The Expansion pack brought amazing changes, especially to those like me and my friends who only played hardcore. Before the expansion, we had trouble beating the game on Normal, let alone make any progress on Nightmare. But the expansion made it so that your hirelings had enough hit points so that they didn’t die instantly, and could be resurrected, and you could equip them with armor and weapons. Plus the difficulty was much better smoothed over for hardcore in general. It was still really dangerous if you didn’t have resists maxed out, obviously, but if you did then getting through Normal difficulty wasn’t ultra hard anymore. And getting through Nightmare was tough but fair. Getting through Hell was only for those who had some of the best equipment though.
We killed a looooooot of hardcore characters before we had the equipment and experience necessary to start kicking ass on Hell difficulty.
(When a character dies, the rest of the party can loot their corpse. So everything in their stash is lost forever, but anything that was on them when they died can be looted. So we used that to loot the dead player’s corpse and pass on that equipment to the next character that person made. So even though the character died, their best equipment was inherited and lived on. What’s funny is that Diablo 3 and Grim Dawn have the reverse situation. In those games, all of the stuff you put in the shared stash lives on, but anything you were wearing or have on you when you die is lost forever. I think I prefer the Diablo 2 system, because come on, it’s hardcore, you’re going to be wearing the best stuff).