Diablo II cover art
|Genre(s)||Action role-playing, Hack and slash|
|Media/distribution||3 CD-ROMs, download|
The game, with its dark fantasy and horror themes, was conceptualized and designed by David Brevik and Erich Schaefer, who with Max Schaefer acted as project leads on the game. The producers were Matthew Householder and Bill Roper.
Building on the success of its predecessor Diablo (1996), Diablo II was one of the most popular games of 2000. Major factors that contributed to Diablo II's success include its continuation of popular fantasy themes from the previous game and its access to Blizzard's free online play service Battle.net. An expansion to Diablo II, Diablo II: Lord of Destruction, was released in 2001. A sequel, Diablo III, was announced in 2008, and was released on May 15, 2012.
Diablo II's storyline progresses through four chapters or "Acts". Each act following a more or less predetermined path, although there is some random-level generation in wilderness areas and dungeons between key cities. There is a list of quests which are usually required to advance the story, though some are optional. In contrast to the first Diablo whose levels consisted of descending deeper and deeper into a Gothic-themed dungeon and Hell, Diablo II's style is much more varied. While Act I is similar to the original, Act II mimics canaan desert while Act III is supposedly based on the Maya civilization jungles. Act IV takes place in Hell and is the shortest, with just three quests compared to the other Acts that have six.
The Lord of Destruction expansion adds Act V which continues the story where Act IV left off. Act V's style is mainly mountainous as the player ascends Mount Arreat, with ice tunnels/caverns in the mountains, as well as hellish subterranean pits (reminiscent of Hell in Act IV) for extra monsters and experience. After reaching the summit of Arreat, the player gains access to the Worldstone Keep (whose architecture may be reminiscent of Angkor Wat and other Hindu temples).
In addition to the acts, there are three sequential difficulty levels: Normal, Nightmare, and Hell; completing the game (four Acts in the original or five Acts in the expansion) on a difficulty setting will open up the next level. On higher difficulties, monsters are stronger and are resistant to an element, experience is penalized on dying, and the player's resistances are handicapped. However, better items are rewarded to players as they go through higher difficulties. A character retains all abilities and items between difficulties, and may return to a lower difficulty at any time.
Players can also create a hardcore character. In normal mode, the player can resurrect their character if killed and resume playing, while a hardcore character has only one life. If killed, the character is permanently dead and unplayable, and all items and equipment on that character will be lost unless another friendly character has the "loot" icon checked.
Character classes 
Diablo II allows the player to choose between five different character classes: Amazon, Necromancer, Barbarian, Sorceress, and Paladin. Each character has different strengths and weaknesses and sets of skills to choose from, as well as varying beginning attributes. The maximum level that any character can obtain is level 99.
- The Amazon hails from the islands of the Twin Seas, near the border of the Great Ocean, and her clan is a rival to the Sisters of the Sightless Eye (known as Rogues). The Amazon is akin to the Rogue of Diablo: both primarily use bows, and both make equal use of strength and magic, however the Amazon can also use javelins and spears. Many of her defensive skills are passive in nature, especially Dodge, Avoid, and Evade. The Amazon is voiced by Jessica Straus.
- The Necromancer is a versatile death-themed spell caster. Necromancers are the priests of the Cult of Rathma from the Eastern jungles. His Summoning skills allow him to raise skeletons, create golems, and resurrect dead monsters to fight alongside him. The Necromancer possesses powerful poison spells, which rapidly drain life from afflicted monsters. He also has "Bone" skills, which directly damage enemies, while bypassing most resistances. His Curses also afflict the enemy with debilitating status ailments, sowing confusion and chaos in their ranks. The Necromancer is voiced by Michael McConnohie.
- The Barbarian is a powerful melee fighter from the steppes of Mount Arreat. He is an expert at frontline combat, able to absorb great punishment, and is the only class capable of dual-wielding weapons. His Combat Masteries allow him to specialize in different types of weapons, and also passively increase his resistance, speed, and defense. His Warcries dramatically increase the combat effectiveness of him and his party, as well as afflicting status ailments on enemies. He has a variety of Combat Skills at his command, most of which focus on delivering great force upon a single foe, while some also give him considerable athleticism allowing him to leap over chasms and rivers. The Barbarian is voiced by David Thomas.
