Diablo 2 vs Diablo 3

we compare the old and infamous Diablo 2 game with its more modern sequel, Diablo 3

diablo 2 vs diablo 3
Art by Tobylewin

Diablo version 1 – where it all started

Diablo – the action role-playing hack and slash video game that set the benchmark for many RPG games that followed! It pushed face-paced and real-time action up front. Gamers battle through sixteen dungeon levels to face Diablo, Lord of Terror. Diablo 3 is the latest addition to the franchise.

Diablo 2 – the sequel is born

The dark fantasy mortal realm of Khanduras and town of Tristram re-emerged in 2000 with Diablo 2. The new game’s enhanced functionality brought offerings of more Classes, environments, loot, abilities, and combat.

Diablo 3 – emergence of a new concept

Diablo 3 arrived in 2012, bringing significant functionality and controversial design differences that remain to this day. Blizzard introduced game-changing patches and an expansion pack. This has created a much-improved game.

Story, setting and tone


Story and cinematography

Both versions include a cinematic lead-in before each act. Diablo 2 focused on the actions of the Wanderer, and building anticipation. This enabled the player to own their story through the gameplay more than through the cinematic element. Diablo 3’s cinematography focused on Leah’s tale. Following a good deal of character development, disappointment occurred for some when she emerged as an antagonist in Act 4.


Both games feature solid soundtracks. However, many veteran gamers prefer Matt Uelmen’s haunting and high-verb score of soft choir, low piano key play and guitar riffs for Diablo 1 and 2.


Diablo 2’s tone was dark – a sombre world of innumerable evils and putrid foe, all unified in creating a lingering sense of horror. A game possessing textured and unique atmospherics with a storyline that keeps out of your way. Conversely, Diablo 3’s tone is lighter and more abstract. Graphical cues are similar to the World of Warcraft, with rounder shapes, softer edges and more intense colors. Some argue this has created a less distinctive art style more reminiscent of familiar MMOs.

Scarcity versus streamlining

Loot, algorithm and legendary items

A focal point of the earlier games, loot could be found in chests, be bought at stores of varying kinds, or be collected from a fallen foe. There were thousands of possible combinations of magical effects.

The rarity and power algorithm of Diablo 2 was sufficiently well balanced to make rare and legendary items uncommon enough to enhance value, but not so available as to become dull or lose importance. You could also penny-pinch, sell items at stores and save your gold to buy more desired items at shops or “gamble” on an item of unknown value at specific vendors.

The Auction House and shops

Conversely, Diablo 3 started out loot-starved upon its original release. Hours of play did not organically provide a single legendary item, with purchase in the broken economy of the Auction House the only viable option. Blizzard later ditched the Auction House, making item drops notably more generous. This made it commonplace in later levels to have several legendary items fall from a single slain foe, devaluing them.

Shops became somewhat redundant in Diablo 3. Almost everything sells for a similar low price, with mostly lower-end item availability. This makes crafting your only viable non-combat option for better loot.


Many minor mechanics of Diablo 2 were removed in 3 – like keys to unlock certain chests, and needing lots of town portal and identify scrolls, and of having some kind of risk/reward or trade for identifying items. Diablo 3 did away with all this, making the idea of identifying rather pointless.

Potions, and stamina

Diablo 2 had a plethora of potions, including some for stamina and thawing that were rather useless. Diablo 3 removed potions, save for the cool-down-based potion. It also incentivised passive skill build and item-based restoration and introduced health orbs from slain foe.

The stamina bar

The most puzzling mechanic introduced in Diablo 2 was the stamina bar. It became a limiter to progression. Standing, walking, and drinking stamina potions refilled it but running drained it. Blizzard removed the bar in Diablo 3.

Performance and customization

Every level gained in Diablo 2 provided attribute points to permanently enhance the core statistics of your character. This was also so with the skill tree, where you needed to spend points to gain skills and unlock new ones at specific milestones. Diablo 3 did away with the choice of progression almost entirely and made skills switchable on-the-fly once unlocked by level only. However, this makes every character at each level somewhat identical, save for load-out and equipment.

Skill variants

Diablo 3 introduced a broader selection of skill variants. It also simplified stats into core attributes, while Diablo 2 gets into the nitty-gritty of what each item does.


In Diablo 2, weapons were generally your default attack, and you would use them as expected. Your weapon was your mana-free backup attack for all classes, and a primary need for melee builds. In Diablo 3 you have a growing set of mana-free abilities that convert items into other things. A spear transforms into a lightning strike and a mace into a fireball. This singlehandedly makes your weapon the essential element of your entire character.

