Diablo III Part 1: The Legacy of Diablo

By Shamus Posted Thursday Jun 22, 2017

Filed under: Retrospectives 126 comments

The launch of Diablo III was marred by controversy and technical problems, but those have long since blown over. It’s been five years. After an expansion and innumerable patches, the game seems to have settled comfortably into its final form. So now is probably a good time to pick this thing apart and see what Blizzard decided to do with the sequel to one of the greatest PC games of all time.

Note: The games are properly titled Diablo, Diablo II, and Diablo III, but after one too many typos where I used the wrong number of ‘I’s and mangled the point I was trying to make, I’ve decided to use standard numerals for clarity and readability.

In this three-part series I’m going to look at Diablo 3 on both a cinematic and gameplay level. But first let’s talk about…

The Legacy of Diablo

The original Diablo. Swiped from Youtube, because my disk copy is long gone and Blizzard no longer sells the game.
The original Diablo. Swiped from Youtube, because my disk copy is long gone and Blizzard no longer sells the game.

The original Diablo came out in 1996. It was so influential that it was seen as the father of a genre. I don’t know if it was actually the first game in this particular style, but it was recognized as such to the point where the others were called “Diablo clones”. I think we’re over that now. Instead the culture has decided that the genre is named ARPG. (See, it’s not like all those other RPG titles. It’s an ACTION RPG.) While I hate to see the already-muddled term “RPG” stretched even further, I suppose this is better than “Diablo clone”.

In any case, Diablo looked almost like isometric survival horror. With its macabre scenery, haunting ambient sounds, smothering darkness, and grim endingThe hero sacrificed themselves to contain the titular demon., it was a tense experience focused on creating a sense of dread. You could argue that maybe the foreboding tone was at odds with the treasure-hunting gameplay loop, but the experience seemed to work for the folks in 1996.

Four years later, Blizzard followed up with the sequel. Diablo 2 was of similar tone to the original, although the visuals weren’t quite as pervasively dark. The scope was larger, the gameplay was more varied, and it seemed to have more of the ingredients that made the first title such a hit.

Diablo 2 was not instantly recognized as a classic when it hit the market in June of 2000. Gamespot gave it 8.5/10, IGN gave it 8.3, and Gamespy gave it 86/100. That’s amazingly consistent by the standards of review scores, and yet surprisingly low given its reputation today.

I owned multiple boxed copies of Diablo 2 and also the Battle Chest version. But I have no memory of this box art.
I owned multiple boxed copies of Diablo 2 and also the Battle Chest version. But I have no memory of this box art.

In 2012 – long after Gamestop had lost interest in the PC and decided they wanted to run console gaming pawn shops – you could still find the Diablo 2 BattlechestThese days it would simply be called the “Game of the Year Edition”. It was the core game along with the expansion. in their stores. Their entire PC “section” was usually half a shelf of AAA titles, but somehow on that tiny shelf they always managed to find room for the 12 year old Diablo 2.

It’s not hard to understand why. At release it became the fastest selling PC game in history, moving over a million units in the first week. Even eight years later it was still relevant on the sales charts as the 19th best selling PC game of 2008.

Diablo 2 was videogame malaria. You’d think you had it beat, but then out of nowhere the symptoms would re-emerge and you’d find yourself clicking away until 3 a.m., to the detriment of your career and relationships. Symptoms would usually last for a few weeks and then vanish again.

In the Diablo 2 postmortem, project lead Erich Schaefer said, “Diablo II never had an official, complete design document… for the most part we just started making up new stuff.” You’d never guess that by playing the game. Diablo 2 had all the hallmarks of a Blizzard title at the time. It was beautiful, smooth, incredibly polished, completely intuitive, and relentlessly fun.

And then they made a sequel.

The Long-Awaited Sequel

It's time to kick ass and spew original one-liners, and to be honest I never had any original one-liners.
It's time to kick ass and spew original one-liners, and to be honest I never had any original one-liners.

Twelve years is a long time to wait for a sequel. Everyone made fun of Duke Nukem Forever for the unbelievable time it took, but the wait between Duke Nukem 3D and Duke Nukem Forever was only three years longer than the wait between Diablo 2 and Diablo 3. There were multiple industry revolutions in that expanse of time, so it’s natural that the long-awaited Diablo 3 would be different from its predecessor. Having said that, I’m kind of surprised at how much they changed.

If you squint you can see the family resemblance, but Diablo 3 does look very different from its grandfather and the two games have vastly different personalities. While there are lots of dead bodies around, Diablo 3 doesn’t have its grandsire’s morbid fascination with impaled corpses and general body horror. The “satanic” imagery is basically gone, and the overall tone has shifted from tension to empowerment. The entire pace of the gameplay is different. In Diablo 1 you might stop and squint at the movement of a single foe at the edge of your torch radius. In Diablo 3 you’ll storm into a room by blasting open the door and obliterate a dozen foes in a single sweep.

I’m not suggesting this change in tone was bad, accidental, or even wrong. Blizzard made exactly the game they wanted to. But it’s a very different game than the one that made the series such a hit.

It’s always hard to revive a series after a decade like this. Change too little and people will claim you’re stuck in the past and clinging to old ideas. Change too much and people will claim you’ve lost sight of what made the series great to begin with. On top of that there’s the problem that Diablo games are a two-headed beast that tries to appeal to two different audiences at the same time.

A Tale of Two Diablos

Playing on Battle.net? Good luck finding an available name for your character that doesn't look like the output of a SHA-1 hash function.
Playing on Battle.net? Good luck finding an available name for your character that doesn't look like the output of a SHA-1 hash function.

Much like another famous Blizzard title, Diablo is a game divided between two very different groups of players. The first group is a stream of casual content consumers. They show up, plow through the story content, and then leave until something external (a patch, an expansion, nostalgia, or their friends) lures them back for more story. They choose abilities based on how fun they feel or how cool they look and aren’t inclined to crunch numbers or read wikis to maximize their power.

The other group is here for the “end game” grind. They want to push up against the more challenging content designed for high-level players. They care less about story and more about mechanics. For them the game is a continuous labor of optimization. They’re always looking for a better build, better gear, and fresh strategies.

These are broad stereotypes of course. Not everyone fits neatly into these two groupsBy necessity the second group is largely comprised of people who began as part of the first group.. But in the macro sense it’s true enough. The trick here is that for one group the game ends at the level cap, while the other group views that as the start.

