Outside of a very small exposure to Warcraft, my first experience with the gaming company Blizzard Entertainment was watching a friend of mine play the original Diablo on his computer in a dimly-lit basement. After being enthralled with the game, even just observing, he installed Diablo Spawn on my PC. For the unaware, Spawn was a sort of ingenious demo that you could install on any number of computers. The program allowed a person to experience a two-level playthrough, either single or multiplayer, to give non-owners a taste of the game. It was a fantastic method employed by the creators, and I was hooked.
I later purchased the original title when I was with my friend and his dad, who masqueraded as my parent at the register since I was not yet old enough to purchase it myself. Sporting the dreaded "Mature" rating, good ol' Diablo was one of the few games that my then-computer could handle, and boy did I play that game to hell and back. Heh. It was an experience that captivated me through story, graphics, music, and overall atmosphere. There were times in the game that were genuinely frightening to me as a young boy, but it was always rewarding to soldier on and conquer the next big beast.
The story revolved around a hero (or heroes if you played with friends) trudging through the infested cathedral in the town of Tristram. The task at hand was to cleanse it of the evil an Archbishop, by the name of Lazarus, brought forth. Each new level of the cathedral in which the game took place brought new challenges as you crawled deeper through catacombs and caves, and closer to the inevitable hell below.
There were an insane amount of enemies, both in variety and the quantity in which you encountered them. I can't remember any other game where I would be swarmed by 20 or 30 enemies at once, forcing me to hack with my weapon, cast my spells, maintain defensive ground, and also pay attention to the levels of my health and mana to make sure I didn't fall at the hands of demons.
Every few levels, you would come across terrifying beasts who served as "bosses" for certain areas. Most notably to the game is The Butcher, a hulking demon who hefts a gigantic cleaver. The Butcher resides in a room covered wall-to-wall with the mutilated corpses of the soldiers who were led to their end by Lazarus. As a kid, the room alone was terrifying. If the sight weren't enough, as soon as you entered the room, your adversary would boom over the speakers in a deep, gravelly, evil voice: "Ah! Fresh meat!" Ol' Butch was a huge hassle for many players. He was insanely powerful and came relatively early in the game, proving to be a difficult obstacle for many to overcome. Once you finally bested him you could wield his cleaver, which, in terms of rewards, gave you a great preview of things to come. It was also a good indicator that you would encounter many different, unique weapons throughout the game, each with special bonuses, and some with hindrances. It was unlike any other system I had ever played.
It wasn't until somewhat recently that I actually killed Diablo for the first time. You know how it is with games, you stop playing for awhile, come back to it, and you have no idea what you're doing. "Might as well start over," I'd say, only for the cycle to repeat. Completing the game came with me discovering the Hellfire expansion, which added a surprising amount of content, including a new playable character, special dungeons, and more items. The only thing that really improved the game (since it was so well done that it didn't need much else) was that you could have your character move at a quicker speed, which made some of the tedious walking areas less... tedious.
As a whole, the first entry in the Diablo series was done very, very right.
Share your thoughts! What did you like or dislike about the first Diablo? Also, keep your eyes open for the next entry in this series, "Diablo: The Series (Part Two-and-One-Half: Diab Harder)" and we'll see you then!