Ninja Versus Ninja: A Look Back at Diablo II

The Diablo II Assassin: Unarmed, uncatchable, nearly unstoppable.

The Diablo II Assassin: Unarmed, uncatchable, nearly unstoppable.

While I’m away from DDO during Lent, I had to find a game that I still enjoyed but

  • Could be instantly paused
  • Not be an internet game
  • Not cause rapid amounts of time wasted

Well, two out of three’s not bad.

I pulled out my old install disks of Diablo II. It took Neverwinter Nights to pull me from that 3-year long crack habit, only to upgrade my fix when I discovered Dungeons & Dragons Online.

At least I know I can only do one drug at a time. I’ve yet to purchase Diablo III. And if this blog ever, ever posts something about installing World of Warcraft, that’s the time that those of you that know where I live should arrange for a serious Intervention.

The first challenge wasn’t finding the activation codes (I’m good at keeping track of these) but in trying to get the game installed from CDs. I own an iMac model that’s quite a pleasant gaming computer while it’s in Boot Camp mode (running Windows 7 natively). But this latest model removed its built-in CD/DVD drive. I had to search around for my USB CD/DVD external drive.

Diablo II was one of the first major PC games that had a generally simultaneous release on both Mac and PC (back in the day when Steve Jobs had not only brought Apple from the brink but also started to make some very game-capable workstations). Sadly, the Mac version of D2 can no longer operate. The game was built for the old PowerPC processor. When Apple moved to Intel processors in 2006, the new Mac OS X Unix-based OS had a PowerPC emulation layer to support D2, but this disappeared over three years ago with OS 10.5 or so. Short of hyper-hacking a Mac PowerPC emulator into OS X Yosemite, using Windows was the easiest choice.

I smartly searched the Blizzard website for any compatibility issues. This is, after all, a game produced in 2000, with a late expansion in 2002. Surprisingly, Diablo II, introduced during the early Windows ME/XP days in 2000, runs excellently in Windows 7 once you tell it to run as Administrator and in Compatibility mode (with a couple of other settings for good measure). Back in the day, CDs (!) behaved as another game key to prevent copy theft. But Blizzard eventually told how to make a CD-less gameplay experience–something important when your computer is a disc-less iMac computer.

Sadly, I’ve lost my long-played saved characters used over the years, and had to start over with new characters.

Well, this blog isn’t the Sorcerer Blog, so I’m going to skip over my love affair with the Sorceress class, that hellion girl that puts the Her in “Sorcerher”. I generally played that class or the spear/bow wielding Amazon until the Lord of Destruction update introduced the Assassin.

The Assassin is an unarmed fighter, a member of an order of anti-mages that emulate magic through various finishing moves.

Sound familiar?

This is going to be a pleasantly long post. Grab some popcorn.

Now, I’ve played this class to death prior to my first entry as a Monk in the two Neverwinter Nights games. But with DDO experience under my belt, specifically Ninja Spy skills, I finding myself learning the benefits of skills I’ve ignored entirely over the years. As a result, I’ve found new joys in a age-old game, with lots of later DDO and NWN play experience to improve my game.

If It Runs Like a Monk and Fights Like a Monk…

The D2 Assassin, like a DDO Monk, is an anti-mage, with many attacks and speed designed to kill mages before they have a chance. Assassins use special hand blades or claws, rather than gauntlets or handwraps. Their skill trees (faintly similar to the DDO trees) are broken down into Martial Arts, Shadow Disciplines, and Traps.

Martial Arts are broken down into several finishing moves that magnify overall attack damage, deliver amplified area-of-effect elemental damage, or cause vampiric leaching of Life and Mana Points. Just like the DDO Monk, finishing moves are charged in sets of three.

Unlike the DDO Monk, you can and should charge up multiple finishers cumulatively. For instance, I can strike three times to fully charge a Tiger Strike (amplified general damage) then switch to charge up Fire, Lightning, Cobra (vampiric), and Ice charges before releasing them simultaneously.

How the D2 Assassin unleashes the strike is where it gets better. I can use a normal attack to do so, where all the charged effects strike at once, with fire, ice, cold and lightning go off like a bomb, while general damage and vampiric effects do so as well. But I also have special attacks to release finishers.

I can make a normal kick (which adds to the damage, depending on the boots I wear), or a Dragon Kick (greater damage with a charging attack) or a teleporting kick. This teleporting kick is designed to fight bosses who might be too powerful to fight one-on-one for long periods. So, you fight their minions, charging up and killing them, and then teleport-kick into the boss with all that charged goodness.

Now, that was my typical way to play back in the day. Then I decided on returning to put just one skill point in everything to unlock every skill to experiment. I’ve never bothered to do much in the Traps tree,  but I am loving it now.

Set Your Own Traps

The D2 Assassin can set up area-of-effect traps that throw elemental damage to anything in the area, aiding you as you fight with martial arts finishers.

