I’ve bought Diablo 2 on the first day June 29, 2000 at Best Buy. I didn’t meet anyone I knew. This was supposed to be $50. I think there is four difficulties: Normal, Nightmare (Medium), Hell (Hard) and Inferno (Hardest). Some monster’s purpose in this world was to be killed again and again in a Promethean cycle of life and death. These were the baddies (called Super Unique Monsters) who you encountered time and again in the randomly generated areas, over the course of multiple alts and difficulty playthroughs – and after a while, they started to grow on us. Slaying the pipsqueak goblin Rakanishu always made us chuckle, beating up the undead Corpsefire was always satisfying, and felling the fallen angel Izual was a must thanks to his epic backstory and primo quest reward (two additional skill points). My first character is going to be a barbarian. Diablo III’s taking a different approach to exploration – as you roam around each level, there’s a chance you’ll stumble onto a completely random event. This is an excellent feature for giving players unique experiences and preventing boredom while leveling alts, but I worry that some monsters will never be killed by the Diablo’s general public. Diablo III once included a similar parallel to Deckard’s magic box, called the Nephalem Cube; instead of combining items, it would salvage them for crafting materials. As if to taunt our cherished Horadric memories, the new cube was removed when the D3 devs decided that return trips to town were necessary breaks for pacing the game’s action I know this boss’s lair like the back of our constantly-clicking hands. When players were first getting acquainted with the concept of farming loot, Mephisto was the go-to target – a boss that’s less challenging to get to than Diablo and Baal, but who still had the chance to drop some choice gear. Plus, I totally destroyed his soulstone every chance I got – that’s what Mephisto gets for looking at us funny. I won’t claim to know what’ll happen in Diablo III’s story, but I’ve yet to see or hear any mention of Diablo’s brothers – most likely because I killed them hundreds of times already. I won’t miss having to traverse through his labyrinthine dungeon, but Diablo without Mephisto runs is like going to Disneyland and not riding Space Mountain. Whether you were new to the game or bored of farming Baal, lowbie duels were an awesome way to blow off some steam and challenge your D2 buddies. Low-level PvP meant joining a game with some like-minded duelists, determining what level bracket your characters would fight at (I preferred level 9, 19, or 30 duels), then throwing down the gauntlet in some sporting, strictly-for-fun combat. Farming the best items no longer meant multiple Hell runs to get the perfect drop – instead, I would hope for awesome blues and greens that would just make the cut for our character’s level. Some of our fondest D2 memories stem from decking out our level 19 throwing-weapon Barbarian, Tomahawk, with some sick-nasty blue weapons and an inventory full of the ideal charms before pitting him against the pet projects of other fun-loving players. Throwing down outside the Rogue Encampment was always a sociable affair, and since the low levels were so easily obtained, you could try a new build or character class every week. LLDs were planted firmly on the “fun” end of the dueling spectrum; Playing on Hardcore mode was enough to separate the men from the mice: with death being permanent, players would clutch onto their characters as tightly as they would to their own real lives. But what really verified that you had cajones of pure steel was if you were willing to put all your invested time and effort on the line in winner-takes-all duels. It’s as close to the Wild West as you can get: prestige should you win, everlasting death should you lose. Having some Hardcore ears in your inventory (grisly trophies that could be picked up after a duel) was a sign that you were not to be trifled with – and probably had a belt full of Rejuvenation potions at all times. I know that D3 will include Hardcore mode, and that multiplayer Arenas are set to be the next evolution of dueling (even if they’re not present at launch) – but could these two intense flavors possibly go together? Blizzard might be wary of raising the stakes so high in this day and age, but it just wouldn’t feel like Diablo if diehard PvPers couldn’t put their life on the line. Diablo II turned us all into hoarders, with the bevy of dropped loot and plunder that each monster dropped – then it forced us to make difficult choices about what I wanted to keep. This was all thanks to the admittedly-clunky inventory system, which forced you to make room for items in your gridded backpack. Though it makes no logical sense to have to allocate equal amounts of space for a buckler and a pair of gloves, it makes it so that every discarded item makes the new piece of swag feel that much more significant. The best part was finally getting everything to fit just right: seeing your tomes, keys, potions, alternate set of gear, and charms all neatly lined up with just as satisfying as getting a four-line Tetris with a straight piece. Diablo III looks to have a similar inventory system – only now, town portals are a part of your UI, and larger items only occupy rectangular spaces. C’mon, Blizzard! Makes us work for those immaculately-organized backpacks! There was a time when gazing at an inventory full of Stone of Jordan rings felt like clutching a stack of hundred-dollar bills: the high life. Though the SoJ (as it’s commonly known) was merely a level-29-and-up ring, it had a fairly low droprate with the alluring bonus of giving +1 to all your skills. When plain old gold was deemed near-worthless for trading, the D2 community devised its own form of currency: exchanging high-level items for SoJs by the bundle. We fondly remember fervently joining “Free SoJ” games where bored pros would litter the ground with SoJs like money raining down on a crowded street. Even though item duping and market flooding made players devalue the SoJ in favor of runes, I still remember it as Diablo’s main currency. Seeing this kind of player ingenuity in Diablo III would warm our hearts, but it looks like the big bad Auction House might put the kibosh on