Diablo 2 falls into the category of “one of my most played games of all time”. It is the game I used to play on 56k dial-up which eventually led me begging my parents to upgrade to broadband internet. Prior to this I tended to go to my friend Rob’s house and effectively make him sit there while I played Diablo 2. We would occasionally swap, but I would spend most evenings at his house playing, and he spent most of his time watching films while I played and grunted at him. Honestly I am amazed he still talks to me.
I stopped playing Diablo 2 in around 2004 because World of Warcraft was released only returning to it once or twice for very short bursts during the intervening years, but how has Diablo 2 held up, and how rough around the edges is the little nob?
Like it’s predecessor, Diablo 2 is a hack-n-slash-dungeon-crawling-RPG-roguelike-loot-athon. But rather than spend the entire game navigating 16 floors and 20ish randomly selected quests, you find yourself in an overworld investigating plains, fields, and desert with the option to enter randomly spawning catacombs, cathedrals, and ruins, giving you the option of additional dungeon crawling. Some of these dungeons will be related to a quest, others are just a distraction to gain better loot.
I complained about the pacing in Diablo 1 as often while playing you were forced to constantly be buying potions which always felt was breaking up the flow of the game. In Diablo 2 you can realistically never have to buy a potion as they drop like your mates shit band releases demos. This is a long-winded way of saying that the loot mechanic has been renovated. Almost every creature can drop something, and it is up to you how much time you dedicate to picking items up. You now get Magical items (blue) but these are relatively common have and have okish stats. Yellow items are rare, these are good items that will probably be better than what you have, and Green Items, these are unique set items. They might not be the best, but if you join it up with one of its set brethren you start to get insane stat bonuses that makes you a god. And finally Gold Items, that are the super items that will be the talk of town.
Another serious issue with the original Diablo was that the online multiplayer currently doesn’t work without significant faff. However, with the sequel as long as you have a legal copy of Diablo 2 and/or the Expansion pack then Battle.Net will work for you. It isn’t the most populated of games anymore but what do you expect for a game released in 2000. You can find games, and you can host games and play solo if you like, and you can set the settings to stop level 90 players turning up and being a dick in your level 10 game. So you’ll never be at a loss for games.
One issue I found with the multiplayer is people are very keen on joining your game and trying to teleport you to the final boss. These people are probably on an item run and are trying to farm a unique item, but I wanted to play the game and do the missions. When I installed Diablo 2 I was chatting to my mate about The Council in Act 3, I was excited for it, and when I got to Act 3, some bloke joined, teleported there and killed them. It was a little bit annoying, so again, you could just password protect your online games so you can play with only trusted players. Other more serious issues such as griefers don’t really seem to exist in the same way they did when the game was at its height in popularity. So in my games I didn’t have any loot scammers, or bots stealing the best drops.
Character Deletion… A major issue I have is that Blizzard now delete your inactive characters, it can make having alts an issue and there are significant complaints online about 15 year old characters being deleted without warning.
The general gist is that you kill Diablo, but in Diablo 2 once you do this you are able to go into Nightmare and Hell modes, these are the same game but everything gets harder. Here you’ll find better items. My first playthrough was roughly20 hours, this encompassed completing every quest and investigating most of the randomly spawn dungeons I found. As you level up the amount of grind required to level up starts to dramatically increase.
This is where the longevity of the game comes to the fore. There is almost infinite items for the stat hunters, and certainly piss-poor drop rates to force you to grind and keep replaying, so the replayability comes down to your interest in that grind. The problem of your characters not lasting forever is a bit of a kicker here as you will need to alt-switch a lot and play on all your characters engaging in a spot of grind to keep them active. And again, this is a time commitment that won’t be for everyone.
The Lord of Destruction expansion I enjoyed at the time as it prolonged a game I loved, looking back now I am not sure what it really adds. Two new characters in the Druid and the Amazon. With the Druid being a shape shifter that can be isn’t great at anything, and the Amazon is a bow using rogue.
On top of this you get new items, new socketable items such as the Runes, and the 5th Act. The Runes is the key here for the ultra grind fan as these are ultra powerful items you socket to weapons to create powerful Rune Words. These seem to be rarer than rare weapons, but they are honestly not my bag. As again, grindy.
Diablo 2 is 4 Acts, you kill Mephisto and Diablo, but in Act 5 you’re in the Barbarian homeland fending off Baal’s invading force. This Act is probably the most fun, but the step up in difficulty from Act 4 to 5 is very much jarring. The preceeding acts were a gentle levelling curve, with a few bosses that would be difficult. Act 5 requires you to stop, grind, and level up between each section. Sure this forces you to look around these new areas, but it starts to feel like a job again as all natural flow is lost due to grind.
Diablo 2 very much invented the constant loot mechanic and the “just one more quest” that World of Warcraft would eventually take to the N’th degree. I literally spent 2 and half days playing Diablo 2 none stop, and very few games are able to hold my attention that much, as even the Resident Evil 2 Remake only truly held my attention for a full day.
For me the game is a fun thing to play, and an enjoyable distraction from the entropy of life. I wouldn’t recommend engaging in the endgame content as grinding for 7 months of your life for a rune to drop isn’t my idea of a good time. But playing through a couple of times with some different characters is highly recommended.
The score then is difficult, the core game is fun, I enjoy it, but the main draw will be the item grind. If that is your bag you can add 10% to my score which would qualify Diablo 2 for our top 10 games of all time. If not, then somewhere in the low 40s seems a fair place for it.
Pros: The particle effects for spells are still pretty impressive, tonnes of variety, just one more go crack-like gameplay, Battle.Net is still active
Cons: Grind heavy, the Ladder system that deletes your characters.
Back in the Day:
Diablo 2 would win or come runner up in numerous games of the year and RPGs of the year awards. The scores would land in the high 80s.