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Diablo 2 - Review

Abandon Free Time All Ye Who Enter

By: MrSorcerer


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 10
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 8
   Plot 9
   Replay Value 10
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Medium-Very Hard
   Time to Complete

25-35 hours

 
Overall
9
Criteria

Diablo 2
 

   For months, nay, years, fans have eagerly anticipated the release of Diablo 2. Any game produced by Blizzard has been met with critical acclaim and high sales to match, but the sequel to the best-selling, role-playing/adventure hybrid that shook up the multiplayer scene years ago has garnered incredible anticipation, massive press coverage, and record setting sales records. This hysteria has caused many gamers to begin to wonder: was it worth it? Hell yes!

   In Diablo 2, you return to the dark, fantasy world first visited in the original. This land is caught in a constant struggle between the wicked forces of Hell and their angelic adversaries. The Three Prime Evils, Mephisto, Baal, and Diablo, had been safely bound for some time, until Diablo, Lord of Terror, managed to escape his prison. Once free, he unleashed his evil upon the small town of Tristram, until he was defeated again at the climax of the first game. Diablo 2 begins with strange events transpiring throughout the world as a mysterious wanderer travels east from the troubled town of Tristram. Assuming the role of an amazon, barbarian, necromancer, paladin, or sorceress, you must unravel the mystery of what happened at Tristram while trying to stop the forces of Hell from conquering the world.

   In sharp contrast to traditional turn-based RPG combat, all of Diablo 2's battles are fought in real time. In essence, this is where Diablo 2 begins to distinguish itself as more of an adventure/RPG hybrid than a true RPG. The combat system is very easy to familiarize oneself with, for it basically amounts to clicking on the monster you wish to attack or the spot you wish to move to, or right clicking on the monster you want to use a special ability on. You also have to keep an eye on your health and mana, as represented by two large orbs in the corners of the screen. Although this sounds very simple, it can become quite complicated when you take into account the numerous foes that you encounter at one time and the strategies that you need to use on various different monsters. Many enemies have certain resistances that force you to find alternative ways to defeat them, while others will have methods of attacking you that require improvising new tactics. Thankfully, you have the convenience of being able to hotkey your eight favorite skills, minimizing the down time required to select which skill works best against which foe. All in all, Diablo 2 has a battle system that starts off feeling easy and fundamental, but eventually becomes intricate and unique.


Amazon: Master of ranged attacks
Amazon: Master of ranged attacks  

   The basic interface used for combat is the same interface used for all other interactions. In fact, all of the towns, wilderness, and dungeons are viewed from the same tilted bird's eye point of view. This camera angle makes interaction with the world very easy, regardless of where one might be. Diablo 2 also does an impressive job of cutting down on the number of in-game menus. The major menu is only used for configuration, while there are several user-friendly menus, which display inventory, statistics, and skills. These menus retain their simplicity in the fact that there is little need to make constant changes, especially on the skill and statistics screens. These are usually accessed only to reference basic information and, upon gaining a level, to acquire new skills and upgrade character abilities. In fact, each character has a total of thirty possible abilities, which can be upgraded a possible twenty times, creating great differences even among characters of the same class. The inventory menu, although more frequently used, is also very simple. Equipping items consists of dragging them on to the appropriate space on the body. If you wear a belt, it can also be equipped with potions and scrolls for faster access.

   Diablo 2's music is always very creepy and fitting, whether it is in a desert tomb, a spooky graveyard, or an abandoned temple. The scary nature of the music is often, however, drowned out by the intensity of combat and the nature of the sound effects, which are also excellent. Even the small sound effects made by many monsters can be haunting, especially when that monster is yet to appear on screen. Although not perfect, this is some of the best sound direction in a PC game. The only real improvement would come in better coordination between overall sound and volume, for the music easily disappears behind the sound effects and even slight background noises outside of the game.

   For Diablo 2 it has been both a curse and a blessing to have such an incredible predecessor. While on the surface Diablo 2 has many noticeable similarities with the original Diablo, there are many noticeable changes and improvements seen once you have delved further into the game. While the new PvP (player vs player) system has been controversial among fans, it has definitely been refined to keep the majority of players safe from cruel player killers. Also, cheating so far has not been a problem, because characters are now stored in Blizzard's database, not on the gamers' computers. The skill and quest systems have been noticeably refined as well, and there are many other new game aspects. The great look and feel of the Diablo games retains its innovation in the fact that so many others have tried to copy the great adventure/RPG format. Nothing comes close to the real thing, and although Diablo 2 is done in essentially the same format as Diablo, there are enough changes to keep long time fans happy, while keeping the game simple for new players.


The Sorceress's Inferno
The Sorceress's Inferno  

   Diablo 2's dynamic storyline is supported well throughout the game. Most of the townspeople have well scripted background information pertaining to your quests, as well as general random tidbits about each other. While there is very little text, all of the major speeches are very well written and command the gamer's attention to the point that one is likely to ignore nearby enemies in order to listen to the next chapter of the story unfold. Also, the game boasts several very impressive cinematics which are not only beautifully rendered, but also do an excellent job of telling the story.

   Much like the original Diablo, Diablo 2's greatest strength lies in its replay value. Every time you enter a game, whether it be single player or multiplayer, the entire world is randomly generated, so no two games are exactly alike. If that wasn't enough, there are also all five classes to play through the game with, with each class being noticeably different from the others. Once you've beaten the game the first time, you are also given access to new game types. You can play the game on Nightmare, a much harder difficulty level, or even on Hell, the hardest setting. As if that weren't enough as it is, you are also allowed to create a hardcore character upon completion of the game. These characters have but one life, and when they lose it, they can't be played ever again. The game also takes place in a huge world, which sprawls over four acts, combining to be nearly three times the size of the original Diablo. The massive world, multiple game modes and difficulty levels, and world variation allow players to return to Diablo 2 again and again, and always find something new and enjoyable.

   Diablo 2's one lacking feature can be found in its graphics. While the graphics are quite good, especially for being 2D, they are also quite dated and don't stand up to the excellence of the rest of the game presents. This isn't surprising, considering Diablo 2 has been under development for several years and has system requirements that allow even lower-end computers to use it with ease. The graphics are far from bad, with many beautifully rendered monsters and terrains. The few problems could be could have been avoided, however, if the designers had simply touched up some of the game's background and monster graphics, which can, at times, seem a little bit shoddy. The visuals are great and don't really bog down the game, but with a little more work, they could have been fantastic.


The Paladin launches holy energy at zombies
The Paladin launches holy energy at zombies  

   Diablo 2's massive replay factors mean that it can amount to hundreds of hours of gameplay, but the first serious quest to the end of the game should take about thirty hours. The difficulty matches the game's four acts nearly perfectly, with acts building in toughness as they are completed, and each act being progressively more difficult than the last. With proper level building, the game should remain fairly easy at first, and then grow to moderately difficult near the climax. However, on higher difficulty levels, the game becomes infinitely harder and more frustrating.

   Overall, Diablo 2 more than meets its grand expectations. While not the greatest game of all time, it serves as a worthy sequel, combining the great feel of the original Diablo with several innovative improvements. The learning curve, game interface, replay value, and fun factor make it joy to play. For the past several years, Blizzard Entertainment has poured their time and effort into this brainchild of a game, and they couldn't have expected anything better than what they have created. Diablo 2 is one of the few games that can meet the hype it has managed to build up, and it won't disappoint long time fans, let alone gamers who are new to the series. If you own a PC or a Mac, don't hesitate to go out there and get Diablo 2. There's not a chance in Hell that you'll regret it.





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