For this review, Diablo was played using the DirectDraw Patch to run at higher resolutions.
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When Diablo released back in 1996, I remember everybody was talking about it. At the time I didn’t care much for role-playing games so I had no interest. I tried Diablo II a few times but never got hooked like most people. When Diablo III came out I was there day one to get it and I really couldn’t tell you why. I got the Collector’s Edition and everything. I had a passing interest I guess. It wasn’t until the v2.0.1 patch released, just before Reaper of Souls came out, that I decided to give Diablo III another shot. It was then I got hooked. I beat the game several times and then decided it was time to go back and at least play the first game.
I’ve owned the Diablo Battle Chest for quite some time so I still have the original Diablo and Diablo II’s discs handy if I need them. Sadly, as of this review, Blizzard doesn’t let you register or download a digital copy of the original Diablo. I’ve played Diablo on and off over the past few years mainly because I was always trying to find a way to run it at higher resolutions. It wasn’t until a year or two ago that I discovered the DirectDraw Patch over at StrangeBytes. This patch enables you to play the original Diablo at higher resolutions and it doesn’t alter the gameplay. Yes, I did try the Diablo HD Mod several times, and I love what they’ve done, but as far as I can tell it’s broken. It always crashes when Griswold offers his first quest. I don’t know if I’m the only one but I can’t get passed that bug. But using the DirectDraw Patch still enabled me to play the original game in all it’s glory. I did want to include the Hellfire expansion in this review, however, for some reason it just doesn’t run correctly for me. The characters all move at super speed. I should also mention I have not installed any official patches. I did try installing patch v1.09 but it wouldn’t run. So I played the original Diablo, v1.00. I’m not a multiplayer guy so this review will only cover my experiences with the single player.
Diablo is set in the world of Sanctuary, specifically in the town of Tristram. A small town with few people and a Cathedral that leads all the way down to Hell, where Diablo is. Diablo, himself, is the Lord of Terror, an asshole, commanding demons and terrorizing the town. You choose a character from one of the three classes, the Warrior, Rogue, and Sorcerer. You don’t get to change their gender or appearance, only their name. That kind of sucks but it is what it is. Now this is an RPG and each character starts with different stat points in strength, dexterity, vitality, and magic. Each character also has their own unique skill. The Warrior can repair his own items at the cost of lowering their maximum durability, the Rogue can disarm traps, and the Sorcerer can recharge his own staves at the cost of lowering their maximum charge count. Because there was only three character classes I did play as them all but I didn’t get very far as the Sorcerer. The Hellfire expansion added the Monk character class and if I got Hellfire running properly, I would have given the character a shot.
Diablo is an isometric action RPG and the goal is to work your way down the levels of the Cathedral and defeat Diablo. The town of Tristram is like the hub area. Here you can visit the Townsfolk that will aid you on your quest. For example you buy, sell, and repair weapons and armor at the Blacksmith. Cain, the town elder can identify magical items. Adria the Witch will sell you magical items like scrolls and staves. Pepin the Healer will heal you and sell you healing potions. You can also gossip with the NPCs and they can give you backstory on what’s going on. They will also provide you with side quests which are optional but if completed, you’re usually rewarded with special items. What sucks is there’s no way to know if a character has a quest to offer unless you talk to them. So you have to talk to them all the time if you don’t want to miss out on a quest. I was primarily dealing with the Healer, Town Elder, and Blacksmith and rarely talked to anyone else like the Drunk, Barmaid, or Wirt. Wirt likes to rip you off by asking for fifty gold just to view what he has and it’s not always guaranteed to be something good. Now you’ll be coming back to town frequently and walking through the town can be tedious. Constantly walking back and forth between NPCs gets old very quickly, especially if certain NPCs are out of the way, not in the town center, like Adria.
Talking to the NPCs and reading tomes throughout the dungeons is really how you’ll learn about the story and lore but the voice acting does suck pretty bad. People who have played this game religiously probably know everything there is to know but even you skip all the dialogue you can still enjoy what the game has to offer. That is, if you like to grind. And that’s what the Diablo series is primarily known for. Grinding and looting. You point the mouse and click on things to either kill creatures, pick up shit, or interact with something. With that said the controls are simple. You click the left mouse button to do everything. Including opening up different menus. However, using the keyboard shortcut keys is highly recommended.
Diablo is a dark fantasy game and the one thing I love about it is it’s atmosphere. From the visuals to the lore, it does a great job of immersing you into it’s world. You start out hacking away creatures in the Cathedral eventually making your way down to the Catacombs. After that you navigate through the Caves and into Hell itself. There’s sixteen levels total and every several levels you get a shortcut back to town. Now out of all the items and weapons in this game, the town portal scroll is my favorite fucking item. I don’t care what anyone says. Using it opens up a portal that teleports you back to town and then you can use the portal to teleport back to where you were, making it extremely useful. You can even learn a spell that does the same thing. If I had to traverse up the floors all the time just to get back to town, I would have quit playing very early on. Even walking back up one or two floors can be tedious.
The Diablo series is known for it’s randomly generated elements including the dungeons, loot, and even quests. And this works in its favor, ultimately giving the games infinite replay value. Each time you play the dungeon layouts will be different and the quests alternate so you may not get to play all of side quests on your first playthrough. For example, when playing as the Rogue I had to slay a demon known as The Butcher to avenge a fallen soldier. When playing as The Warrior, that quest wasn’t available but I was able to do the Valor quest which has you locate a special piece of armor. It all works to help the game feel fresh each time you play.
