Diablo 2: Retro Review
(for those of us too poor to buy Diablo 3)
by Brendan Kelly
New games, for me, are quite often an unattainable dream. As a poor, poor student, I dream of a day where I can go out and just buy stuff without worrying that my cat will die, or even worse, that I will be forced to eat it in order to survive.
So when Diablo 3 was launched, I didn’t experience the thrill of excitement that usually comes from such a long awaited adventure. Instead I experienced a mild feeling of disappointment; rather like a small child who wakes up on Christmas morning and runs downstairs, only to remember that he is an orphan and nobody loves him, and that instead of a Christmas tree there is only a dead shrubbery, and underneath it there is nothing but dead weevils, shattered glass and broken dreams.
It might have seemed more dramatic in my head.
Suffice to say, I couldn’t afford Diablo 3. So I thought to myself, in a moment of absolute genius, that hey, Blizzard haven’t mucked around with the formula too much, right? It’s essentially the same @#*%, re-packaged, with a new story and a couple of new characters and new spells and better combat and online options but it’s essentially the same, sure. I was convinced that if I could rope some people into playing Diablo 2 with me then all would be well. So I set about doing just that.
Resistance is futile! I bellowed at those around me, commanding them to join me in my fantastical war against the demonic Diablo and his equally-demonic but less alliteration-friendly associate Baal. Then they gave me weird looks for bellowing at them commanding them to do stuff, so I left and found some other people who would play with me. I got home and installed Diablo 2, then I installed Diablo 2, then I installed Diablo 2, because there’s about fifty-four discs and you have to switch between them every three and a half seconds or the install stops and Diablo laughs manically at you. Finally, I managed to get to the title screen. I had to create a new account, because years of doing anything but playing Diablo 2 had made me forget my username, password, email address, tax number, birthday and postal address.
At the character creation screen, I make a necromancer and, because I am a comedic genius who is both clever and good-looking, I hilariously name him Wilbur-the-Great. Wild laughter ensues, the majority of it in my head. I feel mildly suicidal before continuing. I’m transported into the Rogue Encampment, at which point I decide to forego the formalities and just go hunting for zombies and little porcupines and armadillos and such. I run out into the wilderness, and promptly get lost because I can’t remember how to bring up the map. The next half hour is spent trying to figure this out.
Once I make myself aware of the existence of the ‘tab’ key, the map becomes fully functional and I realise I have been going in circles. So I begin questing with my friends who have made their own new characters, and are less spastic than I am and can actually remember what they’re meant to be doing. And I realise exactly what it was that was so magical about Diablo in the first place.
It’s pretty hard. There’s no shortcuts, no cheat codes; if you don’t level your character before taking on a boss, you die. If you don’t put your potions in the quick select, you die. If you have to pee during a lengthy battle, you die. But all that dying makes your victories all the sweeter, sort of like in the Karate Kid when he jump kicks that guy in the face after getting the **** kicked out of him at the start of the movie, only with less racial stereotyping. The focus on gear is still strong, of course, so the strongest player grabbed the best stuff and distributed It amongst the rest of us as he found what we needed. That’s perhaps one area where I wasn’t even remotely jealous of those playing Diablo 3 – with a full set of Legendary armour costing more than US $3000 (that’s right, no jokes. Three grand. That’s enough to buy a small mansion in New Zealand dollars. Just kidding, we all live a communist lifestyle in grass huts and play tiddlywinks all day because of our colonial roots) in the Real Money Auction House, at least the best gear in Diablo 2 is attainable for most humans with like regular lives and jobs and stuff. We played for a few hours a night for about a week, and each of us had enough badass weaponry to take on whatever foes came our way, especially the porcupines and armadillos and such. Finally, the nostalgia wore off and we came to the conclusion that level seventy was about all we could take.
Has Diablo II stood the test of time? Well, sort of. It’s the virtual equivalent of seeing your ex-girlfriend walking down the street; you think for a moment that she still looks good, but then you remember she is fucking mental and the interface is faulty. That metaphor might have become a little confused towards the end. But for a look back at the past, at what was cool once upon a time, Diablo II isn’t a bad way to spend a few hours. There’s still a fairly active online community – you won’t struggle to find games, at any rate, which is all you can ask for really. The character classes require a diverse range of tactics and skill sets, so each play-through really can be entirely different, which is more than some of today’s games can offer. I wonder if anyone from Bio Ware is reading this…?