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Diablo II

Diablo II Raises Hell

Sequel Full of Thrills, Chills

By Jim Bray

One of the most popular games of recent years is back.

Diablo II, from Blizzard Entertainment, is a “third person” role playing/hack and slash game for the PC that pits your character against various dead things and denizens of hell.

Diablo II assumes that, since time immemorial, the forces of Order and the forces of Chaos shave been at each other’s throats in a struggle to decide who rules Creation. The original Diablo inflicted upon players the unpleasant task of caging the demon Diablo and stopping the carnage.

You can’t really keep an evil thing down, however, and Diablo is back, in possession of the body of the hero who thumped him in Diablo I, and intent upon shackling humanity “into unholy slavery.”

Naturally, only you have the wherewithal to, according to Blizzard, “Determine the outcome of this final encounter.”

I imagine this will only be the final encounter if Diablo II’s sales don’t meet expectations, otherwise Blizzard’s sure to unearth these unearthly enemies for years to come.

You can choose to play as one of five character types: Amazon or Sorceress (for the ladies, or “lady wannabes” among us), Necromancer, Paladin, or Barbarian. I chose the latter personality, since it seemed so close to home, and sallied forth on my grand adventure to keep the world safe for humanity.

Boy, was that a mistake! Now I’m hooked.

The playing field is set up so that you can wander around virtually at will. There are fences and other obstacles to keep you in bounds, but other than that you’re free to poke your nose into all manner of interesting places. As you travel, you come across loose rocks or unlocked chests – or the spoils of your victims – from which you can pick up inventory items to help you. There are mundane things like gold, armor and weapons, and stuff that’s much more important to your immediate well-being, like rejuvenation potions and the like.

Before venturing onward your best bet is to tour the “rogue encampment” in which you begin (and where you maintain your private stash of items retrieved from afar – if you manage to get back with them) and “talk” to the other residents. They’ll give you hints and advice about the game that could come in handy down the road.

As you wander across the countryside you come across doorways to underground lairs you really don’t want to visit, but which you must visit if you’re to root out all the evil creatures that are your raison d’etre for being in Diablo II in the first place. These are dark and it can be hard to find your way around while keeping one eye on your back and one hand on your sword (or whatever weapon you happen to be carrying at the time).

An equally unpleasant surprise can be the news that there’s yet another level awaiting below the one you’re currently cleansing, which means there’ll be more mayhem managed before you can return to the clean air of the countryside above.

Sound and graphics of Diablo II are very good; you even get audible squishing (in Dolby Surround!) when you run through some of these dark denizens and the blood forms a pool on the ground around them.

The graphics don’t come close to approaching the graphic bloodbaths of games like the “Doom” and “Quake” series, however. It’s cartoony – with good animation; besides, these critters are out to spike YOU, so you have to get them first!

The game requires a reasonably hefty PC. Blizzard says it runs under Windows 9x, NT 4 (with Service Pack 5) and Windows 2000, though I couldn’t get it to work on my Win2K installation (rats!). Diablo II also wants at least a Pentium 233 with 32 Mb of RAM, a minimum of 650 Mb of hard drive space (a full installation takes a gig and a half!) and a 4x CD ROM drive.

The multiplayer option (up to 8 players on requires even more hardware, and there’s an optional 3D video acceleration mode for those with nicer video cards.

Diablo II is an addictive pastime; you might as well say goodbye to the spouse and kids for a while once you’ve installed it, lest your attention wander and you succumb to the dark forces.

It’s one hell of a game!

Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.


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January 31, 2006