Diablo – 15 Years of Killing, Looting, and Waiting

Original Diablo Cover Art

Diablo. This word alone strikes fear into many souls, while simultaneously bringing fond reminiscent feelings to so many others. For 15 years Diablo has meant more to me then simply “the devil.” Instead the term reminds me of countless late nights slaying hell’s minions, while trying to find that one piece of gear that will truly make me unstoppable! At least, until I discover a new set of armor worth collecting. It means LAN parties, Skype conference calls, Meph runs, wirt’s leg, SOJs, and of course… COW LEVELS! Diablo has been my go to game, whenever I’ve been bored and couldn’t think of anything else to play, since as far as I can remember. I feel like I spent more time playing Diablo then I did attending school, and that’s probably true. Diablo is filled with action, spells, demons, gambling (multiple kinds), social interaction, and most of all it’s just a blast to play especially with a group of friends. There’s nothing cooler then hurling an orb of ice at Diablo’s minions while your friends hack away with swords, spears, holy bolts, and poisonous corpses! With the release of Diablo III upon us, I’m going to take a moment to remember all of the best times I’ve had playing Diablo over the last 15 years.

Lets start at the beginning. I’m fairly certain the first time I played Diablo was on PSX, in 1998. Not exactly 15 years ago, but close enough. My friend Drootin was over, and we had acquired a copy of the game from a friend. We didn’t really know what to expect when we popped it in, but were anxious none the less. This was probably due to the title. Like I said earlier, for those that do not understand the glory of the Diablo games, it’s name simply means “the devil,” and that went for us too at this point. We knew it was about the devil, that there were dungeons and spells, and we liked games with dungeons and spells. So we turned it on, and the Diablo face rolls up with the burning letters. We hit start as instructed, picked our classes, I rolled wizard and he rolled rogue, and we were on our way to Tristram. The town was dark, and ominous. The music was oddly catching. The people were pretty talkative, with fully voiced dialog(monologue?). As chills ran down my spine I knew, this was going to be a cool game!

The people of Tristram told us that an evil Skeleton King had arisen and was terrorizing the town. Okay, no big deal. We can handle this!  So we head off into the crypts, kinda… We made it about 2 floors down before we got bored, saved the game, and hit up some Crash Bandicoot! I was 12, and something this deep and dark was cool, but at the time it couldn’t hold my interest. Every now and then I’d pop the game in and try out a different character, my default ended up being the Warrior, or i’d get a little further. I don’t think I ever made it beyond floor 2. I had other things to play, like Crash Bandicoot, and Final Fantasy 7, those games were fun and flashy! Diablo was dark, ominous, and slow. My feelings for the series changed a little about 2 years later, when Diablo II was released.

Diablo II: Lords Of Destruction Expansion Box Art

The Lord of Terror returns with the help of the Dark Wanderer!

Remember I was 12, or 14 now, and I still didn’t know things outside my house and school existed. So when I heard that Diablo II was coming out, and that people beside my friend and I, were excited for the release of a video game, I didn’t know what to think! Diablo II was my first real computer game. I had played some gems like Humans, and solitaire and junk, but never anything of this scope. I ended up not getting the game at launch. I imagine it had to do with me being 13 and not having any money at all. I did end up getting it maybe a year or so later. I played only the Single Player game, and avoided the multi-player altogether, the idea of playing with someone that wasn’t sitting next to me was baffling. The single player campaign lasted me about 2-3 days. Once finished I returned the game, I saw no reason to play it again. Drootin was so mad that I returned it that he stopped talking to me for a week, altho this was common with us. He kept telling me that multi-player was way better! I didn’t care though… And there you have it. My first experience with both Diablo and Diablo II could be describes with an incredibly unenthusiastic “…meh.”

