Diablo (PS1, PC)

 

 

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Introduction

One of the Demonic Prime-evils, Diablo, has escaped from his prison in the small town of Tristram. With the assistance of the Arch-Bishop, Lazarus, he has driven the King to madness and possessed the King’s son, Albrecht. The player takes the role of a powerful Warrior, a quick Rogue, or a brilliant Sorceror and must fight through a dungeon of Hell-spawned monsters in order to destroy the great Demon.

Disclaimer: My experience with this game is mostly in the PS1 port. I’ll offer points about both versions but most of my experience is still with that port.

Development

Diablo was made by Blizzard Entertainment, it’s difficult to imagine that Diablo was only the 6th game they had made– It’s also surreal to think that they made The Lost Vikings and Blackthorne. They were most well known for making Warcraft at the time, a real time strategy game, so making an adventure game like Diablo was risky.

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This is where it all started kids. This is the beginning of Blizzard.

 

Diablo has multiple versions, it has the PS1 port and an expansion called Hellfire. I played most of my Diablo hours on the PS1 port so I’m going to be talking about it a lot, especially in the Kvetch section. The Hellfire expansion was developed, not by Blizzard, but by Sierra. It adds a new class, the Monk. And includes a strangely large amount of cut content, namely the Bard and the Barbarian. It also adds the NPCs Lester and Celia that interact with a new area in Tristram, The Hive. 

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The Hive also has special interactions with the joke character, The Complete Nut.

 

Apparently there’s a lot of cut dialogue and cut quests that never made it into the game. As it stands the number of quests are quite limited. Most of these quests are only available in single player mode. I think they were cut because Blizzard figured most players would be playing online.

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There’s an entirely cut NPC from the original game, Tremain the Priest. Cain takes his place, more or less.

 

Diablo was released on December 31st, 1996. It released at the same time as Donkey Kong Country 3 (SNES), The Neverhood (PC)

 

Nostalgia

I used to play the demo for this game on my Uncle’s computer and it scared the piss out of me. I’ve mentioned that I was a coward when I was a kid but I couldn’t even bring myself to fight basic enemies I was so scared. I could deal with skeletons and little demons but when I got to fighting the weird bug things on the early floors I would flip out and run. I would think, “If I find those things then I’m just going to have to restart the game until they’re not an enemy there”. I remember the first time I fought the Butcher, I just ran. I opened that door, heard his dialogue, and closed the game as quickly as I could. It’s really interesting not being scared of it anymore. Now I’m more than willing to charge head long into the Skeleton King’s rib cage and smash it to pieces.

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That’s the Butcher on the right there. His chamber is far more frightening than he is.

 

Gameplay

Diablo is a hack and slash dungeon crawl. No matter which class you choose your goal is to venture further into the labyrinth, level up, find better gear, and fight stronger monsters. Unlike Diablo 2, character’s don’t acquire more skills as they level up. Leveling up only increases their attributes. Attribute levels must be at a certain level to wear certain items or use scrolls and spell books. Limited inventory space means choosing which items are the most valuable and bringing them back up to town to sell. Certain NPCs in town will offer single players quests which can net them impressive items that can’t be taken out of single player sessions. 

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The wonderful world of loot. Don’t forget about the mandatory piles of money either.

 

It’s controlled with mouse and keyboard on the PC and the PS1 controller for PS1. Thankfully, the controls are really well mapable on the PS1 controller. They’re not preset very well but the game allows the player to change the controls to suit their needs and style very well. 

The classes are what really make Diablo. Each one plays very differently. The Warrior has high health and strength, making him ideal for soaking up damage and dishing it out with a sword or an axe. It’s important to keep him well equipped though, going into the lower levels of the dungeon with a crappy armor will lead our hero to certain doom. Then there’s the Sorceror, who’s the Warriors polar opposite. If the Sorceror can find good and useful spell books then he can become a nearly indestructible tank that shoots lightning and destroys everything. The Rogue specializes in using the bow and disarming traps. The traps in the labyrinth can be deadly so it’s really useful to have her around. That being said, this game does have friendly fire so it’s very possible to kill your allies. The issue is that bows don’t do a lot of damage, but she can raise her magic stat higher than the Warrior can so casting spells is a viable option. I dunno, I could never figure out how to play her.

