This Sorceress report was written in December 1999, after Diabloii.net's visit to Blizzard North. It was the most comprehensive Amazon coverage ever, to that point. It's hopelessly outdated at this point, of course, but can still be read for archival value.
The Sorceress is the pure mage character in Diablo II, and anyone who played much with the Sorcerer in Diablo will feel immediately comfortable with her. (Barring some sort of silly adolescent hang up about playing a "girl". ;) The game speed is much higher in Diablo II, especially in your foot speed and the speed of the monsters, which makes it a bit harder to hit them with your projectile spells, but at the same time it's easier to flank them or get into position to take a shot, and you can retreat very quickly, even before you have Teleport. So faster and smoother, but still quite similar, especially at the lower levels, before you gain access to the area effect spells that are quite different from anything in Diablo.
One of the biggest changes in Diablo II is that you can not purchase mana or healing potions from NPCs. This especially effects the Sorceress, since she plays much like the mage from Diablo, and most people filled up every single inventory spot they had with blue potions each time they were in town. The lack of unlimited blue potions is somewhat offset by the mana regeneration in Diablo II, and of course the Sorceress' Warmth skill improves her mana regeneration rate. The monsters do drop some blue potions, but not enough to make up for the lack of mana potions for sale.
The lack of unlimited mana forces some changes in play style. It was quite possible in Diablo for a mage to do virtually nothing besides cast spells, 100% of the time. You can cast spells in bursts in Diablo II, but not for too long, since you'll be out of mana, and you need to save your few blue potions for emergencies. As a consequence you need to have better aim in Diablo II, and be much more prudent with your spell use.
Another major difference in the game engine is the removal of spell books, and the introduction of skill points. This feature is so well known by now (and so involved) that there's no need or space to explain it in detail here. But a reasonable comparison of the skill system in Diablo II to the spell book system in Diablo would be to imagine in Diablo that you couldn't buy or find spell books, but could only get one of them from an NPC each time you reached a new Clvl, and that you had to pick which one you wanted. Want Fireball? You'll have to get to Clvl 12 first, and first get a book of Firebolt. Want Chain Lightning? You must reach Clvl 18, and already have read at least one book in each Charged Bolt, Lightning, and Flash. The biggest difference from this example to how Diablo II works is that there are a lot more useful skills than there were spells in Diablo. A high level mage in Diablo could easily get by with just Fireball and Chain Lightning, with Mana Shield on, and Teleport for convenience, with an occasional Stone Curse or Guardian for laughs. In Diablo II you will want and need to use a lot more skills than that, alternating depending on the monsters and the situation.
The Sorceress starts off with two healing potions, no armor, and a wand of +1 Firebolt. This enables her to shoot Slvl one Firebolts from the start, until she reaches Clvl One, and can add her first skill point into something different. Or add it into Firebolt, and keep using the newbie wand, thereby achieving Slvl 2 in Firebolt, which of course adds to the damage and speed of the spell.
The Sorceress is not helpless in melee, and she needs to mix in some melee later on, to ease her mana consumption, but right from the start, she's not very good. Her starting wand has very poor 1-5 damage, and she has only 10 Strength to start with, and very little Dexterity or Vitality either. So she can hit things, but it's not exactly the best tactic to take, with her low damage, poor Attack Rating (to/hit), and lack of armor and hit points.
We actually chose to put our first earned skill point into Ice Bolt, and it was a wise decision. Though the damage was lower than Firebolt, the cold effect made up for it, as it turned the monsters blue, and slowed them down, though only for a couple of seconds. Blasting them with one Ice Bolt, and then a Firebolt or two to kill them was much easier than using only Firebolt.
Accuracy was never a problem in the time we were playing the Sorceress, which is to say up to Clvl 19 (where the character was corrupted and rendered unplayable, but more on that later). Our spells, if aimed accurately, were 99% of the time hitting the target, or another monster behind the target. In Diablo your character's Magic attribute determined their to/hit with spells such as Fireball, which is why sorcerers nearly never missed, and rogues and warriors would often miss monsters, even when they had close shots from good angles. It is unknown if Energy (what Magic is now called) equals your spell to/hit in Diablo II, but it surely plays some part in the equation.
