"Hell hath no fury like Baal scorned."

Diablo 2 is without question one of the ten or so best games ever made, and even though Lord of Destruction is only an expansion it's the version of the game you'll want to play. You'll probably end up having to get a battle chest to get the full game going, but once you do it's an incredible experience. To give an idea of how good this game is, it's over 10 years old as of this review being written and people still legitimately play it. If staying power is the final gauge for how good a game is, Diablo 2 arguably exemplifies this better than any other game ever made.

Diablo 2 is a Western RPG that came out well before the current WRPG craze, and until very recently it stood alone as the best in the genre. "Western RPG" is fairly hard to define, especially when compared to the bright anime nonsense from the east, but the general idea is a darker atmosphere, real-time combat, older characters, the plot not being on rails (as Final Fantasy 13 so brutally demonstrated to us) and a very open-ended world. Diablo 2 fits a lot of this, though the plot can be fairly linear if you aren't looking into it much.

Diablo 2 picks up where the original left off, where the hero fresh off of killing Diablo stupidly attempts to control Diablo's soul by plunging Diablo's soul stone into his forehead. Yeah, because controlling evil demons has always turned out well for those who try doing it. Diablo mentally overtakes the hero, lays waste to Tristram and begins unleashing hell on earth instead of only in Tristram's little church. In Lord of Destruction, a lot of plot is given to Baal's assault on Mount Arreat and his corruption of the Worldstone.

This is where you come in. You pick one of seven different classes, then set out into the world of Sanctuary to slaughter tens of thousands of hell's minions en route to killing the three prime evils (Mephisto, Diablo and Baal) themselves. There are a lot of quests and side quests that go into your ultimate goal, and all are worth pursuing as they give a lot of insight into the game's plot. For example, there's a quest in Act 1 that lets you know what happened to your old rogue character from the original game. Don't expect anything happy though, because Diablo as a series is one of the darkest in gaming. There are no happy endings; everything can and will fall apart, given enough time. There are five acts in all, starting in some plains and eventually going into a desert and a jungle, and ultimately going to Hell itself and Mount Arreat. each act ends with a boss, on top of several hundred mini bosses and champion monsters to get through.

The meat of Diablo comes in its gameplay, specifically the classes themselves and item hunting. There are seven classes in total -- Amazon, Assassin, Necromancer, Barbarian, Druid, Paladin and Sorceress -- and each one is very capable of going on murderous rampages. They all have their own strengths and weaknesses, though with Blizzard stupidly adding monster immunities and skill synergies a few years ago a lot of abilities and builds can't work anymore. The way it used to work was any skill being viable if enough points were put into it, but a few years ago Blizzard got the bright idea to make enemies harder while adding in skill synergies. In English, this means that some skills will make others stronger. Some make sense, like all the lightning Sorceress skills making each other stronger, while the Paladin's Blessed Hammer skill has synergy with Vigor, a skill that makes him run faster.

The basic idea is that for each class, you get three different skill trees. On level up, you'll get one skill and 5 stat points. The 7 different classes all get different skill trees, while everyone gets the same exact stats but the growth is dependant on class. So for example, a Barbarian will get a lot more health per stamina point than a Sorceress. By now, however, everyone has stat builds down to a science: enough Strength and Dexterity to equip the items you want (meaning you'll have to look up what item build you'll go for before ever starting with stat building, which a lot of gamers may not like much), and every other stat point in Stamina. Energy never gets one point in any class, which is the biggest reason behind Blizzard completely changing the mana system in Diablo 3.

Skill trees and turning the 7 classes into dozens of subclasses is the meat of Diablo 2, but the major thrill in this game is the item hunt. Anyone who has ever played this knows what I mean. It's killing the same monsters hundreds if not thousands of times, and finally getting the item you've spent months looking for. Black market trading and botting have completely ruined this, which we'll get into later, but that isn't stopping anyone from playing this game the right way.

Diablo 2 is still an outstanding game worth playing for anyone, and I would have easily given it a perfect score had I written this review a decade ago, but there are a lot of things that prevent this from being a 100% perfect game today. The big one is how Blizzard is completely incapable of designing a proper online system. Remember back when we all thought Blizzard was the best company because of how great Starcraft, Diablo and Diablo 2 were? Well those three games are still good, but Blizzard has done nothing of note since and has more than proven these three games are all flukes.

With Diablo 2 specifically, Blizzard makes no effort to stop people from botting, item duping or performing random other assorted acts of cheating. Oh they have checks in place, but you can bet your bottom dollar they'll only hurt the honest player. By now, any regular player knows about this game's idiotic automatic temp-bans from realms. Stay in a public game too long? Temp-ban. Too little? Temp-ban. Click too fast? Temp-ban. Kill monsters too fast? Temp-ban. Run past too many monsters? Invisible wall teleport glitch followed by temp-ban.

It goes on and on and on, but nothing is ever actually done to stop people from running their bots or scripts. Most of the bots are likely Blizzard themselves looking to make money off the items, as evidenced by Blizzard outright embracing black market trading these days, but then they'll turn around and ban the honest players who look to leech off of botted Baal runs.

The worst of the worst though are the runes. Runes are these little magical symbol things that are meant to go into socketed items in a specific order. If used in the right order, they'll create a runeword that results in a godly item. Most of the runes needed to make the best runewords are akin to winning the lottery in real life, meaning you can play this game for years and years and never once see a high rune. But rest assured that hours after each ladder reset, you'll see people toting Enigma, Chains of Honor, Infinity, and Breath of the Dying. How does this happen, you ask? I'll give you one guess. There's a reason runewords were nicknamed "dupewords".

This doesn't add up to the game not being fun -- far from it, in fact, if you play legit -- but it does add up to not being able to compete with botting and this is a legitimate problem. If you want to know how much Blizzard doesn't care, look no farther than the Stone of Jordan nonsense. For years, the game's entire economy revolved around duped Stones of Jordan.

Blizzard's answer? Creating an entire event around selling Stones of Jordan to in-game merchants, in what was a gigantic "dupe some more, please" move that further dicked over legit players. Diablo 2 may be a good game, but Blizzard is an awful company that got really lucky in designing this and little else.

Is Diablo 2 fun? Undoubtedly. I honestly do believe this is one of the ten best games ever made when played the right way, and it's hard to really hold a bad community against a video game. But this had the potential to be THE best game ever made and Blizzard squandered it through various bad choices and only really appealing to the cheaters. Rather than getting a 4.0 in Yale and becoming President of the United States, Diablo 2 felt like taking pass-fail classes at Brown and becoming a lifelong Congressman. Which is okay, Diablo 2 still gets a seat at the table, but it could have been so much more had a different company made it.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/29/11

Game Release: Diablo II: Lord of Destruction (US, 06/27/01)

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