That feeling of progression here is great. You start out with basic weapons and items but as you kill more demons, level up, and work your way further down the levels you obtain better loot. Whether it be from fallen enemies, chests, quests, or simply buying them from the Blacksmith, I was always on the lookout for something better than what I currently had. Each time you level up you’re given five points to distribute among your stats and compared to it’s sequels, the character depth in Diablo is very simple. As a rogue I primarily upgraded Dexterity and I was all set. As a warrior I focused on Strength and for the Sorcerer, it was Magic. The characters can be equipped with different types of armor and weapons and only certain types will effect the character’s physical appearance. The best items have magical properties. When you pick these up you’ll need to identify them first by either using an Identify Scroll or paying one hundred gold to Cain so he can do it. These magical items often have properties that give the item more value and make them more efficient like doing more damage, increasing one of your stats, or even providing you with resistance to fire, lighting, and magic attacks. This is really where the depth comes in. It’s all about leveling up and acquiring the best items to truly make your character a demon-slaying machine.
I really enjoy the bestiary in the Diablo series. There’s a handful of different creatures from the undead to different types of hellish demons. Most creatures come in different variants as well, usually differentiated by color. I enjoy seeing the dead bodies I leave in my wake and even the sounds of demons dying from that final attack. The gameplay really does become addicting. Many times I would say to myself “just one more floor”, then I realized four hours had passed. Yeah, it’s one of those games. As much as I enjoyed the enemies, the end of the game is just annoying. Throughout the entire game you’ll always be outnumbered and most of the time you can manage it. The end feels like the developers just said “fuck it” and decided to throw in so many powerful enemies that you’re swarmed everywhere you go. Now I didn’t spend every waking moment of my childhood playing this game back in its heyday so it’s possible I just suck and should have equipped better shit but when you’re getting swarmed from every direction and every enemy can take away a good chunk of health, what the fuck am I supposed to do? Well I would teleport back to town to buy more healing potions, that’s what. Thankfully, the healer can heal you for free.
I definitely feel that the Rogue is the easiest character to play as. She primarily uses bows making her a ranged character. I found this especially helpful later in the game. As a Warrior I had an extremely difficult time killing many of the later enemies. Now I don’t know this game in and out like many people so maybe I didn’t have enough resistance or equip the right armor but when the enemies can run at the same speed you do and constantly move when you get close all while you’re getting shot at from every direction, how the fuck can I possibly overcome this with a sword and shield? I mean it literally took me almost an hour to complete one level because I had to constantly teleport back to town to buy healing potions. I couldn’t catch up to the the fuckers and I was just getting slaughtered. Not only that, depending on your stats, you’re not always guaranteed a successful strike each time you attack. So I would say the Rogue and maybe even a well developed Sorcerer would have an easier time later in the game. Another problem is you will need to be careful so you don’t fuck yourself. For example, it can be very easy, especially late in the game, to spend all your money on something and then not realize what you’re up against, and have no money left to buy healing items or anything else you may need. That happened to me once when I played this last year so I just gave up. One nice feature is that you can start a new game at any time with your existing character and their equipment so you can always keep replaying until you’ve maxed out your character’s stats. As I said earlier, I didn’t get very far as the Sorcerer. I usually never play as magic characters in these types of games anyway but I would say he’s by far the most unique. Maintaining your mana, mana potions, and stave charges, along with all the other shit, it’s like an entirely different experience from the other two classes. That’s not a bad thing but I’m just terrible with these types of characters.
My biggest issue with Diablo is your character’s offensively small inventory. Maybe it was done for realism or something but at the rate you find items and gold, it felt like I was filling up my inventory every five to ten minutes. I’m the kind of guy that doesn’t leave shit around when I can just sell it for gold, so I had to constantly go back to town to sell shit. I would teleport back to where I was and pick up everything else that was on the ground and then it was back to town again. It really becomes tiresome. And I really want to punch whoever thought it was a good idea to have gold take up an inventory slot. What the fuck? Not only that but one slot can only hold five thousand pieces of gold, then it starts filling up another slot. By the end of the game you can have a shit-ton of money and no inventory space. It’s ridiculous. Some items you acquire you may want to save but you get no personal stash or anything like that so anything I wanted to keep I would just leave on the ground in town and thankfully they never disappear. Another thing I don’t like is the game doesn’t pause when you’re in the character menu or even when you’re in your inventory. I think this is a deliberate mechanic to make the game feel tense but I just don’t like it. Considering the amount of time I spent organizing my inventory to squeeze as much shit in there as I could, it would be nice to have the game pause while I’m doing this. In addition to that, sometimes I need to think when swapping and equipping shit so I can use my character efficiently.
Diablo is dated. I get that. And maybe that’s the reason for many of its issues, like the visuals for example. When looking at this game you can tell it’s from the mid 90s. Visually speaking, is it hasn’t aged all that great. For one thing it’s kind of bland and grainy looking. The Catacomb levels in particular are the worst and sometimes I found it hard to make out the path I was on. There is a nice automap that you can bring up at any time to see where you’ve already explored and where to go. Sometimes items and enemies end up behind structures so unless you hover your mouse over the area you won’t see them. In addition to that, items on the ground can sometimes blend in with the environment so I found myself frequently finding item drops that I previously missed.
Diablo was groundbreaking for it’s time and is now considered a classic. It’s fun, it’s addicting, and it offers endless replay value. The game does a great job of creating a dark and creepy atmosphere and gives players an excellent feeling of progression. And you can even add multiplayer to the mix which just adds another layer entirely. Many of the issues I have with the game were resolved in the sequels but there is still something special about the original Diablo. It was the first game in a series that is beloved my millions. Still, fuck the small inventory.