The other component of her excellent accuracy comes from an unexpected source. It's the great improvement in Diablo II that enables your character to walk in any direction, drop items anywhere, stand nearly on top of monsters, etc. The lack of the graph paper floor system that limited you to walking in eight directions in Diablo, and got monsters advancing towards you in stairstep sort of patterns. In Diablo II they come straight in, no matter what direction they are from you, and this makes it very easy to hit them with your projectiles, since every direction is a true aim direction, just like the 8 compass points were in Diablo.
Of course not every monster comes at you, some circle or run at times, or zig zag a bit just for variety. But generally speaking, we didn't miss any advancing monsters, unless of course our aim was bad.
The next few sections, devoted to "Early", "Intermediate" and "Advanced" techniques are very subjectively titled, since in a real game in the final version of Diablo II, everything up to Clvl 19, which is as far as we got, would be considered "early". However since we only had limited time to play, the three sections are based on how far we got, which was nearly to the end of Act Two.
The early Sorceress, especially playing solo, must play as an "Artillery Mage" to use the Diablo term. Meaning a fast-moving, spell-using mage who doesn't get in toe to toe with any monsters, since she lacks the armor to survive that way. She has decent attack spells, but no more hand to hand abilities than the mage in Diablo, and even less in the useful combat attributes. Plus her very low starting strength and dexterity makes her unable to equip just about any sort of armor worth wearing.
There are two possible routes to take from the start, going towards melee, or magic. The melee way would be to throw all of your attributes for leveling up into strength and dex, get some decent equipment, and by Clvl 4 or 5 you'd be able to do some good with melee attacks, though you'd be far less talented at them than probably any of the other characters, aside from the Necromancer. Or you can take the more natural path, and load almost all of your early points into Energy, thus boosting your mana and making yourself more effective with your spells.
We choose the magical way, loading almost all of our points into Energy, with just a few stuck in in Vitality and Strength as we went (in the hope of equipping some decent armor and a weapon at some point.) Hit points increase more rapidly in Diablo II, both from vitality and from gaining levels, which is a good thing for the Sorceress, since she doesn't gain access to Energy Shield (similar to Mana Shield in Diablo, where attack damage is taken from your mana, rather than your hit points.) until Clvl 24, by which time you'll be well into Act Three.
All of the combat up until Clvl 6 is pretty much point and click, since the Sorceress doesn't have any area attacks yet, nor anything like Nova, where you can hit things other than what you are directly aiming at. Your available skills are Firebolt, Ice Bolt, Charged Bolt (which we didn't use) for attacks, and also Warmth, to improve the rate of your mana regeneration, and Frozen Armor, for some protection. Frozen Armor isn't all that great, though it is better than nothing, has a cute animation (continuous swirls of sparkling ice crystals move up and down around your character) and is a needed prerequisite for Shiver Armor, a Clvl 12 skill that is pretty damn good.
Come Clvl 6 you get some more useful skills. At that time we had two in Warmth, one in Firebolt (and were still equipped with the +1 Firebolt wand), one in Frozen Armor, and one in Ice Bolt, with our point from Clvl 5 saved. At Clvl 6 we immediately activated Frost Nova and Ice Blast, which is a more powerful (than Ice Bolt) cold projectile, capable of freezing a monster. Freezing beats chilling, since it brings them to a complete stop, rather than just slowing them down.
Both of our new cold spells proved very useful. Frost Nova only slows the monsters, and doesn't deal great damage, but it's nearly full screen in effect, and it hits everything in range, so you might be frosting 10 or 15 monsters with one spell cast, and you could kill just about anything at this time with just three or four casts of it. Then pick up the loot they dropped while you regenerate some mana.
As with the "Early" Tactics, these are only "Intermediate" for the length of time we got to play the Sorceress, I.E. from around Clvl 6 to about 12.
Nothing was very difficult until Clvl 9 or 10, and we got into the Monastery, and also the lower levels of the Forgotten Tower quest (Yes, it says "tower", but it's actually more like the "Forgotten Basement" quest, since all that remains are the underground levels.) and started to encounter some more difficult monsters.
All quest and regular boss monsters in Diablo II are immune to being frozen. Freezing or cold skills will only chill them, slowing them down, but never stopping them. So for the Sorceress of little damage, as ours was, these guys are a big step up in difficulty, since you can't ever stop them from coming at you. You can only slow them down and blast them while they are blue.
