First Thoughts – Diablo II: Median XL Sigma

I could talk for hours about what Diablo II has done for me, starting as a young child and now carrying on into adulthood. It’s a game that I re-visit frequently, and is still my go to when I want to dabble into the isometric Action-RPG genre.

Over the years, I’ve spiced things up by trying various Diablo II mods such as Eastern Sun, Median XL and more recently, Path of Diablo. Some of them drastically changed the core game enough for it to seem like something entirely new, others made a few key quality of life changes that overall enhanced the experience.

Though I’ve tried multiple mods, I put the most time into Median XL. It was one of those mods that felt like they changed a lot of the core Diablo game, but in interesting ways that kept me engaged. The main reason that I strayed from Median XL years ago, was due to the one hit kills. At times, I would be walking along, minding my own business hunting down demons, and instantly would drop dead. At times, this would be due to straying into a higher level area which I can’t criticize, other times not.

Each characters skill trees have been completely revamped.

Median XL also offered new and exciting abilities for each class to use. Due to the frantic nature of some of these abilities, and that monsters have the same abilities, the screen can fill up rather quickly and bring you from full life to death quickly. There was a point that it became not as fun, and I walked away.

In December 2018, the creators of Median XL announced an update, Median XL: Sigma, which would re-work many of the mechanics of the original, and offered new quality of life updates not found in the previous iterations. Median XL: Sigma released in January 2019, and I’ve recently gotten the itch to jump back in and check it out.

The following are my first thoughts in checking out Median XL:Sigma for around a dozen hours and leveling a Barbarian and Sorceress each to level 105.

To be fair, for Median XL:Sigma, this isn’t very far into the game. The level cap is now 150 and there are dozens of end game areas and challenges that I’ve just not yet reached. This is one of the more exciting things to look forward to while creating your characters and progressing through the game.

One of the first and easiest challenges that you’ll face in Median XL: Sigma.

For example, check out the list of challenges here.The first challenge is accessible in Tristram and requires you to fight and kill The Butcher from the original Diablo. Killing him means you are awarded with a charm that increases your attributes, magic find and light radius. You can complete these challenges multiple times to get charms with better rolls as well. The more challenges you complete, the stronger your character gets. It’s a fun system that always has a reward for your efforts. There are over 30 challenges ranging from very easy to impossible for you to attempt, and this isn’t even including the Rifts added that act similarly to these challenges.

There are tons of quality of life adjustments as well. You have the option of pressing the ‘R’ key any time while playing to completely reveal the map for the act you’re currently in. As someone who has played through each act over 500 times each, it’s nice to just know where to run to progress, especially in places like the Maggot Lair. Also, your character no longer has a walk speed when you’ve run out of stamina. Instead, your walk speed in game is actually the typical run speed of a character, with the added option to sprint for a few seconds at a time to go even faster. Your character picks up gold off the ground automatically and you can even stack shrines on top of each other to gain multiple shrine bonuses at once.

You are now able to disenchant unique/set items found into arcane shards, one part of the process needed to upgrade items that you find. One issue I do have with Diablo II at times, is that when you’re playing your character, most items just don’t matter. I could be playing a Amazon and find an incredible item for a Necromancer. If I’m on single player, the wasted stash space isn’t worth it and the item gets vendored for an insignificant amount of gold. In Median XL: Sigma, we at least have some consolation to finding items that are unnecessary to our current character.

Each unique item has four tiers that you can upgrade to. There are also ‘Sacred’ Unique’s which are considered a tier above, with better stats and more requirements to use.

Each unique item has four levels that you are able to upgrade to. Each level gives you increased bonuses to various stats, while increasing the requirements needed to wield or wear that item. On top of upgrading items this way, vendors in each act have mystic orbs that you are able to attach to each item that you’re wearing. Each mystic orb upgrade adds four levels to the level requirement needed to wear that item, so you can’t just dump orbs onto an item indefinitely to max out every stat. It’s incredibly useful, especially when you’re just a few percentage points below a max resistance. Throw a mystic orb onto an item for that resistance type, and you’re now capped for little consequence.

Regarding my previous grievances mentioned here, I feel that there have been major adjustments to spike damage overall and things seem more fair. It still stinks to get spammed over and over again by walls of lightning. But hey, at least I see and know that I’m dying because I don’t currently have max lightning resist and I can’t be expected to survive running through walls of lightning.

All of this being said, I’ve only seen a shred of what this mod has to offer. I haven’t gotten into the challenges or rifts outside of the first few ‘Very Easy’ challenges, I haven’t jumped into the complicated crafting system to deck out any of my characters and I’ve only tried two builds so far.

I’m hoping to continue my efforts here and see which character or build really sticks for me, but then again, Grim Dawn:Forgotten Gods is right around the corner as well, and that’s going to be worth checking out.

If you’re interested in trying out Median XL: Sigma, check out the site here which includes the various cube recipes, items, challenges, rifts , forums and more.

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