I can certainty say that in the early 1990’s the RPG genre was the most popular when it comes to the preferences in the gaming community, be it in form of board games or actual video games. A lot of video game developers were at the time intrigued by the world of Dungeons & Dragons and tried to create their own worlds similar to that of the tabletop game. In 1994 Blizzard released there most popular franchise title Warcraft: Orcs and Humans, a fantasy strategy game. However the development team decided to expand and create another universe inspired by their previous game. When we talk about Blizzard accomplishments we most defiantly must mention there first RPG hack ‘n’ slash that got players introduced to hell and all of its monstrosities. So today we’ll look back at there 1996 release Diablo.
Set in the dystopian Lingdom of Khanduras the story starts after a hundred year war against Heaven and Hell. After both sides suffered tremendous losses they decided to create a new world in which both man and demons would live and settle the dispute among them selves, thus the world of Sanctuary was created. While most of the demons went into hiding, the human race quickly evolved building castles, establishing a kingdom and a king. However not all humans believed in good and the once proud race began to corrupt itself from the inside. The king soon became mad, killing his wife, while the archbishop kidnapped the prince in order to commit a secret ritual. It is then that the wandered steps in, going after the prince in order to save the land of Sanctuary before it was too late.
Considered to be a great warrior we soon find out that this wanderer is the eldest son of the king and that the prince is his younger brother, whilst also being introduced to his other party members, a powerful sorcerer and a female rogue, as they all come across a small town named Tritram. The three descend into the town’s cathedral fighting their way to the archbishop while also discovering a plot to resurrect and bring forth a great demon known as Diablo. Aided by a mysterious old man by the name of Deckard Cain the party ventures to kill this demonic beast and save the town of Tristram from this grim future.
While inspecting the town of Tristram we can see that it’s a small place with most of their inhabitants either dead or long-gone. It’s most interesting folks are Griswold the local blacksmith, Ogden the tavern owner, Adria the witch and of course Deckard Cain. Cain is a part of a secret order known as the Horadrim and is the key source of information in the game, be it for the lore or the current quest. Every character in the town has his own story and his own personal quest, as well as provide the player with multiple items. The dialogue of the characters change frequently and this made the atmosphere all the more real. The towns folk didn’t just communicate with the heroes, but also among them selves, gossiping and even mocking one another. One of the most interesting key elements it that while speaking to one of the characters before the quest, the quest itself will change, creating an alternative path. This is superb in terms of replayability as the players are given the option to explore more.
When it comes to the design, Diablo was a huge step in gaming, blending both RPG elements with hack ‘n’ slash styled gameplay. The players are given a top-down view of their character while basic commands are controlled via mouse. At the beginning the players can choose between three different classes; the sorcerer, rogue and warrior. The warrior is great when it comes to hand to hand combat and is well-versed in multiple melee weapons, while the rogue is similar to that of the warrior with the exception that she is more faster and is more experienced with ranged weapons. The sorcerer is on the other hand a master of the arcane arts and heavily relies on magic. Besides the regular armours and weapons there are also potions for mana and health. The player must think ahead what about his priorities when it comes to buying items, for instance if he play’s the sorcerer he will need more mana potions since he uses magic rather the melee weapons. This is also a key element since it allows multiple customisation options.
As for the map of the game, it is randomly generated making sure that with every new play through, the dungeons will have a different layout. Items will also be placed on different locations and so will the enemies. Diablo consists of a different verity of monsters, demons and even the undead, all randomly generated depending on the level and they become more stronger as the player progresses. Meaning for all of those brave knights who want to descend in the lower levels of Tristram inexperienced you can kiss your ass goodbye as the game will not forgive you and let you go unpunished.
When it comes to the bosses though, you best be prepared since they will provide literally hell for you. The player must not only face the boss, who has an unfair advantage, but also his minions who will not give you a moment of rest. Of course the final confrontation with the demon Diablo is epic, but also the most frustrating battle in the entire game since he can make mince meat out of the character in a few hits. It’s always a good thing to have a helping hand in defeating these bosses and the game provides just that thanks to the local multiplayer. Players would be able to connect together thanks to Battle.net which is today necessary for any online Blizzard game.
At release Diablo was praised for being the best RPG at the time and picked up a number of Game of the Year awards in 1996. The story was then afterwards expanded through countless books and the game got an expansion in the following year titled Diablo: Helfire. The game added a new quest line new dungeons and a new final boss in the form of Na-Krul who was a servant of hell. Na-Krul was just as challenging as Diablo and players really needed to rethink their strategies when facing him on a higher difficulty.
That said the difficulty of the game is something that made me cringe in frustration. On my first playthrough as a kid I remember playing on normal mode, while I recently picked up the game again and tried the hardest difficulty “Hell“. The game is ten times harder and gave an actual experience of dread, rage and an all out hellish experience. Though this might be a good challenge for some, for me it was mostly a rage-inducing adventure that I’m glad I finished.
Finally we come to the visual style of the game and from the start I can say without a doubt that the scenery is fantastic. The game really depicts the struggle this fantasy medieval world has gone through before the war and after it. Ravaged by monsters and demons the atmosphere gives the player an uneasy feeling, while he traverses through the dark corridors of the lower levels of the city. Diablo is consisted of 16 levels, plus 8 with the expansion, all divided in six groups. The groups include the Dungeon, the Catacombs, the Caves and Hell, with the add-on including the Hive and the Crypt, all with their own unique style. The levels are followed by a griping soundtrack provided by Matt Uelmen, who also composed for other Blizzard titles. The game soon after its release got a port on the PlayStation 1 though gamers mostly went with the PC version as the definitive one. Gaining tons of praise, Diablo is easily recognisable in the gaming community and holds up even today as one of the best RPG games off all time.
Overview: Diablo and it’s expansion are truly remarkable games and the terror that it provides stood the test of time, welcoming newcomers on a daily basis. The sheer verity of how the game play’s out allows for multiple replay’s making sure that the next time won’t be the same. Multiple item, bosses, and even secrets insured that fans of this popular genre sank countless hours, only so they could unlock more stronger weapons and fight more powerful demons. The game also got a sequel in upcoming years, but before we revisit it, we dare players to give this delightful nightmare a go.