Diablo II Exclusive

The devil's disciples get to work on Blizzard's Diablo II. Ron Dulin sells his soul for a handful of exclusive screenshots and the latest on new characters and spells.

While Blizzard's Starcraft team is busy finishing up the code on its project, the folks at Blizzard North are already deep in the trenches on Diablo II. GameSpot News had a chance to speak with Blizzard's Bill Roper yesterday who dished out the goods to date on Diablo II - the title that just might be the most anticipated game of the year.

GameSpot News learned about the new character classes, new item traits, and, perhaps most importantly, what Blizzard is doing to foil the cheaters.

One of the most exciting things Roper addressed on Thursday were the two additional character classes. As you may already know, Diablo II will feature five character classes in all, none of them returning from the original. Joining the already announced Amazon (described in detail in the Computer Gaming World's recent preview), will be the Necromancer and the Paladin. The remaining two classes will be announced at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in May.

As far as the details of these new classes go, here's what we know. And remember, this information comes very early in the process and is subject to change.

Among the Necromancer spells are Summon Familiar, which creates a winged creature who fights for your character and scouts unexplored areas; Raise Dead, which resurrects your fallen foes to fight at your side; Binding, which allows you to take control of an enemy; and Vampiric Touch, a spell that gives the Necromancer the power to take a monster's life, while adding to his own.

Four of the Paladin's skills have been announced as well. Holy Aura will create a sort of shield, which will protect him against and repel undead creatures; Shield Bash is a skill that allows the Paladin to use his shield as a weapon; True Blade will give attack bonuses to weapons; and Arm of God is a strange skill, which, according to Blizzard, makes the Paladin move "with impossible quickness" and inflict "grievous wounds upon his enemies" - but the Paladin takes damage while using this skill.

Roper elaborated on how these skills would work in the game. "The early skill model that we're looking at sort of follows the same model gamers saw in Diablo. It works similar to a spell. If the Amazon is using her Vital Shot skill, that would be in the spell slot. You give up the ability to use magic, but you are gaining the benefit of the skill. Obviously, we haven't waded through all of the interface issues, but that's what we're looking at."

Roper also revealed that the magic system will work a little differently in Diablo II. Character classes will have numerous spells that only they can use. In the single-player game, the random item generation (which added replayability to the original Diablo) will be skewed toward your character class, so you won't be getting a bunch of spell books you can't use.

In the multiplayer game, you'll get almost everything. Roper explains that this is being done to foster more item trading among players. Other items, such as armor and weapons, will also have class-specific value. One of the more interesting things disclosed by Roper is that a player equipped with a set of items with the same properties (such as a sword of the sky, helm of the sky, and armor of the sky) will receive extra bonuses.

Diablo II will utilize a more complex line of sight than its predecessor. Roper explained how it will work: "Diablo II is using true line of sight, not just for target acquisition, but for seeing objects in a room. For instance, let's say you walk into a room and you are the only light source. If there's a pillar there, you won't see monsters or objects behind the pillar."

The big remaining question, though, was how Blizzard hopes to combat the widespread cheating on Battle.Net. Roper quelled rumors that Diablo II will utilize server-side character storage and said Blizzard wasn't ready to comment on how many of these issues will be addressed. "Anything we say at this point is conjecture."

He did give a little insight into how Blizzard is making player-killing less of a threat. "When we were developing Diablo, we knew Pkilling would occur. But if you give people the ability to be self-regulating, they do so. Even with the cheating that occurs on Battle.Net now, you see bounty hunters cropping up. Our goal is to come up with a system that fosters this kind of self-regulation."

Diablo II promises to be a much larger game than Diablo. It will be broken up into four "acts," each with its own quests, towns, and dungeons. To give us a sense of the massive game it's planning, Roper explained that "the first act is about the size of Diablo."

Other planned additions include more atmosphere (such as birds flying through town and NPCs who move around), the ability to control a monster (though Roper was vague on the details when we spoke), and a more complete character art system - which will mean that when you are holding a weapon or wearing armor, you will actually see that item on your character. Roper assured us that Blizzard is trying to give Diablo II more role-playing elements, without changing the simplicity of the gameplay. "We want to expand the depth and the breadth of the world instead of adding complexity."

Diablo II is tentatively scheduled for release in late 1998.

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