Retro Awesome: Diablo/Hellfire

We’re gonna take you back to the past, to play the videos games that… are actually awesome as HELL! *bwahaha* Puns are truly EVIL! and we are going after one of the great games of the PC platform that was full of demons and evil and hell and… crap I’m off the mental train tracks. Where’s my babysitter? Oh he’s dealing with day jobs. Me? I’m on Vacay so I’m dusting off old games and rusty writing skills… Even my cat is looking at me like I’m insane now so let’s start over from scratch.

In the early 90’s there was a plucky young company named Blizzard… well they had a few other names first but Blizzard was when they started really getting notice so let’s focus on that. First came 1994 and a little game called Warcraft that had sequels and sequels and an MMO variant called World Of Warcraft. Yeah we all know that one. Love it or Hate it you know it’s Bank. Mo’ Money Mo’ Money Mo’ Money.

So with some sweet Warcraft popularity Blizzard kept with the swords and sorcery and ugly monsters thing and in 1996 rolled out something for the older crowd called Diablo and it was GREAT. A year later Sierra subsidiary Synergistic Software did the leg work on the official expansion Hellfire. Now since I’ve only played post-Hellfire I’m going to review it as one big game.

So the basics: This is a hack-n-slash action based RPG dungeon crawling… it’s a hybrid-genre game. You fight in real time with leveling up and classes and all the fighting areas are contained dungeons/cave levels.

You get 16 Levels (plus 8 more with Hellfire installed) plus the main town chill out area. The levels are divided up into four-level themes. Cathedral, Catacomb, Caves, and Hell in the original and Hellfire adds The Festering Nest and Demon Crypts.

So story-wise (as spoiler free as possible) the town of Tristram falls into near ghost-town status after the local King goes crazy and his son is kidnapped and undead demon nasty monsters start infesting the local Church. It’s found out as you play that is because Demon Supreme (or Prime Evil as the game itself prefers) Diablo (cue title screen… OW! Stop throwing chairs!) is imprisoned in a magic gem beneath the Church and his evil influence is slowly infecting the land.

So pick a hero from one of three classes: Warrior, Archer, Mage (four in Hellfire which adds the Monk) and go save the day! Learn the lore and the full details of heartaches, betrayals, gore, and a little dark humor as you progress through the main sixteen levels. Hellfire’s new levels give you the chance to free a farmers land from a hive of insectoid demons and to explore a Crypt that contains a lessor Demon Lord named Na-Krul who will beat your tail in happily before seeking his revenge against Diablo. Because Na-Krul is a JERK X-TREME!… Shut up it was the 90s so I can use X-Treme (not the chairs! *ducks*)

So what makes this all awesome? Lots of weapons and armors along with skill points that let you grow any class however you want. Warriors can learn spells and Mages can swing swords, just not as well as the others. Pour all your skill points into defense so you can make like Colossus and never fall down or dexterity so you can be like Spider-Man and avoid getting hit as you duck and dodge like you a ballerina on speed. The levels are randomly generated each time you start a new game and the side quests are randomly assigned in sets so you have to play several times to try all of them. Fun characters who each have a fleshed-out story to tell including town drunk Farnham who has a touch of PTSD and Wirt the boy with the wooden leg.

So was it truly successful? A-Yep. Two sequels with their own expansions, other games planned and scrapped, a threat of a film adaptation, and tabletop RPG rule books. Sold 2.5 Million Units. Also there was a bunch of games so influenced by the game engine of Diablo that it basically launched its own genre.

The good news is that you can easily play this classic game. Our friend GOG.com is here for you as you can buy Diablo as a digital download and enjoy the classic that launched so much joy and frights.

See you next time folks. Have fun with your games whether new or old.

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