So how did Diablo land itself at the top of my favorite games list? How am I willing to take an entire week off of work just to play Diablo III after release? The answer is highschool. In 2001 The Lord of Destruction Expansion was released, and I couldn’t have cared any less. My friend got it and of course he loved it, but I wanted nothing to do with it. Instead I played Final Fantasy VIII and some other games I can’t remember. In high school, which started in fall of 2000 for Drootin and I, we made some new friends. Most of them despised Diablo for being too short, and slow, which I totally understood! Finally another friend of ours convinced me to play Diablo again. The first one. This time, however, we were going to play it on PC. We both set up late on a Friday night, with Mountain Dew at the ready, and called each other on the phone. We were determined to get farther then either of us had ever done, which happened to be floor 2. I rolled Warrior and my friend, Shahed, rolled Rogue. We pressed on through the crypt and found ourselves on floor 3 within an hour!

Diablo - The Butcher

This floor looked… incredibly similar to the others we’d been to, so nothing strange. We didn’t have a hard time getting through the skeletons, zombies, or the floor traps, it all seemed much easier then it had in the past. We then come up to a small square room, with a closed door. Through the in game fog, which dissipates as you explore a room, we could see bodies hanging from the ceiling, or impaled on large spikes. We moved to the door and opened it. Nothing. The fog lifts a bit and we see those bodies a little more clearly, but they aren’t moving. Being the warrior I step in first, and Shahed followed behind me. It was cluttered, but there didn;t seem to be anything of interest inside, so we turn around and head out. Then we hear it… A loud bellowing voice that shouts “AAAAAH! FRESH MEAT!” I jumped in my seat as this creature comes hulking towards us! Shahed actually let out a little screech! Our hearts were pumping, and we began the first boss battle in Diablo. A few minutes later The Butcher was lying face down on the floor, blood spewing, and his cleaver dropped beside him. Shahed and I, reeling from the battle, both sat there in silence observing The Butcher, his cleaver, and his room. He said “You ready to go onward?” While equipping the Butchers Cleaver I said “Hell Yes!” That’s when I fell in love with this series!

We soon upgraded to Diablo II and it’s Expansion, The Lord of Destruction. For the first time I played online, with friends, and this changed my outlook on the series entirely! The entire time we’re slaying zombies, and blood kin, trading equipment, helping each other out with bosses, and just having a blast! I remember pouring over the Diablo II strategy guide, trying to figure out which class and skill path was best for me. My favorite was the necromancer, with Bone Spear and Poison Nova! I wasn’t incredibly powerful, like my friends sorceress or amazon, but the support I provided was second to none. Of course, what always drew us to Diablo was the desire to get the best gear. I always wanted a Lightsaber, and a full set of Trang Oul’s Avatar, but in my 10+ years of playing, I have never acquired either of these… And that’s what keeps me coming back! Every few months one of my friends will bring up Diablo II and we all get this sparkle in our eyes. A few minutes later, we’re all logged on, rolling new characters, and battling our way to Hell!

For those of you who don’t know, Diablo and Diablo II are Action RPGs played from an isometric perspective. You look down upon your hero and use the mouse pointer to guide their movement. Left click on an enemy to hit it with a basic melee or ranged attack, right click and the fun shit happens! As a sorceress you cast spells of the 3 elements- fire, ice, and lightning. An Amazon can specialize in Bows, Spears, or Passive/Magical abilities allowing her to create a Valkyrie to fight by her side. The Necromancer can raise the dead, torment his enemies with curses, or disease his foes with deadly poisons! Barbarians learn an assortment of shouts, and weapon techniques such as Leap. Paladins employ the use of Auras to bolster their allies defenses, or harm and debilitate their enemies. The Expansion added the Assassin, and the Druid, both offering a style of game play that felt new, but familiar. While the druid was primarily a caster, he could focus on Shape Shifting allowing him to become a Werwolf or a Werebear. The Assassin played like a nimble Barbarian, with the addition of traps to slow down and damage foes. Diablo II broke down into 5 acts, with up to 6 quests per act. Each Act consisted of about 10 different areas for you to kill enemies and search for loot.

