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Diablo II

Score: 90%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Media: CD/2
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: RPG/ Action

Graphics & Sound:

The graphics in Diablo II, while a step above those from the first game, are really nothing to write home about. 2D sprites from 3D models are the norm here, and the world itself is standard 2D. If you happen to have an accelerated card, you can turn on parallax scrolling, which gives the world a little more of a 3D feel. You can also turn on 3D spell effects, which are actually quite nice. But despite these 3D trimmings, Diablo II is still primarily a 2D world. It's a huge one, though, with a lot of variety. Each Act has its own look, and fortunately you get past the most plain -- the first Act -- relatively early in the game. The graphical stylings of the rest of the game are very, very nice. The fact that shadows are done semi-realistically (a la Nox, although not to the same level) is also quite nice. And the FMV is absolutely outstanding.

The sound effects are considerably more impressive than the graphics. The world itself sounds alive, with crickets chirping in the night and soothing background music (or pounding music, if you're fighting). The town music starts as a gentle remix of the town theme from the first game, and will feel quite comfortable to those who played it. And the voice acting, as in the first, is quite good, ranging from the merely passable to the outstanding. You'll never have a Resident Evil-level horror, though. All in all, Diablo II looks and feels like a somewhat updated Diablo.


It plays almost exactly like that too. In Diablo II, you'll find yourself chasing the Prime Evils, which are bent on the destruction of the known world or some nonsense. Plot has never been a particularly strong suit of Diablo, and D2 has the same 'kill foozle' plotline that you've come to expect.

That's not to say that D2 doesn't improve on the first one. For one, the game world is an order of magnitude larger, with the first Act being pretty much as large as the original game (and there are four Acts). Instead of being centered around a town and delving under it to fight the evil menace, you'll be starting in a different town for each Act, and then exploring the area around it, finding places to go and enemies to kill. This addition of a wilderness really makes Diablo II feel more like a conceivable, believable world, and less like a one-shot adventure.

The characters you can choose from are many and interesting -- you can be an Amazon, skilled in ranged fighting (much like the Rogue in the first game), a Barbarian, which can beat the tar out of everyone (shades of the Fighter), a Sorceress, skilled in elemental magic (a la Mage). Two classes with no real precedents have been added -- the Paladin, who is both a skilled fighter and capable of casting protective 'auras,' and a Necromancer, who can raise the dead and have them fight for him.

Along with these classes, Diablo II now sports a skill Tree, where you can customize your hero in any way you like. You want your Amazon to specialize in bows? Have at it. You want to be an Ice Sorceress? Sure. You can spread yourself out and be merely competent in the various skills, or you can concentrate strongly on one skillset and milk it for all its worth.

The quest structure in Diablo II is much more strict than the structure in the first. You're going to be doing the same quests with the various characters, in the same order. This was somewhat disappointing to me -- Diablo II has gone even further from its rogue-like roots with these concrete plots.

The game itself is much the same as the first Diablo -- click on an enemy until dead. You can hold the button down now, instead of destroying your finger, but you'll probably find yourself clicking anyway. Old habits die hard.

Yes, most of the enemies in each Act are simply pallette-swapped versions of previous ones. Yes, the random dungeons often have completely pointless sidepaths that do nothing but waste time. But it's a testament to Blizzard's design that even though I knew of these problems, that I realized that Diablo II was really nothing more than a super-expansion pack for Diablo, I couldn't stop playing. Hours and nights went by as I went for one more quest, one step closer to the final confrontation with... well, you guess. This is good game design, folks.

The multiplayer feature is what you'd expect from Blizzard -- nicely done. In addition to having 'Open' characters, where you can play at home and then use them on the Internet, you also can have 'Realm' characters. These Realm characters are stored on Blizzard's server, making them (supposedly) hack-proof, and are the only 'official' characters that you can have. Beating the game with a Realm character lets you play in a hardcore mode, where if you die, the game is over. This goes back to the real roots of Diablo II -- rogue-like gaming, where you could save anywhere you like but when you die, the save game is deleted. Of course, with it being stored on a server, you won't have a chance to undelete the save file.

This would all be well and good if battle.net could stay up for more than ten minutes at a time. Argh! I had more problems with playing the game over the Internet than anything else, and I eventually gave up after a few tentative forays, and went back to the single-player game. It helped keep my sanity. This is something that Blizzard is undoubtedly working on fixing, and it's something that definitely NEEDS to be fixed.


Depending on how you play, the game can be quite easy or rather difficult. Luckily, dying isn't much of a problem, as you can always run back and pick up everything from your corpse. Some of the boss fights will cream you until you figure out how to successfully tackle the boss, but you can always come back for more. After you beat the game on the standard difficulty level, you can play it at a higher difficulty level. After that comes the highest difficulty. These make the game considerably tougher and the quests give nicer rewards because of it. Of course, you've got to really like the game to play it that much, eh?

Game Mechanics:

The smooth mechanics of the first Diablo have been developed even more in D2. You can assign different actions to both the LMB and the RMB, and can switch them with easy clicks. There are only two scroll types now -- Town Portal and Identify -- as spells are now skill Tree objects. The interface is clean and understandable, and the menu's the quality you would expect from a Blizzard game.

Diablo II is a fun game. Insanely fun. But it's really nothing new. I've told my friends that it should have been called "Diablo 1.5," and while that's true, that doesn't mean that you're probably going to have a hell of a time playing it. While not all that innovative, Diablo II takes clicking deathfests to new levels, with an enormous world, cool enemies, and lots of death. The randomization, a la rogue-like, definitely helps the replay factor. IF you liked the first, or like the genre in general, well, you probably already have the game. But everyone should at least try it out -- chances are, you'll like it.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 2000/95/98/NT, Pentium 233, 32 MB RAM, 650 MB available hard drive space, 4X CD-ROM and DirectX compatible video card. Additional multiplayer system requirements include 64 MB RAM, 950 MB available hard drive space and 28.8 Kbps or faster modem. The game also offers optional 3D acceleration by supporting Glide and Direct 3D compatible video cards with at least 8MB of video RAM. Direct 3D requires 64 MB of system RAM

Test System:

AMD K6-III 450 running Windows 98, 256MB RAM, Creative Sound Blaster Live! Sound Card, Creative TNT2 Ultra w/ 32MB RAM, 6x24 DVD-ROM

Windows Icewind Dale Sony PSOne Final Fantasy IX

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated