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[LOD v.1.10] Median_2 v1.0
Title [LOD v.1.10] Median_2 v1.0
Description Reviewed by Maxx Power for the Phrozen Keep.
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For the last month or so, give or take a day or two, I've been making Laz sweat. A lot. Perhaps some may consider it cruel and unusual punishment reviewing a mod that the maker has been releasing update after update for on almost a daily basis in order to fix any bugs that may quash the enjoyment of the mod, and thusly create a bad review. As such it's been hard to actually decide on a "definitive" version if you will. Of course all things considered I should have really begun again on each release to get the new "feel". But that would've taken even longer. Plus I believe Laz may dehydrate at this rate if I'm not careful. So here goes.


WHAT WORKS:


Much like Blackened as reviewed by myself, the central focus of this mod is the skills. Many players will be bowled over by the sheer number of new skills on offer. When I say new, I mean new. As in there's no copying of old skills with new graphics, no renamed skills, these are very much built up from nothing. It's a testament then to both the creative mind of Laz plus his modding skills that each of the new skills is either unusual,
graphically impressive, completely mad, or a combination of both. Life stealing lightning storms? They're here. Summonable Fanaticism enhanced Corrupted Rogues? Present and correct. A nod towards 70s disco? Again, alive and "funkay". It's an eclectic mix to say the least, with the urge to place a single point in each skill just to see what it does probably the most overwhelming urge anyone coming into play this mod will have.


But it's not just the skills that have been shifted around. A lot more has also been changed. For example the way in which every monster acts, attacks and in some cases animates has been tweaked, sometimes radically changed.
There's exploding Quill Rats, Council Members that spark lightning when you step on them, and...well, I won't give too much away, but suffice to say that if you've ever had gripes about the same old, same old attitude of the enemies in Diablo, Median will be a sharp kick up the arse for you. It was already a harsh jungle out there, and it just got that bit harsher. And wierder.


There's also a major change of items. Now usually I am of the mind that the more you have, the better. Well Laz shows up my way of thinking by taking the minimalist route. No sets, no uniques, no runewords, no gemwords, no crafted items. Just normal, magic and rare items. O, and a whole lot of sockets. If this had been done badly then it could've really hampered the game, but the new set of affixes on offer will have you soon forgetting about any unique items and have you scrambling for every yellow item you see
on the ground. This method means that the game is actually streamlined a lot more, with a simple job of comparing one item to another, rather than hoarding set items and socketed ones in the hope of finding the next piece, or running one area time and time again in the hope of finding a single item that will help you out. In Median, every rare item is potentially more uselful than what you currently have, meaning you get a much more "pick-up-and-play" feeling with Median than you would with some of the more "epic" mods.


What strikes me more than anything is just how much fun Median can be (baring problems mentioned below). The way the mod has been set out means that there's less time spent worrying about different builds and how your item set-up will be like. It's utterly no nonsense, full-gunning action based mod, which is something that a lot of mod makers forget, that these mods are supposed to be fun. It's good to know that I can take a break from the turgid rifting through runewords and crafting recipes before I can move
onto the next area because the monsters there are impossible without the right gear. It's refreshing beyond comparison, and firmly places the Action back into the "Action-RPG" ideal that is Diablo.


WHAT DOESN'T WORK:


Well this is the part that Laz has been dreading, but I'm not one to pull punches. Median is still bugged. Granted by the time this review has been posted these creases may have been ironed out, but it's worth noting that in it's current form, Median can be at times near unplayable. One of the worst culprits is the high-intensity graphics of some of the skills, such as Pandemonium, Lightning Cascade, Lightning Wall etc. Switching down shadow complexity can help, but only to a certain extent. It can be frustrating to see the game crawl to one frame per second even on the highest of systems, only for you to return to the game dead on the floor. There are other notable problems, such as certain monsters being too powerful for their own good, certain monster mods causing major problems (the council is one such example, which will be fixed in the next release), and more besides. It may not interfere with the game an awful lot, but it shouldn't be present to begin with.


Also while the skills on offer are tempting to try out, the reality is that most of the time you can get by with about five or six of the skills. There's really no need to have four or five fire skills, especially when you consider that they become redundant in the face of the "ultimate" skills that require only a single point to outshine their counterparts. There's a distinct lack of alternative types of damage, with only one skill devoted to magic and poison damage each, while others are little more than gimmicks, examples of which include a very slow moving projectile with a ten second timer that causes erractic physical damage, and a resistance aura that has such a low duration that it makes it near useless. It's a shame, as the skills display a technical ability that is rarely surpased by others, but in terms of balance the skills aren't the best on offer.


Another point to make is that the minimal approach to items may not suit some people. Of course those who play mods to cause thousands of points of damage every frame don't usually read such reviews, so we can disregard them. But there is an edge to creating and crafting your own items that Median sadly lacks. Everything is found, so there's little sense of achievement in finding an "uber-item", since the drop rate of rares is comparatively high compared to unique or set items. There's also the low rate at which items are sold back. If you pick up every piece of gold then you may be able to get by with repairing your equipment and ressurecting your merc, but you won't have any option to buy from the vendors. Beyond Act 2 I never bought anything except potions, town portals and keys, simply because I couldn't afford anything else. Then there's the doing away of exceptional and elite items. Though they still exsist in a pseudo form through which items "upgrade" and gain better stats, the fact they retain the same name means that you have to pick up the majority of items to know how much damage/defense they have, rather than a quick scan on the floor.
It's minor of course, as any item you use will be rare, and you will want to pick up every rare you see, but it's a valid point none-the-less.


CONCLUSION:


Median is a lot of fun, and is an honest attempt at trying something a bit different, and in many ways it works. The new skills will keep most happy, the lowered pool of items means that less time is spent dealing with the Horadric Cube et al., and the menagerie on offer is impressive enough to give incentive to try out your new toys in the world. However some of the bugs present in the mod hamper this end, sometimes dramatically, and the skills can be a mixed bag. This shouldn't put you off playing Median at all.
Infact I'd say that more people need to play this. The lack of community around such a top quality mod is shocking, and considering the time and effort put into this by Laz, it's worth everyone who reads this to go play Median right now. Just don't expect a perfect playing experience, rather a crazy rollercoaster ride through sheer brilliance crafted by a warped mind.


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