As you may have guessed, I’m a huge fan of role-playing games. However, that isn’t limited to just J-RPGs like Final Fantasy or Lunar. I actually really enjoy western RPGs like Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale and Fallout. They are completely different games that play in such a more engaged manner, with a wide variety of customisation and diverging storyline paths. That has always intrigued me.
That love for the western RPG genre all started when I first played this little-known game called Diablo. Perhaps you have heard of it? Originally, I played the first Diablo game on the PlayStation before moving over to the PC for Diablo 2. Interestingly, Diablo 2 is my wife’s favourite game of all time… But I hadn’t played it for a while, so I wanted to jump back into it and see whether I still held it in as high regard as I used to.
Diablo 2 begins relatively soon after the end of Diablo, were the hero of the first game has defeated Diablo. That hero took Diablo’s soulstone and embedded it within their own body in an attempt to contain the Lord of Terror. However, that didn’t really work and Diablo swiftly took control of the hero, eventually unleashing the demons of Hell. Diablo 2 picks up with you playing as a new hero, tracking down the fallen hero, known as the Dark Wanderer). You have to deal with 5 of the 7 “Great Evils” and traverse the land to save the world from “The Burning Hells”.
The way in which the two games’ storylines connect together with such tragedy fits perfect into the world of Diablo. Everything about the series is dark and twisted, with a prominent sense of despair and pure evil blanketing every conversation, event and quest within both plots. However, it is definitely Diablo 2 that stands tall in terms of the story.
Spanning multiple locations that are vastly different from one another, the sheer level of lore that you can uncover is unbelievable. On top of that, each place feels like it serves the plot, rather than being thrown in for the sake of having different locations. The characters that you meet are all memorable and relatable on some level, and you become very invested in the world of Sanctuary.
The gameplay of Diablo 2 is where the developers seem to have put the majority of their efforts. Whilst the storyline is really good and very engaging, it is the gameplay that is the biggest draw for the game. You get to choose from 5 different characters (or classes), or 7 with the expansion pack, who can be customised and modified as you level up through the game. The controls are incredibly simple as well, as you can play the entire game using just the mouse to move, attack and managing your inventory through the menu screens.
Combat is hectic, to say the least! Sometimes you’ll be able to fight just 3 or 4 enemies at one time, but there are many, many occasions where you’ll find yourself surrounded by a horde of demons and monsters. This can really raise your adrenaline levels, which is probably part of Diablo 2’s addictive nature, but it’s never that difficult. The developers have done a fantastic job at balancing the numbers of enemies with the strength of those enemies.
The ability to bind skills to the function keys on the keyboard also means that it is simple to switch between them during combat as well. This, plus the fact that every action in the game uses the mouse, means that gameplay is easy to pick up and enjoy.
When you die, which will happen as the enemies will often overwhelm you with numbers, despite being weaker, you respawn back in the town with no equipment. However, all is not lost as you can make your way back to the place you died and get all of your gear back once again. And whilst some people don’t like the isometric camera view, it was a common game design choice for western RPGs at the time and, to me, fits Diablo 2 perfectly.
Graphically, the game features realistic style 2.5D sprites, due to the isometric camera angle. This means that, as you turn around, your sprite will do the same, giving the visual effect of a 3D game even though it’s really 2D. The world design feels rich, with each of the four regions in the game looking suitably different from each other in terms of land, architecture and the clothing of the NPCs. This gives a very strong sense of immersion, which only helps to drive you forward in your quest.
The animations of the various skills are exciting to see, without being over the top, meaning that they aren’t going to distract you from whatever tactic you are using to survive a particular fight. The user interface and menus are also simple and easy to understand, just like the base gameplay, meaning that you won’t feel confused at any point in the game. There is also a handy map that you can turn on that floats over the screen, transparent so that you can keep it up whilst playing. The map is detailed enough that you’ll be able to figure out exactly where you are, where you have been and where you need to go, thanks to a “fog of war” effect on it. This means that sections of the map reveal themselves as you explore, meaning you can find new places to go simply by looking at where the map isn’t revealed.
All in all, the graphics are rather simplistic, but that just fits with the overall design of the game – nothing is designed to be overly complicated so that anyone can pick up Diablo 2 and enjoy it.
And That’s All Folks
Diablo 2 is a really easy game to get into, offering a huge amount of gameplay and value for money that anyone can enjoy. It’s fun, engaging and features a good storyline, which all come together to create a gaming experience that will have you playing for hours and not wanting to stop.
Have you played Diablo 2? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments below!