A big change in frozen or slowed monsters in Diablo II, compared to Stone Cursed monsters in Diablo, is that the monster's still have their normal Defensive Rating, even while frozen. Stone Cursed creatures in Diablo had zero AC, you never missed hitting them. This is not at all the case in Diablo II, you can freeze something solid, and miss three or four swings with your Sorceress' weapon, and then have to freeze them again once they thaw out. You can literally miss some monsters every single swing, since of course you have pitiful dexterity and weaponry at that point.
So while being able to freeze monsters is very useful, it's not the cure-all that Stone Curse was in Diablo. One other bonus of chilling or freezing things is that when they die they shatter into lots of small blue chunks, which then melt into the floor, and are unavailable to be resurrected by Fallen Shaman or Greater Mummies.
Ice Blast at Clvl 6 is an early freezing spell, but the duration of the freeze is very short, just a couple of seconds, and that's the duration of the chill as well, if a monster is immune to being frozen. So not much time to escape, or put space between yourself and the angry boss monster. Most everything in Diablo II can run, so they will chase after you, as fast or faster than you can run, which can be pretty exciting when you are a sorceress with few hit points, and almost no armor. We had a number of occasions where we were out of mana, running from some monsters that would have quickly killed us if they'd caught us, and just as we'd run out of Stamina, we'd regenerate enough mana to hit the pursuers with a cold spell. While they were frozen or chilled, we would walk, letting a bit of stamina build back up, and then when the monsters thawed we'd hit them with another cold, and run, trying to get far enough ahead to rest and regenerate some mana.
Just taking a portal back to town would have been easier, but hardly as much fun.
It's a good idea to carry some blue potions for emergencies, but you have to practice self-control, since you do not find enough to use them whenever you like. "Emergency" means "drink now or probably die", not "bored waiting for mana to regenerate so I'll just sip a couple and kill some Fallen."
But even though they aren't all-powerful, cold skills are definitely the way to go when playing solo. The damage isn't as high as with lightning or fire, but the extra time you get from freezing or chilling them is an enormous bonus. You can hit the monsters with multiple cold spells, or else alternate, one freeze, and then a coupe of fire or lightning spells for damage, then another freeze just when they are coming out of it. (You don't do any higher damage for hitting something with cold, and then fire/lightning; the reason to alternate is that your fire or lightning spell might do higher damage, cost less mana, or both.)
Another useful trick, as mentioned earlier, is to freeze them, and then run in and whack away with some sort of weapon, assuming you can actually hit them. More on this in the next section.
However in the intermediate levels, around Clvl 10-12, towards the end of Act One, we didn't have any such weapons, so had to do it all with spells. There were a couple of areas that required several sorties in to get all of the kills. One spot in the Forgotten Tower near the bottom, we ran into five Champion Corrupted Rogue Spearwomen, very near a level entrance.
There was no way to take them on hand to hand, so we had to quickly blast a Frost Nova to slow them down, and then hit one with ten or fifteen Ice Blasts, mixed in with a couple of other Frost Novas when the rest of them thawed out. This was enough to kill one of them, but we were then totally out of mana, so would have to run back up to the next level where the monsters could not follow, and wait for our mana to recharge. And then repeat to get the rest of them. Our Sorceress didn't have the equipment to even dent the more difficult monsters toe to toe, she didn't have many hit points, and she didn't have any mana potions at the time. So early on in the game when you run out of mana, you are pretty much helpless. Running away is not uncommon, and a quick Town Portal to go back and get a mana refill from Akara, and also unload some inventory is never a bad idea.
At Clvl 12 the Sorceress reaches a new plateau of skills, and the first real attack skills come in: Nova, Lightning and FireBall. We had saved up our skill points since Clvl 10, and therefore had three skill points, so we could put one into each of these skills. Another useful skill, Static Field, is at Clvl 6, but we didn't really begin to appreciate it until later.
FireBall was an immediate improvement over Firebolt, though it's not that much more damaging. Lightning is just great. Looks great, kills great. Seems much more damaging than it was in Diablo. Nova is very nice also, especially when used against multiple targets. A Frost Nova to slow them down, and then two or three Novas to get the kill is a very effective way to clear out a crowded room.
Nova of course costs more mana and does less damage than Fireball or Lightning, but you have to individually target those spells, and they hit far fewer targets when cast. Your best plan in Diablo II is probably to take some cold spells, and then specialize in either fire or lightning, and get a number of points in the skills in your chosen tree, rather than trying one or two in everything as we were doing. But we were there to test things out, not build a successful, long-term character.
