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Video Game Review: Diablo II

A classic hack-n-slash title, renowned the world over as possibly the best ever made. However it’s been around for 17 years, having debuted in 2000. Therefore, it’s time to finally pick the game up once more and scrutinise it deeply. I will compare it to games before, around and after it to see if it still maintains the title of best hack-n-slash around. The gloves are off, Lord of Terror!

Overview

Developer Blizzard Entertainment
Platforms PC (Windows & macOS)
Windows Release August 2011
Genre Hack n Slash
Price
£6.99 (Blizzard Shop)

Review

Story

The Lord of Terror, the demon Diablo, has awakened and so have his brothers, Mephisto and Baal. Rumours of a dark wanderer have passed through the realm of Sanctuary, spreading darkness wherever he goes. The wanderer is Diablo, who had taken over the body of the warrior who tried to contain him after the events of Diablo I and we’re told the story by Marius. The goal for Diablo is to obtain the soulstones and reunite with his brothers. Meanwhile, some adventurers come through the Rogue Encampment and find themselves on course for a collision with the prime evils.

Gameplay

In any good hack-n-slash, the main course comes from the gameplay and over the years, Diablo 2 has kept its refined taste in a most delectable way. It’s simple to play, hard to master, which is what really set it apart from many other games from its time. With a very easy system of left click for moving and attack 1, right clicking for attack 2, find loot, identify loot, sell loot and most importantly, get Wirt’s Leg so you can get yourself to the secret cow level. Incredibly easy to understand, right?

Well, that’s not the end of the simplicity. The game is broken into 4 acts, add one more for the Lord of Destruction expansion. You have to complete 6 quests per act, although one is usually optional for those who want to progress through the story quickly. Once you complete the quests, the last one is often the quest to go fight the lands big bad, such as Andariel, or Diablo himself. On your quest, you will uncover NPCs, as well as waypoints, allowing you to get around the map much faster. Waypoints allow you to go about the different acts too, so if you forgot to do an optional quest, you can go back to it.

Remember the previously mentioned loot? Let’s talk about that and the classification of said loot: You have different colours representing different quality in loot, from grey which is often a powerless but socketable bit of kit, through to green which acts as a Set. Whilst most loot is randomised, some bosses have specific loot tables, meaning you can grind for those rarest of weapons and armour pieces. You can also get NPCs to improve your pieces, or take a gamble with characters like Gheed, which comes at a cost but can net you some crazy rare items.

As a last point, it’s worth mentioning that all characters can be built in any way. My Necromancer is being built with Strength, Dexterity and Constitution in mind, so I can fight for a very long time with a sword and shield, all whilst the corpses around me and my foes become my allies. You get 5 stat points to distribute across 5 stats and every level you get 1 skill point, to improve your existing skills. From one skeleton to 6 in a matter of 10 levels really isn’t bad going!

Graphics

The one point that I feel Diablo lets itself down in; the graphics. Before you try to tell me that it’s a sign of the era, or that it’s supposed to look that way, you might be right, but it doesn’t excuse the game whatsoever. In fact, if nothing else, it’s games from this era that made gaming start to look fantastic. Don’t believe me? In 2000 we had Final Fantasy IX, Deus Ex, The Sims and so many more great visual games; then just 2 years later the hack-n-slash Dungeon Siege was released which looked infinitely better.

Finally, I feel it’s fair to criticise it, as at the time of Diablo 2’s release, it caused computers GPUs to lag immensely. It wasn’t a heavy game, but it did have problems with the Necromancer class, where people followed the summon skill tree. Every machine had to render all of the pets running around and the game wasn’t great at it! People often wouldn’t play with a summoner Necromancer, because the game wasn’t optimised well. Still, it’s still a strong visual and I feel it’s the only blemish on an otherwise wonderful title. As always then, here’s our gallery, so you can make up your mind too:

Audio

Definitely a highlight of Diablo 2; it sounds like a gothic medieval fantasy and it delivers just that. From the grunts and groans of Zombies and Fallen Ones, through to the seriously crisp sound bites, the game excels in an audio experience above that of any other from it’s era. Needless to say, the audio is where the game really adds those points back up from the seriously blocky graphics of old.

The music itself is incredibly atmospheric, adding a dimension of the unknown and the dangerous. It’s a soundtrack that puts you on edge throughout the game, one that I feel exacerbates the experience in a monumental, but most importantly, a powerful way. The game doesn’t want you to sit back, not when dealing with the Lord of Terror himself. The music then is just the soundtrack to Diablos diabolical existence.

Overall

After all that, it’s true that this isn’t a perfect game. In fact it could be argued that the graphics look so bad that on a modern monitor it looks dreadful. However the game was ambitious and what it lacked graphically, it made up for everywhere else. A game focused heavily on gameplay and audio experiences, heightened only by it’s strong but simple plot. It’s the game that defined its genre wonderfully and is still a contender for best hack-n-slash today. Even with the much faster paced Diablo 3 around Diablo 2 doesn’t fail to deliver.

If you’re looking for a slower paced hack-n-slash experience, then I suggest you get to it and download this title from Blizzard directly. It’s not expensive, it’s worth at least a one time play through and there is enough challenge for the genre veterans as well as the new hack-n-slash gamer. But that’s enough from me, it’s time to see what you all think of Diablo 2: Is this the best hack-n-slash out there? Leave us a comment below or over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.

7 responses

  1. I couldn’t help but Laugh reading this post. You’ve actually hit the nail on the head on so many points… and the shots at it about the graphics! I mean I loved this game almost as much as I loved part 1 and the story and replay value with the dungeons always keeping you on your feet was exciting. BUT the graphics were BARELY better than part 1. Overall still definitely loved this game and that soundtrack is just nostalgic and brings back the thoughts of roaming Tristam all over again… Great read!

    Like

    May 19, 2017 at 11:32 am

    • @TristRam sorry..

      Like

      May 19, 2017 at 10:33 am

    • Thank you for your comment! Absolutely it’s a game that you can easily replay over and over again. Funnily enough, I didn’t even touch on the randomly generated terrains, but that’s almost a given in modern hack-n-slash titles (mostly due to the legacy D1/D2 left behind).

      The graphics on a modern machine are very noticeable, sadly! With a 1920×1080 resolution, them pixels are stretched like hell (no pun intended!). It’s the only real weak point in a supremely solid game :)

      And I stopped writing this review so I could listen to all of that soundtrack. Gothic Fantastic goodness right there!

      Liked by 1 person

      May 19, 2017 at 10:57 am

      • LOL nice nice, I actually haven’t played in so long and probably won’t get the chance to now with the curse that is “adulthood” and “responsibilities”. I did try recently to play StartCraft 1 again but my PC couldn’t that because of its age. That Tristram theme though.. omigosh…

        Liked by 1 person

        May 19, 2017 at 11:12 am

      • Yeah – When writing reviews for this website, it can take me quite a while to get together enough information for an article; hence why the review articles are so spaced out typically. Adulthood is such a chore, no? ;)

        Liked by 1 person

        May 19, 2017 at 11:41 am

  2. Chris Scott

    While I haven’t returned to it, I’d probably argue that Diablo II’s visuals have held up better than Dungeon Siege’s. But I also prefer the art style of Diablo II over Dungeon Siege so…

    Like

    May 20, 2017 at 12:16 am

    • Possibly a matter of opinion; but when you look at Diablo 2 in 1080p, it’s really hard to tell what’s going on. Having replayed both recently, to me, Dungeon Siege is the vastly better visual.

      For the record, whilst I did indeed mark Diablo 2 down for it, I feel the graphics do not detract from the fun nor the near perfection of the game :)

      Liked by 1 person

      May 20, 2017 at 12:26 am

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