I was going to avoid mentioning that I’ve never played Diablo or Diablo II, but the cat’s out of the bag. I like a good hack and slash as much as the next girl, but, in my earlier years, I was a lost little gamer. After the SNES stopped releasing great RPGs, I spent countless hours playing popular sims like Roller Coaster Tycoon and SimAnt, which were only interrupted when Blinky would walk into my room and place a new game between my face and my killer amusement park. I was never presented with the Diablo series, so I never played it.
I’m about to conclude the first act, and, every time I sit down to play, I’m reminded of my brief stint with WoW. Man, did I jump on that bandwagon too late. Diablo II is what I was hankering for by the time I stopped playing: solo grinding. In WoW, apparently there are these things called “instances,” and I managed to make it to Level 30-something without entering one. As you can imagine, when I did start instancing, I was a mess: I was known to die while typing things like, “Stop yelling at me!” and, “We’re supposed to work together, guys!”
I don’t have to worry about defending my ignorance to anyone in Diablo II. There’s no one to make fun of me because I don’t know how the way points work or to laugh at me when I try to use my bow for the first time and realize I didn’t put the arrows in the right slot. Like Baldur’s Gate, you learn by doing–with less dying. It helps that I’m a druid; once I learned that I could summon multiple wolves, my PC stopped fighting and became the party scout and leader. That’s the other thing: my party is entirely automated. I don’t have to fight with archaic game mechanics to control multiple characters or deal with that impatient, hardcore player that, as soon as I pick up Item A, is pissed that I don’t know to go to Area 5 because I haven’t put in 349,678,912 hours.
My PC rocks. He doesn’t have a name, and his inner monologue is pretty stale (the first time you leave the main encampment, he actually says, “So it begins …”); but, unlike my useless druid in Baldur’s Gate, he can actually summon things. Like any RPG, when a character levels up, the player can distribute points into various stats and skills. The druid has three skill trees: elemental, summoning, and shapeshifting. I love a well-done skill tree, and, once I discovered that I could rebuild my tree for free, I was in love.
At first, I distributed my points evenly amongst the three sections, but, at about Level 9 (and thanks to an Oops Click), I realized that I could put multiple points into one skill. Each point upgrades the spell’s abilities with varying degrees of badassery.
Allow me to introduce you to my new party, post rebuild. But, first, two items:
- I only own Paint. Deal with it.
- A semi-translucent map hovers over the screen. It’s the only map available in the game, so it’s always on. I’d say deal with that, too, but it took me a while to get the hang of it. Instead, if you see geometrical objects randomly floating about, just ignore them.
First up, my four wolves: Ghost, Nymeria, Summer, and Shaggydog.
These guys do the bulk of the work. I run around opening treasure chests, and they kill summoned demons and zombies that come after me (as pictured above).
My best companion, Duke Deathvine, slithers underground, only emerging to poison my enemies.
This isn’t a limited spell, either; once cast, Duke Deathvine is there until I un-summon him. I kill things before I even see them.
Then there’s the mighty oak sage.
When playing a hack-and-slash RPG, I lean more toward the killing and less toward the auras and backpack spells; so I initially only grabbed this guy for a test run. I guess he’s the spirit of a tree, and, as a spirit of a tree, he can give mammals health? I’m not sure how the science of that works, but he hangs out in back, all red and ominous, pumping HP into my PC and his friends. Obviously, he’s the first character my enemies attempt to thwart when we encounter a thirty-person brawl, but he’s resilient and a good runner (floater?).
I also get to hire a mercenary from the thieves’ guild. Abhaya and my PC became BFF, because she was originally my only companion. Now that I have the wolf quartet, DD, and tree heart, I’m not sure what she does. I don’t want to hurt her feelings, though. I mean, she has been with me for seven or eight levels. That’s a lot of time to spend with one person whilst battling hell demons. Maybe what my PC lacks in wit (“Soooo … this is where evil hides.”), he makes up for in hotness, and she’s in love with him. I’ll have to break it to her gently.
Basically, my PC doesn’t have to do a damn thing except run, point, plunder, and offer thought-provoking dialogue:
“Ah, yes, ruins: the fate of all cities.”