So at Clvl 12 the Sorceress changes her tactics some, and begins to do more damage more quickly. Another useful aspect of these skills is that she no longer is using any Firebolt, and therefore has no more need of her newbie +1 Firebolt wand. She won't have found any really useful magical weapons this early in the game, but the option to upgrade to something a bit more damaging, or with a better Attack Rating, is nice to have. We did just that, but not until early in Act Two, when we got a triple-socketed spear and put a cold, fire, and lightning gem into it.
The only other real challenge left in Act One was Andariel, and we got to her at around Clvl 13. She is fleet of foot, and is quite accurate with her spray poison attack, but she wanders around a lot, sort of circling you. This is only fair, if she just came after you full speed and didn't give you any room, it would be extremely difficult for your Defensive Rating-deficient character to survive. We didn't have too much trouble with her with the Sorcersss. You can't freeze Andariel, since she's a boss monster, but you can slow her, and with her AI that tells her to circle you, it wasn't too hard to slow her, blast away with a full load of Fireballs, and then run off a few screens away in her large "L"-shaped throne room and stand there until your mana recharged.
There is a lot of gold scattered around her throne room, and a lot of perpetually-burning fire, so you have to pick it up with some care, but it gives you something to do while waiting for your mana to refill. There are also a number of Fallen and Fallen Shamans in the throne room area, but with Nova, Fallen are no threat, since you can kill the warriors and the shaman at the same time, with about three casts.
It took us probably three or four full loads of mana, but we killed Andariel without too much difficulty, only having to drink five or six red potions during the fight, mostly to counter her health-draining poison attack. Without cold spells, Andariel would be far more difficult. When she dies there is a spectacular lightning show, and lots of small piles of gold and some other treats pop out of her corpse as she screams and levitates and finally vanishes.
Act Two is designed to be much more difficult than Act One, and that design is successful. The first quest you get is in the Sewers, but we were too eager to go out and run around in the desert, so off we went.
It's big. Nearly trackless wastes, with the crumbling foundations and walls of old houses here and there, and cliffs forming the outer boundaries, far far off in the distance. It plays pretty much the same as the surface of Act One, but is even more wide open, and has much more powerful monsters, of course.
We were at Clvl 13 when we got to Act Two, and with no more new skills coming in until Clvl 18, we added points to the ones we had already, and planned to save up some points for Clvl 18 and the neat spells that come in at that point. Ice Blast was proving very useful, as was Frost Nova and Nova. The major change though was the need for a better weapon. One of the Act Two NPCs had a 3 socketable spear for sale, which we bought mostly on a whim. No idea if the Sorceress is especially skilled with a spear or not, but it caught our eye in the trading interface window. Probably it's not the best of weapons, since it's two-handed, so no benefit of a shield, but it did nice damage, and it looked cool.
With the spear we also purchased three cracked gems ("cracked" being the lowest quality of the five levels of gems, and all that the NPCs sell in Act Two), adding cold, lightning, and fire damage to our spear. The cold was the most useful, since every monster that we hit would get chilled then, which gave us a better chance of hitting them again, since they were slow.
Our biggest problem with the spear-wielding Sorceress was our lacking Attack Rating. To/hit, in Diablo terms, and we didn't have enough of it. Totally by chance, early on in Act Two we found two silver rings, adding 66% and 71% to our Attack Rating. Blizzard North employees were amazed at the rings, both were better than any they had seen before. Luck, sweet luck.
So with those both equipped, we had a listed Attack Rating of over 280, but when hovered on it displayed our actual to/hit against the level of monsters we were facing as around 75%. Which was a vast improvement over what we'd had before. With monsters frozen by our Ice Blast, we had time to stab at them three or four times before they thawed, and would usually land two or three of those attacks, which was often enough to kill them, or get them low enough for a spell to finish them off.
Lightning works like it did in Diablo, where it does higher damage the more of the bolt passes through the target. And obviously a frozen, motionless target is a pretty easy shot, so Lightning is an excellent choice for stationary monsters.
Another skill that was of great use was Shiver Armor. It became available at Clvl 12, but as we were using Frozen Armor already, and weren't all that impressed with it, we didn't leap right on Shiver Armor. However when we did add it in, around Clvl 15, it was immediately useful. Melee attackers would strike the Sorceress and be frozen stiff. Not every attacker, and they weren't frozen for very long, but it was very nice. The graphical effect for Shiver and Frozen Armor is fun as well. It's a few colorful glowing particles, swirling in a regular pattern around the Sorceress as though caught in a wind. And little spritzes of confetti-like particles pop up over her head every now and then. It's cute, basically, and the little pops of light over head fall to the ground, somewhat like magical glowing popcorn.