I’ve played through the story once with a wizard and then about halfway through with a couple of the other classes. For the “content consumer” players this is a very thorough exploration of the game, and for the other group I literally haven’t even gotten to the “good part” yet, which is grinding for items to make various specialty builds.

Next week I’ll talk about the gameplay and see what Blizzard decided to do with the Diablo formula.




[2] The hero sacrificed themselves to contain the titular demon.

[3] These days it would simply be called the “Game of the Year Edition”. It was the core game along with the expansion.

[4] By necessity the second group is largely comprised of people who began as part of the first group.

From The Archives:

126 thoughts on “Diablo III Part 1: The Legacy of Diablo

  1. Anorak says:

    This looks interesting. I never played any of the Diablo series except for a demo of Diablo II that came with my PC Gamer magazine.
    Back then I was a teenager and I’d occasional pick up PCG because the demo discs that came with it could keep me entertained for weeks.
    Diablo II Demo only let you play as the barbarian, and only the first level. Even so, I probably spent forty hours or so just doing that. Although my parents PC was so under-powered that I’d spend at least half the session waiting for it to load. Or rebooting.

    Given that the Diablo games are so well regarded, I wonder if these posts are going to tip me over the edge and finally play them all.

    Does Diablo 3 still have the infuriating always online thing?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Does Diablo 3 still have the infuriating always online thing?

      Not sure if it does(you can solo it on consoles,I think),but Ill immediately tell you that you should not attempt to go through it alone.Its really a game made from the ground up to be a cooperative game,and going solo just is not the same experience.The first though are much better suited for that,and you should try one of them instead.

      Or,if the graphics and ui of those two seem too outdated for you,maybe try book of demons?Its nearly out,its single player,its fun and engaging.

      1. Anorak says:

        Thanks for the recommendation.

        I’ll give Diablo 2 a go first though, since I think I have a CD of it at home somewhere. Although thinking about it I’ve not actually had a CD/DVD drive in my PC for the last 3 years

        1. Sartharina says:

          It spawned a genre. There’s also Grim Dawn.

          1. Titan Quest and THEN Grim Dawn (which is basically a sequel to Titan Quest).

            D3 is getting a new character (Necromancer) this year, and Grim Dawn is also getting an expansion with some new specializations.

            IMO GD has better gameplay but it just sort of fizzles out instead of actually having a story ending.

            1. djw says:

              Welp, I logged into Steam a minute or two after reading this comment, and Grim Dawn was the first ad (50% off). So I bought it.

              However, I impulse buy on Steam way more than is good for me, so it might have happened even if this thread didn’t exist.

            2. Decius says:

              Torchlight and Torchlight 2, as well.

      2. Echo Tango says:

        Torchlight II is basically Diablo II, but with a more cartoony aesthetic, and it’s already released! I’ve never played single-player though. I’m pretty sure the game had a story we were all clicking between loot drops…

        1. Grey Rook says:

          It does, and having played the game I think it’s actually even worse than Diablo 2’s plot, if you can imagine that.

          It’s also on GoG, if you happen to like actually owning things instead of merely renting them.

          1. djw says:

            I liked the cutscenes in Diablo 2. I am not sure if that means that I liked D2’s plot, but they are certainly related.

            For what it’s worth, I watched the cutscenes without skipping every single time I played through the game on any difficulty level, and that probably includes 10–12 complete playthroughs (give or take).

            I can’t really remember D3’s cutscene’s, so I guess that is a big plus in favor of D2 from me.

          2. Syal says:

            Diablo 2’s plot is threadbare but quite solid. Enemies have varying degrees of plot significance, Cain has background history of various factions if you Stay Awhile And Listen, the townsfolk are all nitpicking each other, it’s good stuff. Not many games in the genre compete setting-wise. Torchlight 2 in particular is quite silly.

            1. Grey Rook says:

              Okay, point. In my defence, it has been a long time since I played D2. I still stand by the statement that Torchlight 2′ plot is not very good.

            2. Steve C says:

              I disagree that Diablo 2's plot is… Oh wait. You said Diablo 2. Thought you were defending Diablo 3’s plot in some minor way. Carry on.

              Torchlight 2 is very forgettable. If you are looking for a Diablo that isn’t Diablo, instead try Path of Exile. It’s free.

              1. Syal says:

                I haven’t played Path of Exile or Grim Dawn, but I came into Torchlight 2 with an intense desire to kill medieval fantasy creatures with dual-wielded unlimited ammo pistols, and for giving me that I will always recommend it.

      3. Darren says:

        I think Diablo 3 is a much better single player experience. You can mix up your skill loadout whenever you want, the difficulty is highly adjustable, and there are companion characters with their own loadouts to tweak.

        Diablo 2, to me, is the least solo friendly, as it is fairly rigid in its difficulty and lacks many ways to mix up your playstyle as you go through.

        1. There are some fights on Hell difficulty that are basically impossible to solo in D2. But D3 is BORING solo.

          The worst part of D3 wasn’t gameplay-related for me, though . . . it was the fact that you wound up grinding for SPECIFIC ITEMS to drop (or grinding for ingredients to re-roll them). It was basically gambling, but you already knew what payout you wanted. In D2, you would periodically find a loot upgrade or interesting bit of loot, you weren’t waiting for a specific item to finally get around to dropping. Once I realized that I had to compile a shopping list and run the same stuff 4000 times until it dropped, I dropped D3.

          1. Bubble181 says:

            I solo’d several character up to level 95 in D2 (one to level 97…and yes, I *did* have far too much time and a slight addiction to D2 in college, why do you ask?).
            It’s solo’able, all fights…Though some enemy combinations (physical immune/fire immune/cold immune WELL F YOU TOO BUDDY) were best avoided.

            D2 and D3 both have the “waiting for the right item” issue – it’s pretty inherent to the genre’s end game. If you can stil lfind the occasional upgrade in D2, you’re nowhere near finished with your build.

            That said, D2 was the better game in many ways, but I like D3 too, though I only started liking it after the auction houses went away .Those were completely toxic.

            And the only grouping I’ve ever done in D3 was far a few conquests for the stash tabs.

            1. Duoae says:

              I agree with both of you. D2 was definitely solo-able (I did so) and later on with ‘players 8’ or whatever it was made leveling much faster and the content more challenging.

              Solo D3 is BORING with a valerian steel capital boring.

