Diablo II (PC) Review

By Athanasios 29.01.2020 1

Review for Diablo II on PC

When Diablo got released back at the end of 1996, it became an insanely successful hack 'n' slashing action-RPG, first, due to its simple, approachable, yet addicting gameplay, and secondly because of its unparalleled, dark fantasy atmosphere. There was plenty of room for improvement, though. The combat could be faster, the loot, the classes, and their abilities could be more varied, the replay value a lot higher, and the story more epic in scale and scope - which led Blizzard North to create the inevitable sequel, Diablo II; a game so freaking good, that similar modern titles sort of have to compare themselves with it. Why exactly? Can something so old still hold up, or is it nostalgia blinding long-time fans. Time to follow the trail of the Dark Wanderer and find all about it, 20 years after he started his journey...

A broken shell of a man enters an Inn. Struggling to carry the weight of his own sword around, he approaches a heavily stoned regular named Marius; a man tortured by vivid nightmares plagued by demons, with this Dark Wanderer always being at the centre of it all - but now these horrors are coming to life "within" this person, while he struggles to contain the evil force that seems to control them. The monsters kill everyone, but spare Marius, who joins the Wanderer on his journey into "the East." You, the player, are in control of an adventurer, whose mission will be to hunt down this cursed fellow, and destroy what has possessed him before it is too late.

From the very beginning, Diablo II seems to be an upgrade on all fronts; especially with the story, which gets a stronger focus, and is complemented by a top-notch presentation. With each of the four acts cleared, you learn that you were once again a few moments behind your target, adding a feeling of urgency to it all, and the masterfully directed, deeply ominous cut-scenes following the defeat of each act boss, help shedding some light on what happened before the hero's arrival, since they view things from the perspective of Marius. This is nowhere near as bleak as its forbearer, but it remains a pretty dark (surprisingly so, at times) fantasy tale - one of the best told in the medium.

Screenshot for Diablo II on PC

Yes, despite the horror on offer, Diablo's feeling of dread remains undefeated. This time, however, things get a bit more epic. Rather than a very deep dungeon, the adventure at hand spans a series of realms. It's a trip that starts in the typical, medieval fantasy grasslands and cathedrals, continues with the Arabian-flavoured, barren land of Lut Golein, and the tropical jungles and Hindu/Aztec-like temples of Kurast, and ends - where else? - in good 'ol inferno. Moreover, the narrative even goes a little bit deeper, and explores the mythology of the world of Sanctuary.

All these look great too, despite the low, 640x480 resolution at hand - which got a much needed 800x600 increase in the must-have expansion. Generally a beautiful title awaits those who can stomach something so old and pixelated. Highly detailed, and with a colour palette that fits like a glove with the overall atmosphere, this can be quite immersive for an ARPG. This also comes from an era when Blizzard understood the power of sound, with high-quality effects that make you feel every hit, excellent voice-acting, and a varied assortment of moody, and thematically fitting tunes.

…But enough with all this talk about story, presentation, and atmosphere. Above everything else this is a fast-paced hack 'n' slasher, where the name of the game is: killing enemies, collecting loot, and improving your badass fantasy avatar. In many ways, it's the same exact deal with old-school Diablo. The perspective is once again a top-down isometric one; you move/interact/attack with the mouse, with keyboard shortcuts opening up menus inventories and the like; and, finally, the whole process of strengthening your character is still as addicting as it is repetitive.

Screenshot for Diablo II on PC

Things are different, though. Moving around is noticeably faster and smooth, and hitting enemies has a lot more "punch" to it, and, due the aforementioned sound effect quality, you'll "feel" every kill. Also, enemies are demonic piñatas that litter the ground with goodies when burst open, giving you that much needed endorphin rush. Loot is given to you at the best possible pace, and is quite diverse, whereas in most ARPGs loot is just stronger or weaker. Why such an emphasis in loot? Well, fun or not, the combat is a relatively simple affair, without any innovative mechanics that make it more dynamic, and with the "strength" of your character being the only true skill.

...and yet, this steady shower of gifts enemies leave behind makes it all quite addictive, especially since there are tons of different items that can be found. Diablo II also adds socketed items and stat-boosting gems, which in turn can be combine to produce better quality gems, via the fantastic Horadric Cube; the game's magic cocktail shaker, with which you can make many different combinations. Of course, if loot is the first half of the fun, the second half is definitely the classes, which go beyond the typical warrior, rogue, and mage, and now have completely unique skill trees, rather than minor differences like with the 1996 classic.

Screenshot for Diablo II on PC

These classes are: the bow/spear/javelin wielding Amazon, who has many passive skills that enhance her abilities; the summoning and curse specialist Necromancer; the up-close-and-personal, dual-hand expert and tower of meat known as the Barbarian; the fragile, yet powerful master of the elements that is the Sorceress, and, finally, the team-player of the... err, team, the Paladin, and his handy offensive or defensive auras. By the way, the class selection screen with the bonfire in the middle still looks fantastic - a minor detail that adds a lot to the atmosphere of it all.

The strength of those classes lies in how many different builds can be made. Whereas in most ARPGS you aren't really encouraged to create a second [insert class] after your first, here the possibilities are almost endless. Sure, it might get somewhat boring to play the same game over and over again, but that's where the online portion of Diablo II comes into play, where teams of eight people can combine their forces and destroy the forces of hell in a matter of less than an evening's work... or enter the chaos that is the PvP mode, collecting the cut ears of your opponents while at it.

In conclusion: an excellent hack 'n' slasher that everyone should play, right? Well, if not a fun of that particular brand of the genre, this won't really do much to convince you otherwise. Better or not than others, the basic gameplay loop still revolves around endlessly clicking on the game world to kill enemies and reap the rewards they leave behind. In other words, it can get very repetitive, even to those that actually like these kind of games - and, yes, Diablo II is also an old game, and as such it requires a specific kind of gamer, that doesn't mind the lack of a few "modern" mechanics.

Screenshot for Diablo II on PC

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Diablo II is an almost perfect sequel, that improves Diablo in every possible way, bar its still untouched atmosphere, without that meaning that the one at hand is inferior. In fact the story told here, which is an otherwise typical tale of good vs. evil is excellently handled, and definitely one of the things that make Diablo II so awesome. Add to that a diverse set of classes, more abilities, more enemies, more loot, and generally, a replay value that can be counted in more than 500 hours, especially once you try the online mode, it's no wonder that this is still considered one of the best of its kind - 20-year-old wrinkles and all.

Developer

Blizzard North

Publisher

Blizzard

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

8

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

It was amazing how good this game was, though arguably it really only came alive with the expansion.  Regardless, it again shows how good blizzard once was before they started getting political among other things and lost their roots.

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