Frozen Armor is one skill that sounds like it might be better than the higher version of it. Chilling Armor is the next one up, at Clvl 24, but it promises just an AC boost against ranged attackers. The Sorceress moves around a lot in "shoot-and-scoot" techniques, so ranged attackers aren't her real problem. Melee attackers are much more of a nuisance, and having the ones that do manage to hit you freeze upon a successful strike is a very handy trick. However the current description of Chilling Armor doesn't really make any sense.
It's an AC boost against ranged attacks. But the dangerous ranged attacks are all magical, so AC is useless against them. So Chilling Armor is basically an anti-arrow skill? Wow, that's worth a skill point at Clvl 24. Expect changes in this one. At any rate, Shiver Armor is Clvl 12 and it works very well, and since you can only have one of the "Armor" skills working at once, this seems to be the one to go with. It lasts for about three to five minutes, but we couldn't determine if it was on a time delay, or was taking some amount of damage before it vanished.
So from Clvl 14 to about Clvl 17, our play was pretty much the same. We were in the Act Two desert, or tombs underground, and had to still play basically as an Artillery mage, with hit and run tactics. The Act Two tombs have lots of narrow doorways leading in to rooms just chock full of undead. Often twenty or more of them in a room a little bit bigger than the visible screen. The wisest choice is to stay outside the doorway, and blast the monsters with ice when they get in range, and then stick them. Our spear was a pretty effective weapon, especially with the two silver rings giving us such a high Attack Rating.
The problem with such rooms in the tombs is that most of them had a Greater Mummy or two inside. Greater Mummies are sort of undead shaman in Act Two, they can raise up any of their minions that you kill. And with a couple of them inside the room, safe behind dozens of their minions, you really had no way to get into a room. And you only get experience for the first time you kill an undead, if it is raised and you kill it again you gain nothing. So after a couple of very slow battles in the bottleneck doorways, we grew a bit bolder, and when we got to a new room we would just rush inside, before all of the undead could crowd around the doorway and block our entrance.
Once in the room, a quick Frost Nova would turn everything blue and let us see where the targets were, and also would chill the already slow undead, reducing their speed to a crawl. Then a couple of Novas would thin out the mob quite successfully, and we could locate the Greater Mummies and deal with them personally. This rush in attack was not without peril, since several monsters would get a hit in, we would usually get poisoned, and some rooms had Claw Vipers and other more formidable monsters inside, that didn't go down to just a Frost Nova and a couple of Novas. We had to run for our lives a number of times, freezing a few attackers and making a run back to a cleared area of the Tombs to let some mana regenerate.
The ability to run in Diablo II allows you to play much more boldly than you ever could have in Diablo, and run in just inches from dozens of monsters, where you would never have made it out alive in the first game. And it's quite fun, of course.
At Clvl 18 we had saved up three skill points, with which we and activated Glacial Spike and Chain Lightning. These were both improvements over Ice Blast and Lightning, but not huge improvements, since we had two or three skill points in those earlier skills already. When Diablo II is actually released, the recommended way to play will be with a bit more of a long term outlook. Sacrificing some ease of play in the first twenty or thirty levels, to save some skill points, and only put them into things that you'll want to use with your higher Clvl character. So you would just put one into Ice Blast and Lightning, and put four or five into Glacial Spike or Chain Lightning, once you had the chance. We didn't worry about this much at Blizzard North, since we knew we weren't playing these characters long term. So our skill point distribution was a lot wider than we would want to with a permanent character.
Spell Run Down
Full info on the Sorceress' spells can be found on our Sorceress page, but for more info about them, read on.
Glacial Spike was fun; it works just like Ice Blast, shooting a blue ice missile that freezes the target, but Glacial Spike does a big burst of shrapnel when it hits, so can freeze several targets with one shot. However if you were designing your Sorceress, and were not going to go up high into the Cold Skills Tab, it would probably be better to just stick two or three points into Ice Blast, and concentrate the rest in Fire or Lightning, if that was your plan. Glacial Spike is better than Ice Blast, but you can certainly get by with Ice Blast alone.
