Looking back at my Starcraft box, Diablo II was scheduled for release in 1998, but it is mid 2000, and still no Diablo II. However, some progress has been made, with an online playable beta, and I can tell you that my fingers were itching to get a good playing of this game. As the game just showed up one morning before school, in a Fedex package, and in no case, I almost didn't go to school. Well now, about 120 playing hours later :) , I'm still itching to play.
Learning how to play this game requires no learning at all. Following the same gameplay rules as the first Diablo, this sequel has nothing different except for better quests, better spells, and more player socialization. The quests, though only 6 in the first act, are mainly defeating bosses and getting items that NPC's ask for. The skill tree is a particularly good change to this game. Instead of finding books for spells, this game allows you to research one spell, or better one already researched, every time your character levels up. Levelling is obviously based on experience, and experience is what players get ranked on over Battle.net.
Though there are still town portals, there are warps at every stage of the game so that when you rejoin another game you can begin in the general area of difficulty where you left off from. After beating the game, your "hardcore" character is active. A hardcore character is played on a "if you die once, you are dead forever" basis. A hardcore player cannot join a regular game and vice versa. Other than the standard regular, unidentified and unique items, which were in the original Diablo, two new standards of equipment have been added: Set and Socketed. Set items are items that belong to a set of items which you can collect all of the items in the set and receive a good bonus. Socketed items are used to place a variety of gems into. Gems carry a variety of attributes (poison damage when placed in weapons, lightning resist when placed in shields, etc.). Gems can be gotten when a monsters drop them and can be upgraded to make them better at Gem Shrines. Gem shrines are rare in this game, and it takes 4 to fully upgrade a single gem.
Online, the only mode available in the beta, is played over the infamous Battle.net servers. The trading sequence and party options put more of an RPG element into this game, where you can have a group of people fighting on a team, and as soon as someone decides he is hostile towards you, he becomes hostile to your whole group. This is a standard element found in all good RPG's, such as EQ. PKing (player killing), is a resolved issue in this game. Unless another player agrees to a PK fight, it is almost impossible to kill someone. To PK someone, you have to turn hostile against them, and this has to be done in town. Then, you have to find your target, warp to them, and catch them. It's not easy, and Blizzard wanted it this way. The Ladder (ranking system) is based on experience. There is both a regular ladder, and a Hardcore Ladder for hardcore players.
The graphics are a downside, but still require a lot of resources. The graphics were not too much of a concern, because all of the effort was put into the amazing gameplay. No matter what, it is mandatory to run this game in 640X480 mode. This isn't too bad because this is an RPG where graphics aren't too complicated, so it looks well enough. However, some sequences and videos are amazing and make all of this up. Rain and lightning are my favourite effects in the game. This game doesn't require much music, and the music is almost classical dark music. The sound effects are well done, with no real surprises.
It seems far off into the future the release date for this game, and chances are it will be moved back even more (based on previous release dates, and claims). Only 1000 lucky winners have this beta, and in a few weeks Blizzard will release the "Open Beta" (Stress Test Beta) to 100,000 people to test the game on different servers and realms. This game will have as much of an impact on gaming as the first Diablo did. With a variety of rare, unique and set items, this game will keep you playing even after beating it, for trading purposes (or in my case, beating it 5 times :)