              One thing I noticed (and confirmed after replaying 1&2) is that D3 is less kinetic and the combat has less impact on foes. Playing a sorcerer in D2 was a lesson in ‘with huge power comes huge energy generation costs’ – but, man, did those creatures fly and die in spectacular ways and that made you feel powerful. Playing a sorc in D3 is like being a firehose and your enemies mostly just slump to the ground as if you pushed them slightly.

              That’s just one example.

              Plus, lack of randomisation really hurts this type of game if the game doesn’t have interesting levels or bosses (which I don’t think it does – but that’s a personal thing).

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                The bosses do have interesting and varied patterns at least.And each class has different places where to tackle those patterns from.

            2. Decius says:

              All fights are soloable by the Hammerdin. There are possible random bosses that can be immune to everything that any other build can output.

              Physical Immune. Lightning Enchanted. Multiple Shots.

          2. djw says:

            I am almost positive that the random loot rolls is a feature, not a bug. They do it to make the system more addictive, although that may also drive some people away.

            ESO does the same thing with Traits on high end loot. Monster helms drop at the end of every dungeon, but if you want a medium helm with the divines property you might have to run that dungeon till your eyes bleed.

          3. Darren says:

            Maybe it’s because I’ve only played the console version, but I think that Diablo is loads of fun to actually play. Ever since playing it I haven’t been able to go back to the clickfests of PC ARPGs.

      4. Falterfire says:

        I disagree – I’ve always found that ARPGs tend to be some of the least interesting co-op games available. Not only do they make it frustrating if your co-op partners don’t have a similar schedule (since being mismatched by even a few levels can be a huge disparity in power, so you’ll have to play your co-op character only with the same group or risk leaving people behind) but the central “kill ’em all” experience doesn’t really benefit much from adding other players and you’re less likely to want to take time out to screw around with different abilities or playstyles if it means your friend has to twiddle their thumbs until you’re finally ready to move on.

        Every time I’ve played a co-op ARPG (including Diablo III), it hasn’t really felt like two (or more) people working together in any meaningful way as much as it has felt like we were just doing similar things in roughly the same space without any of the deeper interactions you can find in a game like Overwatch or where players have more clearly delineated roles that force them to rely on others.

        This is obviously based on being more in the first group Shamus listed though – I’m sure at higher levels, where the challenge increases to the point where having teammates means more than just killing the room slightly faster, the co-op is more helpful. On the road up to level 70 in Diablo 3 there was never a time that I felt like my character had some key shortcoming that could be covered by another player.

        (And of course for the story portion you have the eternal co-op problem where talking to other people makes it harder to follow the story, especially background dialog during gameplay, if you’re one of those weird people who cares about the story in an ARPG at all)

        1. Darren says:

          I agree with this take. The one exception I can think of is Titan Quest. My roommate and I in college had complementary builds that worked much better in tandem than alone.

        2. Scampi says:

          I believe there is some merit to playing ARPGs in coop, though I think only few have embraced synergizing characters properly.
          The only 2 I played who did really well in this regard were Diablo II and Titan Quest.
          Diablo II was a go-to game for our LAN-Sessions for many years, later in regular hardcore mode.
          Titan Quest was a step downwards due to Network issues (and the developer going bankrupt, thereby cutting the support), but still fun and good in this aspect.
          In general, the important thing for these games was characters’ ability to properly synergize with other characters, legitimizing different builds.
          On the other hand, I guess you are right and this really only comes into play very late in the games.

        3. evileeyore says:

          ARPGs are best played as lans, with your buddies at worst in the next room over.

          I’ve done them the new way… and it’s just not the same.

        4. Ysen says:

          I agree – I never found that playing Diablo 2 with others added anything. Most of the time there was no meaningful cooperation or interaction between players. You were just killing things adjacent to one another.

    2. EwgB says:

      Does Diablo 3 still have the infuriating always online thing?

      It sure does. The constant disconnects are luckily a thing of the past, but prepare for lags if you don’t have ideal connectivity.

    3. Narkis says:

      Does Diablo 3 still have the infuriating always online thing?

      Yep, that’s not going away. And I’ll second Daemian Lucifer, you’ll enjoy it more as a co-op game, as opposed to the first two.

    4. Pretty much every RP’ing aspect of a Blizzard game is centered around constant action and never-ending quests and classes. Diablo and Warcraft 3 were my favorite games when I was a kid, and that was due to the sense of exploration, the story and the gameplay. Still are actually, right up there with Skyrim now.

      With the power capabilities of computers now, we can play anything we want from the early 2000’s.

    5. Mistwraithe says:

      Path of Exile is another take on Diablo gameplay which is very popular and gets great reviews. Its free to play so worth giving it a trial (I have played with friends and enjoyed it but don’t have enough spare time to play it that often)

      1. JAB says:

        I’ll second Path of Exile. Lots of fun, although it’s just at the limit of what my ancient computer can run.

      2. Ysen says:

        Path of Exile is good. It’s very much the inheritor of the darker atmosphere of Diablo II, if that’s what you feel is lacking from Diablo III.

    6. Blake says:

      The console ports allow offline play, and are good console ports. You never find yourself missing the ability to click on things.

      I’d imagine high-end play would be better on PC, but the console game is fun. I’ve hit the level cap with more characters on my PS4 than I did on PC.

    7. Zak McKracken says:

      Does D3 also have that feature form Diablo 1 and 2, where in multiplayer your mates would sometimes teleport around the scenery, and where if you had a ranged weapon, they’d start shouting at you not to shoot at them, when on your screen you were clearly shooting at the monsters? But then they’d still die, while teleporting into your line of fire, cursing you, and then you never play multiplayer again?

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Everyone made fun of Duke Nukem Forever for the unbelievable time it took, but the wait between Duke Nukem 3D and Duke Nukem Forever was only three years longer than the wait between Diablo 2 and Diablo 3.

    But unlike duke,diablo 3 was not announced practically immediately after 2,and they werent working on it for as long.There were multiple other things made by these people in between,most notably world of warcraft.

    1. Zekiel says:

      Also: Blizzard consistently take AGES to make games. Coincidentally (?) there was also a 12-year gap between the releases of Starcraft and the first part of Starcraft 2.

      1. Sartharina says:

        Except they didn’t used to take ages. They had a strong stream of games between Warcraft: Orcs and Humans and World of Warcraft.

        1. Dev Null says:

          That was before they had more money than most major national economies. It kinda takes the pressure off.

