by Vivendi UIP
The sequel to one of the biggest games ever was released last summer and has become one of the most popular PC games ever. The game I refer to is of course Diablo 2.
The first thing you will notice about Diablo 2, if you've played the original game, is that you now have a choice of 5 characters as opposed to the 3 that were available in the original. The 5 characters are Amazon, Barbarian, Necromancer, Paladin and Sorceress. The original Diablo was renowned for the way in which each character made the game feel different. Diablo 2 is no different and playing the Barbarian gives you a very different experience to playing as a Sorceress.
The basic aim of the game is to defeat Diablo. To do this you must take your character and develop him/her to a point where they are strong enough to compete with Diablo (which is far easier than it sounds). This is done through defeating enemies and completing quests. The nature of the combat is solely reliant on the type of character you choose. Melee, ranged and spell attacks are all in there but are used to different degrees. If you control a Barbarian then most of your combat will be melee whilst a Sorceress will use spell attacks as her major method of combat. It really is fantastic how the game pans out with such variety between the characters.
The game can be played online on Battle.net and the multiplayer side of the game is a completely different experience altogether. It is reckoned that a large percentage of Diablo 2 fans bought the game on release and immediately jumped into the multiplayer game, such is its popularity online. Should you complete the game online then you gain the added bonus of being able to create a Hardcore character to play online with. The Hardcore character cannot be retrieved after death like a normal character and once dead, they are no more. As a reward though, a Hardcore character can gain special honours that a normal character cannot.
There are 4 acts in Diablo 2 and each act is set in a different land. You begin in the Rogue Encampment and the final act begins in Pandemonium Fortress. All four acts boast very different scenery and enemies. A special mention must go to Lut Gholein (the location for the 2nd act) because it is charmingly Arabic in appearance and gives the game that extra visual dimension. Diablo 2 has added a day and night cycle. Whilst this might not be a great addition to the gameplay it certainly looks lovely and adds to the illusion of the game world.
Graphically Diablo 2 is not much of an advancement over the original. The resolution is still fixed at 640x480 but the size of the characters has been increased. There is now support for 3d accelerated graphics but to be honest the improvement is minimal. It is also worth commenting that the 3d accelerated graphics were far smoother on a 3dfx card than direct 3d card. It must be noted though that the graphics, while not state of the art are adequate and do not hinder the gameplay at all and at the end of the day, that is all we can ask. The method of depicting the line of vision in the game has also been improved. This is most noticeable in the dungeons. The line of vision now seems more realistic than in the original game. Instead of there being a clearly visible area next to black one Blizzard has made the light fade into darkness in a more subtle way and visually, it is better for it.
The mouse control has been refined. One of the most common moans with the original Diablo was that it involved too many mouse clicks. With Diablo 2 you don't have to constantly click the mouse buttons. You simply hold down the left mouse button and move the mouse in the direction that you wish to travel. Attacks can also be done with the right mouse button being held down instead of performing frantic clicks in a heated battle.
A special mention must be given to the interface Blizzard have created for Diablo 2. Thanks to the addition of a mini-panel all the menus are now one click away making navigation of the interface a breeze instead of a multi-clicking chore. The brilliant automap feature has been beautifully done and eradicates any fears of wandering around the maps in a clueless manner. The skill tree (which depicts your character's acquired skills) is also a fine addition to the game and again this is delightfully simple to use and understand.
The text feedback within the game is also superb and subtitles are on by default too. The only element here which tarnishes the game a little is the cutscenes are unsubtitled. This is a shame because the game itself has loads of text feedback with messages being able to be recalled at any time if you so desire. The manual has also been very well done and explains all you need to know in order to fully enjoy the game.
So what's wrong with the game? Well the only real gripe I have with Diablo 2 is the silly save game mechanism that it uses. When you save a game you must quit the game. This wouldn't be so big a problem except that when you return to the game your character is at the beginning location of the level. This problem has been negated somewhat by the inclusion of portals that once discovered allow you to quickly travel from one location to another but it doesn't disguise the fact that all the enemies you had earlier slaughtered have now suddenly respawned.
Diablo 2 is a simple game in many respects. Sure at it's heart it maybe a hack 'n' slash RPG but to describe it in those simple terms is not giving the game the credit it deserves. Addictive, fun and rewarding (yes it is fantastically rewarding to build a character up) are all accurate descriptions of the game and it is difficult to avoid being sucked in by its 'just another five more minutes' appeal. It succeeds as surpassing the original and giving Diablo fans more than they could hope for. Diablo 2 has already claimed its place in gaming history through its terrific sales and its mass online appeal so perhaps there is a lot to say for a keeping a game simple as long as it still has that old magic playablility , and Diablo 2 has it by the truck (or should that be dungeon) load.
Overall Game Rating: 9/10 The ultimate Action-RPG
Quality of text: 9/10 Only missing cutscene subtitles spoil the score.
Graphics: 7/10 Adequate but not spectacular
Interface:10/10 Exceptional. Every action is one click away.
Gameplay: 10/10 Faultless.