Played on: PC
Diablo is the classic game that revolutionized the role-playing game genre, although I always have this feeling that “revolutionized” is in this context more aptly meaning “introduced a think-free element to the genre”. There is no puzzle to be solved, no clue to be had, just hours of non-stop hacking and slashing. It has some interesting and, at 1997, revolutionary aspects of the game as well – people can go online and play this game together, with some magic spells such as Resurrection available only in multiplayer mode.
Set in the town of Tristram in a fantasy world, I can choose to play either as a Warrior, a Rogue, or a Sorcerer. The Warrior is, to be expected, the muscle-bound handsome brute whose speciality is using all sorts of swords and clubs to clobber brutes and fiends to death while wearing powerful armor and shields to defend himself from these fiends. The Warrior’s special ability is that he can repair items on his own (other characters will have to turn to a blacksmith to do this). A Rogue is a woman who is agile and is skilled with the bow. A ranged character who can take out enemies before they can even come close to her, the Rogue’s special skill is her ability to disarm traps that may be present on any barrels or chests that can also contain treasures like weapons and potions. The Sorcerer is the magic-user. His weapon is his magic staff and his special ability is to recharge this staff without having to turn to the town sorceress character like other characters have to do.
In Tristram, there are several characters that I can click on to converse with them. There is also a blacksmith to sell and repair weapons and armor (he also buys any loot of the same kind), a sorceress to sell and buy magical books, scrolls, and potions, and a healer to give free healing as well as to sell health potions. From these people, I learn that Tristram is the site of several mysterious and terrifying events – monsters are showing up and the king’s son has been kidnapped, probably held in the lower depths of the church where the demons and monsters are spawning from. Because it makes sense to send one person to clean up the mess as opposed to sending a hundred men to do the job, I’m the sucker who will venture down a total of sixteen levels to find the missing prince and ultimately confront and destroy the demon prince himself, Diablo the Lord of Destruction. You’d think a hellspawn demon prince will have a better name than one best suited for circus sideshows but no.
Playing the Warrior is straightforward – hack, hack, hack. The Warrior has more stamina and endurance than any other class and there are some super armors that only he has enough strength to wear. Needless to say, playing the Warrior can be very dull when the monotony sets in. The Sorcerer has many spells that he can cast with interesting visual effects but he is so frail and so dependent on mana potions that starting out as this character is frustrating. You need money to buy mana potions and you can get money only from looting the monsters you have killed. Since the Sorcerer is the frailest character, he can’t kill monsters without using spells and he can’t use spells if he runs out of mana potion and has no money to buy more. But when he becomes stronger and collects more spells to use, he becomes more interesting to play. The trouble here is that spells are learned from spell books found in the church or from those bought from town. The location and chance of discovery of these books are random. I once had a Sorcerer who managed to finish the game without ever getting a healing spell. The Rogue is like a bridge character between the Warrior and the Sorcerer – her stamina, ability to use magic, and durability are somewhere in-between the other two characters. Her specialty is that her bow allows her to attack from a greater range than the other two characters, and this sometimes allows her to survive great numbers of enemies that the Sorcerer will succumb to and the Warrior can only survive after gulping down pots and pots of life potion.
As the character kills more enemies, he or she gets experience points. After a fixed number of experience points collected, the character can advance a level. What does this mean? Advancing a level gives me five points to distribute among the character’s various stats, which are numerical indication of a character’s traits. For example, if I have more points allocated in Strength, my character is stronger and causes more damage with weapons. The Warrior should have as high strength as possible. High points in Dexterity allow the character to move and attack quickly. The Rogue will want to have a high Dexterity point so that she can shoot arrows at a higher rate and flee swiftly when the mob closes in. The Sorcerer on the other hand invests in Intelligence, which allows him to have higher magic casting rate and mana points and cause greater magical damage on enemies. All three characters will be wise to invest in the four stat, Life, which increases their durability in the game.
Diablo is a game that shows its age these days. At its time, no one probably cares too much that the character moves at a snail-pace across the screen with no run option, the graphics are poor when it comes to resolution, and the town characters talk too much. Gah, anyone else annoyed that these townies have the nerve to charge money for services rendered when I am the one risking my life out there saving their butts? The fun stems from its heavy hack-slash-kill play that is addictive. It’s addictive because I find myself invested in seeing what kind of spells I can collect, what kind of armor I can get my character to wear – in short, I find myself curious to see what will happen when my character becomes more powerful so I can’t stop myself from mercilessly butchering monsters, even when the gameplay becomes very monotonous after a while from the incessant butchery that take place.
However, Diablo himself is a little too easy to kill (my warrior walks up to him and chops him up effortlessly after a two failed attempts) because he has a set pattern of actions that I can easily recognize and get around. The ending is infuriatingly disappointing and depressing after all the hours I invested into saving this useless town of Tristram.
Diablo is an enjoyable game for its time, but it’s now best played for nostalgia. The game has too many antiquated restrictions and graphical inadequacies that makes it comparable to an Atari game when it comes to the sophistication of today’s games, especially when the infinitely superior sequel renders this game irrelevant. Strictly for collectors and curious players of the sequel, this one, because don’t expect too much when it comes to replayability.