Orcs, swords, dragons, more orcs, magical rings, wizards, flaming arrows, even more orcs – yes indeed, a role-player’s life is a simple one. If it’s green and has more scales than you’d find at the veg counter, kill it. If it’s a large, mystical horse with a long horn and wings, probably best to rustle up a fireball and kill that too. And, true to the simple sword and sorcery way of life, Diablo II doesn’t stray far from that path.
Set in a highly detailed world, the action sees a lone fighter, wizard, sorceress or amazon wade through four acts of slaughter, magic, spell-casting, shining armour, and strange old men who want their wands polishing.
Diablo II is billed as a role-playing game (RPG) that takes the genre to another level, and, at first glance, it certainly casts a level-three spell over most players.
You’re given quests that involve you wandering the landscape and knocking off numerous zombies, mutant chickens and overgrown goblins. Along the way, you pick up weapons, gold to buy supplies and magical potions to help with your quest. Better armour, magical threads and a level-based system mean you can transform your baby-arian into a true barbarian.
When Diablo II was released for the Windows crowd of Puff The Magic Dragon slayers, it was raved about and hailed as a “very important game”. Yet after a while, the whole experience is strangely dull. There are no puzzles, for example, so quests quickly descend into the repetitive slaughtering of wave after wave of monsters. Simply click on a baddie from the fifth dimension several times, watch a cutesy animation as it dies, pick up some gold, then hit another monster. Repeat until bored. Diablo II is more akin to a prettified version of the ‘80s-classic Gauntlet, than anything deeper. However, it is oddly satisfying. Tearing around beautiful landscapes, while bashing seven bells out of the bad guys is somewhat rewarding. And the later levels quickly outpace the first act in terms of design and creative input, transforming you to a truly believable world. Well, if you believe in hob-goblins.
The added depth does surface in the form of upgrades: better armour, longer sword, shiner helmet and the way your character can be assigned skill points to make them a better fighter.
However, the fact that each task inevitably involves clicking ever more frantically on slightly large monsters can’t hide the fact this is no true RPG in the style of Realmz or Dungeons & Dragons. Add to the fact this is sluggish on a 233MHz iMac, and some of the shine is tarnished.
Diablo II is a fun, dragon-bashing game. It’s simple, addictive and glorious to look at. But, if you’re looking for a true, digital version of a RPG that needs a 20-sided dice and fat rule book you won’t find it here.