Two million reservations before a game has even come out is something which will cause a stir in the gaming community. Yes, I am talking about the infamous Blizzard title Diablo 2. I brought it upon myself to figure out what all of this hype is about. With the original game scheduled for release in 1998, many people wondered why it was pushed back so far. This long wait has increased all of our expectations for Diablo II, and the game has met them all.

This game is the classic action-RPG. Just like it's predecessor, the 1996 Game-of-the-year, Diablo II is played in a 3/4 overhead view. Consisting of 4 acts, this game is not just one town but four different towns, each with different residents, landscapes and creatures. Just like the original, in Diablo 2, you are given certain quests to complete. In each act you are required to complete 6 quests, which vary in form of killing a special character, to collecting items to bring back to whoever requested them. These quests are amazingly fun, sometimes complex, and are generally well-designed. Depending on which character you choose, each task might be harder or easier than if another character class tackled it. Moving and controlling characters is simple to master, and the ability to hotkey spells is often a lifesaver. NPC interaction could have been pushed a bit further, but the storyline does not call for a great deal of this, so it is bearable.

The Diablo 2 box is quite a sight to see. The front jacket design sports a horrific hooded skeleton, along with the magical, flaming words Diablo II in bumpy relief. Pulling open the cover flap reveals an awesome panorama of an amazing battle. It profiles each of the five characters, The colors tended to run toward the brown and red, but that's keeping with the theme of flames and evil. The side panels feature nice screens, liberally sampled from both the game and the cut scenes. The bottom has all the pertinent info, such as system specs, UPC code, copyright information and Blizzard's contact numbers, which we found to be very reassuring.

It's in the pacing of the gameplay that Blizzard shows its experience. The difficulty curve is perfect -- newbies won't be overawed by the action, and experienced players will be breezing through the first quests in short order. But even the hardcore are going to have their mettle tested as the Acts progress. The first act, made some two years ago, is not as pleasing to play as the other 3 acts, which all bear nicer gameplay and newer graphics. It hardly seems like the same game by the time the player reaches the incredibly detailed desert town of Act Two, the jungles of Act Three and the lava-filled environments and mammoth monster types of Act Four.

There are 5 character classes in this game: Amazons, Barbarians, Necromancers, Paladins, and Sorceresses. Each character class has 30 unique special skills that they can research or improve for either completing a quest or levelling up. A number of attributes and items differentiate players from each other. As you put on new clothing or take clothing off, your character changes on the screen before your eyes. A great deal of emphasis was put into these graphical details, and into the items in general. Items all vary in abilities and some can even be collected as a set. Set items appear in green, unique items in gold, and rare items in yellow. An ingenious gem system is used in this game, where some items, which appear in grey, are socketed and can be gemmed with gems of different grades and abilities. This all adds to the amazing gameplay and online race for items, but does not necessarily account for graphics. Though not too big of a deal, the gameplay sometimes looks awkward, and cannot be controlled as much as it should be. The game can run in DirectDraw, Direct3D and Glide but there is no resolution control and the game cannot be changed from its default 640 X 480. The cinematics are quite amazing, with Blizzard's extraordinary fire detail, fire scene's seem almost seamless and real-life. The cinematics can be unlocked and viewed at any time from the third CD. Overall, the graphics are bearable, but could have been better.

Not too much emphasis was put into sound in this game. The sound effects are well made, and are crucial to distinguish what is happening and what items certain characters drop. The music is not such a big deal, but then again what music would be fit for such a game?

Though many people have a hard time understanding and following the storyline of this game, or simply ignore it, it is a great story and here is a little blurb about it:

Since the Beginning of Time the forces of Order and Chaos have been engaged in an eternal struggle to decide the fate of all Creation. That struggle has now come to the Mortal Realm... And neither Man, Demon, nor Angel will be left unscathed...

Diablo, Lord of Terror, and youngest of the Three Prime Evils, awoke from his long sleep beneath the dark earth. Setting in motion a grand scheme to free his exiled brothers, Mephisto and Baal, Diablo took control of the small western kingdom of Khanduras. Working from deep within the ancient catacombs beneath the town of Tristram, Diablo gripped the entire populace in a blanket of fear and paranoia.

Ultimately, as even Khanduras' good King Leoric fell under Diablo's wicked power, a lone hero arose to challenge the darkness that had engulfed the land. After plumbing the hellish depths of the labyrinth under Tristram, the nameless hero finally confronted the Lord of Terror himself. Knowing full well that Diablo's spirit could never be truly destroyed, the hero made the noblest sacrifice of all-- casting his soul and his very sanity aside, the hero took the spirit of Diablo into himself, hoping that his own strength of will could contain the demon within. The hero could never have known that his selfless act would not only ensure Diablo's victory, but would irrevocably damn his soul for all time.

The multiplayer idea was brilliant and Diablo 2 has amazing potential to become a game to once again set the standards for all following RPG's. Not only does this game support TCP/IP and the amazing Battle.Net experience online, but also there is "open" Battle.Net, in which you can play online with single player characters, from your own server. However this amazing concept is liable to hackers since no files are stored on the B.Net servers. Regular Battle.Net play is near impossible to hack, since the game is played server-side, and no hacker is able to modify the files saved on the server. This is the most obvious reason why it took Blizzard so long to release this game, because of the "hack-proof" multiplayer (which itself cause the downfall of the original Diablo). In multiplayer, you can create parties, go hostile with other parties, fight and complete quests together, and trade valuable items with an established trading system.

This game will never vanish from gamer's minds. Just the overwhelming multiplayer experience, and a game which never becomes boring, always bearing potential to find a better item or beat a better character, this game is similar in theory to EverQuest. Addictive gameplay and amazing multiplayer sum this game up in a mouthful.


- To play Diablo 2 in a window instead of full screen, manually run the exe with a -w after it (command line: "game -w")

- Do not research too many skills, it is better to have only a few at higher levels.

- Gemming items with gems of diffent types is more effective than gemming it with more than one of the same gem.