Diablo II – Second Opinion

Junk food. You yearn for it, you stuff yourself with it—salivating with each morsel—then hours later you end up with a sick, empty feeling in your stomach and a funky taste in your mouth. In a strange way, the more I played Diablo II, the more I believed it was interactive junk food.

Diablo II echoes the empty addictiveness of junk food by granting the player near-continuous rewards. It is almost impossible to play a session of Diablo II without earning another level, finding a more powerful item, or completing one of the quests. The constant rewards begin as fulfilling advancement, but over time they end up as an endless drone of slight improvements achieved through repetitive action. Players hack through unending hordes of evil minions while continuously gaining slight advancements, until they almost accidentally complete quests or run into the final boss of an act.

The result of this literally non-stop action is that the game lacks any sort of pacing, preventing the game from building up tension and creating any memorable, magic moments. While this is a strong complaint, it's worth noting Blizzard North's success at turning players into reward junkies, who play through the night for the constant flow of hits. The class-specific skill trees, socketed weapons and armor, and the "gotta catch 'em all" matching armor sets—all propel the addictive nature of Diablo II beyond its narcotic-like predecessor. Combine these addictive qualities with awesome character design of both the five character classes and the wide host of wonderfully imagined creatures that populate the game world, and you have an incredibly compelling game.

In the post-mortem of Diablo, one of the game developers said that Blizzard North tried to make every single action in the game enjoyable—from simply picking up a potion to fighting Diablo in the pits of Hell. They accomplished this lofty goal with ease, something that most game developers are unable to do even once during a game. With this in mind, it's a bizarre situation to find a game in which the basics are so enjoyable, yet is unable to create an overall fulfilling experience. Rating: 8.5 out of 10.