Diablo II

A Review By

Bill Estes

Seldom has a sequel to a game been awaited with such fervor, even if it is over a year and a half past its original release date. Diablo II, from Blizzard North, (D2 from now on), is a phenomenon in itself. The original game Diablo, was a hit for almost two years and a add-on pack called Hellfire, which gave Diablo a rebirth of sorts in that you had to have Diablo to play Hellfire. Hellfire was released by Sierra and added a new character and eight extra levels to develop your characters. It also had some extra stuff that was not in the original game, D1.

So much for Game History 101. D2 is similar to D1 in many ways, but very different in other ways. Viva La Difference… While D1 was a great game in itself, D2 is even better. The differences in D2, are many. Lets start off with what the game is about first.

At the end of the Diablo, our Hero, (your choice of character) defeated Diablo in a great battle beneath the old Cathedral in the town of Tristram. After that event, a “Soul Stone,” that held the essence of Diablo was taken from the body that Diablo had taken over. Our hero took the Soul Stone and imbedded it in his forehead and was using his body and mind to hold Diablo prisoner. This was a mistake!!! Yeah, I know it seems silly, but this is the story line. Diablo slowly takes control of our hero and eventually starts out on a trek to the East, to free his two brothers, Mephisto and Baal. This leads us to the beginning of our story line and the start of a new adventure.

The game is in “Four Acts,” and comes on three CD-ROM’s. Upon the initial installation, you have the option of three choices of how much space you want D2 to take on your system. You can do a minimal installation that uses very little of your hard drive. You can do a mid range install and use about 600 MB of your hard drive, or go all the way and install the complete game of 1.5 Giga-Bytes of memory on your hard disk. The last option really speeds up the play of the game.

Next, you get to choose your character from five choices: Amazon, Necromancer, Paladin, Sorceress and my favorite the Barbarian. I happen to like “Hack & Slash” games and D2 is no exception. There are lots and lots of monsters and the like to kill while you trek through the various realms that you will travel to during your adventure. There are four lands that you will visit during the game. First you will start out at the Rogue camp, which is in a forested area where you will have six quests to complete before you can take a Caravan through the mountain pass to go further East to the next Act of the game. The Second Act is in a desert region and assumes an Ali-Baba/Arabian Nights theme. The Third Act is set in a Seaport area that has the feel of the Far East/Ancient Orient theme. Finally, you will go to the gates of Heaven and Hell to finally defeat Diablo, again. That is the story line simply put. The Second and Third Acts of the game also have six major quests for you to complete before you can go to the final Act, which only has three quests to finish the game.

Lets talk about how Blizzard North made a great game even better. First the graphics are great. The sound track is superb. The five characters each has a style of their own. I am only going to go over the two characters I played with. I wanted to play all of the characters, but due to time constraints, (It took me over 60 hours to beat the game once) I could only try two characters out. First I tried the Paladin, a warrior of great personal faith and devotion. It took me about 15 hours of play to figure the character out and how to play the game. I spent a lot of time developing my Paladin into a fighting machine. I had my tail kicked by the monsters during this process.

I figured out that there are many skills to master in the correct order to fully utilize and develop all the different characters in D2. The Paladin can use magic, but is not a Mage or Sorceress. All the characters can use magic to some extent, and this is one of the major differences between D1 and D2. In D1, you could find books that if you had enough magic ability, you could learn new spells and read more magic books to raise the spell casting ability of your character. In D2, you do not buy or find books to learn your magic skills. You have to raise your character up a level and then you have to choose which skills you wish to develop. In D1, you had the option when you reached a new experience level, to use the five basic experience points you were awarded on one of four areas. Strength, Dexterity, Stamina and Mana (Magic Power). This is still the same, but with some subtle differences. When you reach a new experience level, you also get one extra skill point that is to be used for combat, magic or other areas of skill that each character will have to develop, to complete the game, by being more powerful than the creatures you will face and finally defeating Diablo.

While some of you may not think this is too complicated, it is. This is the reason that my first character, the Paladin got his tail kicked so often. You have to balance the different skills that each character has. When I decided to start a new character, the Barbarian, I went back to basics. Lots of strength, plenty of dexterity, and lots of stamina and life force. Barbarians do not use their magic skills a lot, and this will be the weakest area for this character. You use some Mana when the Barbarian learns some of his defense skills. I used the combat skill points on “Two Handed Attack” and “Sword” skills. This proved to be a good choice for a Barbarian. We defeated Diablo.

