Diablo - Retroview
Great Puns, Great Game!
By: Paul Koehler
| Battle System
| Replay Value
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.
|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
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!
|Step forward. I dare
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
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.