I’ve been playing a lot of Diablo lately. This game holds a special place in my heart for being the very first mature-rated game I’ve ever played in my life, and to this day, it still provides a lot of fun.
Before the days of Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, a lot of mature-rated games were found on the PC. Most kids at the time were too involved with Mario and Pokémon to be bothered playing on a big old computer tower!
PC was the king of mature games. Doom, Wolfenstein, and Duke Nukem were all games that had their beginnings on PC. Coincidentally, those games I mentioned were all shooters! But not all of them, though. Which brings me back to this one.
I first started playing Diablo on my aunt and uncle’s computer. I was seven years old at the time. As much as I have preached in previous posts, I’ve always felt weird about kids playing mature rated games. My playing Diablo makes me feel like a hypocrite, but in my defense, the level of violence found in this game pales in comparison to what we have today.
When the ESRB was first created, a lot of the games had pretty reasonable ratings. Nowadays, it seems that every other mature rated game out there has the intense violence flag slapped onto it. Even though I enjoy some of these games, it still seems weird that nearly every single game has this label.
Diablo had you chopping the heads off pixelated demons, yet I recall it having “Animated violence” on the side of the box.
It’s funny how far we’ve come. But that’s enough ranting, onwards to my review!
The premise: Kill demons and earn loot!
At its very core, Diablo is a 2D Action-RPG, made by Blizzard Entertainment. You venture into a cursed cathedral, killing creatures such as beasts, undead, and demons, gradually descending to the very depths of Hell itself, where you must battle Diablo, the Lord of Terror.
You begin by creating a character. You have the Warrior, a melee combat expert who can dish out just as much damage as he can take. The Rogue specializes in fighting foes from afar with a bow. The Sorcerer is your classic spellcaster who uses a number of powerful spells to keep their fragile bodies from harm’s way.
Each character is suited for (guess what?) 3 different ways to play the game. Regardless of who you play, each are masters at what they do, and there’s always something for everyone.
To set you apart from the many other players is a vast assortment of weapons, armor, spells, and other treasures. From swords to sorcery, every item you find has been randomly generated into the game, meaning that you always have a chance to find a really powerful weapon.
The Story: Stay awhile and listen…
Despite the game’s clear goal of fighting monsters and obtaining treasure, Diablo has a very elaborate backstory behind the cathedral, and the people you meet. Sadly, not many players have likely delved into the rich lore.
Anyone who has played Diablo III will get to experience a slight retelling of the backstory, but even them, some things were retconned.
The Diablo I story was found in the old manual that shipped with the old game box. (The old school PC game boxes that gamers use to have before DVD cases were a thing). Further bits of lore can be found in tomes found in the dungeon. These old books tell the story of an ongoing war between angels and demons, with humanity sitting right in the middle of it.
I found the story to be a great one for the game, but also a dark and depressing one too.
As for the setting, the game takes place in a bleak, dark-fantasy filled world where people are just trying to survive. The people who live in Tristram all have a lot of things to say, if you have the time to stay awhile…
Farnham is an example of a character who very quickly changed my outlook on the game. When I first started playing (remember, this is from the mind of a boy at the time), I found Farnham to be a funny man who “spoke silly stuff”. I’d always go to hear him talk about things, until slowly I started to learn his story … and it is tragic.
It was moments like that where I wish I could have experienced the game a few years later, and not as a young boy. As an adult, and with friends and loved ones in the military, it is a very real thing to see a person come back warped and traumatized to the point of falling to drink. Farnham escaped the dungeon with his life, and became a drunk while trying to escape the guilt of losing his friends.
The Setting: Dark and Scary
The big thing that sets the original Diablo apart from its successors has been the atmosphere. This game makes your skin crawl in a weird way, from the music to the dark corridors you slowly walk through… This game reminds me alot of what set Dead Space 1 from its successor. It feels claustrophobic.
The Butcher is perhaps one of the scariest bosses you’ll ever come across, and this includes the one from Diablo III. From before you even set foot into the church, the buildup to this boss starts. You find a dying man right at the entrance. You start asking around about who this demon is, and later, when you come across a door that leads into a room filled with corpses everywhere…. “Ahhh, Fresh meat!”
Diablo is like a snowflake
… and no, not in the “offended safe space” kind of way that the term is usually used. What I’m talking about is that Diablo is a unique game for everyone.
Each time you start up a new game, Diablo randomly generates a new dungeon every single time. Filled to the brim with monsters and loot, every time you start a new game, it’s always a breath of fresh air. The only time you’ll ever see any similarity is with the game’s central town hub, known as Tristram.
While Diablo II and III both greatly expanded on the item generation system, the dungeon layout is what makes Diablo 1 shine greatly above its successors. Every level of the dungeon is completely random. That chest on the floor was not hand-placed there on purpose, and the same can be said for the (possible) item inside. Some chests are completely empty.
There are some set-piece dungeons which do have the same layout, but still are generated with various monsters and treasure.
All in all, this random aspect of the game makes things a lot more unpredictable. There have been levels were I simply could not proceed until I found a way to slay the powerful monsters off, making use of the dungeon layout itself. And Heaven help you if you got stuck in a dead end!
Diablo is the pioneer of the action RPG genre
Once in a while, there is a game that comes out that changes the way games are made. Diablo is one of those old classic games that does exactly that. Back then, the old-school RPGs that people played were things like Baldur’s Gate and D&D. This is not including the eastern RPGs such as Final Fantasy, which is a different genre altogether.
While the above mentioned games are awesome in their own right, Diablo took the RPG element found in such games, and incorporated it into a hack and slash action game. No longer did we have to wait our turn to attack that zombie; simply click on it to lop its head off!
This kind of gameplay is very simple. While many may not like the simplicity of certain action games, this one just had the right things to spice things up. A lot of the new games involve knowing massive skill trees and builds, but you never had to worry about that playing Diablo.
Battle.net started here
Just when you think you’ve finally had enough of single player, Blizzard knew that players would be wanting more out of the game. How do you get a group of players who love Diablo to play together? It’s called Battle.net!
Back then, all you needed to play was an internet connection and a copy of the game. You didn’t need to have an email account, an authenticator, etc. Things were much simpler back then… it was totally free, too!
Battle.net was the very first online gaming service that was ever shipped with a game.
It was integrated into the game itself, and allowed players to chat with each other, create and join games. The game was hosted by one player, and others could join the game on the fly.
As simple as it was, classic Battle.net was not without its flaws. Since games were hosted on a player’s computer, they could easily modify their game data if they knew how to, and so cheating was a widespread issue. Thankfully, players had the ability to host private games with their friends, so not all was lost.
So to conclude, Diablo is yet another game that is outstanding, only if you are looking at this with a late 90’s mindset. Compared to games of today, it certainly doesn’t compare in terms of graphics and gameplay, but that’s like comparing a blockbuster movie to that of a classic film from the 1940’s; you know it’s an old game, but that doesn’t mean it should lay forgotten.
There are still plenty of people who continue to play this old game. Diablo is a classic which set the standard for many action RPGs to follow, and if you are willing to get used to a few old-school quirks, then this game is worth playing (and replaying again). Where to find this game is another story altogether!