Diablo 2 Retrospective
Combat is straight-forward, fast-paced, and satisfyingly brutal. Memorable boss battles will make you switch up your tactics and have you cursing the name Duriel for years to come.
Gameplay ultimately gets repetitive, but heavy use of random generation keeps D2 fresh and adds significantly to its replay value. Dungeon and map layouts are randomly generated, loot is random, and monster spawns are random, with the possibility of spawning a “champion” mini-boss monster with random attributes for spontaneous challenges.
Sometimes, the random generator gives these mini-bosses a set of attributes that make the monster virtually invulnerable to a certain character’s attacks, which you can either consider to be annoying or part of the challenge… the challenge to know when to run away from a fight and find another way to get past the monster, sans loot and experience points.
D2 challenges you with three difficulty modes, allowing you to replay the same content at higher levels and helping your character along on his never-ending journey to the maximum level, 99. Unlike MMOs, only a small fraction of players ever reach level 99, with most dedicated players capping off in the low 90s. That level 99 remains a carrot dangled before a player’s nose for an eternity, keeping completionists hooked.
Those seeking a greater challenge can create a Hardcore character, who only has one life — death is permanent.
One of Diablo 2′s greatest aspects is what has come to be known as the loot piñata system. Every monster you kill — and especially the more important monsters — is piñata filled with possibility. “Will I get a rare item this time? A set item? Or maybe even a unique item?” Pop goes the piñata, and then you’re scanning the pile of loot that drops for some delicious candy.
In a sense, every monster killed is a pull on a slot machine. Will you win big and find a Grandfather Sword? Whether you do or you don’t, you’re compelled to keep at it, because the next monster may just drop something big. Then the next monster. Then the next.
Much of the loot dropped is just garbage, however. The need for bow- and crossbow-wielding characters — essentially just Amazons — to keep extra ammunition on them is an unnecessary and tedious mechanic that unfairly dumps an additional resource on only one class. Because of this, every other class and non-bow-wielding character build had to suffer through the constant drops of arrows and bolts, cluttering the screen with visual noise.
But when loot is good, it’s great. An enormous part of Diablo 2′s allure is the visual progression of your character through itemization. Thanks to a huge variety in weapons and armor pieces, just about every new item you find changes your character’s appearance. With every passing act, you are donned in increasingly epic armor, wielding ever more menacing weapons.
Even for the time, D2′s graphics were dated — which is the status quo for Blizzard releases, due to their long development cycles — but despite this, the game looks *good.* The artistic direction and fantastic musical score successfully captures the horror-fantasy ambience that sets the game’s tone. Moving through the game’s five Acts offers a sense of true progression through variances of landscapes, atmosphere, and sound sets.