbs rings, amulets, or armors, but I have seen a couple good ones. The idea itself is great, and I must say the graphics for the armors especially are WONDERFUL. The problem is that they dilute the odds of finding regular jewelry or armor, and the odds of getting +3 to a skill or two that you actually use aren't terribly high. The affixes DO seem to get better and STAY better as you level up though, so it's not much of a complaint. You don't find a lot of utter crap in this mod.
Act IV is the last thing that I'll briefly touch on here. The problem that I had was two-fold, although I'm not sure that it should really be changed. Advocates (spell casting mages somewhat like Oblivion Knights) join their Oblivion brothers as a second mage class in Act IV, and they seem to use Magic-damage based attacks. My resist all max resists in Hell didn't help me one bit here, and if I happened upon a fairly substantial group of these Advocates, I was lucky to get a single hit on them. They hit hard and fast, and brought my all-powerful barb to his knees on more than one occasion. Then when you add in the Iron maiden casting knights in the same area, you can die... a lot. Iron Maiden has been a Barb killer for a long time, so that's nothing new, but with the (as far as I can tell) increased monster density, especially in the Chaos Sanctuary, along with the advocates, it can be a real nightmare just getting to Diablo. The infamous 'Diablo crash' also struck me on nightmare difficulty after a very tough time getting him, but the second time I fought him it went through with no hassles. It never happened to me on normal either, so I didn't find it to be that troublesome. Going through Act V seemed like a cakewalk compared to the Chaos Sanctuary and parts of the rest of Act IV.
My gripes were nitpicky, as per usual, and that's a testament to how fun this mod, and all of the others I've spent a lot of time on, are to play. The uniques are on their way, the class-specific thing's not a big deal, and perhaps my Barb needs to get killed a few times to remember he's not immortal. The good in this case FAR outweighs the bad, and I don't think I've ever liked a mod quite as much as this. Most of the 'hardcore' HoE players seem to go with 'players 8' or even higher, but I found that just playing it as it was designed was never dull, and I gained levels at a brisk pace through the game. I suppose if I had made some six-socketed weapons with 6 of the uber-runes in them or some such, I would probably be able to win while sleeping, but I didn't mess with any of that. I just went with what I could find, and I had a blast. This mod brought me out of my semi-retirement, and it was easily as fun as the game was when it was new. I'll admit, I was fairly disappointed with the old Hell on Earth mod, the one for classic D2. The new items and such gave it a lot of hype, but the difficulty level was incredibly high and I got frustrated and moved on to something else after a fairly short period of time. The new HoE, however, has done a complete turnaround. It's not easy, depending on how you play, but it's extremely playable throughout. I remember making a post a long time ago about how mods were just getting harder and harder, and that was the only direction they seemed to take. Not so with HoE II, and I applaud that.
The Hell on Earth mod has since been discontinued.
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[url=https://www.d2mods.info/forum/kb/viewarticle?a=98&sid=f66e13bdc8842ecf255d17a6185d59a4]Knowledge Base - [LoD v1.09x] Hell on Earth v2.0 by Goldark & Selenaia[/url]