Hello, my friend. Stay a while and listen.

Source // Wikipedia

"Mindlessly satisfying", they say. Just clicking here, clicking there and watching monsters explode. Why, then, is Diablo on the 1001 list?

This action-heavy, hack and slash RPG was inspired by Rogue, the developers seeking to emulate not only the stories players found themselves in but the strategies of when and where to move and act so as to not die as soon as you enter a room.

Then, after a vote to turn the game from turn-based to real-time, gaming changed a tad...

Fun Times

There are games whose home is clearly on a console, and games that belong on the PC. Every single time I picture Diablo in my head, I think 'PC', which is why I'm playing it for the first time via it's PlayStation port.

Yes, it's true. We can't have everything, and I'm not in a position to play Diablo at its best - but I am able to play it in some form, and so here I am, plopped into a town where some dark, dark stuff is taking place.

You are a lone hero, of either the brawny or brainy kind, who takes it upon themselves to rid the town of evil, and you'll be crawling through the dungeons to do so, armed with weapons, spells and whatever you find on your journey.

The first thing to do is see what the latest gossip is, obviously, and some of these folks can get awfully chatty to strangers (although apparently, we lived here once, long ago).

Like, awfully chatty...

Fleeing the place before any more of the locals got within greeting distance of me, I headed for the church to begin my dungeon dive and was met by a dying man, guts splayed out on the floor, whose own story simply had to be said in yet another paragraph's worth of text.

Leaving him to be, we descended, and the Diablo I was playing started to look like the Diablo I was more familiar with.

This is where the game is. Your HUD will look different, but the information remains the same. You're armed with some simple weapons and spells, and a large inventory just waiting to be filled up. Items will be equipped, weapons swapped out and potions guzzled by the gallon in an effort to stave off your almost inevitable death.

You have meters for both health and magic, though I started off as a warrior focused on the business end of a sharp metal stick, rather than a wizard with their airy-fairy magic, so would be keeping a close eye on the red one.

Wandering around a dungeon level is aided by an autogenerated map that fills in as you progress, and its damn handy for the procedural levels - one of the tricks to sucker you into playing Diablo again once you've finished.

What you're really here for, however, is thwacking skeletons with clubs and slicing zombies with swords, and watching them explode.

Attacking is dirt simple - I got through it by spamming the attack button until something fell over - but you don't want to be an idiot about it. Positioning yourself in doorways or around corners will ensure your targets won't swarm you so much, and you can pick them off without too much effort.

As people say, it is satisfying to rid yourself of a threat in Diablo, however minor they may have been, and it's even better when they explode into a shower of loot. Like any RPG, your inventory will fill up with the stuff, and there will be someone back on the surface who wants all the crap that you don't. Items can be sold, gold can be used to buy better equipment or learn new spells and the cycle continues.


How much of this cycle do you want to see?

Diablo reminds me of push-your-luck games where you keep going, just a little further, just to see what's there and deal with that problem, and go through that door and hopefully survive and then, yup, just a little further...

It wasn't too long before I found my spellbook at whipped up a portal back to town - partly to see how spells worked, but mostly because I wasn't that interested anymore...

Final Word

Diablo opens with an ominous video that makes you want to know more. It gives you options for what type of gameplay you want before playing. It eases you into the difficulty gently. It has a basic gameplay formula that works well and rewards seemingly everything you do - you want to move over here? Yeah, we've got stuff over here! You want to attack this guy? Yeah, he's got stuff to loot! - and it has the depth and replayability that keeps players playing twenty years later.

So they say.

I see most of that. It is satisfying to see something explode by your own hands, but it's not enough to keep me interested for the long haul. Likewise, it is satisfying to weigh up your gameplay options according to what loot you get, and it is, of course, satisfying to see a pile of gold coins descend from the heavens as a bonus for slaying a beast.

But is it enough?

Somehow it is because it's spawned sequels and has gone down in history as one of the defining games on the PC, but for me, it's just a bit lacking. Maybe it's because I was playing the PlayStation port, I don't know.

I would like to play the PC original before really saying whether Diablo is for me, though, and so all I can end on is that you should dive into the dungeon to see what you find. And loot. And sell. And find again.

So many save slots, not even emulation can find space for it...

Fun Facts

It sometimes seems like those who have the biggest sway over a games development don't know what they're doing, but in Diablo's case, word from on high proposed that the single-player turn-based Rogue-influenced dungeon crawler should be changed to add a multiplayer and real-time controls, and the rest is history, as they say...

Diablo, developed by Blizzard North, first released in 1996.
Version played: PlayStation, 1998, via emulation.