In Depth Review: Diablo [PC]
Let's get one thing straight. I speak for no one but myself, so remember this when I say my idea of playing a game does not sound anything like clicking like a spazz. What do I mean? Well, in essence, battling in Diablo is comprised of sticking your cursor on the enemy and slamming on the button repeatedly... sometimes with, gasp, the Shift key. The Shift key serves to hold your character in place, if you're wielding say, a bow and arrow. "But Dr. Chupon, in console RPGs we just press A or Circle and choose choices. In First-Person-Shooters, we just click the mouse buttons to shoot things into itty bits." Ah, correct. However, there's that something that keeps those other games from being more monotonous than Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Tactics. You have choices in many console RPGs. In First Person Shooters, you have to outsmart a human opponent. I can honestly say that my Diablo battles involved me doing one of three things: running around trying to get enemies out of their bunches, then diving in clicking at them one by one, standing by a doorway and pelting them with furious mouse-clicks, or even just standing directly in front of a big oaf enemy and putting that left-click to work. I prefer this method in RPGs such as Planescape: Torment, where the clicking is not as incessant and there's more brainwork involved in the entire experience -- all while managing MORE than just a single character. But, while I'm slamming Diablo's gameplay, it does become incredibly addictive at first. Just seeing hordes of enemies getting cut down one by one is immensely enjoyable, even if you're just clicking. And it does stick in hardcore RPG elements in there. You'll randomly miss your swings, according to your character's hit rate, even if you're clicking directly on the enemy. You'll block with a shield if you have one equipped on your free arm, according to your character's Armor Class. You'll either be poisoned or avoid poison, again according to a character stat. The RPG elements are all in there...
...It's just that the clicking shouldn't be. What of the multiplayer, you may ask. Well, what of it? What could be worse than a bored gamer resorting to abusing their mouse, than multiple bored gamers doing it? And most likely with a lagging net connection? I honestly didn't care for multiplayer Diablo any more than single player, even though there would seem to be an element of teamwork in the game. It didn't change the fact that my index finger still hurts from those days long gone.
The premise of the game is very cool at first sight. There are three classes -- warrior, rogue, and wizard. Obviously, the warrior is the beefy one with the muscles and no neck, while the wizard is best at setting your foot on fire. The rogue is the slick and fast one with a decent fighting and casting ability. You have limited inventory space that comes in the form of a grid, and on the same screen you have layout where you can equip two rings, both arms, your head and your torso. A vast multitude of items await your collection, including magic weaponry and rare armor. Most of the magical or rare items come "unidentified", but once you get them inspected by a pro "Identifier" (Cain, who mysteriously sounds like Sean Connery), you learn the powers embedded within and their resale value shoots up. For instance, you might identify a special sword that adds to your hit points and attacks with the element of fire. Or you might identify an axe that raises your damage but lowers your resistence to lightning, let's say. In essence the game is all about the items. Maybe the spells, as well. Magic is a fun thing to use in Diablo, especially when you have the Wall of Fire spell. Cast it, watch a wall of flame erupt, and watch as enemies chase after you and run blindly into the flames, burning and sizzling. Of course, it's still mindless clicking... just fewer clicks per second. Accompanying Diablo's wide array of items and spells is the dungeon system. Each new Diablo game you start sticks you with randomly built dungeons every time. You might complete Diablo and replay it, only to find that the entire layout of each floor is different. Which is cool. But then it really isn't when you consider the rest of the game -- it takes place in one town and one cathedral.
Now, of course, scope doesn't make or break a game. But in this case, it really gets boring to go into the dungeon, advance some floors, and then come out to the same people who don't ever move or wander around, to the same town which is pretty small to begin with. You don't meet new people and you don't have much room to explore it. The people in the town do offer new items to sell and quests, specific missions that you must accomplish within the dungeon to get items. But even then, those missions involve abusing your poor old mouse button again. As far as your limited inventory is concerned, if any of you have thrown your controller while playing Resident Evil games due to the inventory problems, then you'll throw your mouse as you play this. Nothing is more annoying, not even "Incorrect Blitz input!", than hearing your character say, "I can't carry anymore!" when you've got a plethora of kick-arse items (again, the only reason to really play this game) and just found another. Appreciate the fact that your mouse cord doesn't unplug as nearly as easily as your control pad does, or you'd be covering up the marks on your walls. The inventory restrictions aren't the end of your problems. Level-building becomes extremely drab when you consider the battle system. Click click click. Point point point. Click point click. And it appears that enemies don't regenerate. So if you want to build a monster character, what do you do? Blizzard made this "feature" called Start New Game, which is activated within a user's game. This means that you take your same character, with all of his or her stats, and start over at the beginning. This lets you uncover quests that you hadn't before (remember the random dungeons? Quests are, too...) and re-fight enemies to gain more experience. Sometimes it's a necessity, depending on how you play the game. But basically, hardcore level builders better be able to stomach restarting the game before they actually complete it. And when you do gain levels, you get 5 attribute points to distribute among major stats (Strength, Dexterity, Magic). Sometimes clicking for hours on end just to get 5 points doesn't seem worth it. But that's the way it is.