these kinds of fascinating movements in the game’s virtual market. As Avon Barksdale once said on HBO’s The Wire, “you only play at two levels in Diablo II: level 1, and level 99.” …or something like that. Level 99 was the first step to “completing” the game; all that was really left to do was farm up your desired tier of gear, then feel accomplished and proud of yourself. Anything lower than 99, and you were still on your path to greatness, inching closer and closer to a level cap that was tough to hit even if you knew what you were doing. Diablo III’s level 60 cap makes us sad – it screams “Vanilla World of Warcraft,” and it lacks the “this close to triple digits” pizazz of its Diablo II counterpart. Of course, most D2 players were satisfied hitting level 99 on one character, before trying out different builds or classes. But who really wants to experience the same hours of content over and over just to try each role? Rushing was experience gain boiled down to its raw essence; a science of gaining levels at lightspeed that makes the grinds of other games feel like eons. This process of power leveling was relatively simple. First, get a buddy (or hire a player in exchange for some items) to get on their high-level character – Paladin and Sorceress rushing was the most efficient. Next, have them escort you through every major boss so that you can get past the quest-based barriers that prevented you from playing at higher difficulties. Once you’re able to access Nightmare mode (or Hell, if you’re feeling lucky), it was simply a matter of tagging along with high-level groups and watching the carnage flood your experience bar. Sure, it probably wasn’t intended, but rushing made the experience of creating alts painless, and it actually promoted a healthy camaraderie between altruistic D2 vets and inexperienced greenhorns. Chances are slim that Blizzard would allow such story-skipping exploits in Diablo III, so that probably means I won’t get to see the Mecca of our character rushes… While runs through the Bloody Foothills and Travincal were great for farming, nothing approaches the lucrative XP gain of one of gaming’s greatest (and weirdest) Easter eggs. What had been a rumored area in the first Diablo became a reality in the sequel, and if you were planning on leveling quickly, the Cow Level was an all-you-can-gain experience buffet. After transmuting a Tome of Town Portal and the seemingly-useless Wirt’s Leg in the Horadric Cube, a curious red portal would open up; what waited on the other side was a quaint field covered in halberd-wielding bovines standing on their hind legs. Never before had I seen such glorious warrior beef. While I’m almost certain that The Secret Cow Level will get a nod in Diablo III, I’m equally certain that it won’t be as lucrative a grinding area as it once was. Fingers crossed that I’ll fight a ghostly / zombified / demon-spawn version of The Cow King – lord knows I never get tired of killing that lightning-enchanted fool. I know that runes are a returning for Diablo III, with five types that socket into abilities (instead of items) to modify them in varying ways. That’s awesome – but I pine for the days when runes were mundane engraved stone that unlocked tremendous power when combined in the right sequence. For example, on their own, the Ort rune added some lightning damage, and the Sol rune buffed your physical damage – but when placed together into a two-socket helm, they produced the Lore runeword, providing +1 to all skills and some damage resistance. It’s these cool combos that made runewords so appealing. Best of all, later patches added some truly insane runewords that let players try out abilities that weren’t even a part of their class; the Ber-Tir-Um-Mal-Lum “Beast” runeword let Barbarians transform into bears just like Druids, and Assassins went nuts when the Fal-Ohm-Um “Chaos” let them use the Barb’s iconic Whirlwind abilty. From the looks of it, these crazy class-overlaps just won’t be possible with the new rune system. For players who wanted to put their prowess to the test, Diablo II offered seasonal ladders similar to Warcraft or StarCraft – only, instead of tournament placements and special icons, the only thing you got for topping the ladder was pride. With each new season, the ladder was reset, so everyone was on the same playing field; to make things a little more interesting, monsters in ladder games were tougher but had the chance to drop Ladder Only items. Once the season was over, its ladders were set in stone, and a fresh season of competition would begin anew. It had the charming appeal of a Diablo Gold Rush, where everyone was excitedly competing to achieve fame and fortune the quickest. Another side effect of the seasonal ladders were that they threw the in-game economy in flux, where some items would have absurdly-high temporary value before dropping off completely. Because this would likely wreak havoc on Diablo III’s cash-money Auction House, there’s no way ladders will be in the game – a shame, since they let players new and old relive the excitement of a fresh start. Diablo III’s looking mighty fine, striking the right balance between the colorful cartoony look of WoW and the dark, blood-stained atmosphere of the previous games. But there was something that was so right about Diablo II’s janky look – which by today’s standards resembles a cross between claymation and a Full Sail student’s first project – presented in glorious 800×600 resolution. And the monster designs look so unlike anything else in Blizzard’s flagship franchises: could you even imagine fighting the manic Fetish Shaman or the sickening Regurgitator in WoW? For all the goofiness of the character graphics, the items look like actual weapons and armor crafted in a medieval forge, instead of glittering, over-sized action figure accessories. It’s a unique aesthetic that Diablo II perfected, and one that I’ll sadly probably never see again from Blizzard – or any big-name company, for that matter. Those are the features that stick out the most in our memories – but if Imissed something, let us know so I can get all nostalgic about it. Diablo III will no doubt consume our lives just as D2 did, but it’s like they say: you can’t go home again, even if you have a Scroll of Town Portal.