Diablo II is devilishly good!

Is it too early in my GiN career to give a game a perfect score? Yes, but I’ll do it anyway for Diablo II.

Just be careful when you play this game, it has a powerful nicotine-like addiction. It’s the crack cocaine of computer games. You just can’t stop playing it. It’s easy to get into, but darn hard to walk away from.

Case in point: a friend of mine played straight for about 20 hours. But it gets worse"at four in the morning during his binge, he returned from the bathroom and realized that he had locked himself out of the testing lab! His game was still running as he had just moved his character to a seemingly safe area to recover.

Afraid for his character, he proceeded quickly to grab a ladder and climb over the door and through the ceiling panels in a desperate attempt to get back inside. Unfortunately for him he forgot that the door on the inside had a hook for jackets. When we went over the wall he hooked himself on the hanger, leading to a broken hook and a painful injury in, shall we say, his lower quadrant.

While he’s regained his balance, regrettably my friend still hasn’t regained his will power to break away from this addictive title. An intervention is scheduled for tomorrow.

I can’t blame him though, except for the fact that it was my door he decided to break. But the game has some pull. Personally, Diablo II left me with haunting images in my head of skeletons baring swords and giant poison-launching women that look like Madeline Albright and Andre the Giant combined — and on big time steroids besides. Any game that can deliver that kind of horror, suspense and fantasy with excellent graphics deserves the highest rating.

Diablo II is a lot like the original Diablo, but much more emphasis has been placed on role-playing. That is not to say that you have to role-play. I have one friend who just goes around killing everything in site and he eventually advances to the next levels of the game, though not nearly as quickly as my friend who religiously follows each quest.

You can play one of five characters in the game including a Paladin, an Amazon, a Necromancer, a Sorceress or a Barbarian. I play a Barbarian and enjoy bashing even the most powerful monsters into submission. One GiNer likes the Necromancer character, preferring to raise undead monsters to fight for him, while still another plays a fire-crazy sorceress. Yet another person plays an Amazon and circles dangerous monsters turning them into pincushions. Each character has different strengths and weaknesses, and this makes it interesting.

The graphics in this hit compared to the original are amazing, not that the original was too bad for the time. But have a good 3D video card-at least 8MB cause even though the game is played in 640 by 480 resolution, there are six awesome looking, highly graphics intensive motion picture trailers outlining the basic plots for the corresponding levels.

These awesome looking trailers, by far the best I’ve ever seen on a computer game, are well complemented by great sound effects. So good speakers are also a plus, especially since throughout the game, you’re forewarned of booby traps by the clinking sounds of levers moving, which can be hard to hear at times.

The interface is easy to get used too. You have a top down, slightly off to the side point of view. Your mouse moves you and you click on a monster to attack it. If you hold the shift key down, you will stand in place incase you want to stop to shoot. Most players put their primary attack on the left button and some type of spell on the right. In general, even those who have never played games before that I have witnessed are quick to pick it up. Veteran players also enjoy being able to get right into the action.

Diablo does take up a lot of space on your hard drive — 1.5GB of space for the full installation! But all these requirements are well worth the experience of becoming a high level close combat warrior, skilled Amazon woman, sorceress, paladin or necromancer. If you have to delete other games to make room, do it.

There are some things that I wished could change about the game though. For example, when you save and exit I wish that you could return to the same game you left. The goblins and villains come back and all the work you’ve done is lost. If you clear an area, I wish it would stay clear.

Also the magic horodic cube, which is this special cube that converts any three items into one, cheats you when you convert rings to amulets — it doesn’t increase or combine their powers sometimes, but makes them into something weaker.

It would also be nice if the game automatically organized your inventory better. Quite often when you go to pick up an item your character says they are overburdened with stuff and can’t pickup anymore. But if you go to you inventory, you can rearrange your things to make more room. It would not be too hard for the game to just make room.

Finally, I wish there were a few more textures in the game. Some of the dungeons seem to look a bit the same after a time. Oh, and this is really minor, but in the game the darn 5’s look like 6’s in the main font used.

Diablo II, however, still earns five GiN Gems for its ability to easily capture gamers and non-gamers alike, and take them through an exciting and highly addictive Dungeons-and-Dragons-like world. The ability to host a game, where you and a bunch of your friends can all play together, also makes this game worth the price of admission. Now, if I only had five gems for my Diablo II character I would be set! Nothing another 20 hours of play won’t fix.

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