Sunday, November 26, 2006

Old Computer Games - Part II: Diablo

After visiting Melanie's sister, brother-in-law, and indirect fitness a couple of weeks ago (short version: terrible driving weather), I decided to dig up my copy of the original Diablo, copyright 1996. We played a bit of Diablo II at a LAN store in Kelowna, and that was much fun.

Diablo is still a great game - it's very, very simplistic in storyline and actual play, but it's still mucho funno. I'm playing through as a Rogue, which means I shoot lots of stuff with lots of arrows, while wearing a chainmail bikini (the Rogue character is female). Funfunfun.

Diablo was one of the first games to devote random-generation to much of the game world. The basic village part of the world never varies, but the 16 primary dungeon levels are always randomly generated. Each block of four (dungeon, catacombs, caves, hell) has its own distinct style and layout rules, making the game, if not unique, then at least varied with each play-through. There are a range of side-quests that do or do-not happen in each play through, so there's a little more variety there (although, you almost invariably face The Butcher on level 2).

Sadly, this play-through-variety is necessary to really enjoy the game, because a) the items available for purchase don't refresh fast enough in a single game and b) more advanced dungeon levels are exponentially more difficult, meaning it's usually necessary to restart the game with a mid-to-high-level character in order to gain sufficient character levels and magical equipment to reliably defeat high-level nasties.

I'm probably going to restart the game, again, once I labouriously clear level 13, because the stupid frickin' Steel Lords are fucking difficult. I can take them one or two at a time, but larger groups are seriously dangerous. I need better armour, and high levels of the Lightning spell, to be able to take them.

I couldn't get Hellfire, the add-on package, working. Searching on-line for help, I stumbled across too many unrelated websites or just plain non-functional shit. If you put "Hellfire" and "cheat" into Google, you get many apocalyptic-christian websites, by which I was informed I would burn forever for cheating, regardless of the type of cheating.

1 comment:

Carlo said...

Diablo's history is actually quite interesting. I agree that it was a pretty damned cool game. But it was tremendously over-rated, but with good reason. Computer Gaming World had a big editorial on it.

Basically, there hadn't been a major RPG release on PC for about 2 years before Diablo came out. The old AD&D games had been coming out in such high volume (like 1 every month or two) that they had sort of killed the market. There hadn't been any real innovation in the genre and interest waned.

Than DOOM and MYST came out (1994) and everything went to shit. Prior to this, action games on PC had been pretty pathetic; everything was Sierra or Simulation. But with the release of these two games, RPGs were forgotten.

So basically Blizzard came around and provided a starved crowd with something they desperately needed, thus hiking up the love-factor for the game. Even if I think the game is a tad repetitive, I'd have to agree that it's an all-time great solely for having saved the genre from complete destitution.

Diablo did invent the isometric hack-and-slash that's been used way too much since, but it definitely didn't invent the random dungeons! Old AD&D Dungeon Hack did that in 1993! But I agree with the validity of the statement that it was one of the first to popularize the idea of randomness. Great review!