        2. Nick-B says:

          True. Once they had a cash cow in World of Warcraft paying the bills to keep the studio open, they no longer had to innovate every day to release a product to make their money. I saw that as the decline in release frequency. Certainly, their games they have released since are great, but way too scarce for my tastes.

          As for Duke Nukem Forever, I was about to comment on that as well. The main reason DNF got so much flak for taking so long was the E3 trailer for it’s supposed “release” in 2001. It showed what certainly looked like a TON of highlights from a certainly close-to-release game, which had many many new features. Drivable vehicles (motorcycle?), multiple turret sections (one on a boat?), vending machines, point-at-number-and-click-to-press-it interface design for keypads, surprisingly good looking physics and graphics for it’s time, an updated kickass theme song, story, etc. Then it promptly failed to manifest for like 15 years. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDlB2P1leRM

          1. Kylroy says:

            DNF had significant work done, then discarded in favor of a rebuild, over a half-dozen times. Blizzard takes forever to make it’s games, but they’re usually iterating rather than continually starting over.

  3. Infinitron says:

    I think the term “action RPG” nowadays more typically brings to mind the genre of third person perspective-type games like Dark Souls or Witcher 3. Diablo is a hack-and-slash dungeon crawl without much actual “action” reflex-based gameplay.

    1. Christopher says:

      Genre names are dumb. I’ve heard Diablo called a hack and slash, too, but that’s also a term used for games like Bayonetta, Dynasty Warriors, Devil May Cry and God of War. It’s not a big deal, but I would be annoyed if I asked for one and got the other.

      I agree that action RPG makes me think of Dark Souls and Witcher 3, but it also makes me think of Tales of Symphonia. It’s basically just “Not turnbased, direct control”.

      1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

        People who know genres would call Diablo an aRPG, Bayonetta and DMC “Character Action games”, and something like Gauntlet Legends or Dynasty Warriors as hack and slash.

        Yes they’re arbitrary, the key is to pick the arbitrary definitions that are really popular and widely understood, not try to fit the genre precisely to the definition of words. If you do the latter, you’re that asshole who thinks it’s clever to go “but aren’t I playing a role in every game? Isn’t Gran Turismo a role playing game since I’m playing the role of a race car driver?” NO IT ISN’T YOU DUMBASS GUY (from this example, not anyone here personally).

        1. NPC says:

          Dynasty Warriors is in its own little subgenre; fans and detractors alike call them Musou (Unrivaled) because every game of the like from originating developer Koei-Tecmo has Musou in the Japanese title: Sengoku Musou, Gundam Musou, Zelda Musou, Musou Orochi et cetera…

      2. Scampi says:

        I think many people who originally called these games hack’n’slash come from table top gaming and refer to this definition, lifted from Wikipedia:

        Hack and slash, or hack and slay (H&S or HnS), refers to a type of gameplay that emphasizes combat. The term “hack and slash” was originally used to describe a play style in tabletop role-playing games

        In this context, describing it as aRPG didn’t make much sense, as it was the same rolling of dice as any other game.

        Edit: You’re welcome, Shamus. For this reference, you keep your license for referring to D20 for another year:)

        1. MrJackSmash says:

          I always called them hack n loots…. cause I hack….. then I loot. Cept when that cracked sash drops then I run away cause f that s.

    2. Henson says:

      Personally, I don’t have any more problem with the term ‘Diablo clone’ than I do with ‘Roguelike’. ARPG may be more official-sounding, but it’s also less specific and, as you point out, can describe games that don’t really resemble Diablo at all.

      EDIT: But yeah, ‘Dungeon Crawler’ is a pretty good descriptor.

      1. Awetugiw says:

        The term “dungeon crawler” would remind me much more of Eye of the Beholder and such (or Legend of Grimrock, among more modern titles).

        Genre names are hard.

        1. Henson says:

          Good point. Curses!

      2. Echo Tango says:

        But which “roguelike” are you talking about? The definition that is applied to any game with a randomized dungeon, or the correct definition? :D

        1. Matt Downie says:

          A Roguelike is anything with random dungeons or procedural content or permadeath or ASCII graphics or turn-based exploration or legacy mechanics or unidentified magic items or loot of some kind.

          1. Echo Tango says:

            That’s a pretty broad defiinition. So broad in fact, as to be useless. Any of those attributes could easily be tags on Steam, which would help somebody find specific games, or a wide variety of games. The definition of a type of game as “any or all of these attributes” includes very disparate games, and so cannot help narrow down games very much. If you’re going to have such a loose definition, you might as well say something like, “not football, not car racing games, not gambling”. I’d argue further, but the YouTube video I already linked sums up my opinion better than I would be able to.

            1. Falterfire says:

              On the other hand, drawing too narrow of genre definitions requires you to either memorize an absurd number of genres and try to keep them all straight (See: Metalheads and the arguments over whether something is Hair Metal, Death Metal, Black Metal, Goth Metal, Prog Metal, Nu Metal, Thrash Metal, or any of a dozen other ever-so-slightly-different genres) or leave a lot of games completely outside the boundaries.

              Plus, of course, you can’t really control how other people will use language. Trying to draw a definition more narrowly will just lead to pointless semantic arguments with people you think are using it wrong without ever gaining you the increased clarity you’re hoping for – As long as Roguelike is commonly used in a more general sense, you’ll have to ask ‘wait, do you mean roguelike or roguelite?’ anyways. Unless you launch some sort of unprecedented marketing campaign for pedantism, you’ll never convince enough people to actually fix the problem.

              This still leaves us in need of an actual solution for making it easier to find specific games, to which I recommend using genre features as tags to be applied rather than boxes for a game to be put into. So if a game is tagged as Permadeath, Procedural Generation, and Dungeon Crawler then you and I would both have learned the same information, even if I call it a Roguelike based on just those three things and you don’t.

              Steam is moving towards such a tag system, but it’s still imperfect. Even when not using it as a formal system, I still think this is a helpful way to think about things, especially with how many games are in between genres. Borderlands is simultaneously an ARPG and an FPS, and describing it as “an open world FPS with a Diablo-esque loot system” is more useful than trying to determine which of the two is its true genre.

              1. Nick-B says:

                Pretty true. I do feel the use of “roguelike” to describe procedural generation completely misses the point of Rogue, which wasn’t the randomness that appealed, but that it was a “start-from-scratch know nothing about the world”-ness that tries to make each playthrough unique and new. The idea that no matter how much you explore, you WON’T see everything the game has to offer on a single life.