Determining actual damage in Diablo 3 is left somewhat to chance. The player is left trusting the game’s “up or down” arrow to know if their character will be improved, rather than examining an item’s particular effects.

Jewels, runes, and charms

Diablo 2’s slotted item fillers such as jewels, as well as runes and other items, were more and varied. These were simplified in Diablo 3 for a five-color gem system. In Diablo 2 you would tailor your equipment load-out around your permanently developed character. In Diablo 3 you tailor your character ability load-out around your all-powerful weaponry and equipment.

Technology and engine

Diablo 3 has benefitted from more advanced design tools, engines, and a wealth of experience and know-how. It has higher frame rates, resolutions and true polygonal graphics. The result is a more visually pleasing and responsive game. Work on the UI and key mapping has allowed for more abilities through a single button press. This compares to the frantic F-key or mouse wheel manipulation found with Diablo 2, which also has low-res 2d sprites and fixed resolutions operating at a choppy 25 frames per second.

Diablo 2 and 3 Summary

Diablo 3’s necessary account setup and shared storage have streamlined the game. It is always online (even when playing solo), admittedly has no mod-ability, but is better at preventing cheating. The UI, click hotspots and hotkeys are improved, and the game is slicker and new-player friendly. It is much more focused on end-game activities. Diablo 2 was more modifiable and tweakable and could be played offline but had an older, open engine that made cheating easier. However, old-school Diablo 2 adepts tend to prefer the game’s more honest and grimmer, authentic past.

Which game do you prefer and why? Let us know in the comments below!

10 ways Diablo 2 is better than Diablo 3

Shinier and newer, Diablo 3 has a multitude of fans who claim that any reason you prefer Diablo 2 over 3 is because you’re living in the past.

They’re wrong.

Other than a little aging, graphically, the gameplay and a few other concepts are better than anything Diablo 3 has to offer. Concepts built on Diablo 1 & 2 are completely left out and somehow Diablo 3 just doesn’t feel like it’s in the same series.

It’s boring after a few hours, while Diablo 2 keeps you up all night.

Below you’ll find some more ammunition for your forum debate next time a Diablo 3 fan boy opens their mouth.

1.PvP and Ganking:

Do you remember PKs (Player Killers)? PKKs (Player Killer Killers)?

If not, they’re the tangible fear of leaving town. They’re other players who aren’t interested in defeating the three prime evils; they just want to kill other players.

A player initiates PvP in Diablo 2 (D2), without the consent of the victim that player has chosen to attack. If you’re simply in town, click the swords by the person’s name, and now the duel won’t stop until both players agree.

Welcome to the Thunderdome, no flag dropping, just ear collecting: Diablo 2 only serves street justice, not any of the ceremony.

Though at times brutally frustrating, it was revolutionary, creating another level of replayability and challenge to D2 that is completely missing from Diablo 3.

Diablo 3’s PvP is watered down: It can only be initiated as duels between party members that mutually agree or via a vendor NPC in town for Arena PvP. Boring.

It seems Blizzard would rather we play a second-rate MOBA, like Heroes of the Storm, than enjoy one of the best aspects of PvP they pioneered in Diablo 1 & 2 than in it’s newest iteration Diablo 3 (D3)

2.Character customization:

The permanence of skill choices upon leveling up in D2 means each skill tree had to be carefully crafted to allow for flexibility later in the game.

Other than permanently leveling up your character’s attributes (Strength/Dexterity/Vitality/Energy), each of the classes’ respective skill trees had to have more than one way to viably beat the game.

This makes every skill have impact and usability in most situations, a trait they’re missing in D3.

D3 is solely based on your character’s level: Every skill and passive the level allows can be switched, as long as you’re out of combat.

This freedom of choice unfortunately allows for lackluster skills and passives that are mostly looked over by the player.

3.Builds variation:

D3 only offers 1 or 2 builds that run at full efficiency during endgame rifts and dungeon grinds. Even then, most classes won’t have the staying power at Torment that a top-tier Barbarian has.

D2 offers a multitude of builds for every class that operate well at higher difficulties and conquer the endgame.

Do you want to summon an army of skeleton soldiers and mages like Evil Ash from Army of Darkness? Summoner Necromancer can make that happen.

Do you want Thor’s blessing and easy gameplay? Hammerdin, the legendary farming build is right up your alley.

D2 late game also allows for further customization of characters and classes in the form of Charms and Runewords.

4.Charms & Runewords:

Left out of D3, Charms and Runewords in D2 further tweak and empower your Nephalim to new heights of power.


