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Diablo - Retroview

Great Puns, Great Game!

By: Paul Koehler


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 6
   Music/Sound 7
   Originality 6
   Plot 8
   Localization NA
   Replay Value 8
   Visuals 9
   Difficulty Moderate
   Time to Complete

Varies

 
Overall
number
Criteria

Title Screen
Satanic? Of Course!

   How does a gaming dynasty begin? It usually begins with a peculiar type of charisma, appealing looks, and a few slick slogans that become so commonplace that after a few years, they become part of the gaming culture as we know it. The Diablo series is more than worthy of this title. Just think of this conversation:

"Hey, go to Hell already!"

"I'm already there, moron! Why are you stuck at level 13? Can't your sorcerer handle the pressure?"

True to Blizzard tradition, Diablo was released in January 1997 as a simple RPG: crawl down a dungeon and kill the devil himself. With amazing graphics for its time, easy, yet addictive game play, and the beginnings of a free multiplayer service called battle.net, Diablo became Blizzard's second dynasty. They have even had the gall to go a U.S. Federal Court to copyright the Spanish word for devil.

How did it get there? For fans of console RPG's, PC titles can be terribly complex. Sure, there is a solid fan base for these titles, but Diablo would have lost its charm if it had followed in that tradition. The battle system is notoriously simple. Left-click on a monster, and the character will attack. Left click on an NPC in town, and the character will talk. Diablo is not the first hack-and-slash RPG by any stretch, but it is one of the more popular ones.

Hotkeys are setup throughout the game to help the player in his journey through Hell, and these shortcuts are useful, especially for Sorcerers, who need to scroll through their spell books and recharge with mana potions.


Silly Little Comment on Screen
Hey, wait for me!  

   It would be a lot easier to run to the Witch to buy those potions, because strolling through this game takes forever. This is Diablo's biggest gaffe. It did develop a unique way to hold items, as the inventory system is a fixed area. Helmets take up four spaces, Giant Swords take up eight, and so on. The limited space forces each character to be selective about their inventory, and accounts for many town portals (an essential in this game). Transactions at shops are a pain, but quick.

However, the chance to hear Griswold, the blacksmith, is priceless. "Hey, what can I do fer ya?" For a PC title, the voice acting is pretty good. So good, that I was disappointed with the overall cast of Diablo II. My first impression of Diablo when it was released in 1997 was awe when I saw the title screen with the flames (and the sound of the flames). Diablo's graphics (and the few mini-FMV's) were elite for their time, surpassed by only a few titles (one of which was FF7). Sure, that's nothing now, but in 1997, this was one of the first games to require a Pentium processor as a bare minimum to run the game. The battle effects (spell casting, the Butcher's axe, etc.) are no slouch, but I am partial to the voice acting.

   Diablo is by no means a unique innovation. It's just an extension of the hack-and-slash RPG with a 16-level dungeon. Even the dungeon map (which can be super-imposed all the time) looks like it was ripped directly from Doom. Diablo's genre didn't need to be re-invented, but it was one of the first that merged the best of both worlds: the PC's superior technology, and the console RPG's tried and true methods. Looking back, it's no surprise the combination worked well.

Consider the mid 1990's as well. This was a time of debate in the gaming industry on "quality games", as games like Dungeons and Dragons, Mortal Kombat, and Magic: The Gathering were deemed "satanic". Diablo cut to the chase: it's Satanic by nature! Despite the dreaded M rating (a big deal after the establishment of the ESRB), Diablo sold well with its simple plot, become a hero by going to hell and killing the devil. Was it a simple idea? Yes, but no one had it tried it yet!


Cutesy or Realistic Name
Step forward. I dare you.  

   Diablo also sparked the growth of battle.net, as characters were able to take Satan in groups online (hence the conversation at the top). Cheaters love to stalk these games, so be wary. With the release of Diablo II, not so many gamers devote time to the original anymore, but there are a few who value the nostalgia of the it (or are sick and tired of hunting for a Rare Gothic Bow).

All PC owners who call themselves an RPG fan should get this title if they don't have it already. Why? Two reasons: it's a classic, and it's cheap.

Although dated in many respects, the Diablo series of games remain the standard for PC hack-and-slash RPG's. And like Dragon Warrior 1, it is a grandfather in many respects: complete with quirky humor, slick propaganda, and memorable quotes. Pay a visit, or go to hell.

 





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