Editorial | 7/5/2010 at 7:30 PM

Co-Op Classics: Happy Birthday, Diablo 2!

Think back to one decade ago.  January 1, 2000 came and went, and the Y2K apocalypse never really happened.  Super hero movies weren't the biggest thing in theaters just yet.  No one had heard of LOST.  The Red Sox were in the midst of a serious World Series title drought.  And Dracula was the coolest vampire around, not some pretty-face who sparkled in the sunshine.  And in the middle of the summer that year, a game hit the shelves that many consider to be the best game of all time.  And it's hard to argue: Diablo 2 was, and still is, an unmatched experience.

What exactly made Diablo 2 so great?  Was it the classes, ranging from the creepy Necromancers to bloodthirsty Barbarians to unstoppable Amazons?  Perhaps it was the skill trees, which allowed players of the same class to customize themselves in all manner of different builds?  Or, it could have been the magic items, ranging from those with random properties of questionable usefulness all the way to unique sets of armor of unimaginable power?  Diablo 2 was great because of all these things, and so much more.

Perhaps the most important attribute leading to Diablo 2's success were the unrivaled multiplayer options.  Eight players could team up through a LAN or using Blizzard's Battle.net service.  A full group was fairly rare, at least in my experience, but it sure was fun to get as many friends as possible teaming up to take down the bosses.  Scaling difficulty kept the challenge level consistent even when people dropped in and out.  Trading loot was a snap.  Diablo 2 was built from the ground up as a cooperative multiplayer experience, and it's a gold standard that has spawned its own genre, emulated by such games as Titan Quest and Din's Curse

To help celebrate Diablo 2's tenth birthday, I asked the Co-Optimus staff to weigh in.  They were very quick to share some fun memories and interesting insights into the game.

Nick "bapenguin" Puleo

I was all about the Necro.  I basically just maxed out my skeleton
summoning and had an army of minions at my command.  Of course his
reviving ability really helped in co-op games, so I usually just sat
back, summoned and watched the chaos unfold with my co-op partners,
raising the dead creatures they killed to further my undead army.

Mike "pheriannath" Katsufrakis

My fondest Diablo 2 memory was when we discovered that the network in my college dorm hall was set up as a LAN environment. The game had just released and my hallmates were all big into it, so we put off our studies in liberal arts and applied our time to darker arts.

I was big into the Amazon. There's something about hailing massive amounts of arrows into swarms of enemies that was appealing. Later sessions allowed me to cheat on my lovely amazon with another, more exotic woman: the Frost Sorceress.

Tally "xelissa" Callahan

As strange as it sounds, the most frustrating times I had in D2 are the ones that are the most memorable, and ones that I can look back on and laugh fondly. You have to love the curses in the game. Iron Maiden on a melee druid, that one curse that turns you life into your mana on a sorceress... you can kill yourself instantly with the right curse on you. Then comes the scream of frustration, or weary sigh, as you ask the person you're playing with to open a portal so you can retrieve your corpse. Good old teamwork and communication is required to avoid the obnoxious corpse-run ("open a portal! omigosh!"), and who doesn't love that?

Jim "txshurricane" McLaughlin

Diablo II was my second experience with the elevated third-person view (the first being X-COM). I borrowed it from my sister's friend one summer, and kept it for two months. I never did finish the game; just kept grinding away with my aggressive-spell-casting Paladin. Dial-up online co-op was new to me, so I didn't spend much time online - just spent hours and hours pointing and clicking. Good times.

Marc "DjinniMan" Allie

When I look back to Diablo II, several things really stick out to me.  The first Diablo had only three classes, and apart from looks and stats, they were very similar to each other.  Not so in Diablo II, where each class was totally distinct and played quite differently.  I played through the story once with each class, but Sorceress and Paladin were my favorites.

Another key improvement over the original was in the variety of locations.  A parched desert, deadly jungle, and even bizzarre astral levels really made you feel as if you were exploring an entire world, not just a dungeon beneath one town. 

Some of my favorite co-op moments came fairly recently.  When Diablo 3 was announced, I got together with some of my old buddies and we played through the game yet again.  The game has aged extremely well: partially because of the patches Blizzard faithfully rolled out often, but mostly because it was so well-crafted in the first place.

What's not to like about Diablo 2, really? There's something for everyone to enjoy, from the casual clicker to the hardcore binge-gamer. If Diablo 3 is as good as Diablo 2, or perhaps even better, I shudder to think what will happen. Gamers everywhere may lose their jobs from calling in sick days. Household chores will go undone. I suggest we just go ahead and declare Diablo 3's release a national holiday; who is with me?