Welcome to the original Nightmaretown: this week’s Retro Game of the Week is Diablo!
In 1996, Blizzard took PC gamers to hell and back in one of the greatest games to come from that decade. The atmosphere, the graphics, the soundtrack, and the amazingly free connectivity that was Battle.net insured that Diablo was going to burn it’s way into gamers minds for many years (and sequels) to come.
Diablo didn’t invent the rogue-like dungeon crawler genre. The game didn’t even, as I have argued on the podcast before, introduce many new concepts to the typical hack, slash, collect loot formulas of other games. What Blizzard DID do however is make sure that everything was done right. The production values from the voice work, the script, the dialogue, the story (which was fleshed out with an awesome booklet including with the game), and the silky smooth online play alerted gamers immediately that Diablo shouldn’t be missed. Blizzard was already a well known and respected company, but the Diablo franchise and its subsequent sequels branded them forever into the collective geek consciousnesses.
The game begins simple enough, players must select their main character from the usual choices of warrior, mage, or archer (the only female character). From then on out the game is a whirlwind of ever changing backgrounds and a multitude of demons and nightmare creatures to slay. The staggering number of weapons, armor, and magical items to find kept players coming back long after (and if) they defeated the lord of Terror himself, Diablo. Blizzards in-house online service, Battle.net, brought players together to explore the dungeons and hellish battlegrounds of Diablo all for a monthly price of zero dollars. I am not even remotely ashamed to admit my junior high and early high school years are a blurry mess of Diablo related memories. Like many of my generation, this game had it’s demonic claws in me and never let go.
Blizzard followed up with an unofficial expansion titled Diablo: Hellfire that included a new character class, the monk, and a full sequel titled Diablo 2 in 2000. Improving upon the original in almost every way, Diablo 2 further expanded Blizzard’s control over the PC market. While Diablo has blown into one of Blizzard’s largest franchises (we will talk about World of Warcraft another time) I believe it owes everything to the original 1996 release of Diablo. The original did everything right and created a world and setting that still entraps gamers imaginations today. The game certainly isn’t difficult to find today and it easily modified to run on modern PC’s and Mac’s. If your a fan of Diablo 3 that missed out the first time, or if you have fond nostalgic memories of Diablo, you won’t be disappointed in going back to this true gaming treasure of hellish proportions.