Delving back into the reaches of the past, among a clutter of Age of Empires and Command & Conquer boxes, I found my original Diablo discs. Upon this discovery, I was instantly flooded with key moments in Diablo -- almost as if my virtual life had flashed before my eyes. Working with Brandon "Tribar" Jones on GN, we were able to ascertain some of the most memorable moments in Diablo 1 and Diablo 2, including cut scenes and certain painful moments.
Our Dueling Diablo PC builds -- themed PC build lists to fit a Diablo v. Tyrael backdrop -- kicked off our Diablo coverage, and now we continue it with a look at the game's historic moments.
There may be spoilers herein, fair warning.
Bing, bing, bing, bing... dun, dun, dun, dun... bing, bing, bing, bing... dun, dun, dun...
You know the one. Tristram Village's soundtrack is probably the single, most instantly recognizable component of the entire Diablo series. It's one of the first elements of the original Diablo that players can experience, and after dozens of hours, it slowly starts to consume your mind. I'll let the music do the talking on this one, it makes for great background music while going through the rest of the post!
The sounds of Diablo in general are amazingly put together, from dialogue ("Stay awhile and listen") to the music; even the sounds of crunchy monster deaths ring true.
The Butcher: The first major enemy encountered in Diablo 1 was also its most memorable, especially given his corny catchphrase. Little could be done to kill The Butcher -- well, except getting him stuck behind stairs. Or closing a gate and firing through it. Or any number of other glitches, really, but that's all beside the point: The Butcher is a badass. He slaughtered countless denizens of Tristram, chopped them to pieces, and then waited patiently as several million players ventured into his lair throughout the years.
The Butcher is as classic as they get in the Diablo franchise.
The original content in Diablo 1 was intimidating for a game of its stature: Voice acting, fluid writing, crunchy death sounds - the works. In The Halls of the Blind, we were confronted with one of the most haunting poems in gaming history (or, at least, for the time); it perfectly captured the essence and spirit of the game's spooky dungeon-crawling mechanics. Knowing that a swarm of enemies almost assuredly lurks just around the corner always gave way to the desire for ever more loot and treasure.
The Halls of the Blind poem goes something like this (or click the link above):
I can see what you see not.
Vision milky then eyes rot.
When you turn, they will be gone,
Whispering their hidden song.
then you see what cannot be,
Shadows move where light should be.
Out of Darkness, Out of Mind,
Cast down into the halls of the blind.
Definitive proof that Diablo had some of the best video game story writers of its time, and that still remains true to some degree.
Players of Diablo 2 remember him well, and for those who haven't played, count yourselves lucky; Duriel is one of the most challenging (prior to the patch nerfs) bosses in Diablo history. His slow attacks, powerful slams, and hulking figure made the fight brutal and rage-worthy, but the loot was (occasionally) worth the group effort. Now to replenish those potions...
Observing the destruction of a town that served as a sanctuary in the original Diablo -- perhaps after hundreds of hours in D1 and D2 -- is overwhelmingly depressing. The ruins lie scattered, the townsfolk are dead or evacuated, and Deckard Cain is the only survivor of the attack.
Boiling the player's blood is something Blizzard does best. They manifest an insurmountable desire for vengeance in loyal players.
Diablo's addiction mechanic was simple and mellifluous: Getting beaten down in a dungeon level, running out of the ever-precious health and/or mana potions and town portal scrolls, and then being forced into a decision of venturing on and hoping for the required item or limping to the surface.
The game's looting worked in a very gambling-centric way; the item to end all your troubles could drop from any number of enemies... or they could drop hundreds of -2 helmets. Couple looting with the 'Inventory Tetris' UI, and suddenly there are more forced decisions: "Do I keep all this small crap and these ears, or do I drop them in favor of the much larger, more valuable axe?"
The first PvP experience is always the best, or, ahh, most confusing and self-esteem shattering. With the intent of joining skilled players in a journey through the Depths of Hell, I vividly recall stepping into the dungeons, hearing a resounding *crunch, thwack, crrrrraack, hunngh* sequence, and then being dead. It was as simple as that. I questioned my character build, pondered what I could do to combat such treachery, and eventually realized that Diablo was an incredibly easy game to hack (or glitch) for advantage.
It wasn't long before I became one of them.
Limited gold stacks and Inventory Tetris mechanics meant players needed to be creative with item stashing. Luckily, there was a town nearby... and the inhabitant didn't seem to mind tripping over the occasional potion bottle or upward-facing greataxe.
Item duping - which was an incumbent glitch in the game - was of course, as above, always an acceptable option. If it ships, it's legit. I think that's how it works. That's what I tell myself, anyway.
Sadly, there was no cow level in StarCraft -- but Diablo did feature one. Nothing's quite as relieving after such a charged story as battling with bipedal, halberd-of-death wielding cows. I never understood why The Butcher had so much pent-up anger, but then it was all clear... bastard cows.
How about for you? Let us know what moments we missed in the comments below and we may add them! As an aside, anyone looking for games that retain Diablo 1's artistic direction and mechanics-driven focus may want to meander over to our Din's Curse review.
-Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke.