Diablo - Retroview

Way Beyond Firey Pits


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7
   Interface 7
   Music/Sound 7
   Originality 8
   Plot 5
   Localization 7
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 6
   Difficulty Hard
   Time to Complete

5-35 hours


Title Screen

   Not being one to listen to hype, I gently avoided Diablo for a long time. It wasn't until the sequel came out that I thought I'd been had. So, in desperation to play the first one before laying down the big bucks for its' progeny, I hauled myself down to the mall and gave my friendly-game-salesperson a heart attack when I flung myself at the PC games rack for the first time in his memory. Little did I know what I was getting myself into...

   There are two sides to the awesomeness of Diablo's battle system. On the one hand you can just run around indiscriminately killing things with occasional forays to the surface to lighten the load of your pack. On the flipside, you're constantly in a life/death situation since the game is only seen from the battle point of view. You can choose to play as one of three types of characters - the hulking, yet mighty Warrior - the nimble, yet errant Thief/Amazon - the physically weak, yet still powerful Sorcerer.

   Essentially it's like having Secret of Mana's battle system in a multi-layer pseudo-3D maze full of skeletons, bats, spiders, demons, hellspawns, and - of course - Diablo, himself. The key difference is that there is no distinction between 'boss' battling and your regular encounters with enemies. Granted most boss creatures inhabit a specific room that is devoid of other monsters, but the system - and the stakes - are the same no matter what the situation. Having the best available equipment and a high magic resistance can assure you victory better than even the most well-laid-out battle strategy.

This Is... Gettin' Ugly...
This Is... Gettin' Ugly... 

   While it could be argued that the equipment menu and the layout of the sub-screens is overly complex, you have to remember that you're in a semi-realistic environment. You need to pay close attention to every facet of your character, from the equipment they're using, to what they have in their backpack, to how much damage their weapon has sustained, to their affinity to elemental magic, and so on... With as much as you need to keep track of and as great a mess as a high-level character could potentially become, I'd say that they did a nigh-on-to marvelous job designing the system. There are things they could have improved upon but what game is flawless?

   Most of the music in the game is very quiet, ambient, mood-setting stuff that really tends to fall into the background. It's the soundeffects that are really where the hard work of the game went. Being a mass-combat system, of sorts, you get to hear a lot of things at highly random points of battle. From the twang of a dozen bows to the clash of broad-sword against a wooden shield, everything is accounted for... Even down to the creak of the doors as they open in the darkness.

   Skulking around the dreaded underworld of a religious sect gone horribly wrong, you are on a quest to try and explain - and possibly rectify - the sudden plague of evil sweeping outward from an abandoned church in the middle of the Khandaras Kingdom. You carefully return to the almost-ruins of your hometown only to discover that everyone and everything is on the brink of destruction. Obviously this has all been investigated... Alas, all the brave soldiers that went before you have either not returned or gone entirely mad... All that is, save one. And, although a drunk buffoon whose word cannot be trusted, you hear truth in his voice when he recounts his time of terror in the dungeons below the village...

"You Never Said Anything About DAEMONS!"
"You Never Said Anything About DAEMONS!" 

   A lot of the dialogue is voice-acted, which is always a plus. They tend to stick with the same feel of dread throughout the entire game and with the added bonus of the background info at your fingertips, I'd give this one a thumbs-up. As for what they changed upon porting it to the US... You need not worry. There was no port at all; it's a PC game, folks. They're (almost) all made here to begin with  ^_^

   The single reason I can think of to play Diablo more than once is to play it with your friend(s). With the 'Import Character' option on the PSX version of the game and the online powers of the PC version, you can quickly put together a party of previously played characters that will rock Diablo's world (Diablo the demon, not the game in this case...).

   My not being a PC gamer really limits what I can say for or against Diablo in the graphics department. I've played Myst and a few other groundbreaking PC games (Phantasmagoria and its' like...) but there really isn't much of a comparison point for Diablo. Nothing like it really existed before (that I know of) and you certainly can't rate a game by the graphics of its' sequel. All-in-all the graphics were fine except for the somewhat grainy quality of the textures. But when you're dealing with 24bit technology, something is bound to get lost in the translation...

Burn Baby, Burn!
Burn Baby, Burn! 

   Diablo is hard because there are just some 'things' that you can't do when they ask you to. Fighting hand to hand with anything more than a level or two higher than you is the quickest way to commit suicide in the game. And, because virtually every boss is considerably more powerful than you to begin with, your being asked to kill it in close-quarters combat when you have crappy equipment (because the good stuff is too darned expensive), no protection from its' magic (sayoonara!), and a minimum of healing items is the next best thing to saying, "Stand in the lava... It's not that hot!"

   Like Chrono Trigger, the amount of time that it takes to view the end sequence directly relates to how powerful your characters are when they start out. Having the ultimate in legendary equipment and ten spell books of mastered magic will make the game roar by in a flash. But, if you start out in the humble beginnings of a Sorcerer at level one, may the Force be with you on your long and silent journey...

   Other than for the novelty of having played a game where you get to 'kill' the Devil, Diablo isn't all that awesome. It's good enough to be passably entertaining while you're at it but when you constantly die in the same screen twenty times in a row, it can get kinda irksome...

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