- The Sorceress hails from a rebellious coven of female witches who have wrested the secrets of magic use from the male-dominated mage clans of the East. She can cast ice, lightning and fire spells. Nearly all of these skills are offensive in nature, besieging the enemy with elemental calamity. Her Cold Skills can freeze enemies solid and bypass resistances, but do less damage than lightning or fire. The Sorceress's Teleport spell allows her to instantly travel to a new destination, making her very difficult to hit. The strong point of the Sorceress is her damaging spells and casting speed; her weakness is her relatively low hit points and defense. The Sorceress is voiced by Liana Young.
- The Paladin is a crusader from the Church of Zakarum, fighting for the glory of the Light. He is part of the forces that defeated King Leoric's army in the first Diablo, although his Order is eventually corrupted by Mephisto. To reflect his holy nature, the zealous Paladin's combat skills range from fanatical attacks to heavenly thunderbolts. His skills are split into Combat Skills, Defensive Auras, and Offensive Auras. His auras have a range of abilities, such as increasing damage, or resisting magic attacks, or boosting defense. The Paladin's auras affect all party members. The Paladin is highly proficient in the use of a shield, and is the only character that can use it as a weapon. The Paladin also has specialized skills for eliminating the undead. The Paladin is voiced by Larry B. Scott.
- Two additional character classes, the Druid and Assassin, were added in the expansion.
The player can enlist the help of one hireling (computer-controlled mercenaries) from a mercenary captain in the town; the Rogue Scouts, Desert Mercenaries, Ironwolves, and Barbarians, from Acts I, II, III, and V (expansion only). The expansion allows players to retain their mercenary throughout the entire game as well as equipping them with armor and weapons. Hirelings gain experience and attributes like the player, although their level cannot surpass that of their master character. Typically players choose a hireling that provides something missing from their character class; for instance the melee-focused Paladin may choose a Rogue for missile support.
Diablo II can be played multiplayer on a LAN or Battle.net. Unlike the original Diablo, Diablo II was made specifically with online gaming in mind. Several spells (such as auras or war cries) multiply their effectiveness if they are cast within a party, and although dungeons still exist, they were largely replaced by open spaces.
Multiplayer is achieved through Blizzard's Battle.net free online service, or via a LAN. Battle.net is divided into "Open" and "Closed" realms. Players may play their single-player characters on open realms; characters in closed realms are stored on Blizzard's servers, as a measure against cheating, where they must be played every 90 days to avoid expiration. Originally these closed realms served their purpose of preventing cheating, as open games were subject to many abuses as the characters were stored on players' own hard drives. Within the last few years, however, many cheats are (and continue to be) used on these closed realms. Hacks, bots, and programs which allow the player to run multiple instances of the game at the same time are not allowed by Blizzard but are very commonly used. Spambots, (programs which advertise sites selling Diablo II's virtual items for real-world currency) run rampant on the service and a player hosting a public game can expect a visit from one every few minutes. Due to the surplus of virtual items provided by the automated bots, which repeatedly kill bosses to obtain items, supply is well in excess of demand, and items which used to trade well are now often given away for nothing.
As the game can be played cooperatively (Players vs. Environment, PvE), groups of players with specific sets of complementary skills can finish some of the game's climactic battles in a matter of seconds, providing strong incentives for party-oriented character builds. Up to eight players can be in one game; they can either unite as a single party, play as individuals, or form multiple opposing parties. Experience gained, monsters' hit points and damage, and the number of items dropped are all increased as more players join a game, though not in a strictly proportional manner. Players are allowed to duel each other with all damage being reduced in player vs player (PvP). The bounty for a successful kill in PvP is a portion of the gold and the "ear" of the defeated player (with the previous owner's name and level at the time of the kill).
The Ladder System can be reset at various intervals to allow for all players to start fresh with new characters on an equal footing. Ladder seasons have lasted from as short as six months to over a year. When a ladder season ends all ladder characters are transferred to the non-ladder population. Certain rare items are available only within ladder games, although they can be traded for and exchanged on non-ladder after the season has ended.
On March 3, 2009, Blizzard announced a new Diablo II content patch, 9 years after the game's release.
