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Go to Hell...And Back!
By: Stewart Bishop
To say that humans are easily amused is a severe understatement. Diablo is the embodiment of such an idea; it combined the simple concept of killing a tremendously large horde of demonic creatures with a similarly simple point and click interface. With the (at the time) new battle.net service going up, players also had the opportunity to communicate and journey with other people to destroy Mr. Satan himself. All this without ever leaving the comfort of your own home.
One of Diablo's best qualities is that it is very simple and thus, very easy to learn. In a nutshell, players are given three choices for classes, a Warrior, a Rogue or a Sorcerer. After this vital selection, players make their way into the labyrinth and kill creatures, find treasures, get stronger and eventually put the Lord of Terror out of commission. Players click to move, click to kill, click to pick things up, click to examine and click to cast spells. Killing monsters yields experience, gold and items to use in your quest against El Diablo. Higher levels not only make you stronger, but grant you access to different areas of the game, as well as the varying difficulties. Diablo can easily be played with one hand alone, but hotkeys make switching spells and skills a whole lot quicker and easier.
You traverse through the labyrinth via 3/4 overhead views. This is a visually pleasing perspective, but it is not without flaws. A 3/4 overhead makes walking next to walls somewhat problematic, since the wall will overlap the character, making it invisible. This is where transparency kicks in; the walls turn partially transparent, and a blurred character can be seen. Of course, many players play with the map, which is slapped into the middle of the screen and makes it very difficult to see at times, especially when hunting for items on the ground, or even worse, hunting for items on the ground next to a wall. Other than this, the graphics are great. The dark colors and dreary environment combine wonderfully with the theme of the game.
The sound does not comply as well as the visuals do, but the effort is admirable. Most of the music is simply ambient noise in an attempt to maintain the eerie feel to the game. A reasonable idea, but I would much rather be slaying undead creatures and demons to hardcore tunes a la Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The sound really shines with its voice acting. It is true that several voices are annoying, but the acting itself is very good, all things considered. NPCs show emotion as you speak to them, and each have their own distinct accents.
An interesting thing to note is that while Diablo's plot can easily be summarized as "Diablo is free. Kill Diablo," it has an intriguing history to be found in the instruction manual. It is somewhat of a bonus, since Diablo would have been just as successful without the storyline, but it is good to know that Blizzard puts a fair amount of time into its designs. Though it is worthy effort in and of itself, however, the development of this promising plot is nowhere to be found in the actual game.
With randomly generated maps, three different classes, an original and simple format, and an inconceivable amount of unique items, many hours of players' lives have been drained by this addictive experience. Add this to online Diablo play, and there are hundreds of potential hours of replay value.
It's surprising how easily we people are amused. If Pokémon is not enough to prove this point, Diablo further illustrates that a simple idea can flourish in correct conditions.
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