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Diablo II- Review

Diablo II: First Blood

By: Castomel


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 8
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 7
   Plot 8
   Localization na
   Replay Value 10
   Visuals 8
   Difficulty Chiefly related to carpal tunnel syndrome.
   Time to Complete

20 hours and up

 
Overall
number
Criteria

Title Screen
 

  Either Blizzard Entertainment employs some pretty impressive marketing geniuses, or else we're all really stupid. Towards the end of 1998, they promised us Diablo II, a flashy sequel to their bestselling hit from 1995. Well, not to anyone's surprise, 'Spring 1999' turned into 'Fall 1999' turned into 'Spring 2000' until finally somebody realized if they held out any longer the game would probably become a laughingstock. So, after building up a nice fever pitch, they pumped out a couple of beta tests and then the game, which, to nobody's surprise, ruled.

   The beauty of Diablo II is simplicity. Instead of complex storylines and the need for fast reflexes, the game instead relies on good, old fashioned, point-and-click. This powers the combat, which is as simple as that- you point and click on it, you hit it. What you hit it with depends largely upon your own preference, and which of the five character classes you selected; any of Sorceress, Paladin, Necromancer, Barbarian, and Amazon can use a wide variety of very nice equipment to do equally not-nice things to the swarming monsters that wander into their paths.

   As with the original Diablo, the interface works very smoothly. Spells and items can be accessed through the use of hotkeys, which allow the player to use what they wish with the press of a button. If more time is available, it is also possible to open up one of several menu screens, including the inventory screen and several character stats pages. Pretty much the only complaint I can muster up here is the lack of inventory space, as well as the inability to turn items so that they fit in the inventory differently. While it is certainly logical that a player can only carry so much while in the field, it would have been better had the stash(an area in town to store valuables) had a greater capacity. This issue, while a problem, is not enough to drag down the game, since hoarding is only one component of play. Since Diablo II has internet play, an interface is also required here, and battle.net looks the best it ever has in this particular incarnation. When playing on closed shards(those that discourage cheating through keeping player files on Blizzard-operated servers), it is possible to view the armour a player is wearing. Generally, the interface just looks good. You will, however, wonder at first: just what is that gem?


Toas-ty!
Pyromaniac sorceress incinerates 12: Police baffled.  

   The music and sound are very nicely conceived of, fitting the mood of whatever the setting happens to be. Hell is suitably dismal, jungles noisy and filled with the sounds of life, caves deep and dark, grassy fields... well, grassy fields. At times, the music may recede into the background, and some tracks aren't particularly great, but on the whole, the composer, Matt Uelmen, did a reasonable job of putting together the music. The sound effects are suitable to the situation; skeletons crumble, big, juicy sacks of evil sound like dropped melons when you brain them, and the incredibly annoying Fallen make enough noise to compete with a marching band. The one serious failing of the sound(which is relatively minor, since it occurs sporadically at best) is the voice acting. Sometimes overdone, sometimes with ludicrous accents(although none so bad as the bartender in the original Diablo) and sometimes just downright awful("I sense... death?" That's almost as bad as "The sanctity of this place has been fouled."), the only place it is really any good is in the cinematics, when the characters there at least fit the voices given them. This is, however, only a minor complaint, and generally the sound leaves little to be desired.

   A sequel can never really be considered original, and Diablo II is no exception. Many elements of gameplay return, and though some annoying elements, such as reading scrolls and books, are eliminated in favour of a skill-point system, the game remains relatively intact when compared to the original. Even the plot isn't radically different from the original. That said, the plot itself is well-constructed, and very well detailed through a series of five cinematics interspersed around the game's four acts. During the acts, various minor plot points are also revealed, maintaining a good pace for the progression of the game. A well-conceived twist near the end makes possible the forthcoming expansion to the game, and throughout there is enough that is of interest to maintain the player's attention.  


Swimming here is unadvisable- the sewers open up nearby
Lut Gholein  

  One of the hallmarks of games produced by Blizzard are their replay value, and Diablo II does not disappoint here. Because the plot is not central to the game, one can play the game for the sheer enjoyment of building up a character and amassing a collection of rare items. New in Diablo II is the concept of the hardcore character, which is a character which, once dead, stays dead. This adds a new element of pressure, and is a great source of replay value, since not dying is a fairly difficult task in the face of the sheer volume of monsters encountered in Diablo II.

These monsters look not too much different from their predecessors in Diablo, and some appear to have been ripped off source-direct from the original and given nifty new spell effects to make them seem new. Perhaps symptomatic of its long development time, the visuals in Diablo II aren't exactly stunning; however, given the low-end system requirements to make them run, they are very nice. Especially good-looking are the cinematics between acts. These are simply some of the best FMV sequences I have seen in a game. They rather enhance the whole visual experience, and are a good addition to the game. In terms of in game graphics, there is no actual 3-D mode, although it is possible to use a simulated 3-D setting. This, however, tends to slow things down horribly, which makes it unwise at best in lower-end(and even some higher-end) systems.

Diablo II is actually fairly challenging, if not mentally, then certainly in terms of the gameplay. Because of the huge number of enemies to fight, health goes down fairly quickly, and unwariness can lead to quick death. The final character on each act is also quite challenging to defeat, and on higher difficulty levels the proceedings become very fast-paced and challenging. That said, the game shouldn't take too much longer than 20 hours to complete, and that long only if full exploration is undertaken. You can expect to spend a potentially unlimited amount of time wandering around, however, trying to improve your armour just a little bit, looking to level up just one more time. This is the ultimate beauty of Diablo II- you can beat it, but you never really finish it. All in all, this is one of the better games Blizzard has put out, and certainly the best computer game I have yet played this year.


Killing zombies is an absolute horror on carpeting
If you can do this by jumping, you probably need to lose weight  




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