Each specific Charm or Runeword is used to be the finishing touches on a build. The Charms confer a multitude of different benefits from standard resistances, damage, to even turning your Ice Sorceress’ damage up to 11.

They also gave the item a cool new nickname, like “Bonesaw” or “Shortchange”, without the need to use a Wu-Tang Clan name generator.

5.Items and Loot:

D3 is a DPS calculator: There is only one set that is truly viable for late game builds and grinding. D2 has a variety of weapons, items, and sets that work well in the late game. They buff skills, empower your summoned minions, and more.

Instead D3 simply makes the best armor have bigger stat numbers, and in the Neo-Blizzard artistic fashion make the shoulder pads ridiculously big.

Like in World of Warcraft. Wow.

At least in D2 there’s variety in which set is most effective, they even created a set that is only dropped in the secret Cow level, allowing for udderly unbelievable item drops.

Milking each dungeon for all the loot until the cows come home.

D3 instead created a multitude of trash sets, probably to fuel the failed real money auction house.

Even the Cow level in D3 wasn’t as much fun.

Also where is Wirt’s Leg?

6.Developer Exodus from Blizzard:

The atmosphere in D3, artistically, suffered due to the toxic atmosphere at Blizzard. Most of the original teams that brought us WarCraft, StarCraft, and Diablo are no longer working at Blizzard.

Long story short, Activision executives fired a few developers and their teams quit in solidarity.

Have you ever wondered why World of Warcraft wasn’t anything like they advertised before it went into Beta?

It’s the same reason every new version of their core games only build on old innovations instead of revolutionizing the genre.

It’s visible in D3: In the direct contrast from D2’s dungeon layout and RNG.

The bright cities and pearly heavenly gates in D3 look like concept art from Torchlight drawn to look a little more realistic and gritty.

The medieval horror ARPG title we had all come to love was suddenly full of Disney-esque forests and waterfalls.

What happened to pigmy blow-dart mobs in a dark foreboding jungle you ask?

Activision turned Diablo, a work of art, into a deposit only ATM that requires Internet connection.


Another simple concept completely left out from D3.

Activision like other big name videogame publishers worries about DRM, and this probably is the reason why this was left out.

This also leaves out the gamers who don’t have steady high-speed Internet connection.

It also disregarded LAN multiplayer games, which weren’t a staple to enjoying D2, but were a welcome feature for the social gamer.

Want to mod the gameplay to D2?

Want to skill train your Necro to the point of lagging out your system with the number of skeleton minions on screen?

Want to enjoy a single player campaign on an airplane or any other instance you’re without Internet?

D2 respected your choice, and allowed you to enjoy the game no matter where you are.


D3 feels like D2 with training wheels until upper level Torment difficulties.

With no PKs running around to ruin your day, the only fear D3 kept from D2 was ridiculously powered rare mobs:

Getting blown up by “Suicide Bomber” rare mobs the second you open a dungeon door. BOOM.

diablo 3 fail

(Image acquired at https://us.diablo3.com/en/blog/16071431/the-waypoint-week-of-september-22-9-26-2014)

Maybe it’s a nod to original Resident Evil, giving us an unhealthy fear of closed doors.

Maybe the game wants to punish players for grinding Torment.

Maybe it’s time to play D2 and enjoy Baal, Pit, Countess, Chaos, or Cow Level Runs.


The economy and trading in D2 blows D3 out of the water.

D2 features trading between players, not in a market place or party like D3.

You can grind the game to find specific loot, or trade for it with a kind friend or stranger.

Or you could pull out your credit card to pay real money for an item that is easily found in game like D3.

You could just farm the gold in D3 to purchase the item as well.

Adventuring in an ARPG shouldn’t feel like an Amazon shopping experience.

A decade and change later D2 still features a strong economy, something D3’s real money market place and economy will never be able to match. Even convincing a stranger to duplicate an item for you in D2 is more rewarding and challenging than spending real money on an item or purchasing it from D3’s marketplace.


Rather than simply just starting to play the game online automatically, like D3, Diablo 2 features rooms.

These rooms are like a Battlefield server list, you know what you can expect from jumping into the game just from the title of the room.

Are you looking for “Endless Baal Runs” or “Hardcore PvP Only”?

No matter what you’re searching for in Diablo 2, you can either browse the rooms, or create one of your own.

D3 completely circumvented this simple aspect by automatically connecting players to their own room or party member’s room.

Here’s this whole article in one neat infographic, for you to share and help prove your point in your endless Diablo vs Diablo 3 debates.

Thanks for reading! Did we miss anything? Disagree or agree with anything? Please comment below and let us know!