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Diablo - Retroview

The Original Point and Click-Click-Click-Click Adventure

By: Red Raven


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 2
   Interface 4
   Music/Sound 5
   Originality 8
   Plot 2
   Localization NA
   Replay Value 1
   Visuals 3
   Difficulty Insane
   Time to Complete

10-40 Hours

 
Overall
3
Criteria

Diablo
 

   Diablo. Released by everyone's favorite snow company, Diablo is one of those games that you either love or that you hate; there is no middle ground concerning this game. You either love its deep backstory and legendary multiplayer exploits or you hate the tedious, carpel-tunnel-inducing battle system, lack of a coherent plot, predictable enemies, artificial difficulty, and dull graphics. A quick glance at the scores and the general tone of this review thus far should alert you to where I stand on this issue.

   This game probably looked good in its time; Diablo, however, has not aged gracefully at all. Perhaps it is a little unfair of me to compare the latest of the industry's PC RPGs to Diablo when I do not do likewise for other console RPGs. But on the other hand, I haven't played a single console RPG that featured a playable warrior sporting a mullet. Or a playable wizard dressed in pink robes. What decade was this game released? The 1980's? Fashion statements aside, the rest of the game looks extremely drab: environment textures were uninspired, flat, and devoid of life. The various demonic creatures you faced were pretty varied up to a point, at which they simply changed hues to reflect their enhanced power. The character models themselves could have used about ten or so more animations to make them appear to walk in a believable manner; actually having characters with faces probably would have helped as well. Again, perhaps I'm being too harsh, as this game was released in 1997. I was playing Doom 2 on a 133 MHz computer back in 1997. On the other hand, I was also playing FF7 back in 1997. I'm sure you can see where this line of thought is going.

   I really must commend the game designers of Blizzard though, for coming up with such an efficient battle system, one which can be played pretty much exclusively with only one hand and the mouse. However, the way they handled attacking was ridiculous. Just left-click to attack. Simple enough. Now click four to ten times per enemy, with there being several hundred enemies present for each of the sixteen levels of the labyrinth. Now factor in all the clicking needed to simply move your character around the map and to navigate the various menus. A rough calculation concludes that I clicked the mouse somewhere near 6.4 million times while playing through Diablo once. 6.4 million times! The clicking might not have been quite so annoying had there been actual strategy involved in attacking. Despite having three relatively unique character classes--the Warrior, the Amazon, and the Sorcerer, representing close, mid, and long-range combat respectively--clearing out each level of demons remained more or less the same: enter a room, left or right-click about twenty times, leave, heal, and then repeat.


If you're already calling your game Diablo, you might as well have crucifixions too.
If you're already calling your game Diablo, you might as well have crucifixions too.  

   What further compounds the battle system problem is that the above-described hit-and-run tactics progressively becomes the only possible way to beat the game. Starting just a little before the halfway point, you quickly realize two important things: monsters do not ever respawn, and the designer's idea of challenge is simply pitting your character against one hundred minions with projectile attacks in a completely open area devoid of any cover whatsoever. While you might be glad initially that you don't have to worry about returning enemies as you enter and exit the Labyrinth repeatedly on Health Potion runs, you'll eventually discover that basically this means that the amount of gold you can accumulate and experience you can gain is finite. Spend 30,000 gold on excellent chain mail but find something better during your journey? You've just lost at least 15,000 gold...permanently. While the abundance of magically enhanced loot makes the loss somewhat easier to bear--due to their high resell value--if you're like me, I didn't bother carting everything back to town until I started to find it difficult to restock on Health Potions. By the time you get to that point, the game quickly loses all appeal. Right around this same time, you get hit by the other surprise with huge rooms full of demon mages who literally fill the screen with magical spheres of death. All the way to this point the hack-and-slash gameplay was bearable and maybe--dare I say it?--even a little fun. That quickly ends as hack-and-slash becomes run-and-hide, peek-and-fire, die-and-reload.

   When talking about Diablo's plot, it's necessary to make one important distinction: I consider backstory and plot as two completely different things. The backstory to Diablo is fantastic; the instruction booklet is a mini-novel in of itself, and the creature descriptions and various books found while exploring in the game really help to bring the game world alive. The plot however--what actually takes place while you play--is very bad. Nothing happens. Diablo fleshes out this brilliant world, fills it with indescribable horrors, epic battles, and legendary heroes only to nonchalantly hand control over to the player. The various "quests" you receive are randomly determined and thus do not contribute much to the continuity of the game with the greater story taking place. "Oh, kill this demon? Save this kid? Bring back this treasure?" Each visit to town to restock potions and the like brings false hope of a greater, or even lesser, story going on. Talking to all of the seven townsfolk only rewards you with excellent voice acting and quite possibly the best town music ever made in a videogame. I'm one who prefers a real plot over the "make your own adventure" archetype which this game decidedly employs and thus the very low Plot score; your mileage may vary depending on if you like this "non-linear" kind of plot.


Can't get any more basic than this.
Can't get any more basic than this.  

   As a sort of consequence of both the battle system and plot being so bad, replay value is a pretty easy score to calculate: zero. I actually made several attempts to restart the game and choose a different class for a hopefully different experience. I made it about four levels down and then realized it was a waste of time. The dungeons might be randomly determined, but that ads zero appeal to another play-through. Randomly generated dungeons just mean you can get the surprise of exploring for an hour or so looking for treasure and end up at a dead end that had no purpose whatsoever. I also gave up on the various attempts because I realized that I'd have to face the inevitable insane battles towards the end, and the fact that I'd get the same bizarre, and anti-climatic ending as before.

In retrospect, I'm very happy that I bought the Diablo Boxed Set instead of actually shelling out the $60 for just Diablo itself back in the day. If you did end up buying Diablo at the full price...I'm sorry that I was unable to write this review in time; I will try harder to screen these kinds of games out sooner. For those of you that have not yet experienced Diablo though, I will offer this one last piece of good advice: you don't have to play the first Diablo to enjoy its much better sequel.




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