The original Diablo hit its twentieth anniversary on New Year’s Eve, and my brother and I have been playing it recently so he could show me what things were like so long ago. Now, Role-playing games are definitively my favorite genre. I love killing stuff, leveling up, getting a new spell or sword, and going out to kill stronger stuff.
So, what is this grandpa of a game like for somebody that doesn’t have nostalgia for it, and how does it compare to games nowadays? In all honesty, it fairs pretty dang well. It’s (obviously) dated, but a lot of fun compared to everything else on the shelves these days, which is especially impressive considering how old it is.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this game has terrible flaws. The first boss in the game is so impossibly strong compared to every monster you fight previously, you’re basically guaranteed to get slaughtered the first time you encounter him. By the Allfather’s mercy you better hope you had saved recently. In fact, you’re bound to be so weak compared to him that the only way to kill him is to lock him in a room with bars (demons can’t open doors) and shoot arrows through the bars while he can’t hit you. Can you imagine the backlash if a new game released with such dramatic imbalances?
It’s also pretty tedious. You have to walk everywhere you go, and it probably takes about a minute to walk from certain townsfolk to important areas on the map. Why does everything have to be so far apart? Also, as a really small blunder, the interface is extremely clunky and the controls aren’t intuitive at all, but that’s to be expected in an older game.
It’s also pretty unforgiving. Now, I would actually consider this a point in its favor. I love how I can hit my teammate (though I admit to nothing), or how barrels with cool stuff in them could very easily explode and kill me outright. I think that sort of heartless “trial by fire” is something that we’ve strayed from in newer generations of gaming, and I think the community is the lesser for it. I would much rather feel accomplished when I finally beat something that was hard rather than blow through something with no concern.
There’s two things that I really like about this game. The first is the “item drop” system. I love how every item you find could be the best piece of gear in the universe or literally worse than not wearing anything. It makes finding a sword with great stats feel so awesome, because you know its going to be hours before you find a better one.
The other thing I like about the game is the spells. The magic system is extremely advanced for what I would have expected: there’s probably over spells, over half of which I don’t even know about. On that front, they’re all relatively balanced: they’re all useful in certain situations, so if you’re using them correctly you feel powerful, literally sweeping the ground in flame and killing half a dozen skeletons with one spell cast. The same skeletons that used to one shot you! Take that, jerks! I mean, your brother may be dead now because he was in the same room, but there’s always a price to be paid for overwhelming power.
So while this game is over twenty years old, it still holds up extremely well against games in the same genre, and I would attribute this mostly due to the fact that while unforgiving, it rewards those who learn its ways bountifully. And now, having played it, I’m not surprised in the slightest as to why this game has gotten the notoriety it has.