452nd played so far
Year of Release: 1997
Developer: Blizzard North
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Time for another big name – although arguably its successor Diablo II was that even more. Diablo is the other side of Blizzard’s empire. While the Warcraft/Starcraft series provided the strategy games and, indeed, the world for World of Warcraft, Diablo is the RPG that, to some extent, introduces the RPG part of the MMORPG.
On its own, Diablo was already a huge success. I’ve never quite gotten into it, though. Perhaps this time will be different.
It’s difficult to go back on some of these games, and with Diablo it shows. The graphics are sprite based and, overall, a bit clumsy. Too easily it becomes a pixel mess. Even so, it doesn’t feel quite necessary. The game is structured as a rogue like, showing its Rogue and Nethack roots readily with randomly generated dungeons and loot, often just a few pre-planned rooms, and a lot of what happens in the game coming down to luck. Even features like the random affect granting fountains are present.
As much as we struggled (and damn, an inventory this limited makes it very tricky to keep up with everything in the game), the addictive elements showed as well. There is the constant buzz of killing enemies and finding the loot they dropped – something still made difficult because of the graphics – and hoping for something special in there.
The story is almost equally irrelevant. There are a few plotdumps in the city – ones you’re almost compelled to skip – and there are a few listed quests to lead you on that really just have a line or two to describe them.
Character development options feel very limited. A part of it is item based, but there’s a limited number of stats and not many skills to speak of (one per character plus spells which can be of limited value). It’s okay, but not very interesting.
Diablo works well enough, but there’s nothing here that we haven’t seen done better in later games. Diablo certainly set the (non-ASCII-based) trend for all of these games and it feels solid enough, but it’s as much interesting from its historical place and archetypal role as it is from its direct gameplay.