To go with this, you have the ability to throw many, many throwing stars continually, per point of mana available. D2 has the Strength, Dexterity, Vitality and Energy as ability scores. D2 generally has no true “dump stat” but Energy isn’t as required for the Assassin as STR and DEX are for attack rolls and damage, just like DDO. But you need some Energy to make a sufficient mana pool (just like ki) to perform your job.

I had never used the throwing stars before. Even with two skill points, I was reliving my love of the DDO Shuricannon with my old Assassin and mowing down enemies from afar that would sometimes overwhelm and tax my defenses and Life points. It saved me a lot of resources when fighting Mephisto, one of the game bosses, by gunning him down Szyncletica-style with multiple stars.

Finishing Moves

I wondered if the DDO developers took a page from Diablo II in the development of their Monk, because the concept of finishing moves and elemental attacks are so similar. Odds are, as the D&D Monk predates the Diablo series, Blizzard (yes, that Blizzard) did the copying.

D2 uses the Life/Mana player health/magic format, of course. Rather than ki, the Assassin uses her Mana to empower her emulated attacks. As you train her abilities, the Mana cost can increase dramatically when using the most powerful abilities.

Thankfully, there’s Cobra Strike, a vampiric leaching attack that damages while pulling Life and Mana from a target. There’s also gear you can find that has vampiric effects.

Diablo 2 has only four stats: STRength, DEXterity, VITality and ENERGY. STR and DEX are needed as you expect for the Assassin. Vitality is the equivalent of CON in D&D and ENERGY works as the Mana-increasing stat. A nice balance of STR and DEX for unarmed fighting is needed (like in DDO) but VIT is key to staying power for Life (HP). A few points in Energy is needed but not too much. Assassins can generate Energy themselves, in a similar fashion to some ki generating moves from the DDO Monk stances.

Shadow Techniques

One thing that the Assassin can do that’s also very ninja (but not “Ninja Spy,” as available directly from their enhancement trees), is to create a summoned assistant. The summoned comes in a lighter drone form that doesn’t take too much damage to a much more powerful and aggressive avatar that uses the whole can of Assassin offensive martial techniques. This means that the Assassin can have that Shadow Master summon to go with their hireling–yes, hireling!–be it a Rogue archer, a spear-wielder, a mage, or a Barbarian fighter, for two allies on the field.

You can even coat your weapons for Poison damage-over-time attacks. So very ninja. The Assassin was a popular character, introduced in the game’s sole expansion, because it could change up its attacks to meet any enemy immunity. I never used the Poison attacks back in the day, and I just added it to Syn’s repertoire. Green-tinged bliss.

Monastics of Another Realm

So, enough chatter. Enjoy my moves in this video that demonstrates most of the Assassin.

It’s sad that I’m not as far away from my computer as a gaming machine as I wanted to be. But if I have to be gaming and it’s not DDO, Diablo II still holds its own, even at 12 years old.

 

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. DDOCentral
    Mar 20, 2015 @ 08:10:22

    Reblogged this on DDOCentral.

  2. FuzzyDuck81
    Mar 20, 2015 @ 19:19:26

    Ahh been years since i played that, though of that kind of game I found Titan Quest to be better overall.

    And if you want another game.. Pillars of Eternity comes out at the end of next week – Obsidian doing a new infinity engine-style game again 🙂 Will be taking a semi-break from ddo myself for that

    • teachersyn
      Mar 21, 2015 @ 22:11:19

      Get behind me, Satan! I’m trying to NOT find new and cool things to play or I’ll never see daylight again! 🙂

      • James
        Mar 21, 2015 @ 22:52:14

        I like new and cool things. It give me a new perspective on ddo monks. For example, I play Diablo 3 monk. Now there some things I’ve love to swipe for ddo.

      • FuzzyDuck81
        Mar 23, 2015 @ 19:01:55

        Hmm… how about some already established things?

        Dark messiah of might and magic – Hack & slach & kick stuff, a good laugh

        Divinity: Original Sin – awesome tactical magic system, eg. use rain to make stuff wet, then cast lightning on the puddle to stun the group.. cast a poison cloud then hit a fire arrow into it to make it explode, etc. Oh, and a crafting system that is actually fun.. eg. combine hammer + potatoes & get mashed potatoes! slipping on ice? combine nails with your boots!

        Mark of the Ninja -stealthy ninja paltformer!

        Tempe of Elemental Evil, Vampire:Bloodlines & Arcanum of steamworks & magic obscura – all 3 of Troika’s games.. make sure to download the community patches too, they’re buggy but real gems. Also hey, ToEE! See all of it! 🙂 very close conversion of PnP rules to turn-based pc game.

        Tricky to estimate exactly, but you should be able to emerge before daylight savings flips back 🙂

  3. Kavatch8
    Mar 22, 2015 @ 14:00:34

    God I remember Diablo2… just sitting around letting my traps/shadow clone deal with everything *sigh* good times. God I was a lazy bugger.

  4. Trackback: From Tranquility to Serenity | The Order of Syncletica
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