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Tristram has seen better days...
By: Aaron Larson, "ZeroNumber"
Ah, Diablo. A gem among giants and a huge step forward in computer role-playing games. This Blizzard blockbuster, released in late November 1996, cast you in the role of a single adventurer against the hordes of hell. Unfortunately, its prime has come and gone.
The concept of the game simple and genius, letting you pick from one of three very different characters (Warrior, Rouge, or Mage) and setting you lose to fight for good. Combat and leveling take place in one 16 floors to hell, each one a randomly generated ĺ isometric. Combat, looting, moving, and item management is as simple as point and click, which makes leveling through the tedious dungeons much more enjoyable. Skills exist only in the minutest forms, such as repairing damaged weapons, recharging staves, or disarming trapped chests. Spells can be learned by anyone with a high enough Magic stat and spells can be learned several times to increase their effectiveness. This is where the real class distinctions come in. Warriors get a pitiful maximum of 70 to magic, and have a whopping max of 250 in strength. Mages get 45 in strength, but again the total max of 250 in magic. There are only 3 characters, so you can easily play a bit with everyone. Every level you gain 5 points to spend in stats, and the max level is 50. Thatís 245 stat points in the end, so you have a bit of character customization.
The characters come with very limited appearance changes though, each sporting a new sprite for 3 levels of armor, and holding a lose representation of their weapon. This doesnít matter much in single-player, but Iíll touch back in with it when I get to multi-player. The enemy sprites are fairly varied, with some pallet swapping with some classes, like fighting both white and red skeletons on the first few floors, but you arenít forced to fight various colored skeletons throughout the whole game. The architecture of the levels is very repetitive, with the same walls, accents like cracks or bricks, grates, bloodstains, and barrels plague four levels at a time, and then change for another four floors. Of course, so areas stick out in your mind like a rotting corpse, such as the butcherís little den, but these are far and few between.
This game sports some pretty average music, and thatís being lenient. I think the game has around 5 songs, which are played ad nausea throughout the game. The town theme is by far the best, and thatís only because it fits so well to the down-trodden and haunted town. Sound effects are even worse, recycled time and again, and when you hear the same sword-hitting-flesh sound as you reach level 40, something snaps within. There are some bits of saving grace here, with fairly decent voice acting and accents youíve got to love. But overall, the sound of hell is indeed a bad thing.
A quick word on this gameís difficulty level: Itís really easy until you get to Hell, which is where the enemies get extremely cheap, faster, more powerful, and in larger groups. I guess that all falls under cheap, but it should be noted. Replay is decent enough. All characters can hit their max stats with the aid of elixirs later in the game, but you can try new challenges and the different characters. Replay takes a serious blow when you factor in multiplayer, but Iím getting there.
One thing this game does right in my opinion is having a decent story line. The game may be hack and slash, but at least it has some semblance of a story. Nothing Final Fantasy Tactics or Persona deep, but good enough to explain whatís going on and match the quests to the rest of the game.
Unfortunately, the entire game is ruined by the online play. This seems rough, but this game was not made for single-player only. Repetitiveness can only take you through some many levels and item up grades before you want to take it online. In the beginning, this was fan-freakiní-tastic, but this is a retroview, and Iím forced to say that the multi-player communities for most of Blizzardís games have gone to hell. That was a pun. Anyway, Battle.net is plagued with hackers, trainers, item dupes, over-powered money zealots. And thatís if you find a part for this out dated game. As a minor bother, because everyone is a cheat/high level player, everyone looks pretty much the same, with heavy plate mail and weapons that shouldnít exist.
In closing, this game rocked at one time. Much to my chagrin, that time has come and gone, leaving thousands of new generation gamers out of this fantastic experience. The game has itís ups and downs, but this one should be left to fond memories and nostalgia.
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