                As for Borderlands, that is a prefect description of it, but unfortunately you used “diablo-like” to describe a game, which I thought was what you all were trying to avoid. Personally, I think it is a great way to describe games. Take the game mechanics of popular, famous games that inspired the mechanic, and describe the part of the game that uses it as using that mechanic. Saints Row is a GTA-like, with Crackdown-like powers. Borderlands is a first person (a doom-like?) with a diablo-style loot and XP system. The Division is a assassin’s creed style world with a diablo-style loot system and third person mechanics in a semi-mmo style multiplayer modes.

                1. Falterfire says:

                  I think there’s a difference between invoking another game to describe part of a game and using another game to describe all of a game, which is why I’m much more comfortable with saying “a diablo-esque loot system” than I am with saying “a diablo clone”. It is a pretty arbitrary distinction though, and ultimately the important thing is just that the people in the discussion understand what is meant.

                  1. Nick-B says:

                    Hmm, interesting. I’m actually in favor of using “diablo-clone” to describe entire games, such as Torchlight which was pretty much a blatant updated clone of Diablo 2, even down to the talent trees.

                    Sure, it doesn’t come up often, but some games just need the word “clone”.

      3. Falterfire says:

        Roguelike is kind of a weird term. Because ‘rogue’ is a real English word that shows up in a lot of games, roguelike feels way less connected to the game Rogue than “Diablo Clone” is to Diablo. With Rogue itself being nearly forty years old and unavailable on Steam or even GOG (from what I can tell – Searching for ‘Rogue’ pulls up a lot of results), I would be unsurprised if a sizable number of people were aware of the term Roguelike without knowing it was based on an actual game called Rogue. (A confession – I was personally familiar with the term Roguelike for quite a while before learning about Rogue. I thought the term was due to you playing a character in a way meant to evoke more of a D&D rogue sort of cautious & clever playstyle as opposed to the kill-’em-all playstyle found in ARPGs)

        Diablo Clone, on the other hand, has a direct connection to a game that is still available on store shelves. Plus it just sounds worse as a genre name – “Clone” implies a game is a copycat, and probably not a great one at that. ARPG and MOBA may not be the most descriptive names as names, but they’re better than “Diablo Clone” or “DotA Clone”, and thanks to being based on such narrow and well-known roots they’re actually some of the most descriptive genre names we have.

        “Action Role Playing Game” and “Multiplayer Online Battle Arena” may be borderline word salad names that don’t convey any information to somebody who is unfamiliar with the genre, but if you are familiar with what they mean and I tell you a game is a MOBA or an ARPG, you’ll be able to rapidly form a reasonably correct idea of what the gameplay will involve which in turn will likely help you decide whether you’re interested in learning more.

        Contrast with just ‘Role Playing Game’ or ‘Puzzle Game’, two genres which encompass a much wider swath of different games, to the point of being borderline meaningless without further qualification.

        1. Nick-B says:

          Well, I agree that if you are familiar with the labels and use them properly, then they are helpful. But with genre blending games and label use by people not so familiar with it (or publishers trying to steal a genre’s fans) will cross-use labels to the point that it becomes meaningless. That is the problem, in that genre labels are not being used properly, and any effort to do so ends with two sides of a label arguing in their own side’s favor. It’s too late now to set up labels defined as sharply as we want, and nobody wants to try anyway.

          Which is why I actually prefer the “diablo-clone” label. As derogatory as it sounds, you know EXACTLY what it is trying to convey, much more so than ARPG (which I’ve seen the Witcher, Dark Souls, and Bayonetta describes as such). If we can just get over the “SOMETHING-clone is derogatory” bit, then we can all start using games to describe other games mechanics. I’d love a game that isn’t afraid to describe their open world explore-em-ups as Unisoft-like, for the city to be GTA-like, for loot systems to be diablo-like, for Overwatch to be described as a FPS MOBA-like (or TF2-like?).

          Publishers really won’t like this, but there’s nothing from stopping us all from using these labels.

        2. krellen says:

          The original Rogue isn’t copyrighted and it available here in a browser-play form.

          1. Echo Tango says:

            It is actually copyrighted; It’s just had its source code made available under the BSD license, which is very permissive.

    3. Geebs says:

      Diablo 3 is a Hack And Slash Pseudo Role Playing Game Which Would Be Much More Enjoyable As A Twin Stick Shooter But Which The Developers Refuse To Implement And Therefore Just Makes My Wrists Hurt, or HASPRPGWWBMMEAATSSBWTDRTIATJMMWH.

      1. Henson says:

        Diablo 3 dating sim?

      2. Andy says:

        Um, pick up the console version if that’s an option. The Xbone version is my favorite version of the game, just flat better than the PC.

        1. Geebs says:

          The console version is a one-stick shooter, which is even worse because it’s actively taunting me.

          1. andy says:

            Maybe I never noticed because I’m not good enough for twinstick shooters :)

    4. Dev Null says:

      We always called them clickfests. But then, that might have been influenced by a friend’s (unmarketed) entry into the genre: ClickMaster!!! He made it right around the height of the Diablo 2 craze, and you just clicked your mouse button as fast as you could until it gave you a CPS rating and some random treasure. So apart from the complete lack of graphics, the gameplay was exactly like Diablo 2.

    5. Abnaxis says:

      The term for them I always knew that made it clear you were talking about a Diablo clone was “Skinner Box,” but it’s probably too derogatory

      1. Boobah says:

        ‘Skinner box’ means anything that dangles a random chance for something good to inspire compulsive ‘play.’ It’s as accurate for slot machines or MMO boss drops as it is Diablo.

        1. Abnaxis says:

          This is true, but I would go so far as to say it is the defining characteristic of a Diablo clone–creating an entire game centered around opening loot pinatas in a Skinner Box loop. In fact, I would go so far to say that Diablo was the pioneer for MMO-boss-drop feedback loop.

          Thus if I describe a conventional video game (i.e. not a slot machine, which is usually obvious by context) as a Skinner Box that usually means I’m talking about a Diablo clone

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            People keep saying that diablo is all about getting the loot,but I disagree.In fact,I think thats the problem of all the games that try to copy diablo.Its not about getting the loot,its about using said loot.Yes that shiny new sword has stats better than the last shiny new sword,but how does it feel in combat?Does that +10 damage translate to noticeable improvement in combat?Does that axe swing more satisfying than the sword it has slight dps advantage over?Etc.Its the balance between new enemy type and loot to combat the new enemy type that makes diablo so satisfying.

