Review: Diablo II (PC)

By Drew Wilson

Diablo II is the sequel to the original Diablo game. We take a look at another hugely (at the time) popular dungeon crawling game Diablo II and see how well it has held up to today.

Important note: This review is based entirely off of the “Vanilla” Diablo II and is not a review of Diablo II: Lord of Destruction (the expansion). Keep this in mind as many aspects and items appear in the expansion that is not available in the original.

Building on the major success of the original Diablo game, Diablo II was released in 2000.

There are many aspects of Diablo II that is a carry-over from Diablo. For instance, you start by selecting a particular class which has different strengths and weaknesses overall. Once you have selected your character, you begin your quest with pretty much nothing. This is where the two games begin to truly diverge. Unlike the original where you are based in Tristram for all your shopping needs, you start off at a rogue encampment. While the rogue encampment is where you go back and forth to heal up and sell your loot, you don’t stay there throughout the game. Instead, each act (four in all) has it’s own town where you do all your commerce and gossip related activities. Each town has an improvement of item and weapon selection to suit the increased difficulty of the levels you are about to embark on ahead.

In each act, you complete a series of quests to not only progress through the plotline, but also to gain the trust of the locals which can bring benefits such as a reduction in price for certain items.

One element that will be noticeable very early on is the huge selection of weapons. Different weapons not only fall into different classes, shapes and sizes, but also quality as well. One sword can be low quality while another sword of the same name can be higher, or even unique, in quality which boosts its attributes (not to mention, cost). This really has a both a positive and negative effect on the overall game play. The positive effect this really has on the game is the fact that you never really know what you’re going to come across. The possibilities of what you could collect are pretty much endless as you don’t know if a particular weapon will have special enchantments attached to it to add to the quality of the weapon or defensive item. The negative aspect of this element of the game is the fact that it’s sometimes extremely difficult to tell which weapon is better – the weapon you just picked up off the ground or the weapon you are already using. Even the sell prices of weapons are not always a reliable indicator of the quality of the weapon (or item) in question. Sometimes, an item will have, overall, inferior attributes to an item you are already wearing. However, because it allows freezing time to be cut in half, the price really goes through the roof. In earlier stages of the game (on the easiest difficulty at least), you are far less likely to run across a monster that will actually freeze you. Therefore, you are better off selling the item that has a higher price tag because the price you pay in overall attribute loss greatly outweighs the half freeze duration feature of an item. So, sometimes, the waters can get quite muddy in this area – especially if you haven’t played Diablo before.

Another notable element of this game is the fact that levels and dungeons are randomly generated. Like the items, this adds both positive and negative elements to the game. It’s positive because every play through is completely unique. You can beat the game, but when you try playing through the game again, your experience is very likely going to be unique from the previous run through. The negative attribute of this aspect of the game is the fact that this also makes the game less memorable. You can’t just tell someone about the epic part of the level with an interesting corner that helped you take down a legion of monsters because, chances are, that other person will never see that part of the level. There might be general elements that are consistent in each game such as a particular landmark or a particular monster, but beyond that, everything is always different. This is consistent with the previous iteration of Diablo, although the generator seems to have been improved over the previous version of the game.

A notable departure from the original game is how the player can access different parts of previously explored area. Before, different entrances appeared in town to allow you fast access between the city and deeper parts of the dungeon. In this version of the game, you simply have way points you can activate. Since the city your player goes to and from all the time changes as you progress throughout the game, this seems to be a necessary change in the style of gameplay. I don’t mind it as the waypoints are nicely separated out between each stage (or within a larger stage of a game in an instance or two).

