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     " Well, if you are one of the millions of people who bought this game, I'm sure you're well aware of the Blizzard server problems it came with. "

   Title: Diablo II by Blizzard

   Format: Action RPG for the Windows PC

   Reviewing Monkey: Chimpan-A

   The Hype: Take Diablo: Add in new classes, change the ones we had, up the tech requirements, add four maps worth of pretty scenery and some heavy-duty multiplayer. Voila! Diablo II.

      What This Monkey Thought...

   Graphics: The graphics for this game are a definite step up from Diablo. The game still sports the sprite look, which means nicely detailed character modeling at the expense of some digital crispness. If you manage to get the game in 1024 X 768 resolution, the pixelation is quite easy to miss, and the graphics are quite impressive. 800 X 600 though shows every hazy line. Changing the resolution simply doesn't appear to be an option (apparently they decided we simians don't know enough to say what resolution we want displayed). Nice graphical style overall though, and the wide array of creatures look great. The cut scenes are quite frankly brilliant, and very nice to watch. 3 out of 5

   Sound: Okay, no matter how many clever ways you come up with to say "My inventory's full because the AI can't efficiently stack", it's still going to be annoying. Otherwise, the sound is fine. The background music is fitting, and unobtrusive. The monster noises are also fitting, and sometimes vital to figuring out what's happening. The voice work for the characters is well done, with Deckard Cain and his Sean Connery impression making reappearance. 4 out of 5

   Game Play: Did you play Diablo? The basic premise hasn't changed. Find weapons, equip them and then click on things until they die from it. Both the right and left mouse buttons are useable once more, with your skills being useable with either one. Speaking of skills, here's where the game begins to throw in some new stuff. In Diablo, each character had one unique skill (of which only the rogue's was actually useful). Diablo II takes it one step further, in that now each character has their own unique skill tree. Each character has 30 skills that can be learned over the course of the game. Certain skills require others to learn (thus the "tree" concept). This system means that your character is going to be fairly customizable, depending on which route you take with the skills for your class. For example, Paladins can specialize in Auras (which are immanently useful in multiplayer), or a Necromancer can specialize in growing unholy armies of the undead (which, in case you're worried, the people in town seem to be wholly okay with). All the skills are easily used, although some are more worthwhile than others. The game as a whole plays very easily; the interface is rather simple and easily mastered. The game however is hard, very hard, and it only gets harder. 3 out of 5

   Level and Environment Designs: Wow, Blizzard really pulled out the stops on this one. No longer are we restricted to the basement like tunnels of the previous Diablo. Now we have open and incredibly expansive areas like the deserts of Aranoch, or the woods outside of the Kurast Docks. Four very different environments are presented and each one is incredibly distinctive. Each is rich in it's own niceties. The desert has scorpions running about underfoot for example (and who doesn't want to squish a few scorpions while they're about it). Which is a very nice show. 5 out of 5

   Multiplayer: Well, if you are one of the millions of people who bought this game, I'm sure you're well aware of the Blizzard server problems it came with. Patches and repairs have been issued, and things may be calming down, but problems still avail now and again. If you can get through though it's worth it. Although the multiplayer plays exactly the same as the single player (i.e. the same quests, the same progression), the game automatically adjusts the difficulty for the players coming into the world. Each party member gets experience no matter who kills what, so there's never a worry of the Necromancer hogging all the XP, and leaving you to level up every act or so, a well-done experience to share with friends. 4 out of 5

   Replayability: Although the quests stay the same every time you play the game, the difficulty level doesn't. After beating normal, you move (with appropriately leveled character) to hell and then Nightmare. Defeating difficulty levels earns your character cool titles and the respect you so richly deserve (yeah, sure). All in all, it's not too bad to keep leveling your character; the critter variety and randomized dungeon layouts and maps keep the feeling relatively fresh. And let's not forget trying a different class for a totally different feel. 4 out of 5

   Story/Dramatics: Well, what can I say? The game box pretty much says it all. The cut scenes, which tell the story from a third person, (a person who is neither you, nor directly involved with you) serve to move the plot along, but if you're looking for an in-depth storyline you've come to the wrong place. The only reason this gets a three is for the aforementioned cut scenes, which really do rule. 3 out of 5

   Instructions and Learning Curve: Bah, I fling excrement at your instructions! The instructions provide all that in depth extra crap that nobody has the patience to read. The description of spell effects is cool, but can be gleaned from holding the cursor over the skill tab much more simply. As for learning curve, learning where and when certain skills are useful is never easily mastered. On the plus side, even the simplest monkey can learn "Ooh, I click it, it die." Easy learning gets it a 3 out of 5

   Installation and Real System Requirements: Installation is simple, although the hard drive requirements may cause some weeping and gnashing of teeth. 900 MB for installation of single and multiplayer game data. Windows 98 and at least a 233 are what it asks for. 32 Megs of RAM for single, 64 for multi. Even on a buff system though, you may see some slowdown. 3 out of 5

   The Verdict:

       It's the curse of sequels to be compared to their precursors. Well Diablo II must have robbed a crypt or something; luckily it has Diablo beat hands down. Is it the end all and be all of pseudo rpg/action games. No. Is it fun? Yes, very. Replayability and Multiplayer prospects make this a very playable game with lots of action across some nice environs.

   The Good: Fast and furious hack and slash action, with a variety of experiences

   The Bad: It's all been done; this may do it better, but not a lot of change to the formula (plus see the good, some might count that bad)

   The Overall Ugly: For a reasonable price you've got a fun game that will probably suck the soul from your hard drive (or just reside there, the soul sucking could just be my problem) for a good long time.

   What it's Worth: $35

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