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Diablo II

TAGOR gets its filthy hands on a Diablo II Beta

I staggered out of Hooters wondering where I had parked my truck. I knew it was in the lot somewhere, but the two pitchers of Amber Bock had left me at the point that the only reason I knew I had a truck were the keys in my hand. A quick scan of the lot revealed a quite a few vehicles, but none mine. I then staggered around back through the gravel of the back parking lot and spotted the form of my truck resting in the dark. I started towards it when I heard something, and looked around.

"I said, HEY!" came the voice again.

"Yeah?" I responded. I hoped I wasn't getting mugged; I didn't have the money for it.

"You were muttering something about low frames per second in there, I think."

Sometimes living with a Savage 2000 card can be difficult, and requires a lot of beer to cope. "Yeah, what about it?"

"I was just thinking you mentioned playing video games on a PC."

I hate it when conversations take an unexpected turn like this, it always seems to happen when I'm drunk which makes it so much harder to grasp. I repeated myself, "Yeah, what about it?"

"I've got a Diablo 2 Beta Testers Key for sell."

That was a buzz killer. "Really?" I ask.

"Yeah."

"How much?"

The man looked me over, and quickly realized I probably wasn't worth my worn out South Park T-Shirt. "For you, fifty."

"Fifty? Isn't that a bit steep for a limited time beta?" Was what I attempted to say, but I really just slurred a lot of words and tried not to spit when I did so.

"Okay, $40, but that is a bargain. I heard a guy paid $80 on Ebay for one of these things."

I looked around, "It looks like I'm the only bliddder, I mean bidder."

"True. Still stays at $40."

"Did I mention what I work for a video game website?" This one never works, but I always try it.

"Really. Which one?"

"PCXL." I lie.

"PC Accelerator? Didn't they already have a preview?" He asks suspiciously.

"No, PC Extra Large. We only do reviews of large computers in big cases."

"You don't work for a game site do you?"

"No, I don't work, but the site is called TAGOR."

He stares at me with a blank look in his eyes.

"Look, all I've got is thirty." I finally say.

"Hell, why didn't you just say that to begin with," he says as he holds out his hand.

I hand him the thirty and he hands me a folded up piece of paper. "What is this?" I ask.

"That is the key, you've gotta download the beta."

I look the printed out e-mail over, which looks suspiciously like a printed out e-mail. I tell him thanks and head for my truck before he changes his mind.

Once I got home I woke my computer by slapping the trackball, and proceeded to a website to download the beta: 100 megabytes, which was going to take awhile. I set the computer on its way and began calling friends. I had to brag. 15 minutes later the demo had downloaded, I love my cable modem.

Soon I was on Battle.net playing the Diablo 2 Beta, but lets back up a bit.

Yep, thats a cow allright.

First thing you'll notice is that there are 2 modes of play here, 2D and 3D. 2D looks very similar to the original Diablo we all know and love and 3D looks marginally better. 3D has some extra lighting and panning effects, but don't expect a high polygon count here, because there really aren't any. After being spoiled by Id Software by extreme graphics improvements with every game, Diablo 2 disappoints a little. The graphics aren't years ahead of Diablo, but they don't really need to be. Not to say the graphics suck, because they don't. I just wanted a little more after waiting so long. One thing to note was that on my Viper II card I got the options of 2D Direct Draw or 3D Direct 3D. On my second system, which contains an old Voodoo Banshee, the only option I get is 2D Direct Draw. But once I weeded out the Creative drivers and installed the latest Banshee reference drivers the machine got the Glide option. The game does play very well on both of my systems in 2D or 3D modes, which they should since they are both close to double the Minimum System Requirements (MSR.) One drawback is that the Stress Test only plays in 640x480, which doesn't look to good on anything above a 15-inch monitor. Though the MSR says you'll need an 800x600 display. I hope that feature is available in the full version..

Once you get online (the beta I have is the Diablo 2 Battle.net Stress Test, so online is the only way to play.) you'll find you can only play the barbarian. Which sucks. My favorite character in Diablo was the Rogue. She had the coolest comments, easy on the eyes, and a sexy voice, so playing the barbarian is kind of a downer. Though he does have a noble quest, to keep those hot babes safe. Though, they can handle themselves quite well. I'll be happy when I can play the Amazon or the Sorceress.

One of the hardest things to get used to in Diablo 2 for me is the large area of open space outside the rogue camp, which is inhabited by various enemies. Once you wander around the Blood Moor for a while you'll find the caves where you can complete the first quest of killing everything in the cave. You'll probably get a level or two out of it, and Akara will be so proud of you. The second quest is to kill off some evil bitch by the name of Blood Raven. She'll be in the burial grounds, but you'll have to get across the cold plains first. When she dies you'll feel like yelling out "There can be only one!"

There can be only one!

Once you've killed off Blood Raven, Kasha gives you a pet Rogue. Well, not really. Did someone say henchmen? (Or henchwomen as it turns out.) I guess henchperson would be the politically correct thing to say. So I'll call them weapon-wielding whores. If you manage to let your Rogue die, you can hire a new one, but the first one is a freebie.

Where did I put that Rogue?

Down in the dungeons the lighting really works nicely, as the shadows move around the pillars, and the different monsters have different colored lights around them. Their are also bats and rats, the latter scurries away when you approach and runs back to feed on the remains of the beasts you've slain. Just like in the movies.

Hey, you guys know how to get to Hooters?

The game wouldn't be Diablo without a load of magical weapons so they are back, with a nice new twist. You can buy or find items, which are socketed, and what is so sweet about these items is that you can find gems, which do different things, to put in the socket, think of it as a build your own magical weapon, shield, or helmet. Weapons have 3 sockets, as do shields. They seem to be the current rage on Battle.net, as every time you end up in the chat area for two seconds you'll find someone asking if anyone has any gems or if anyone wants to buy some. One nice touch is that dropped items sparkle making it easier to find those tiny items on the screen.

On the subject of items there is another nice new touch, Your Stash. Which is where you keep those special mushrooms. Okay, maybe not. It is a place where you can keep your stuff, besides your inventory and it even sticks around from game to game. Also gold doesn't take up space in your inventory anymore.

My stuff.

When you decide to get rid of your old broken things by selling them to Charsi or Gheed you'll find a nice new setup for trading. It is like opening up two inventories. When your trading with someone the top of the other persons inventory has tabs, split into Armor, Weapons, Magical, and Misc., just a different way of doing the same old thing. Trading with other players it is similar, and very useful. You can show the items your willing to trade and if the other player has the money or the item you want to trade for you both agree by clicking the check it is a done deal.

You might notice the barbarian has mana. In RPGs the barbarian has always been a man of action, not of chanting out magic. In other words they usually just run up and bash things to bits instead of keeping a safe distance, so why does a barbarian need mana? This brings up the skills. The skills are set up into three different parts Skill Tree, War Cries, and Combat Masteries. These are very limited in the beta so not a whole lot of them are available. The one I use the most is the Howl, which is a War Cry. It scares the green stuff out of close by enemies and sends them running, very useful for getting rid of those surrounding attackers.

Ring around the Barbarian.

The basic feeling I get by playing is that of refinement. The good bits have been kept and made bigger; the annoying bits have been fixed. Think of it as Diablo with more of everything. More area to cover, more weapons, more character classes, more characters, more monsters. Get the point? In other words it is going to take up more of my time, and the old one took up quite a bit of it. I actually fear the full game; I'll never get any time to go drinking at Hooters.

-Noxious?

Greenline.  Redlines are better.

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