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Reviewed: Diablo II
Author: Chris Kim       Date: July 30th, 2000
Page: 3

One shortcoming of the original was the lack of difficulty, there were difficulty levels... but only in multiplayer mode. In the sequel, this will be addressed by allowing players to play at various difficulty settings and varying levels of difficulty. These difficulty settings significantly enhance the difficulty of the game, not by smarter enemies but stronger enemies. They have more strength and power and can very easily destroy the player in fewer, more accurate hits. Basically, the AI is fairly simple, with enemies just coming after the player to destroy him. There just isn't a whole lot to it in terms of AI in a game like this. Generally, the stronger enemies enhance the difficulty.

Another excellent element to the game is the superb multiplayer capability of the game--just like the original and all Blizzard games. Cooperative or deathmatch modes are supported, although the cooperative mode is much more fun and involving than going around killing other players; there is little to no strategy behind killing other players: the stronger player usually wins. Support for Battle.net is built in with a solid set of options and tracking features. One of the biggest problems with the original were cheaters who played online, this has been resolved by having the player information on the Battle.net servers compared to the information being on the local player's computer. Doing this greatly enhances the game experience by eliminating the cheater from the multiplayer realm. The lag on Battle.net is sometimes painful, making multiplayer impossible at times, however. Random dungeons are supported in multiplayer for the ultimate variation between games.

Raising Hell
Exploding Chests
Incoming!

Since the action role-playing genre usually appeals to the casual role-player, a simple interface is needed. Thankfully, another superb interface has been issued with lots of improvements over the original game. The first improvement that will probably impact most players is that simply clicking and holding down the mouse button will have the character continually swing at an enemy until it is dead. It reduces hand fatigue, which equates to more playing time; although, in certain situations, the player will still need to madly press the mouse button. Hotkeys from the original, C, I, S, etc. are still in tact and work just as well from before. Control issues are almost non-existent and provide some of the best control over the player in any game.

Also new are a lot of trading screens. Unlike the original, there are designated areas to store extra equipment and a nice trading screen that allows simultaneously exchanging weapons/armor/equipment between merchants. This readily increases the speed of the game and allows for simpler interaction. All other tasks such as clicking on items and other things on screen is just as simple, with all clickable items in a distinct color or highlights when clicking. Another excellent inclusion is allowing players to discern all of what is on the ground at one time. By pressing the Alt key, a list of all items on the ground will come up allowing the player to pick and choose what to take rather than tediously looking for that item on the ground.

Tons of Fools
Playing With Fire
Most Impressive FMV Sequences Ever

What appears to be the most impressive graphics in a role-playing game actually turn out to be a mixed bag. While some of the environments and special effects are excellent, overwhelming parts of the graphics are washed out, lack detail, and are very pixelated. At times, it even seems like the graphics have actually gotten worse from the original Diablo. The case is readily apparent in outdoor environments with the textures used on the ground, they are horribly pixelated and grainy looking. It sometimes doesn't even look like the grassy plain that it was designed to look like. Other times, in areas like the caves and dungeons, the areas are incredibly detailed and look very impressive.

Lighting and special effects from spells and dark areas really shine with some very pleasing looking effects. The lighting is simply amazing despite the 256-color palette. The realistic line-of-sight really enhances the game mood as do the spooky lighting effects. With support for either Direct3D or Glide acceleration, the special effects like simply amazing when enabled. The FMV movies, however, are some of the most impressive ever seen in a computer game. They have excellent sound and picture quality that reveal the story in an exciting manner. All amazing features aside, the character sprites that compose all moving objects in the game look amazingly bad. While the animation is good, the detail is really lacking and awfully pixelated. This could be due to the lack of 16/32-Bit color support or the limited 640x480 resolution.

Pool of Death
Smithy...?
Death of a Boss

Another area which Blizzard has mastered is the sound area. Diablo II is no exception with some of the most impressive sound effects and music to date. The extremely moody music crowds the feeling of depression and something terribly wrong in the area. Each tune is memorable and sets the tone for each area of the game. Sound effects consist of nearly every sound from the real world... all ambient noises and situation sounds that make the player actually terrified by the experience. Usage of EAX enhances the game (although the EAX setting on Vortex2 cards is not available) on all SBLive! cards, and it is very impressive. Voice acting, as always, is easily the best heard in a game to date. Who cares if the sounds from the original are reused, they were awesome!

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Added:  Sunday, July 30, 2000
Reviewer:  Chris Kim
Score:
Page: 3/5

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