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Our three heroes. And the Sorceror blows away all the enemies with a mighty Lightning Nova.

 

The Gush

One word, multiplayer. Playing this game with, or against your friends, is a blast. Backing up your Warrior buddy with a hale of arrows or deadly spells will never stop being fun.

The art style and graphics for the game were wonderful for the time and I still think they hold up now. The different environments all look grim, dark, and foreboding– like a good dungeon should. There are a lot of pallet-swapped enemies with different names but their design is so solid and interesting that I don’t even care.

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You take the gold ogre, I’ll take the blue one. 

I don’t know if the PC port had this but the PS1 version has a whole history of the world available at the main menu. The story of this world was really engrossing to me. I know that Lazarus has left mad journals all around the PC and PS1 versions of the labyrinth but I thought that listening to the history plain was super cool. Sometimes I would just boot up Diablo just to listen to the back story.

The characters in this game are great. I love talking to all of them about whatever they want to talk about. From Farnham’s drunken ramblings with wisdom tucked inside to Cain’s mysterious stories– how does he know so much anyway?– I love hearing all of it. My favorite NPC is definetly Wirt, the Peg Legged Boy. After he got his leg ripped off by angry demons he decided to get back at them by becoming a small entrepreneur, providing you with some of the highest end gear money can buy. Best bit part though must go to the wounded Townsman outside the labyrinth entrance.

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This guy’s speech tells the player everything they need to know about the plot and pumps the player up to kill some demons.

 

I also like demolishing hordes of monsters. The bigger the horde, the better. Don’t care how much loot or experience points they offer, I’m just glad to destroy all the little hell spawned buggers. 

 

The Kvetch

Two words, single player. Playing this game alone is the ultimate sadness. The presence of that other player sharing the adventure is vital to the enjoyment of this game. Maybe it’s just me, but playing this game alone is empty.

The PS1 port. Here’s everything wrong with it. It takes up 12 of 15 memory card blocks, so you can only have 3 characters on the same card. Playing multiplayer slows down each of the character’s movement and makes the characters stick together so coordinating movement can be difficult. The game’s graphics and art had to be compressed to fit on the PS1 so everything just looks uglier overall. Menu surfing can be difficult because of the strange controls. The PS1 has auto-targetting for spells since there’s no cursor to target enemies with. This thing will always point at the most useless target is possibly can making the dear sorceror waste oodles and oodles of mana points blasting at enemies one at a time. The walking speed is also atrociously slow.

Acid beasts. These enemies are un-fun to fight. Any of the ranged attacking enemies are un-fun to fight but these guys are the worst. Enemies that can attack from afar abuse this fact, they’ll run and shoot over their shoulders at you the whole while. But when you kill these guys they leave acid pools that can deal a lot of damage so chasing the rest of the pack is even more difficult.

The best part of this game is the co-op, so the worst part of it is the friendly fire. I’ve accidentally killed my partner too many times. One stray lightning bolt or sword swing can totally demolish someone.

Gold shouldn’t take up inventory space. I know it’s not realistic but it makes gold a burden instead of sweet treasure.

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Those inventory slots get mighty scarce when they’re filled from wall to wall with gold.

The durability system is butts. If your item runs out of durability it disappears from your character and is gone forever. This can be so frustrating when it’s been a long time since you went to town and then poof, there’s goes your sweet sword. Gotta find another one.

 

The Kvush

Town portal is a spell that allows the player to teleport back to town and that’s awesome. What’s more awesome is being able to learn the spell by finding the spell book for it. What’s not awesome is not finding the spell book and having to continue to use scrolls when you’ve got the skill to learn it from a book that you just haven’t been lucky enough to find. Maybe I’m looking a gift horse in the mouth but at early levels 150 gold is a lot to dish out every time I got back to town.

 

The Verdict

This game is still solid but is completely outclassed by it’s sequel. Diablo II is the more rapidly available game and the superior game overall. If you need the trip down memory lane or are interested in the history of the series then Diablo 1 is a good play but I would only recommend it for the hardcore fan.

Next Week: Legend of the Mystical Ninja.

 

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