9.3

It's difficult to put your finger on just why Diablo II is so remarkable, but in the end, it's a masterfully made game.

(Note: This review is based on the game when the Lord of Destruction expansion pack is installed, hence I'll be basing the game when elements introduced in the expansion are implemented into the gameplay i.e. class-specific items, the druid and the assassin, the fifth act etc. When you buy this game, right after you read this review, I URGE YOU to get the expansion pack along with it. You'll thank me for it later.)

If I'm not wrong, the original Diablo game was, and still is, classed as one of the greatest games ever made, and again, if I'm not wrong, it's the highest rated PC game on GameSpot. That means that there's some pretty high pressure for a sequel to deliver - and, luckily, Diablo II delivers a similarly incredible experience that even goes as far as to surpass its predecessor in some respects. In the end, you're left with a masterfully made game that is almost impossible to dislike.

Diablo II puts you in the shoes of an anonymous hero that belongs to one of seven very different character classes (barbarian, sorceress, assassin, paladin, necromancer, druid, and amazon). Each character offers an extremely different kind of game to the next character, and that gives a lot of incentive for replay value, but I'll talk about that later. Your character is the immediate hero of the game, the only one who can supposedly rid the world of terror, destruction, and above all the evil that is being wreaked by none other than Diablo. The plot to the game isn't particularly original, of course, but it IS astonishingly well told through a series of amazingly well-produced and voiced cutscenes and some intriguing pieces of dialogue that you'll find by talking to any of the charismatic NPC's scattered throughout the game's five areas, or acts. And with a very vague introduction, you're thrown headlong into a world riddled with hellspawn, and it is without doubt a varied and diverse universe. For one thing, most of the game revolves entirely around randomly generated environments; every time you play the game each area will be completely different to when you last saw it. You won't be getting acquainted with familiar rocks or ridges or whatever here - what the random environments do add, though, is a weird sense of mystery, and, of course, it adds a ton of value to the game in the way that you won't ever play the same game twice. The game's textures and colour palette will also change quite vastly throughout the course of the main quest.

Diablo II's main gameplay revolves around clicking on enemies, and that's about as far as it goes. It may not sound like a 9.3-winning formula, but the game does offer up a ton of strategic opportunities depending on your character class and style of play. The bottom line is, clicking on enemies is hazardously addictive and the game actually gets fiendishly difficult pretty early on, and some sections are downright difficult if you haven't had much or any experience in games of this type before, OR if you have picked a character class that isn't exactly tailored to your preferences. The game is heavily reliant on that left click, then. Clicking on any enemy will activate some form of attack, be it sword slash, bolt of lightning or arrow fired from bow, and the enemy will often leave behind items or treasure, which, you guessed it, have to be clicked on to be picked up. Part of the game's addictive quality lies right down to these items - trading with others online via Battle.net is pretty fun and identifying magical items gives off quite the excitement too. Of course, gold can be used to buy items as well, but the items you'll find being sold by the game's reasonable selection of traders are usually overpriced and aren't necessarily as unique or powerful as those you'll find lying by hellspawn corpses or rotting zombie remains. Needless to say, while this can be perceived as repetitive, it's a wildly addictive formula that keeps you back for that critical "one more hour", even if the quests in the game are usually along the lines of "collect" or "kill" or "save" or "destroy boss", the game always has a magical compelling quality to it. The game implements a huge variety of these hellspawn and zombies to keep things consistently interesting, and in that, it succeeds. Right from the off you are treated to rapidly advancing numbers of enemies and critters, each requiring different spells or attack methods to be disposed of. Often, there are unique enemies that have names or prefixes and these can be seen as mini-bosses. In the end, you'll have to adapt to a number of different disciplines and strategies if you want to be efficient. In the graphics department, the game is a bit mixed. On one hand, the game's technical aspects are lackluster - the character models are a bit mucky, the environments are identikit, and even for five or six years ago we were expecting more. On the other hand, some of the buildings and namely the architectural designs in the game are superb and diverse, ranging from desert bazaars to jungle docks to snow-covered villages desperate for defence. All shortcomings are redeemed in Blizzard's astounding cutscenes which are as usual gobsmacking. The story is represented really well in these lengthy cinematics and above all the art direction and animation is incredible. If this was a movie, it'd be a darn good one, for Diablo II's cutscenes are in a word, gorgeous. In the audio department, the game never ceases to amaze. The rousing soundtrack changes widely in texture and feel throughout the game, and manages to create a huge soundscape of different musical moods, ranging from the claustrophobic, dark sounds of the opening moors and fields to the rousing orchestral scores you'll be hearing in the closing obstacles of the final act. Throughout, this game delivers in its musical score and I'm eagerly scouting around for a CD of it. The voice overs are also near perfect - they're pretty good in the cutscenes, providing an excellent narration over the top of that awesome artwork, but in the dialogue from the NPC's they truly shine, bringing those blurred character models to life and giving them a shining personality, be it a noble one, a hopeful one, or one who has lost all faith and hope. Other than the obvious audiovisual majesty, it's difficult to put my finger on why Diablo II is just so remarkable in all respects. Sure, it has flaws - it's repetitive, it's derivative at times, and it doesn't really make any technical advancements over its predecessor, but in the end, you can see past those flaws to envision a game which is honestly magnificent in most aspects. It's an epic, lengthy adventure that is easily replayable with other character classes or even with the same one; it has some unforgettable characters, boss battles, enemies, and locations; and above all, it's just an amazingly well-made RPG. I honestly cannot comprehend why anyone could possibly dislike this game - I have to thank Blizzard for treating us, and the game industry, to one of the finest sequels anyone could have hoped for.

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