Fortunately, not all's lost in ClickLand. If you're one of those game players for whom the entire experience is vital, as opposed to focusing on sharp play mechanics (which is perfectly fine -- different people have different needs), then Diablo's the game for you. Most definitely in the music and sound. The downside is that there aren't very many tracks in the game. There are three or four major sections of the dungeon, each with their own ambient themes, and one main theme for the town. However, the themes are extremely well done and serve to truly enhance the environment you're in. The guitar and flute combo that haunt the eerie town is such an exquisite and beautiful piece of instrumentation, and the dungeon sounds are also very engaging. While not exactly "songs" per se, they get your blood pumping and your nerves rattling as you crawl through the dungeon floors. The sounds are a whole 'nother thing altogether. Beautiful, and I do mean beautiful voice acting soothes your ears when you tire of the ridiculous clicking sensations. Deadly accurate sound representations of all items create an aura of authenticity. You'd swear you actually accidentally threw a scroll of paper on the floor in your room as you hear the whiffling sound of a magic scroll flying in the air (when you drop it from your inventory, of course). The sound of guzzling a potion would actually refresh a fanatic, and thunk of a knight helmet on the ground will make you see the Middle Ages all over again. Juicy slices and crunchy bludgeoning noises accompany your swords and hammers, and curdling death cries spew forth from your enemies when they perish at your hands. Of course, you'd have to be a sick puppy to really enjoy those disgusting death sounds, but they *are* truly well done. If there was one reason why I'd even consider even looking at my Diablo CD again, it'd be to listen to the game.
For me though, the superior sound was just a short break from the drabness. The originality of the game overall is slightly above average, at best. We've all played around with or seen RPGs that are character-building intensive. There have been many classic AD & D style RPGs out there which use the same stats and numbers system that Diablo does (the math that involves Armor Class, Hit rate, saving throws against poison etc.). And the mindless clicking? Must I even consider it as original? The reason why I'd still consider Diablo above average even is because of the many items to find out there and their naming system, the spells, and perhaps the randomized dungeons. Those aspects of the game show creativity. But the main gameplay really doesn't do much for me or show me any inspiration.
But hey now, what have we here? Some more good news? If you like a good story, Diablo's got it. While not the most innovative thing out there, Diablo's plot manages to do things interestingly. It's a morbid tale of devils and demons, with cursed souls and possessed nobles who were once good men of the town. The quests help to fill in some side story, and it's all intricately written. The best and perhaps only words to describe the storyline are "freakin cool" and "freakin sick." The characters in the town are developed through their tales of past experiences and of what happened to the town, and you can really sense distinct personalities within each person. The voice acting has a lot to do with that, but the dialogue is splendidly written. Even the instruction manual goes all out, with a healthy chunk of the pages devoted to the lore of Diablo and the history of events leading up to the game. The problem is it raised my expectations too high. For instance, supposedly Diablo has two brothers -- but you never ever get to fight or even meet them. Yet there Blizzard was, going all out describing their minions and such, whetting my appetite. But no matter. The plot was still done quite well within the game.
Honestly though, I can't possibly imagine replaying this game over again, not counting the fact that you might have to to even complete it the first time. The story's great, the items are out there to be hunted, and the fighting was even addictive at first. But at first doesn't mean for a while. In this case it doesn't even mean for a little bit. I poured hours into the game after I first got it, but the enjoyment only came during the first two or so. After that I felt as if fighting through the game was a dull chore just to get me to the story behind the next mission, or just to see what cool things a certain rare item could do. That's the one bright spot. If you're the "collector" type of gamer, this game is replay value heaven. But I couldn't muster the stomach to go through the gameplay again just to collect some cool items.
At the very least, the game was cool to watch. Although the animation of the characters can be somewhat stiff and the game somewhat grainy, the attention to detail is astounding. It's not a colorful game, mind you. But considering the nature of its plot, it doesn't need to be. It concentrates on the details of the walls and floors of the dungeon, mild light sourcing (your character's field of vision consists of a light radius that shines around you), and spell effects. Misplaced bricks lie in heaps on the ground, enemy corpses litter the area, the walls sport crucified corpses just hanging there... it's all very creepy, but all very well done. To make sure that you never miss anything, the game highlights items and enemies when your cursor hovers over them. Up in the town, the log houses look old and authentic. The whole town seems to be in a state of eternal darkness, evidenced by the long shadows and dark coloring of the ground and environs. Wander around a bit, and you'll find some well-rendered cows to tease.
The game can be somewhat hard at times, and a breeze at others. When the high level enemies come at you in vicious hordes, you'd better watch out -- otherwise, you can just run around and single them out. When you're only facing one monster, most likely you'll win in the end. You've just got to keep clicking and make sure you have good equipment on. On average I'd say it's of medium difficulty -- it shouldn't be too hard to get used to for beginners, but there are a few moments when you'll find yourself struggling to fight out of a crowd. Also keeping the game from being a clicking breeze is the fact that a lot of the good items are not easy to afford. You'll have to sell off items that you've fallen in love with some times, and if you don't have any of those, well you gotta go look for 'em. I found that the gold rewarded from killing enemies isn't enough to get those important items. The fact that you can save at any time does make things easier on you if you end up struggling. Of course, don't save when you're in the middle of a pack of bats or something...
All in all, Diablo takes a healthy 20 hours to beat if you stay for every fight and hunt for every quest, utilizing the Start New Game feature. But a pro can blast through the game in about 10 hours or so, assuming that each floor of the dungeon (including each trip back to town) takes less than an hour. Of course, 10 hours of clicking for me doesn't sound like fun. Go figure.
Surprisingly, many people took more than the 10 hours I did out of their lives clicking. And enjoyed it. I whole-heartedly understand. In all honesty, the game does have addictive factors that make it rave-worthy; it's very well crafted and obviously time went into it. But I personally felt that it was too easy for monotony to settle in while playing the game, click after click after click. What kept me alive for those 10 compiled hours were the story, sounds and ... well, that's it. If you're bored, swipe your friend's copy and play it for the creepy experience.