If you read my review for the first Diablo game, you found that there were several things about it that I felt needed to be improved upon. Well, I was extremely happy to find out as I played Diablo II, that Blizzard did improve considerably upon this second installment of their great RPG title!!! With the exception of a couple of things, the sequel was a lot better than the original and has so many more layers to it.
In this second installment of the Diablo series, the Lord of Terror (Diablo) has headed east to the desert city of Lut Gholein, and his evil plans include freeing his brother, Baal. Along the way, he will also liberate another Prime Evil named Mephisto, and they ALL three wish to join forces. This trio of Ultimate Evil will most certainly bring disaster upon these lands, and another righteous hero will be called upon to save the world.
As you might have guessed, you play this hero, and the first thing you must do before you get into the action is decide upon your character class. This is one of the areas that Diablo II has really improved upon. You now have 5 different character classes to choose from (2 more when the expansion is loaded, for a total of 7). The following classes are available for you to choose from: Paladin, Amazon, Barbarian, Necromancer, and Sorceress. You still cannot choose the sex of your character, but each of the above classes will have special abilities, skills, and spells that will make them very enjoyable to play.
This new addition of different playable characters is one of the main reasons that this game has such a high Replay Value!!! Not only do you have different combat skills and spells to experience when you play again as a different character class, but there is a whole lot of weapons and armor that can only be worn or used by a specific class (magic rods for Sorceress, or animal helms for the Barbarians). There are many extra dungeons to explore that are not directly associated with the main quests, and I doubt that you will find them all during your first time playing.
The gaming area in Diablo II is much larger than in the original Diablo and that too makes for a high Replay Value, because you know that you couldn't have explored everything during your first time playing through the game. Another great feature was the Horadric Cube, and once you acquire this magical item, you can use it to make many crafted items (Armor, Weapons, and scrolls) that will have great power associated with them.
This game is set-up into four Acts (chapters), or five Acts if you load the expansion. You start in the town of Lut Gholien, and with each Act, you get closer to destroying Diablo. Gameplay for Diablo II was very much quest driven, with a total of 21 quests during the four Acts, but do not worry my fellow gamers who love to hack-n-slash at demons because there is plenty of monster killing to be done as well... LOL. You will battle everything from zombies to the Prime Evils themselves. During each of the four Acts you will have a base camp that provides you with a blacksmith, healer, merchants, and even a NPC that will let you hire mercenaries, or as this game calls them, "Hirelings". Each Act will have different types of Hirelings. Some are magic users and others will be more skilled in melee combat.
The only difference in the gaming screen compared to the first game, is that in the center bottom of the screen, there is now a row of buttons that will take you directly to certain pop-up screens (Inventory, Quests, Character Info, or Game Options). In addition to your old trustworthy Town Portal Scroll, there is also a new way of traveling from place to place in Diablo II. This was in the way of transport devices called "Way-points". You have to locate these devices and step on them to activate them. Once you do that, a list of places that it can take you will appear for you to choose from. Select your desired location, and presto - you will arrive there. A very nice feature!!!
Combat is challenging, and if you die, the game will send your character to the home base. You'll arrive without any of your equipment that you had equipped, but your body will still be at the exact spot that you died. Once you get back to that spot, all you have to do is click on your corpse and ALL of your equipment is put back on your character.
The following items can be equipped on your hero: Helmet, Body Armor, Weapon, Shield (except when using a two-handed weapon), Boots, Gauntlets, Two Ring Slots, and a Belt. The Belt can hold up to 4 potions, but the really great thing that has been added in this game is that you can get bigger belts. Each size that is increased on the Belt (Sashe) gives your character another 4 slots. I think I had a Belt big enough to hold 12 slots at one point, but I don't know if they get any bigger than that. This helps a great deal in freeing up space in your inventory.
There are a couple of things about the Gameplay that I DID NOT like!! First, is the fact that there is still just ONE save slot available, and you can't choose a different slot to save your game. The other is that whenever you visit a part of the gaming world again, for whatever reason, the monsters that were killed before will return.
The graphics are very good in Diablo II. Everything is extremely detailed, from dungeons to the frozen lands of the North Country. One particular thing about the graphics that I thought was a major improvement upon the first game is the fact that there is a movie cut-scene before each Act and lengthy ones before the game begins and after the final battle with Diablo. This helped to make the game's storyline more appealing, and keep my attention. In fact, there was a separate disk just for the cinematics. I also found the dramatic and graphically stunning way that the many boss-type monsters died to be very enjoyable. Most of the time it was much more than just the guy falling to the ground in a pool of blood.
The sound in this game was excellent. The musical score really shined!!! It was full of highly charged, robust battle-type songs that made you feel like you were about to enter the toughest battle you had ever experienced. All of the NPC's in your base camps have unique voices to them. You have the option to just have audio or audio and text, like in the original Diablo. The spells have unique and dramatic sounds to them, and weapons have authentic sound effects as well.
I had played the original Diablo right before I played Diablo II, so there was not much time needed for learning how to play this game. Even if you haven't played Diablo, the mechanics for the sequel still wouldn't be much of a challenge. This is mainly due to the fact that most everything was a mouse click away, and therefore very easy to find and examine. Once you identify the weapons and armor, a description of how magically enhanced they are will appear, and this helps explain what certain weapons and armor will do. There is not a tutorial section on the main menu, but as I mentioned, it is so easy to figure things out, I don't think it is needed.
In conclusion, I would say that the second installment of the Diablo series is a MUST HAVE!!! I am amazed at how much of an improvement there is between this one and the original Diablo. This game took you to far more places, and had a far more interesting story to keep you hooked on, as well as a horde of evil creatures that never seemed to end!!! I am so eager to see how one of those other character classes play, and that is a true testament on how much replayability there is too Diablo II.
So pick this one up, and don't forget too get the Expansion set, Lord of Destruction as well. It adds a whole bunch of new stuff to this already great game. I will be writing a review for the Expansion game as well, and also one for the Battle Chest, so be sure to check those out!!!