Mike Huang of Blizzard North had a Sorceress of around our Clvl and played with us a bit. His enchantress was named "Icicle", and as you would expect with that name, she had a lot of cold skills. But highly concentrated, at around Clvl 16, she had six or seven points in Ice Blast, and used that skill probably 60% of the time. It did big damage, and froze the target for at least five seconds, so was quite effective, if a bit boring to just use the same skill over and over again.
Chain Lightning is not like it was in Diablo. It's somewhat similar, in that it can shoot out multiple strings, but we got it to Clvl two and it was only shooting out two of them, no matter how many targets were nearby. However the bolts are somewhat homing; they leap from one target to another one nearby, and can form interesting curves and angles. It does more damage than Lightning, but it's not a room-clearer like it was in Diablo. Of course that's what Nova is for, though it does lower damage.
Another useful skill we've not mentioned yet is Static Field. This one is another low level skill. It's only Clvl six, and you need a point in it to get the very useful Nova working, so any Sorceress with any action in the Lightning Skill Tab will have Static Field.
At first use Static Field doesn't appear to be very good. It hits all the monsters in range, which is nearly the full visible screen, with a small burst of lightning. An average monster takes maybe 1/5 of their hit points from it, which is crap early on, since you are killing things with two or three spells at that time. However as you get to more powerful monsters, late in Act Two, for example, you start to notice that Static Field is pretty good. You are now needing eight or ten spells to kill some tougher monsters, and getting ones that are fire or lightning or cold resistant and are even worse. And Static Field seems to work just about as well as it did before.
It is very light on the mana cost, but still does around 1/6 of the monsters' hit points. The weird thing is that none of them seemed to resist it, even ones that weren't taking much damage from Chain Lightning or Nova. Static Field isn't the best choice if you are going one on one with a monster, but if you have half a dozen beasties around, casting four or five Static Fields to soften them up, and then killing them off with something else is a nice strategy. The info on the skill in the game doesn't say exactly how much damage it does, but apparently it's some percent of their current hit points, since it's great when they are full or half full of hit points, but does less and less as they get lower.
What equipment to use is really up to the individual Sorceress. We choose to go in the artillery mage style, so we had to use our spells and running to survive, since we had very few hit points and almost no armor. Therefore our equipment was simple, since we didn't have the dexterity or strength to use any heavier stuff. Finding the two silver rings for a very large Attack Rating bonus was quite a stroke of luck, since it made our melee attack far more useful, and we didn't have to put any attribute points into dexterity.
It seems to be generally better with the Sorceress to just be quick and not get hit, rather than going armor-mage style and bulking up on strength so you can go toe to toe and take hits. You would need to add some vitality that way also, though Energy Shield might help. We didn't get to try it out, as it's Clvl 24 and we only got to Clvl 19.
We actually did try it briefly when playing with a hacked up character, but we had god mode enabled, so it was impossible to tell how well it worked. The shield did indeed drain damage from our mana, rather than vitality. However, the issue with Energy Shield is how much of the damage goes to mana and how much to hit points, and if it's melee damage or projectile damage, or magical attack damage. This information is not given in the skill hover info, and since we had on god mode our health was unchanging, while the mana dropped rapidly when under heavy attack by some Act Three monsters.
Another issue with equipment is the rapid stamina drain that heavy armor causes. With low attributes in everything but Energy, the Sorceress doesn't have much Stamina to begin with. Late in Act Two we got enough gold and strength (about 25k gold and 45 str) to buy some nice chain mail from an NPC. It looked good in the shoppe window, and was a very large boost to our Defensive Rating, but we found when actually wearing it that it wasn't so useful.
As we've said, we were playing artillery mage style, and not getting hit that much. So with the armor we got hit slightly less often by melee monsters, and we were not trying to let them near us anyway. The big change was that with it on, we suddenly didn't have any stamina. Or not enough, anyway, since it would drain around two times as quickly from running.
We were playing with three other characters at that point, in late Act Two, and suddenly instead of leading the pack, we were lagging in the back, forced to run, walk, run, walk, to keep any stamina at all. It was mostly inconvenient, but if we'd been playing solo, and had monsters chasing us on occasion, that armor would have done much more harm than good, since we'd not have been able to escape our pursuers.
We did not find any really good sorceress type equipment. By that we mean any items of + spell levels, or big boosts to Energy, or mana. But surely such items exist in the game, at higher levels.
