All hell has broken loose, again. But this time a much larger quest awaits us. The long anticipated sequel, Diablo II, is here to satisfy our blood-spilling slashing and hacking appetites. The successful yet lacking prequel Diablo left many of its devoted players angst-ridden and a bit dissatisfied. Blizzard Entertainment makes an incredible comeback to treat us with this stellar adventure game with a captivating RPG twist. If you’ve never called out of work, skipped a class, or put aside your daily duties over a game, then beware, because after a couple hours of Diablo II you’ll find yourself ignoring everything outside the Diablo world.
Whether you choose to play single-player mode or on Battle.net’s multi-player mode, to which you have free access, you start off by picking a character class. This feature in Diablo II allows you to choose one of the following characters: the Paladin, Sorceress, Amazon, Barbarian, or Necromancer. The Paladin is a holy knight and can use defensive auras, which empower him and his team, or offensive auras, which weaken the enemies. The Sorceress is one of the weakest in strength and defense, but she is the most powerful magic user – focusing on elemental damage. The Amazon is one of the more versatile fighters, on which you will be spending a lot of your ability points in the dexterity area. Amazons can be decent melee fighters, but their strength lies in range weapons, such as the javelin or bow and arrow. As for the Barbarian, he is a hack and whack beast. The Barbarian relies on melee combat and brute strength, which makes him the ideal character if your sole desire is to breeze through the game as quickly as possible. Finally, the Necromancer is one of the most interesting characters due to his unique ability to summon the dead as his allies. Though similar to the Sorceress in that he is a magic user, the necromancer focuses on curses and creating armies of the undead. Each character possesses specific attributes that let players discover what is most comfortable. Regardless of the character of your choice, you have the ability to transform her or him into a killing machine.
The game begins with an incredible cinematic sequence explaining how the hero from Diablo has failed to contain the ever-powerful lord of destruction with the soul stone and the demon begins to take over. You play as “the wanderer,” which is any class of character, and set off on multiple mini-quests that will eventually lead to the big diabolic fiend. Diablo II has very basic play control and only takes a couple minutes to learn the ropes. A simple mouse-click is all you will need for your character to move, attack, speak, etc. Some may find it too simplistic, but by the end of Act I more challenges will arise.
At your starting point in the Rogue Encampment, you’re introduced to some of Diablo II’s features. The structure of the game is ideal for many inexperienced players to get acquainted with the maps and controls. The game is divided into Acts I-IV, where a new cinematic sequence is shown in between and introduces a new location and map. Different species of beasts roam the land and respawn upon every reset of the game. The story is very linear and leaves no room for strafing away from the storyline, other than the few quests that can be skipped but it is not recommended. The narrator, Marius, gradually unravels the story, and walks us through the evil path of Diablo and his two brothers, Baal and Mephisto. Once you come to terms with your destiny as the wanderer, you are the only one able to defeat Diablo at all costs.
Each player has a private stash in town where you can store your gold and any valuables – so in case you perish in battle, hopefully you have some handy back-up armor and weapons. As the game progresses, you’ll begin to collect colorful gems that you can insert into socketed weapons to give them special power (i.e. a chipped diamond in your helmet adds +20 to your attack rating). But when you obtain the legendary Horadric Cube, you will be able to combine, meld, and experiment with much more than the socketed weapons and armor. Players focus a lot of time on upgrading the character’s gear to the best available. That means no skipping levels or avoiding gaining experience. To be on top of the game, you must kill every monster in sight in hopes that they’ll drop the strong weapon and armor you’ve been looking for. Therefore you want to become as powerful as possible to handle everything that is to come, and in the process you gradually become consumed by the game.
Although not perfect in visual stimuli, Diablo II possesses enough eye candy to keep its players entertained. Everything from bright bolts of lightening and intense flames to the scenery is mesmerizing. Acts II and beyond have vivid maps with many details that will have you admiring them for hours. The area of Lut Gholein, in the desert, has breathtaking art of massive and detailed ancient statues. The shadowing and lighting in Diablo II is exceptional, and it increases the reality of the gaming experience. It seems as if it’s based on real time, since there are changes of weather and daylight that range all over the map – instead of entering a particular section of the map where it’s either raining or sunny, but it changes immediately when you leave that area. The character also has a light radius that will help to navigate in darker areas, which you can increase by equipping particular items. A major setback is the way the map is pinned right in the center of the play screen, making it a bit difficult to see anything. Although the map is translucent, allowing you to see the action better, it nonetheless takes some getting used to. A better alternative would be to give the player the option to minimize the map size and place it in a corner. But the map is a necessary tool to locate and uncover certain areas, people, and objects. The map is so essential that you may find yourself navigating through the map and not looking at your character most of the time.
To further add to the chilling Diablo II effect, there are constant sounds of spilling blood, guts exploding, monster groans, and an appropriate heroic gloating after all the slaying. The background music, however, creates a subtler ambience. It remains neutrally creepy throughout the game, and stays the same for boss fights. Diablo II avoids extravagant music since it is a game you usually play for many hours at a time and can’t afford to be tortured by annoying music. Nonetheless, it has a dramatic tone that sets you into the medieval spirit of the game. The faint music enhances the sound effects. Every swing of a sword, shot of an arrow, footstep, and raindrop is heard. Concerns may arise as you may find yourself developing sadistic habits and enjoying the fallen imp’s screams as you kill them. But the best of the sound lies in the voice acting. The unique sounds from every character match their personalities. The intensity of the voices is especially felt during the cinematic scenes. The priceless Deckard Cain becomes the most familiar, as he follows you to the end. Overall, every slithering, ancient, and Celtic-like sound of Diablo II is highly memorable and distinct.
With the opportunity to endlessly level up, Diablo II can be played and replayed for years. After you beat the game, more difficulty levels are unlocked. But don’t be fooled; as you enter Blood Moor, you’ll see how easily a spiky porcupine will slaughter your heavily armored Level 37 Amazon. The other main source of challenging addiction comes from the opportunity to collect different magical, rare, set, and unique items. These items are so hard to come by that once you obtain them you can never part with them. It is easier to come across these objects in multi-player mode through trading with other players. But the fear of announcing that one possesses such a rarity is unbearable, for the cold-blooded stoical PKers (player killers) might come right at you to rid you of your hard-earned treasures. Although PKers can create a setback for the multiplayer mode, it can easily be remedied by forming a few clans to attack and destroy the evildoers.
Diablo II is the ideal single-player and MMORPG. With appealing graphics, extremely challenging gameplay, along with keen sounds, and a two second learning curve, Diablo II provides the ultimate experience. Keep your armor on, save some skill points to go at it another time, and don’t forget to download all the latest patches; otherwise, you’re in for the never-ending lag. Ultimately, however, quality comes to mind when describing such a game that has paid the closest of attention to the smallest of details. Satisfaction will be the primary sentiment after battling through the Diablo II world, but the end will only leave you wanting more.