The game has been patched extensively; the precise number of patches is impossible to determine as Battle.net has the capability of making minor server-side patches to address immediate issues. The game is currently in version 1.13d. The latest major patch was released on March 23, 2010. Through the patch history, several exploits and issues have been addressed (such as illegal item duplication, though it still exists), as well as major revamps to the game's balance (such as the ability to redo skills and attributes). Not all patches have affected Diablo II directly, as several were designed to address issues in the expansion to the game and had minimal effects on Diablo II.
Diablo II takes place after the end of the previous game, Diablo, in the world of Sanctuary. In Diablo, an unnamed warrior defeated Diablo and attempted to contain the Lord of Terror's essence within his own body. Since then, the hero has become corrupted by the demon's spirit, causing demons to enter the world around him and wreak havoc.
A band of adventurers who pass through the Rogue Encampment hear these stories of destruction and attempt to find out the cause of the evil, starting with this corrupted "Dark Wanderer." As the story develops, the truth behind this corruption is revealed: the soulstones were originally designed to capture the Prime Evils who were banished to the mortal realm after being overthrown by the Lesser Evils. With the corruption of Diablo's soulstone, the demon is able to control the Dark Wanderer. The soulstone of another demon, Baal, was united with the mage Tal-Rasha, who volunteered to absorb Baal's spirit in his own body and be imprisoned in a tomb.
As the story progresses, cut scenes show the Dark Wanderer's journey as a drifter named Marius follows him. The player realizes that the Dark Wanderer's mission is to reunite with the other prime evils, Baal and Mephisto. The story is divided up into four acts:
- Act I - The adventurers rescue Cain, who is imprisoned in Tristram, and then begin following the Dark Wanderer. The Dark Wanderer has one of the lesser evils, Andariel, corrupt the Sisters of the Sightless Eye (Rogues) and take over their Monastery. The adventurers overcome Andariel and then follow the Wanderer east.
- Act II - While the adventurers search the eastern desert for Tal-Rasha's tomb, the Dark Wanderer gets there first. Marius is tricked into removing Baal's soulstone from Tal-Rasha and the Archangel Tyrael charges Marius with taking the soulstone to Hell to destroy it. The Dark Wanderer and Baal join with Mephisto, open a portal to Hell, and the Dark Wanderer sheds his human form and becomes the demon Diablo.
- Act III - The adventurers find the seat of the Zakarum religion at the Temple of Kurast, where the portal to Hell is located. They defeat Mephisto, who was left guarding the entrance, and take his soulstone.
- Act IV - The adventurers slay Diablo in Hell and destroy the soulstones of Mephisto and Diablo on the Hellforge, preventing their return.
In the epilogue, Marius, speaking in a prison cell, indicates he was too weak to enter Hell, and that he fears the stone's effects on him. He gives the soulstone to his visitor. The visitor reveals himself to be Baal, the last surviving Prime Evil now in possession of his own soulstone. He then kills Marius and sets the prison cell on fire.
The story continues in the expansion Diablo II: Lord of Destruction where Baal attempts to corrupt the mythical Worldstone on Mount Arreat. Upon returning to the Pandemonium Fortress after defeating Diablo, Tyrael opens a portal to send the adventurers to Arreat.
The score was composed by Matt Uelmen and integrates creepy ambience with melodic pieces. The style of the score is ambient industrial and experimental. It was recorded in Redwood City, Oakland, and San Mateo, California, from April 1997 to March 2000.
Some tracks were created by reusing the tracks from the original game, while others by rearranging tracks that were out-takes. Other scores are combinations of parts that were created more than a year after the first game's release. A single track usually integrates recorded samples from sound libraries, live recorded instrument interpretation samples specially meant for the game (guitar, flute, oriental percussion), and electronic instruments also, making difficult the tracks for later live interpretations.
While the player visits the town, the game recreates the peaceful atmosphere from the first Diablo game, so for that the theme from Act I called "Rogue" comes back with the same chords of the original piece, reproducing only a part of the original Diablo town theme. For Act II Mustafa Waiz, a percussionist, and Scott Petersen, the game's sound designer, worked on the drum samples. Waiz played on the dumbek, djembe, and finger cymbals which gave Matt Uelmen a base upon which to build tracks around.
