Diablo – A Personal Retrospective
Recently I have been dipping my toes into the PS4 version of Diablo, the Ultimate Evil edition to be precise. It’s a series I have enjoyed since its first incarnation, and have, like many, spent countless hours fighting through dungeons and dark villages in search of evil and loot. Finding myself getting drawn back into playing into the wee small hours due to the addictive nature of the third installment, I find myself wondering what makes this series so special.
Diablo – 1997
Diablo was the first dungeon crawler which I had experienced, it captivated me with its dark foreboding atmosphere and the ability to play as multiple characters. I remember picking the warrior, and striding into the first dungeon, sword in hand, rapidly clicking my mouse as I encountered imps and demonic nasties. The first major quest I dealt with was defeating the Butcher, this big bad ass demon’s presence was built up through the stage. I knew I had to make every kill for experience points count before I encountered him and once his rotting carcass fell at the end of my blade, I felt incredibly satisfied.
I became hooked and played it until I had defeated the Devil himself, and for the first time in my own personal gaming, I restarted the game again, this time selecting the Rogue. This gave me a completely different experience both in terms of gameplay and in quests. This was truly groundbreaking for the time, and helped extend the game’s lifespan. It also featured online co-op multiplayer. Unfortunately at that time in my life, I had no access to the Internet, so I settled for adventuring alone. Its haunting dark atmosphere and deep exploration gave me a new appreciation for fantasy video games.
Diablo II – 2000
This was the game that almost made me lose my entry into University. Incredibly addictive and featuring vast improvements from the original, including the awesome Battle.net service, which is still being utilised today. I participated in LAN parties, online matches and even unofficial PVP hacks; this was the game of champions and I couldn’t tear myself away from it. My favourite class was the Necromancer, because his play style was incredibly unique and, once you understood his strengths, quickly became one of the most powerful characters in the game.
Blizzard later released ‘The Lords of Destruction’ expansion pack, and, unlike many modern DLC’s, was everything you could have wanted as an add-on to the standard game. It added new game mechanics in the form of runes, and two new classes – the Assassin and the Druid. The character customisation in this title was one of the highlights, many players created different builds and adapted their own particular play styles into the strengths of the individual characters. To their credit, Blizzard released several updates through the years and continued to support the game long after its launch. It remains one of the most beloved sequels in any franchise’s history.
Diablo III – 2012
Diablo III didn’t receive the acclaim that the previous sequel did. However, my recent purchase of this title has rekindled my addiction to the series all over again. I feel a deep desire to level up each of the characters to the maximum, and it’s an incredible amount of fun. It’s a more streamlined experience than Diablo II, but it’s also more accessible and it’s best if you view it as an action title rather than an RPG. Blizzard released the ‘Reaper of Souls’ edition and showed that they had sincerely listened to fans complaints regarding the series. This brought many fixes and updates and created an even more compelling experience. The level cap was raised, portals added a newly minted random element to the experience and it could be played by up to four people offline.
I’m enjoying my romp through Diablo III but in a way looking back on this franchise has made me realise how much the industry has changed. Diablo II will always be the peak of the genre, it was vast, deep and satisfying complex at times. Many games have cut back on the commitment that players have to put in to achieve victory, this is termed as ‘streamlining’. This can be advantageous to help bring new gamers into a franchise but there is always the risk that it will cause the established fan base to fall away.