Stagnant gameplay but wonderful cutscenes
Blizzard has demonstrated time and time again that they are a creatively-bankrupt publisher. The entire concept of their first popular game, Warcraft, was lifted wholesale from Westwood's groundbreaking Dune II. World of Warcraft is a shameless EverQuest clone. And while Diablo doesn't borrow from any one particular game, the gameplay is so dull, repetitive, and dreary that we should probably regard Blizzard more as a manufacturer of intro movies and cutscenes rather than a real gaming powerhouse.
Which of course brings me to the sole stand-out feature of Diablo II: the movies. The quality of the CG, the direction, the cinematography, the music, the horror of the demonic antagonists, these all tell me that Blizzard would do well to open a Hollywood studio and concentrate on film. One particular scene with the demon Baal fighting an archangel stands out in my mind as the best cutscene in the history of video games.
This is a dull, tedious hack-and-slash affair. The gameplay is more suited to the 1980s when monotony was about all you could expect from a video game. Two years after BioWare released the deep, rich, and compelling Baldur's Gate, Diablo II is a sad reminder that some developers of marque titles really do not put a premium on innovation, as they by all accounts should.
The Bottom Line
With all that in mind, the production values of Diablo II are high, which no doubt explains why it was such a commercial, if not critical success. Still, the fact that we haven't seen a Diablo III speaks volumes: this style of gameplay is a relic of past.