I played Diablo 2 and I hated it
Posted on 5th May 2009 at 10:14 by Joe Martin with 32 comments
I was utterly underwhelmed by Diablo 2. It appealed to me even less than the very similar Titan Quest – and that’s saying something, considering how I enjoyed that game about as much as I’d enjoy passing a cupful of kidney stones all at once. I hated Diablo 2 because there seemed to be absolutely no need for me to be there. I actually felt that the game would play itself better if I just wasn’t there, as the entire role of the player is to click-click-click-click their character along a pseudo-random, utterly linear path that offers no real chance for exploration or involvement.
Playing Diablo 2 I was left with the impression that it didn’t matter what I did in the game, as fundamentally everything I did only ever had one logical outcome, so I may as well not do anything. I was stifled by the utter lack of room for player expression. You could level the same complaint against almost any FPS where players are funnelled through linear levels too, but at least those games are usually fast paced and full of explosions and a sense of interaction and puzzle solving. Diablo 2 didn’t feel that way to me.
Diablo 2 scores 4/10
What’s more, I felt that this lack of any real influence was something that the designers had purposefully built into the game as a kind of sick joke. Starting the adventure near the Den of Evil I was approached by some quest-givers and told of their plight, etc – but I was confused by the lack of context. It may be because I hadn’t played the first game either, but I honestly had no idea of who I was supposed to be, why I was helping these people or who these people were. There’s a minor outbreak of zombies or something, I gathered that much, but otherwise I was adrift in a sea of gibberish that prevented me from really connecting with my character.
For me, a large amount of appeal in an RPG comes from customising my character, but that too had become a joyless affair in Diablo 2. I universally hate skill trees like the one in Diablo 2 because they serve no purpose other than to highlight the fact that players can only progress in the way and pace that the designer determines – and if that’s true then why bother even giving me a chart? Just upgrade me automatically!
Enough ranting though, because that’s not really what I want to talk about. What I really want to talk about is the internal disconnect in my head and the way I’ve somehow developed a split personality. There’s one voice in my head that’s screaming all the above about how awfully pointless the game is and how redundant the design makes me feel as a player, but there’s also another voice which quietly admires the game.
Diablo 2 scores 8/10
This second voice is that of the professional in me who recognises that the game probably isn’t as objectively bad as my personal opinion insists. In fact, the second voice actually admires Diablo 2 quite a bit. While the first voice says that the game renders player involvement redundant and unexciting through the over-simplified controls and mechanics, the other applauds it for being so streamlined. One voice says the game story is clichéd, weak and poorly told, the other says that a game doesn’t always have to have a great story.
I personally want to give Diablo 2 a four out of ten – it’s unintelligent, uninspired and unarguably limiting to play. Critically though, I recognise the strengths of the game and want to give it an eight out of ten because, while it’s certainly nothing new when judged by today’s standards, it still offers a sense of satisfaction for players who like to grind. If you’re into Diablo 2’s type of game then it’s good.
It’s hard for me to reconcile the two points - hard in a way that I’ve found few other games difficult to judge, though that may be because I consciously lend my second voice more authority when I’m working in the office. The more I turn it over in my mind, the more confused I get on the topic and the harder it becomes for me to decide whether I love or hate Diablo 2.
One thing I have decided though is that I’m certainly not going to play any more of it. I’d much rather use my private gaming time to continue working through Jade Empire – another RPG recommendation that came out of the forums, and one I'm much more at ease with.