This review originally appeared in E88, September 2000.
Picking up where Diablo left off, Diablo II requires you to cast a new hero in your image. Choose from amazon, warrior, necromancer, paladin, or sorceress, and allocate skills, weaponry and armour. When you’ve finished sculpting your champion, it’s time to place them into an isometric world of endless flat landscapes, randomly generated dungeons, and much evil ready to be purged.
Even discounting the replay value (as well as the random generation and different classes of hero, there are two more difficulty levels which become available on completion), Diablo II is huge. Four graphically distinct ‘acts’ see you journeying east in search of ‘The Wanderer’. Each act is composed of a series of simple quests. Unfortunately, the key word there is series: playing Diablo II is an utterly linear experience, with the end of one quest directing you to your base camp, and leading rapidly to the start of another.
This would be more palatable if the quests, which are worked into four overarching ‘acts’, weren’t so similar. Almost all culminate in your slaying of a monster slightly bigger and trickier than the previous one, either for the sake of various items or just for the pointless righteousness of it all. There’s no puzzle solving at all, not even of the most basic key-and-locked-door type. All character interaction and storyline advancement takes place with the half-dozen characters inside your current act’s main location. Outside of this, it’s a case of kill everything that moves.
As for combat, your one-man (or several, if you want to play multiplayer through battle.net) army will be attacked by fantastic numbers of monsters, and it’s all quite frantically enjoyable, if more reminiscent of Gauntlet than an RPG. Click and you’ll swipe, stab, or shoot at one of them, and they’ll either die or you’ll have to repeat. Bigger monsters require more clicking. Really big ones require the sort of constant hacking dedication worthy of a lumberjack. Victory doesn’t so much require skill as persistence.
Roleplayers whose primary concern in an RPG is raising their character’s level will find enjoyment here; in particular, the range of armour and weaponry is impressively varied. However, if you yearn for NPC interaction and a varied game structure, you’ll be disappointed. Diablo II is simplistic, occasionally absorbing, and desperately shallow: fun in parts, but with far more promise than achievement.