            Thats why I dont consider diablo as an actual skinner box.

            1. Abnaxis says:

              Eh? It looks like you think people are wrong about saying Diablo is all about the loot, because the clones weren’t successful when they didn’t do the loot right.

              It sounds more like the genre IS all about the loot, but actually tuning the systems surrounding the loot so it both feels rewarding and is withholding enough to keep you coming back for more is something few games have gotten right.

              Skinner boxes are all about giving sweet rewards for repeated behavior. All you’re talking about is how good the cheese tastes in the rate maze–which yes, it does need to taste good or you’re not going to enjoy running the maze.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Except its the maze you are enjoying in diablo,and the cheese is there only to enhance the experience of the maze.The clones think its the other way around,thats why so many of them fail.

                1. Abnaxis says:

                  To me, the “maze” is the monsters and the levels the game puts in front of you. Beat the “maze” (i.e., find the randomly generated door which leads to the randomly generated monsters to kill) and you get the “cheese” (fun loot that upgrades you just enough to keep it interesting).

                  From this standpoint, D2’s “maze” isn’t all that much to write home about. Enemies have very little variance before the top difficulty, which even then only introduced damage immunities to make it so you couldn’t just hack ‘n’ slash your way through them like the other 8 Acts you already hack ‘n’ slashed through. While there’s plenty to optimize character-wise, there’s not all that much standing against you beyond a horde of HP-sponges.

                  If you’re looking for bracing level and encounter designs to make you think tactically, D2 is not your game.

                  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                    True,the enemy variety is diminished in 2 compared to 1*.But the variety in skills you get to use is highly increased.And this is what leads to fun combat.You no longer employ the same tactic against a composition of enemies regardless of your class,but you approach them based on who you picked and how you leveled them.And that is what made 2 fun.Not getting a better sword for your swording needs,but getting an axe to replace your sword and change your approach somewhat.

                    D3 follows this trend as well,only focusing even more on the skills,allowing you to completely rebind all of the skills you get in whichever way you please.Want to have your slow summoning spell be your primary attack?Go ahead and do it.Thinking of replacing your staff with a sword?Go ahead,your skills will remain the same,they will just change their dps based on the stats of a sword.

                    The three diablos are different from one another,focusing on three different things,but neither of those things is finding loot that has 0.3% better max damage**,yet is visually indistinguishable from the other loot.And its the focus on that loot that is the core of skinner boxes that try to replicate diablo.

                    *Loosely speaking.There are more different enemies in 2,but their composition is mostly the same,regardless of your game.So if you visit zone A youll get enemies X,Y and Z every time,while in 1 visiting zone A would yield X and Y one time,then X and Z the other time,etc.

                    **With the exception of the auction house in diablo 3,but thats a different topic we will discuss when Shamus reaches that.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    In Diablo 1 you might stop and squint at the movement of a single foe at the edge of your torch radius. In Diablo 3 you'll storm into a room by blasting open the door and obliterate a dozen foes in a single sweep.

    But that change happened in 2 already.Also,its dependent on the level.The early levels of 1 were sparsely populated,but later they did get swarmed with enemies.Especially if you got the summoners in your game.

    For the “content consumer” players this is a very thorough exploration of the game

    Unless they changed something with the expansion and patches,the whole playthrough on the lowest difficulty is literally just the tutorial.Yes,you get to experience the full story,but you only just get the hang of all the mechanics.So its not really a thorough exploration even for the casual diablo player.

    Now,would that be considered bad design?Probably.But then again,tens of hours of tutorials are the norm for jrpgs,so….

    1. Kand says:

      Unless they changed something with the expansion and patches,the whole playthrough on the lowest difficulty is literally just the tutorial.

      This was thankfully completely changed with reaper of souls and the removal of the “normal->Nightmare->hell” difficulty cicle they initially inherited from diablo2.
      If you have reaper of souls, there is really no reason to play the “story” mode more than once and people are just doing adventure mode stuff.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    it was seen at the father of a genre.


  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    By the way,for anyone who liked the original diablo,there is this beautiful homage in the works.Its called book of demons,and its a paper style dungeon crawler card collecting game.If nothing else,everyone should at least try the demo,because the game is really fun and will soon be coming out.

    1. Narkis says:

      Thanks, that looks pretty cool!

  7. John says:

    Diablo 2 was not instantly recognized as a classic when it hit the market in June of 2000. Gamespot gave it 8.5/10, IGN gave it 8.3, and Gamespy gave it 86/100. That's amazingly consistent by the standards of review scores, and yet surprisingly low given its reputation today.

    I look at it this way. The people who determine a game’s reputation are the people who are still talking about it. All the people who didn’t like or didn’t particularly care about Diablo 2 have long since moved on to other topics of conversation. The people who like Diablo 2, on the other hand, really, really like Diablo 2. Many of them, from what I can tell, are still playing it. I suppose that’s a testament to the game’s design.

    1. Fade2Gray says:

      I think part of it is also how good the expansion was. D2 was good on it’s own, but I wouldn’t say it was great. The LoD expansion significantly improved the game in a slew of ways and, I think, is responsible for the game’s longevity.

  8. Joel says:

    It’s a nit, but the original Diablo was released in 1996, not 1998.

    1. Adamantyr says:

      Yeah, I was going to correct that too. :) I knew the year was wrong because Ultima Online came out in summer of 1997, and while waiting for both the Beta and release, a lot of the future UO gamers played Diablo to scratch the itch.

    2. Shamus says:

      Whoops. Fixed. The odd thing is, I’m not even sure how I made that mistake. I had to look up the Diablo 1 page on Wikipedia while writing this article. The date was RIGHT THERE.

      1. Infinitron says:

        You forgot to fix the other reference.

  9. Darren says:

    Are you going to talk about the Seasons? As a console player, I only have had the chance to play one, but it feels like the bridge between the “casual content consumer” (which I’d say accurately describes me) and the “end-game grinder.”

    For my part, I think that Diablo III–in its current form–is a great game with an atrocious narrative that is far, far worse than anything from earlier Diablo games, which had narratives that were much, much better than they strictly needed to be.