The town theme from Act II, "Toru", makes strong statement of departure from the world of Act I while also maintaining a thematic connection to what had come before. It is the first time in the series to be used some radically different elements than the guitars and choral sounds that dominate both the original Diablo and the opening quarter of Diablo II. The foundation of the "Toru" piece is found in exciting dynamics of a Chinese wind gong. The instrument radically changes color from a steady mysterious drone to a harsh, fearsome noise, that gives exotic feeling and at the same time the pacing of the second town. In all sequences of Act II with deserts and valleys, Arabic percussion sounds dominate.
The composer was impressed by two of the Spectrasonics music libraries, Symphony of Voices and Heart of Asia. He used samples from Heart of Asia in the Harem piece from Act II. The "Crypt" track uses a sample from Symphony of Voices; the choral phrase Miserere. Voice samples from Heart of Asia, Heart of Africa, and Symphony of Voices by Spectrasonics. The "Harem" track samples from Heart of Asia the Sanskrit Female 1 samples.
|Diablo II track listing|
|5.||"Den of Evil"||3:52|
|13.||"Halls of the Dead"||5:34|
|22.||"City of the Damned"||5:25|
Secret Cow Level 
The "Secret Cow Level" is the result of a running joke from the original Diablo that spawned from an Internet rumor about the cows that appear in the game, seemingly without purpose. Supposedly, if the cow was clicked a certain number of times, a portal to a secret level would open. The rumor turned out to be a hoax, but the legend was born, and player after player asked Blizzard about how to access the level.
In Diablo: Hellfire, an add-on for Diablo created by third-party developer Synergistic Software, it was possible to change a parameter in a specific text file, so that the farmer was dressed in a cow suit, with appropriate new dialogue ("Moo." "I said Moo!"). To stop the rumors, Blizzard included a cheat in StarCraft that read "There is no cow level", adding to the official denial of the cow level.
On April 1, 1999, a Diablo II Screenshot of the Week featured cows fighting. People wondered if the screenshot was an April Fool's joke or if there really was a Secret Cow Level planned for Diablo II, which turned out to be true.
The "Secret Cow Level" is considered one of gaming's top ten Easter eggs according to IGN.
Versions and re-releases 
The game was released in Collector's Edition format, containing bonus collector's material, a copy of the Diablo Dungeons & Dragons pen-and-paper campaign setting, and promotional movies for other Blizzard games. The Diablo II: Exclusive Gift Set (2000) similarly contained exclusive collector's material and promotional videos, as well as a copy of the official strategy guide. The Diablo Gift Pack (2000) contained copies of Diablo and Diablo II, but no expansions. The Diablo: Battle Chest (2001) contained copies of Diablo II, Diablo II: Lord of Destruction, the official strategy guide, and the original Diablo. Recently, however, the Battle Chest edition no longer contains the original Diablo.
Diablo II had a positive reception. The PC versions of the game achieved an overall score of 88 on Metacritic and 88.58% at GameRankings. The Mac version achieved 83.00% on Game Rankings. Gamespy awarded the game an 86 out of 100, IGN awarded the game an 8.3 out of 10, and GameSpot awarded the game an 8.5 out of 10 along with earning the 2000 runner-up Reader's Choice Award for role-playing game of the year. It was awarded a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records 2000 edition for being the fastest selling computer game ever sold, with more than 1 million units sold in the first two weeks of availability. Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade, World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, and World of Warcraft: Cataclysm have since surpassed Diablo II's record to become fastest-selling computer games ever at their times of release, according to Blizzard. As of August 29, 2001, Diablo II has sold 4 million copies worldwide. The game has received the "Computer Game of the Year", "Computer Role Playing Game of the Year", and "Game of the Year" awards from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences at the 2001 Interactive Achievement Awards.
Copies of Diablo: Battle Chest continue to be sold in retail stores, appearing on the NPD Group's top 10 PC games sales list as recently as 2010. Even more remarkably, the Diablo: Battle Chest was the 19th best selling PC game of 2008 – a full seven years after the game's initial release – and 11 million users still play Diablo II and StarCraft over Battle.net.
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