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How do you review a veritable classic? There are not many titles that fit this category – Super Mario 3, Pac-Man, Doom, etc are all classics that even non-gamers know about. Diablo is another title that fits that genre rather nicely. I know that term is quite subjective but for a lot of gamers, these games are classics that approach that level of being above reproach. That would make this review rather short if I was to adhere to that point of view, no wouldn’t it?
Stay awhile and listen
The background story for Diablo is full of pain and anguish and people attempting to do good only to fail miserably. The main hub of Blizzard’s dungeon romp is a town known as Tristram, a small town with only a handful of residents left. Near the town is a cathedral that houses access to the catacombs underneath – a dark place full of pain and anguish. Diablo himself is rumored to reside in those catacombs after being banished to the mortal realm. To say the devil is slightly upset is probably an understatement.
Tristram, at least what is left of it, represents betrayal, loss of generations, and corruption that ate away till what was left is what you see. The town is small and there is not a lot going on, townsfolk stay in their areas near their homes or businesses and don’t wander around. This helps in your quest quite a bit actually. I know, the characters in most towns don’t wander around except for that one you need to find and talk to. Considering Tristram is the only town you are going to encounter in Diablo your frustration in this regard is obviously reduced. Just remember, there is more to Tristram than just the area you frequent.
There is more to the story than words
First a little history about Diablo. It is not the first 3/4 overhead dungeon crawler with randomized levels. There were many titles that used this point of view for portraying the action over the years. Those randomized dungeon levels are a thing because Diablo is based on a previous title, Moria, which itself was based on a previous title. Rogue.
Rogue was a game released during a time when literally only using keyboard characters for graphics was acceptable. I mean things like “@” and “&” representing characters, enemies, items, or something else. Then couple that with the color changing the attributes as well. Yeah, we have come a long way as far as this goes. Rogue was known for its random levels as well – no two games were going to feature exact levels between them. This added infinite replay value and kept the game interesting as long as possible. Rogue set the world of gaming on a new path as game developers liberally borrowed the parts they liked over the years. Diablo being one of the more popular titles to do so.
Some things that Diablo pulled from Rogue and Moria was the random dungeon levels, real time battles, and tons of enemies coming at you out of nowhere. Blizzard also borrowed the idea of “fog of war”, a popular gaming trope that keeps you from seeing the whole level until you actually traverse it. Once you have been all over the level your map will be complete with various annotations such as stairs up and down. Vital things like that.
Like rolling the dice
As mentioned already, the dungeons in Diablo are random. I remember seeing the ads, or was it on the back of the box, where it was touted that Blizzard’s title featured over 4 billion levels. I may have been dreaming that, or confusing it with another title. Until I am proven wrong, I will stand by that statement. Considering every time you play those levels are going to be random and there are so many pieces to randomize, that number may actually be a low ballpark figure.
The controls are familiar while unique
The gameplay in Diablo takes a cue from another real time game genre that was popular at the time – strategy games. Rather than collecting resources and setting new buildings to be constructed, you are collecting potions, armor, weapons, etc and destroying enemies that get in your path. Diablo is played almost exclusively via the mouse, at least once you put in your name that is. This control scheme is simple and works quite well. The only time you really need to use the keyboard during gameplay is completely up to you. That is to make use of the hot keys that you can set potions or scrolls to for quick use during battle.
Ease of access maximizes the fun
This is another area that Blizzard did their homework and quite justly lowered the barrier of entry. The inventory system is simple and very visual. Your character is not a two legged hiking store so you are not going to be able to carry everything you find in your adventures. Every item has mass in your inventory and you only have so many slots available to carry items. Smaller items, potions and scrolls, can be put in your quick launch/hot key section adding another 8 slots your inventory. Forget putting books or weapons there though as they exceed the area that you might fit them on your belt for easy access.
Reading is knowledge
Books take up four squares while potions and scrolls take up one square. The thing with books that is cool is, if you upgrade your magic skills then you can read and make use of better quality books. Books, and scrolls, represent spells you can cast in battle or to help you in your quest (such as a quick trip portal back to town versus walking up and down several dungeon levels). Once a book is read it disappears from your inventory and the content of the book is added to your collected spell book.
Casting spells requires mana (the blue bowl on the screen). As spells are cast your mana will deplete – much like health (the red bowl) your mana will increase as you put skill points into magic when leveling up.
What about the person inside the armor
Leveling up your character is simple, each time you gain enough experience points you are given five points to divvy up between various skills. Maybe magic is something you could not care less about so you wouldn’t bother with it and might focus on health and dexterity. The choice is yours as to how your character develops when playing Diablo.
All about the control
Using the mouse to move around the game world is pretty interesting as your character will attempt to find his way around obstacles to reach where you click. Clicking enemies initiates attacks while clicking objects such as doors or coffins will make your character interact with them. Sometimes the game will get confused and you will have to click a few times to get your character to move where you intended. This is usually only a problem in an area where there are a few small areas clustered together – something that does not happen all that often.
It is dark, don’t enter without turning up the brightness
Yep. The world of Diablo is dark. That means you have a few choices on your hands. One is to just deal with it as it seems Blizzard realized this too. Items you can interact with will produce a colored outline around them when you place the mouse cursor on them. This helps when trying to find that elusive little enemy or that small chest you thought you saw earlier in the heat of battle.
Another option is to turn the brightness up on your monitor.
The game engine makes walls slightly translucent when you are standing behind them. This helps keep confusing down a bit when hunting enemies or treasure.
What are the differences
Honestly, I don’t see anything here that is hugely different than the original. I found a comparison video, embedded above, and even then I am still hard pressed to find differences between the GoG.com release and the original. The big thing here is you are getting a copy of Diablo that will run on Windows 10 and Battle.net so no need to keep a retro computer around to enjoy it. That is worth $10 for me as I am a die hard Diablo fan.
A classic, but not above reproach
Yes, Diablo is a classic, but it is not above reproach. The graphics are not as impressive today as they once were (to be expected and not really fair to level against it). The GoG.com version has the option to up the graphics resolution a bit and to play with other settings to give players the best possible picture. Control is not as crisp as it seemed back in the day, or it just appeared better as there was very little competition. Then again, that could be rose colored glasses memories that are not accurate. Either way, Diablo is a little bit of a shock to get used to.
Much like back in the day, for different reasons, once you get over the hump with dialing in the control scheme, adjust for the combat, and other small problems you will find yourself staying up well into the wee hours of the night thinking – just one more dungeon level.
At the end of the day, that is what Diablo represents and it is alive and well here. The addictive nature of this RPG classic is still there though younger gamers that didn’t grow up with it may find it harder to find that enjoyment. For everyone else, this is probably the best $10 you are going to spend for a long while.
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