    1. Kylroy says:

      “Seasons” (and their D2 predecessor, the “ladder”) are pretty much unique to Diablo among PvE-focused games. I’m sure there’s other examples out there, but I can’t think of another Diablo-style game that offered a play experience that reset character experience every few months.

      1. Ivan says:

        Path of Exile does that also. Varying length Leagues that are used to test new mechanics, usually no more that 3 months.

  10. Zekiel says:

    Looking forward to this series! (Even if it’s a short one.)

    I have a slightly odd relationship with Diablo – I was a massive fan of the first two games, but at some point after my first play through of Lord of Destruction (the D2 expansion) I decided that the gameplay wasn’t very good for me – since for me it was basically all focused on attaining something in the future (i.e. dinging the next level or getting a cool loot drop) rather than actually enjoying the gameplay itself. I decided that wasn’t really a great thing to be spending my time on, even though I still had a pull to play the game.

    (Note that I’m not trying to condemn anyone else who likes the series!)

  11. Orillion says:

    I loved Diablo 1. There was something charming about building a mountain of gold in the middle of Tristram because stacks only contained 5000 pieces and gear eventually started costing (individually) more than that. I also really liked Diablo 3 for what it was. I played through the story as a Crusader, did some rifts, made a wizard and decided to shelve the game until I felt the itch to play it again. Doubtless I will within the year.

    I bounced, hard, off of Diablo 2 twice. The loop was roughly the same: make a character (assassin once, then paladin), not really enjoy wandering the procedurally generated outdoors, find a cave with a quest or something, die, and then realize that I had not actually made any measurable progress in the game. Like, I had a couple levels by that time, but they don’t amount to much. I lost all my equipment. The second time I died, I even spent the whole time running from a battle I knew I couldn’t win, rather than trying to fight, but the random miniboss had slowing arrows and the whole cave was extremely narrow corridors, so it rarely missed.

    Like, I genuinely don’t understand how people like D2 as much as they do. Both times I’ve tried it, I went in as patient as I’ve ever been, and both times I’ve been bored within five minutes and furious within half an hour. And this really confuses me, because I like most of the other well-reviewed Diablolikes, like Torchlight (even Torchlight II with a generous application of mods) and even Titan Quest to some extent (though I feel TQ is WAAAAY too long for its own good. I’ve never been past Egypt, but I at least enjoyed most of the trip there).

    I saw a dll mod to prevent dropping all your stuff when you die, but I’m reluctant to try the game again because it still doesn’t fix the fact that the areas (at least for the first half hour) are really boring to look at. I also really don’t like when games respawn the world on you between sessions unless it’s well hidden (as in Torchlight II, which holds something like three exterior and two interior maps in your save file so you’ll only have re-generated worlds if you intentionally backtrack) so it really doesn’t seem to have anything at all to offer me EVEN IF I can play it for more than an hour.

    1. Scampi says:

      Not calling your experience a lie and it’s of course your absolute right to dislike, even hate Diablo II, but…you and I remember Diablo II very differently.
      It may actually have happened that way, but I think it would only happen this specific way under very specific circumstances which are mostly under the player’s control.
      But, whatever, if you don’t like it: That’s totally fine.

      1. Syal says:

        I do remember having trouble with the non-quest caves and skipping most of them. That and the scorpion unique that was so obnoxious the expansion removed it. The Diablo games are certainly willing to kill you.

        1. Scampi says:

          Yes, the non-quest caves have some of the highest enemy levels in Diablo II. They are not needed, though, just some challenge for lategame characters (at least on hell difficulty).
          The scorpion unique I don’t remember. Is there any reference to it that I might find on the web?

          Edit: Nevermind. I found it. But I think these beasts were supposed to be some kind of porcupine?
          Also: I never found him to be especially dangerous back then, but I see how it could become dangerous. There are some brutal bugs in the game that may turn this guy into a real killer on higher difficulties.

          1. Syal says:

            My first few runs he was troublesome due to the roomful’o’range, but it looks like they removed him because he killed people before the level loaded.

            1. Scampi says:

              Aaaah, now I get it.
              This was a problem I’d never have thought of since at the time of his existence I didn’t play online. I didn’t suffer any lag or loading times to get there, so I didn’t realize this was such an issue.
              Thanks for clarifying.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      The in-game way to deal with your loot being dropped, is to open a town-portal scroll periodically, so you’re never far off from your corpse if you die. Unfortunately, I seem to recall the game not giving you access to town portal scrolls until after a few quests in the game. Maybe that was part of the sort of tutorial of the game? If you died before then, then I can see how death would be very frustrating.

      1. Scampi says:

        No, you have access to TPs immediately. You even start with one in your inventory and, as far as I remember, can buy more in town.
        Death can still be frustrating due probably dangerous enemies still standing over your equipment, keeping you from picking it up again, maybe even a bugged one and much of the difficulty in D2 came from bugs (sad fact).
        Also, the game has waypoints, usually on every 2nd or 3rd consecutive overworld map, sometimes more often, so the way to retrieve your corpse would usually not be too long. There are some exceptions, though, like Act 3, where some maps were designed in a way to create horribly long walks and enemies were really easy to alarm due to their high aggro range. Many of them are ranged and some are dangerous flyers with high lightning damage, which are really hard to shake off without any good boots.

    3. Zekiel says:

      Can’t speak for others but I found D2 a compelling experience because of the promise of cool rewards just around the corner, whether that’s a new ability next level or the possibility of a fantastic item or whatever. As I mentioned in an earlier post I eventually decided this wasn’t actually a very healthy primary reason for me to want to play a game so I quit.

      Having said that, smashing through hordes of skeletons in Act 2 was frickin’ awesome. Less so trying to track down stupid goblins in Act 1 and fetishes in Act 3.

      My first playthrough (of 3) I actually quit because I lost my corpse. I was playing a Barbarian and got swarmed in the mystical maze in Act 2 (can’t remember the name). When I came back to retrieve my corpse it was surrounded my monsters, and in that dungeon there’s a not a lot of room to maneourve and kite enemies. So I got killed again, which means the equipment on your first corpse is lost. Boo.

    4. djw says:

      Maybe I am mis-remembering this (its been a while) but I thought that your corpse would get moved to town if you died and logged out before retrieving it, so that you could (in theory) always get your stuff back.

      1. Scampi says:

        You remember correctly. BUT the game will only save the LAST corpse this way. If he left a corpse, returned to collect it and died again, he had 2 corpses, the last of which was probably unequipped or poorly equipped. Sadly, it’s actually possible to lose one’s corpse this way.