Dying is not a big deal for the Sorceress, since she gets most of her killing power from her skills, rather than any equipment. Much like in Diablo, where the mage could get his equipment back pretty easily, since his spells were still very effective even with his best equipment left on the ground where he died, the Sorceress is the least equipment-dependent character in Diablo II. She would only have a problem if she needed resistance from her equipment, and there were spell-casting monsters where she died, or possibly if she had a lot of hit points from her equipment that she needed to survive.
We used Telekinesis a few times, but never on our own corpse, so we don't know if you could use that to auto-re-equip from a full screen away. Probably you could though. Just as a note, Telekinesis works a bit differently now. You map it to your right click, and put the cursor on whatever you want to grab, and then right click. In Diablo you right clicked and your cursor changed to a thing that looked like the Telekinesis icon, and you then left clicked that on the object you wished to pick up. This intermediate step has been eliminated in Diablo II.
How Much Damage do Spells Do?
There are extensive stats displayed for every skill, including such things as damage, mana cost, range, duration, and what the next level of that skill will do for you, if you obtain it. However all of the stats are only of use to compare to other skills, since you never see the monsters' hit points in Diablo II. Just the red bar behind their names, so you don't know if a monster has 200 hit points or 20, until you do some damage and see how fast the hit point bar descends. It can be deceptive, since something like a "Burning Dead Archer" (Act Two monster) has a long name, and therefore a very long hit point bar, but it will die in perhaps two hits, since it's not a very powerful monster. This makes it appear that whatever you hit it with did huge damage. Meanwhile "Andariel" has a short name, but by far the most hit points in Act One, and you can lay into her with all you've got and her hit point bar will drop three notches.
It will take a lot of play and experience with all types of monsters to learn roughly how many hit points they have, and triangulating that intuition to guestimating what your spell damage is.
A related topic is the lack of a "resists magic and lightning, immune to fire" sort of display like there was in Diablo. Some monsters have a, "magic resistant" or "fire resistant" tag on them when you hover, but not all, and it's not like in Diablo, where killing 15 of a given type of monster would always display that information. The monsters either have that as their hover the first time you see them, or never, so again, you have to just cast a variety of spells, and watch their hit point bar to see if it goes down a lot or a little.
Of course these both might change if Blizzard North enables some sort of numerical hit point display and resistance info in the final game. For now, without such stats to look at, it's trial and error. Experience definitely helps. After dealing with a room full of a certain type of monster, and trying a number of spells on them to see what worked best, we had a much easier time when we next met some of them. It seems like strats and best attacks with magic will be a thing learned in Diablo II with much play time, and getting some tips from a more experienced character will greatly help a new character.
The Sorceress was a lot of fun to play. She's like the mage in Diablo, but at a much faster pace, and the true angles that effect spell aiming and monster movement give the whole game a much more realisitic feel. Running around and shooting spells and running away is frantic and exciting, and the mana regeneration is nice also, since you don't have to keep drinking potions, or going back to town for more, or reloading your belt. You do have to wait once in a while to refill on mana, but it's not too bad, and you learn to be a bit more thrifty with your spell-casting.
We didn't get to play for more than a few minutes with the higher level skills, and there are some that would greatly change the style of play. Meteor, Blizzard, and Thunder Storm all are area attacks, where you select where you want it to go, and then target the spot. All of them take a moment to work, so you have to aim ahead. Meteor takes three or four seconds to fall from the sky (with a screaming sound now, like an incoming bomb), and Blizzard and Lightning Storm both take a moment to get a good rain of death going, where they are dealing a lot of damage to that area.
These skills aren't like anything from Diablo, so there will be different strategies required to cast them where they will damage the monsters. And since we didn't get to try them out in a real game, we can't really offer any insight. Obviously with a spell not appearing or doing much damage for several seconds after it's cast, you'll have to either lead the monsters a lot, or freeze them in place. With no friendly fire in Diablo II, it seems like it would be pretty easy to have a friend "tank" and occupy the monsters, and then cast Meteor or other death from above sort of skills on him, and just rack up the kills. Unknown how or if Blizzard will implement anything to discourage this sort of relatively cheesy play.
But for using them with the Sorceress solo, it will largely depend on if her area of effect (AoE) skills damage her. If she is immune to them, she can call down Meteor or Thunder Storm, and then run and stand under it and draw the monsters in to their deaths, while taking little damage herself. Whether she'll have to stay out of her own spell effects is not known yet, and is subject to further change and play-balancing anyway.