One of the differences in the play of the game is that you have to be very careful as you battle your foes in D2. First off, you cannot save the game like we normally do in a adventure game. The old rule was to save often. You can still save often, but with a penalty. If you save the game, you have to quit the game and restart the game. The problem with this is that when you restart the game, you start back in town, and all the monsters you killed will now be in your way when you reenter the game. You may have to kill them all over again. The good thing is that each time you do this, you can get more experience points to build your character. Unfortunately, this takes more time in playing D2. The moral here is to save at certain points in the game, like when you find a “Way Point,” or at the end of an “Act.”

As stated earlier, you don’t build your character quite the same way as you did in D1. Some of the other interesting aspects of the game are some new ways for you to travel around in the game. There are “Way Points.” These are areas, when you find them on your journeys, that will allow you to teleport back to the town that is your home base for each Act of the game. Once activated, you can go back and forth to the different parts of the realm you are in. This is handy if you don’t have a scroll of teleport to get back to town. There are only two spells that you can buy or use that are not related to combat or character development. They are the “Identify Item” and “Teleport” scrolls. You can also find or purchase a “Tome” that will allow you to store up to twenty scrolls in each Tome. Just “Right Click” on the desired Tome to allow the spell to work. I won’t go into to much detail of normal game play. Read the manual for more info.

Now the real reason you want to play the game a bit more carefully than in D1, is partially because if you are careless, you will be killed by the monsters and your body will be left, with all your armor, weapons, magic rings and amulets. The good news is that you will have the choice of automatically having your character resurrected back in town, with a basic character and the items in your basic belt and backpack. In D1 your utility belt could store up to eight potions or spells. Now your character comes with a basic belt that will allow you to store four items. You can, however, buy or find better belts that will hold up to sixteen items. This is really a big help when you fight the bad creatures that you will meet. You will need the healing potions to keep your character alive. You will need the Mana potions to restore your magic level as you use up your mana while casting spells or using Mana for defense. There are other potions that you can use, but these two are the most important.

After getting killed by the baddies in D2, you can restart with your basic character or exit the game. If you do this, when you restart the game, your body is in town and you can easily pick up your armor, weapons and magic items so you can resume the game. The problem with this option is that you have to use the “Way Port” to teleport to the nearest area you were before you were killed. You also will encounter repopulated monsters along the way. Now the game offers a second option. You can simply come back as a basic character and use a “Way Port” to get near to where you were killed and find your body and pick up your armor and stuff. The problem here is that the bad boys that killed you are still lurking about, ready to kill you again. Part of the solution here is that D2 offers a simple, helpful way to help your character out. In town, you have a large chest that will hold about half of what your back pack will hold. You can store armor, weapons and stuff incase you get killed and need to restock and you don’t have enough gold to buy a new set of armor and weapons. Your stash will allow you to store gold, like a bank. If you are buying items from one of the town’s Non Playing Characters (NPC’s), and if you run out of gold in your purse, you will automatically withdraw the gold from your stash. Cool!!! The only problem is that you cannot store enough weapons and stuff to completely outfit your character for battle. One trick I have figured out, is to get a good belt from your stash. Get back to where you were killed and run up to your body, touch it and you will automatically pick up as much stuff as you have space for in your backpack. Then run away and put your good stuff on and resume the game and kick some monster tail.

The main point I am making here is that you have to pay a bit more attention to the game to make sure you don’t die in combat. I have found out that “Discretion” is the better part of Valor. He who runs and hides away, lives to fight another day. This is one tactic to winning the game. If you see that you are about to die, or getting close and have run out of health potions, RUN AWAY, use a teleport scroll or Way Point to get back to town and buy some more potions and get healed. Come back and defeat your foes. Simple, but effective.

One of the big differences between D2 and D1 is that Blizzard enlarged the character size on screen. You don’t see as big an area as in D1, but the detail of your character and the surrounding area are extremely well detailed. The game supports graphic accelerator cards such as 3DFX cards for better detail and realism. The graphics from most games today are pretty good and this game is no exception. One nice thing about D2 is the details of the game. When you find better armor during the course of the game, you see your character in that armor. The better class of the armor, the better equipped your character looks on screen. Even the weapons you use will take on their real characteristics visually on screen. If you are using two swords of different sizes, you can see the difference on screen. A nice touch!