  12. tremor3258 says:

    This should be pretty interesting. Diablo 2 I’ve played, but it’s never been central to the sort of roguelikes or strategy I prefer.

  13. Elemental Alchemist says:

    Diablo 2 was not instantly recognized as a classic when it hit the market in June of 2000. Gamespot gave it 8.5/10, IGN gave it 8.3, and Gamespy gave it 86/100. That's amazingly consistent by the standards of review scores, and yet surprisingly low given its reputation today.

    We hadn’t reached the “death of games journalism” yet at that point. The ratings scale still legitimately went from 1 to 10, instead of 7 to 10 like it does now. You could have what many people would regard as one of the greatest PC games of all time getting 8-8.5s without being inundated with death threats.

  14. Syal says:

    Man, I should put that meme on the legal documents.

  15. Jabrwock says:

    As a kid, the first time I ran into Diablo I’s butcher was my first videogame “OHCRAPOHCRAPOHCRAPOHCRAP” moment.

    I loved that the ending was bittersweet. You saved the day, but at great personal cost. Plus it perfectly worked with D2, because you’re not the character from the previous game, but you do run into them.

    1. Eric says:

      As a kid, the first time I ran into Diablo I's butcher was my first videogame “OHCRAPOHCRAPOHCRAPOHCRAP” moment.

      Same. I remember my hands were sweating so much I couldn’t even keep a grip on my mouse. When he finally went down, I literally jumped up and down shouting and laughing.

      And then I realized that I was still only on the second dungeon level.

      1. djw says:

        FRESH MEAT!

  16. King Marth says:

    My main memory of Diablo 2 was when some friends tried to get me into it during a LAN party. Their method of doing so was to tell me what build to use and go beat the first boss while I was still reading the story introduction for that quest.

    I didn’t finish that game. I did end up playing on my own for a little while afterwards (turns out the paladin Zeal/Thorns build actually is fun) and I vaguely recall getting the last of the bonus skill points in the first run, but I can only say I think it had something to do with defeating a group boss in Act 4 or 5.

    I had the same introduction to Guild Wars 2, being dragged through story quests as fast as possible by an already-invested friend (often inviting random high-level people to rush the quest for us) who considered this the best introduction to the game.

    I get that these games have great replay value and apparently some people don’t like to read even on the first playthrough, but that’s kind of a personal choice.

    1. Jabrwock says:

      Ah LAN parties. Pestering the parents for a ride, loading the tower and monitor (19″ I mowed lawns all summer to afford that sucker!), and spending the whole night playing Marathon, Diablo, and a few other multiplayer games.

  17. Dreadjaws says:

    I guess I fall a bit in-between those two groups for this kind of game. I tend to stay a bit after reaching level cap and do some new stuff, but not really after finishing the story. I like the sense of closure a main story’s ending provides (you know, when it does it), so I will try to make sure to play all sidequests before tackling the final mission for the main quest, otherwise sometimes I feel like I’m finished anyway and ignore the sidequests.

    It also depends on the way other games handle progression. For instance, if I play an MMO once I reach level cap then there’s no more character leveling. I can acquire some more equipment, but I feel like I’m finished with the important part, so I’d rather start a new character. In contrast, say, a game like LEGO Batman doesn’t have levels, all the progression is done by replaying stages or wandering around doing side quests. This encourages me to keep playing even after the main story is finished.

    Then there are the Arkham games, which actually have a level cap and a full story mode, but they’re so damn fun to play that I will squeeze every bit of juice out of them before leaving them. And then I will come back later and replay them again from the start even when there’s no new content.

  18. evileeyore says:

    “Keith Parkinson “box art”.”

    I think that’s just a wallpaper. But yeah, that juicy Parkinson art would have definitely gotten my attention back in the day when I mistakenly believed ‘good art’* equated to ‘good game/book”.

    * As an ’80’s gamer Parkinson, Caldwell, and Whelan and are my gotos for ‘great art”. Even today if box/cover art is Parkinson, Caldwell, or Whelanesque it gets a nostalgia bump in my appraisal.

    1. Lanthanide says:

      Yip, this is a wallpaper.

      Also, the screenshot purportedly of Diablo 1, is actually the Diablo 1 beta.

  19. Amarsir says:

    I somehow missed the first two – I think the horror theme or them failed to appeal to me as I stick with something like StarCraft. When D3 came out I wanted to see what I’d missed but really didn’t get the appeal. It reminds me of MOBAs which I also don’t get.

    I want to say it’s the scale. Putting myself into a small character on a big screen makes me feel unimportant. Either there’s lots of action and I feel like I don’t matter, or it’s easy and clearing a room in a swing makes it seem trivial, or it’s a long battle and it feels button-mashy. Rationally I’m sure that’s not true and there is a great deal of skill to be learned, but it isn’t evident.

    This is in contrast to MMOs I very much like, where actions and choice of powers seem big and important even on content I know is meant to be easy.

    This probably isn’t a fair assessment, but there I am.

    1. See, I always felt like Diablo was an AARPG equivalent of Starcraft and Warcraft, where instead of getting an army to play as, you got one character to mash through the game with. I always take the “I want to finish this game quickly” approach as described above, as it feels more natural for me. WC3 was easy enough, and afterwards I went to play online (Metastasis and SOTDRP became my favorite mods in the game… I loved RP’ing).

      Granted, Warcraft 3 had hero units, and you could play RPG editions of the game that really kicked ass and provided depth in both gameplay and story (Side note- I did play through the Rexxar campaign completely. That was a fun one). However, Diablo never had that for me. I never stuck around and I only played it very briefly. That said, I might go play Diablo II again now that we have a series write-up about it.

    2. Christopher says:

      The camera in Diablo is real weird to me. Most action RPGs have an over the shoulder camera, or possibly a 2d platformer-like camera, or just a sort of slightly zoomed out third person camera. Then there’s Diablo, theoretically an action RPG, but it looks like an RTS or an old PC RPG a la Baldur’s gate or something. It makes sense for the old ones, being actual old PC RPGs and all, but I have no idea why they kept it that way for the third one besides heritage(and perhaps mouse and keyboard-friendliness?). It’s not exactly an exciting camera angle.

  20. MaxEd says:

    I’m not a fan of the genre, but I play Diablo clones occasionally. For me, the fun in this type of games stops very quickly. