Diablo II is a game that has defined the whole action RPG hack slash dungeon crawler genre. Many people know of hack ‘n slash games such as Titan Quest, Torchlight, Dungeon Siege, and the recent Path of Exile. All true fans of the genre know that Diablo is the king. Will it always maintain this status? With over 14 years since the game’s release is it still fit for fighting? Or have the years relegated Diablo II to the trash bin?
Diablo II Review | Game Play
As it says on the tin, Diablo II is a hack-n-slash action RPG for up to eight players. The game revolves around completing a few large quests in each area (typically six quests in each Act), working your way through large dungeons, caves, open plains and jungles. They are filled to the brim with treasure and monsters. You pick one of seven classes (there are five in the base game, two more with the expansion). Each one has three talent trees to progress in. These talents can do anything from give you a new spell, improve your health and mana, or maybe even give a bonus to a previously learned spell. Because of the wide variety of classes and skill sets, it feels like there are well over 20 ways to play your own character! Each class feels very unique with their own interesting flavor. Necromancers can summon undead minions to aid them and curse their enemies. Druids can turn into werewolves and werebears, or use the elements to destroy their foes. Sorceresses can focus on Fire, Ice, or Lightning magic. Almost every sort of build is viable, and you can go into more than one talent tree to create an even more unique character, and that’s not even considering equipment.
What is a hack ‘n slash without loot, right? Diablo II is a game that does it excellently. Whenever you find an item magic quality or better, you have to use an Identify Scroll to see what their special qualities are. While this sounds like it can get annoying, it’s actually quite the tiny thrill. You’re always wondering what item you’ve found, if it’s any good, and maybe if it’s worth a lot of gold. You’ll find yourself upgrading your equipment often in the early game. Each piece of new gear you equip makes you feel more powerful and really stronger. Equipment is not all you’ll find though. There are Gems, Jewels, and Runes you can put in your gear to buff them up in various ways. There are even secret bonuses for using combinations of runes in your gear called runewords! There are even charms that, when identified, give you passive bonus as long as they are in your inventory.
Diablo II’s game play is not perfect. It suffers from a few problems such as when, at times, you’ll find yourself only using a few skills. Especially early on, you simply are clicking more than thinking. Later in the game, upgrades to equipment are few and far between–making progression feel much slower. The game also feels extremely easy at the start with randomly huge difficulty spikes. I am looking at you, Duriel. They will make it so any unprepared adventurer will die over and over again. These negatives hardly detract from the overall game. They can make a few areas rather annoying to slog through.
Diablo II Review | Graphics
Diablo II has a truly wonderful and gothic art style. Dungeons are filled with rotting skeletons, corpses, chains and torture devices that make the world dark. The game itself uses sprites, which is a catch 22. The sprites themselves never age poorly, and many of the environments look dark, twisted, and very detailed. However, some of the creatures can look a bit silly, or you’ll be squinting to see what an object really is on some of the smaller sprites. Overall, Blizzard’s decision to use sprites was a good one. Even now, some of the environments still impress me more than any 3D model.
Diablo II Review | Music
Diablo II has very dark music to go with its art-style and story. Many of the tracks are taken from Diablo I and remastered or redone to fit Diablo II, giving the game a very nostalgic and fun feel. I will admit that I don’t often pay much attention to the music while fighting, but after you’ve killed dozens of creatures, the dark and moody music really helps to complete the scene.
Diablo II Review | Story
Keeping with the theme, Diablo II has a very gothic story. Taking place a year after the end of the first Diablo, an unnamed hero has defeated Diablo, absorbing his evil into his own body. Unfortunately, the evil has slowly corrupted him, making demons and other evils that have started leaking into the world once more. A group of adventurers, YOU, team up together to try and track down and defeat the wanderer, slay the demons, and try and bring peace to the world of Sanctuary.
Diablo’s story revolves around a lot of themes: Good vs. Evil and Heaven vs. Hell. Your enemies are mostly demons, and you receive help from angels and the like. You even travel to hell at one point in the game. Overall, Diablo II’s story takes a back seat to its game play, which is not bad at all. There are NPCs to speak to, and a real juicy story to be found if you put in a bit of effort to search for it. It’s not necessary. If you just want to kill some bad dudes, feel free to skip through all the dialogue.
Diablo II Review | Closing Thoughts
Saying Diablo II still holds up is an understatement. It is still the king. Even if it’s been on the throne for a long time, it doesn’t look like it will give it up its title any time soon. The game play is fast, fun, and addictive. Collecting new loot and equipment is a blast. It sucks you in and won’t let you go until you have the perfect character. Then you’ll want to start all the way over as a new class. The game has a few minor issues. Trust me when I say you won’t notice them after getting into the game.
- Addictive game play.
- Interesting story.
- Plenty of loot and equipment to get.
- Excellent dungeon design.
- Many different types of areas to explore in each act.
- Variety of classes and builds for them.
- Difficulty spikes- DAMN YOU, DURIEL!
- Slightly muddled sprites and dark contrast can make some things hard to see.
- Low amount of skill variety at low levels.
- Upgrading equipment begins to slow down at high levels.
Diablo II Review | Recommendations
Do you like Diablo II but have a craving for more hack slash goodness? You should definitely check out Torchlight II, Titan Quest, and Path of Exile (though the last one is online only). Diablo III does not impress me as much as Diablo II, but with the latest Diablo 3 Reaper of Souls expansion, I’d say it is worth a try.