One flawed feature making its way into the game is the inventory system. Sometimes, you can pick up larger items that fill up multiple slots. If you pick up an item that fills six slots, you can have six slots available, but if they are not in the correct configuration, you will not be permitted to pick up that item. This creates a level of micromanaging that I found kind of unnecessary. There was some improvement in this area over the previous game in that you now have an item stash sitting in whatever base camp you happen to have. This stash allows you to carry a large amount of gold and can store a number of items. At the beginning of the game, I found that this might have solved numerous storage problems I experienced with the first Diablo game, but even with the Horodric Cube doubling as extra storage, the spaces really aren’t enough by a long shot. This is especially so when you are using the Cube to make your perfect gem’s for the purpose of filling socketed items. More often then not, I would have 2 gems of each level of each kind. These gems took up a huge amount of inventory space. Heaven forbid you want to save items in the event you die. At best, I could store a weapon and a helmet that would be otherwise difficult to find in under ideal circumstances. Otherwise, pretty much every space was filled up i the stash. I even got to the point where I could only pick up a 3 by 2 slot item and bring it back to the city to sell it. this took up a huge amount of game time that was more annoyance than anything else. One improvement, however, is the fact that carrying gold is now separated from items. If you have 5,000 gold, it doesn’t take up any item slot. After a while, though, I found the gold so redundant, that I was just tossing it away by gambling for items. Otherwise, it would wind up on the ground near shop keepers as I had filled my stash and my coin purse to the gills with gold.

One of the concepts I found interesting at first was the difficulty concept. Once you beat the game in the first difficulty, you can unlock the second difficulty (Nightmare). This puts your character back at the beginning of the game with the loot and gold you collected up to that point, then changes the monster difficulty to suit your characters difficulty. I thought this was a fantastic idea to extend the life of the game. Unfortunately, as I played through, I realized that, besides the life and mana potions all improved to match the last level on the easy difficulty, the weapons and armour being sold were still seemingly the same things. There were no real improvements in items that I could tell, only an increased liklihood that I’ll be able to pick up a more rare item with advanced stats. While in the second Act on Nightmare difficulty, I picked up a Bone Snap. At the time, I was getting bored with the game because it took a half a dozen hits for my barbarian to defeat a single opponent. After obtaining the Bone Snap, I was able to get through almost to the end of the second Act. After that, I started getting bored again, wondering if I’ll get some item that will carry me through the next chunk of game. I then did some research and found out that I actually had picked up one of the most powerful weapons in the whole game and that I wasn’t going to get anything much more powerful. Knowing that the monster difficulty was only going to build from here and remembering the kind of monsters I was going to encounter in the next Act (yes, those stupid fetish monsters), I felt that I had played enough and quit playing altogether. I felt it wasn’t worth trying to grind away through to get to Act 3 for the entertainment value I was getting.

There were also a couple of glitches I found while playing this game. One glitch that occurs occasionally is that monsters are sometimes able to walk through door. This was a bit annoying because I would often strategize based on opened and closed doors. When monsters started to unexpectedly walk through closed doors, I wondered what the heck was going on. I certainly was able to walk over after the battle and open it, so it wasn’t a graphical glitch. Another glitch I found, again with the doors, is that sometimes doors would only appear and behave like closed doors when you mouse over them, but they were actually open and I could walk through. Opening and closing them made no difference, so I would have to pass through them. This was typically found in the Jail in the first act. A third glitch revolves around walking. Sometimes, my character would get “stuck” behind a wall, corner or object. Click on a certain area would cause my character to dart back and forth repeatedly in a small spot until I just clicked somewhere else. Similarly, in battle, I would sometimes opt to retreat when the battle grew too intense. So, I would click in a spot away from the battle to run away, but my character would keep swinging. This can sometimes mean the difference between retreating and surviving and sticking around and dying on the spot because my character decided to stay and swing two more times even though I chose to retreat. The character isn’t surrounded, the character would just keep swinging for no reason after I click elsewhere. So, I found this game to be rather glitchy as well.

Graphics was well done. A lot of this game is an improvement over the previous game. The architecture, I think, was the most prominent positive features for graphical side of the game. There is, of course, the pitfalls of the graphics. In darker areas of the dungeon, the clouds of gas tended to have the graphical quality of a basic GIF animation as the gradient’s were rather choppy. In the swampy area’s, you can also see how gradient colours didn’t fare well as you saw the light being emitted from your character reflect off of the black waters. Still, the graphics were pretty well done overall.

The sound was one of the best features of the game. It contained that moody soundscape that added to the tone and overall creepiness to the game. No complaints with the sound effects here.

Overall, this game starts off great, but after you finish the first difficulty, the interest level one can find in this game just drops more and more. Great for killing a few hours for a few weeks, but that’s about it.


Furthest point in game: Made it to part 6 of Act 2 in Nightmare difficulty before I became bored with the game.

General gameplay: 18/25
Replay value: 4/10
Graphics: 9/10
Audio: 5/5

Overall rating: 74%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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