Cool Things In The Game

One of the coolest things in the game, are the “Cinematics.” These are mini animated plot developers. Short movies that help fill in the story line. You have the opening Cinematic when the game first starts. From this point on, you only get a new Cinematic when you complete each Act of the game. After you have seen a new cinematic, you can replay them again, when you restart or end your game. The graphics in the Cinematics are exceptional and the production values in them would do such animation studios such as Disney proud.

The Boss Monsters that you must fight and destroy look much better than any other creatures in D1. There are also, what are known as “Champion” class monsters. These are creatures in a class that are about four to five times harder to kill than regular monsters and creatures that you will meet. There is also a class of creatures that can raise their dead brothers to fight you again. TIP: Rush in and kill this type first, then the other creatures are much easier to destroy.

Game graphics are another great item to rave about. The 3D animation of the game is superb. One feature is that as you are walking about in the forest, when you go under a tree or something, if there is a break in the foliage, you can see the creatures or your character moving. The details on your character are of much better quality that most games you see. The clothing moves like real leather or mail armor would. Game companies are going to great lengths to make these games as realistic as possible, and Blizzard succeeds very well in this area.

These are some of the high points for me during my adventure in playing Diablo II. I am sure that there are many other points that I could mention. This should give you some idea that this is truly a great game and will give your adventuring spirit much to do for many months to come.

System Requirements:

Ø      Windows 2000, 98, 95 and NT 4.0 Service Pack 5.

Ø      Pentiumâ 233 or equivalent.

Ø      32 MB of RAM.

Ø      650 MB hard drive space.

Ø      4X CD-ROM drive.

Ø      DirectXä compatible video card.

Ø      Sound card with speakers.

Multiplayer System Requirements:

Ø      64 MB RAM.

Ø      950 MB available hard drive space.

Ø      28.8 Kbps or faster modem

Ø      Up to 8 players: Over TCP/IP Network or Battle.netâ (Requires low-latency Internet connection with support for 32-bit applications)

Optional 3D Accelerators:

Ø      Supports Glideä and Direct 3Dä compatible video cards with at least 8MB of video RAM. Direct 3Dä Requires 64 MB of system RAM

As you can see, Blizzard has tried to keep the requirements as low as possible and still give state of the art performance. I am playing the game on a Pentiumâ II, 450, with 128 MB of memory. A 3DFX 3500 video card with 16MB of video RAM. D2 works great on this system and I have had no problems with compatibility issues. The only problem I have had is when I leave the system on and put the game on hold. I do this so I don’t have to save the game and exit. I can resume play when I have finished running an errand or eating dinner. Sometimes if I let the game sit too long, the game would lag a bit. Then I would have to bite the bullet and quit the game and restart and kill more monsters. Oh well, a hero’s work is never done.

Under system requirements, you may have noticed that there is also a multiplayer option. I have not had time to explore that option yet. I did play on Battle.netâ with D1, and it was a mixed bag. Some good and some bad. Blizzard says that they have addressed the bad issues (I won’t go into them at this time) to make the play better. I will consider doing a sequel to this review after I have had time to play the other characters and then try Battle.netâ.

Overall Rating of the Game

 

Diablo II is a great game and will probably be the game of the year. It is bigger by far than Diablo was, even with the Hellfire expansion pack. Each of the first three Acts is at least as big (or so it seems) as Diablo was. You will get your moneys worth from D2 and then some. I will not spoil it for those of you who have not played D2 yet, by giving away all the little details about the game. I have hopefully given you enough information that you will want to purchase D2 as soon as possible.

The game itself is a great game but will be primarily for the intermediate or above player. A novice could play the game, but would have a much tougher time getting up to speed.

Playability – Excellent

Graphics – Great

Sound and Sound Track Excellent

Manual – Good

Rating Score – 98% (Obviously I liked the game)

There is nothing to detract from the game that I have found to this point. The monsters and creatures that you will encounter are well developed and the artificial intelligence that is used for these creatures is very good. Some of the tougher creatures will try to run away and heal themselves or hide from you if they can.  Using good combat strategy to keep from getting your character killed is essential. Diablo II is a great game and is worth adding to your collection.


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