Oh the loot! This is where the Diablo games suck in everyone! The loot was randomly dropped from enemies. Any enemy could drop a rare belt, or unique wand. But the stronger enemies had a higher chance of this. So you play through on Normal Difficulty, if you’re lucky you’ll get a few Set items, which are a grouping of items then when worn together add additional effects. So what do you do then? You play on the next difficulty, Nightmare, where everything is stronger and has a higher chance of dropping better gear! You finished Nightmare? Move on to Hell Difficulty! Finished that and still don’t have what you wanted? Do some boss runs, like Mephisto or Baal! You could summon the Secret Cow Level, they tend to drop great loot! For 15 years this has been the cycle, and just when you thought you were done Blizzard would add a new patch that added new items, and altered your skill set! And who could resist starting a new character build? NOT I!

Diablo and Diablo II are not without flaws, however. The character system was deep, but could be easily exploited, and it was also the most intimidating aspect of the game for new players. In Diablo II when you level up you gain 5 attribute points and 1 skill point, so you receive a total of 520 attribute points and 119 Skill points, if you made it to level 99 and finished all side quests. Attributes could be raised to a total of 255, and skills to 20. Attributes were fairly easy to figure out as it was directly tied to your class type: casters focus on Magic first and foremost. They would then sub strength and stamina to wear new gear and raise health values, while ignoring dexterity because they don’t need to physically attack any opponents. Skills were a little more complex, and caused the most frustration. There were about 30 skills per class, some useful and others incredibly useless! In order to raise all skills to level 20 you’s need 600 skill points, but you only have 119 to work with. This meant that each level up lead to some really tough decisions. Do you put a point into ice bolt, raising it in skill level and damage? Learn a new skill entirely? Or hold that point for later and use it to raise other skills? You wanted to avoid wasting points in skills that would later be overshadowed by more useful skills, and instead focus on choosing the best skill path to make the most of your skill points. It was incredibly limiting, until Blizzard introduced “Synergies.”  Synergies are bonuses to skills from other skills- such as frozen orb receives a 1% bonus to damage per level of ice bolt, and ice bolt gets a 20% bonus to damage from frozen orb. This helped early spells stay useful for later levels, and rewarded you for branching off to different spells that you never tried by increasing the damage of more commonly used spells. It lead to some really powerful builds that, when coupled with the cool loot you could find, created a great sense of accomplishment for all players.

Logo - Diablo III

With Diablo III finally on it’s way, Blizzard is hard pressed to keep the same crowd of followers while simultaneously bringing in new fans. To do this Blizzard is changing parts of the Diablo formula. You still point and click, you still leans spells as you level up, you still find tons of cool loot. What has changed is how it’s all implemented. You no longer pick your attributes, they are chosen for you based on your class. They have also done away with the skill point system, instead you learn a new ability every level from 1-30. Each skill increases in strength as you level up, and can be altered with rune stones which can be placed and removed at will. This will allow everyone to experiment with all skills available to them, as opposed to forcing them to choose a path and stick with it. The one thing that some people are upset about is the limited number of hotkeys available to the player. You will only be able to have up to 6 skills accessible by hotkeys at any time. However, you can swap the skills in the hot keys at any time. So this really creates a No-Issue, because you still have access to your full set of skills at all times, some are just an extra click or two away.

Diablo 3 will bring in 3 brand new classes- Monk, Demon Hunter and Witch Doctor. There are also 2 returning classes- the Barbarian from Diablo II and the Wizard from Diablo, although the first Diablo lacked Skill Points and Trees so it will essentially be a new-ish class. Blizzard also confirmed 4 Difficulty levels, Auction houses (using both in game and real life currency), companion characters, tons of loot, and the ability to sell items without returning to town. I am beyond excited for Diablo III, and I know many others who share the same feeling! The 11 year wait from the previous entry in the Diablo series has felt like an eternity! However, based on the gameplay videos and previews it looks as if Diablo III is shaping up to be the game we’ve all been waiting for! The only way we’ll know for sure is when we finally get our hands on a copy and begin the newest battle against Hell’s minions!

is not a boss.

You can Email Eric or follow Eric on Twitter @EricSweeten or Facebook

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