I was encouraged to give Diablo II (2000) a try when the remaster came out back in the fall. So, I didn’t play the original. Instead, I played Diablo II: Resurrected (2021). I mean, technically it is the same game. I just played it with very sick graphics.
Graphics or not, this is a serious mind-off game that is visually appealing and dark as hell.
Gamezetera owner, Pierre Tessier, describes the Diablo series as the first real hack and slash Role Playing Game (RPG). It is a top-down game made by Blizzard, who Pierre tells me is notorious for having their games polished before releasing them. Diablo II was particularly popular because the online multiplayer option was just getting figured out, and this game was one of the few to do it well.
So, I didn’t play the game “in its original form,” even though the old-school graphics are sick as hell (there is an option to toggle the original ones on and off). I went for the very sharp and perfectly rendered colours and polygons of the remastered graphics.
The aesthetic of this game is what appealed to me most. This game is so dark and gothic and just creepy. It has a medieval fantasy vibe with all manner of beasts and bad guys. Hordes of them, actually, and they attack you all at once. How much damage they deal to you depends on the difficulty level you choose, and there are three levels: normal, nightmare, and hell. I completed the game at the normal level before venturing into nightmare for a brief period.
Because this is such a mind-off game, it is easy to just run past all the exquisite details of the gothic parlour rooms and torture chambers. But when you do stop and take a look, sometimes it’s pretty shocking what you find. The crypts, tombs and lairs are all done up with the finest details, creating a sense of opulence with rich colours and textures. They are somehow always covered in blood and goop of some kind, and there are weird torture devices strewn everywhere, making this game so badass.
At first, I was put off by the onslaught of bad guys that swarm you all at once. I originally chose to play as a sorceress and kept getting owned over and over again until I played the most badass class: the assassin. I just kept levelling up her base attacks until I could clear entire rooms with just a few moves.
The mechanics of this game are simple and basically one move: continuously clicking your mouse. There is no use of WASD (if you accidentally press these unnecessary directional keys, you end up disarming your character and subsequently getting owned), so my keyboard hand just chilled pretty much the whole time. You click to move, attack, change attacks, and collect gear. You simply click.
I do not want to give the wrong impression by saying the game is mind-off. It is a fast-paced onslaught, and you are performing hundreds and hundreds of attacks in an evening of playing. It is kind of special in that regard because it is so involved and, at the same time, easily enables you to check out.
Another cool thing about this game is that no two play-throughs are the same. While the towns, villages, forests, and caves may have the same flora and fauna, colour schemes and props from game to game, the maps are randomly generated. The gear is also randomly generated, which means what drops where, with what stats, and with what name is totally random. This absolutely blew my simple mind for some reason; I can only imagine how mind-blowing it was when it was first released!
The story itself is pretty silly, and truth be told, I didn’t follow it much because I was checked out. The story is not necessary to be successful or to kill dudes, but the cut scenes with the up-to-date graphics were very slick. Essentially, the damn devil has broken out of hell again and is wreaking havoc across the land, and you (and your band of misfit heroes if you are playing multiplayer) have to clean up the mess he’s left and eventually kill him.
There did not appear to be any egregious discrimination of any kind. There were areas of the Diablo II universe that were heavily inspired by Muslim culture, but as a white lady aware of racism in video games, I found nothing untoward about the references. Many of the female characters and NPCs (non-playable characters) were scantily clad, but I have come to expect this, particularly from the fantasy genre.
Overall, this was a fun game, easily digestible, aesthetically appealing, and goth as hell. Highly recommend giving this one a try with your friends if you are looking for a weekend or two of fun.