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Review of Diablo II: Some Like it Hot

Well, I've already defeated Diablo once and I'm still addicted to the game. That's a sign right there it's a frikkin' good game.

What I like:
Character classes and development, first of all. This helps keep the game from just being mindless hack'n'slash. The five classes all have their own unique set of skills, and an infinite number of ways to develop each character within that set, massively upping the re-playability factor of this game. I won the game with an Amazon (similar to the first game's Rogue), who's handy with long spears and missile weapons and is well balanced between fighting and magical skill. I've also played around with the Barbarian (your basic hand-to-hand badass) and the necromancer, who can summon undead and golems to help him in his fighting – pretty cool. I have yet to try the sorceress (your general wizard type, kacking baddies with fireballs and the like but sucking physicially), and the paladin, a fighter augmented with holy magics).

The storyline is good; you don't need a deep storyline for a dungeon crawl game, but it's amazing how much that helps keep my interest. This one gives you a better sense of victory than the first (seeing as how you're basically on a search-and-destroy mission for the now-corrupted hero you played in the first game), though the ending hints there will be another sequel (but I won't give away anything more than that, I promise!). The quests are fairly interesting, and you travel through four unique lands with their own terrains and monster types, all very well rendered and augmented with good music. (Some people have bitched about the graphics, being "only" 640x480, but while it may not be top top top of the line, the game looks great. The added accessibility factor -- I could handle higher, but I know others who couldn't -- is a bonus, I think. Games should be playable by as many people as possible. Besides, there is a bit of a load lag from time to time; I'd hate to think what that'd be like with higher graphics, etc.)

What I didn't Like:
There's no save/load game feature! Well, there is, but only if you fully leave the game. The game autosaves from time to time (I think usually when entering a new area). And with no load game feature, you can't recover if you've messed up somewhere (like when I lost those really cool gems... *sigh*). I guess this keeps down on "cheating" (saving and reloading until you get what you want), but it's still annoying.

The lack of this feature wouldn't be so bad, except with the added factor of two things: when you load your game, you always start in the town, regardless of where you saved. And the dungeons/fields/whereever respawn with monsters, even after you've cleared an area and completed all the quests. So that means if you had to quit the game, you have to trek all the way back to where you were before (teleportation waypoints help a bit but not entirely) and fight through all the monsters again before you can reach your goal. Depending on where you are in the game, that can be a BIG fat pain in the patoot.

I will admit, though, that I appreciated the monster respawning in the last section of the game, when I had the opportunity to get a little more experience – and more treasure! – before I went head-to-head with Diablo.

What fell in-between:
Since you can't manually reload, the game does you a favor of resurrecting you. You keep anything in your backpack, but not anything you were wearing/holding. To get that stuff back, you get to trek back to your body and retrieve your stuff (or if your corpse is surrounded by ten Diablos, you can exit the game, and when you reload, your corpse shows up next to you in town, though you've lost any gold you might have dropped). Corpse retrieval is sometimes irritating – especially if you died because you hit the wrong button or the game lagged or something – but sometimes amusing as well. It also forced me to use weapons I hadn't tried in awhile, which occasionally revealed to me a better way of fighting something.

One cool thing in this game is you can hire mercenaries to help you fight off the baddies. (In part 1 you can hire a rogue, in part 2 you can hire a warrior, and in part 3 you can hire a mage; all or most have some special attack or resistance.) Unfortunately, these mercenaries wear red tunics for a reason. I started to get a guilt complex because my mercs were dying so quickly; then I took them for what they were and specifically used them as monster bait. Mercs are supposed to go up levels with you, but I could rarely keep one around enough to get one at any decent strength, even when I tried. There Scorch would be, life meter almost to zero, and I'm trying to pull him into the town portal when he suddenly walks the other way into a pack of monsters and screams that horrible scream of death. Pathetic. If there was a way you could heal your friends (I think paladins might be able to, but otherwise, you're screwed), give them potions or something, they'd be much more valuable.

Despite the annoying actual game feature stuff, I am enjoying this game immensely. It's weird, because when you think about it, it's not a terribly cerebral game. You just walk around and kill things and collect loot, your typical dungeon crawl game, a big graphicized descendant of Rogue and NetHack. But like its ancestors, Diablo II has just enough of a storyline, just enough interesting quests and artifacts, to make it one of the most entertaining and addictive games ever. Oh, and did I mention the NPCs are fun to talk to too?


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All original materials © 2003 R. Pickard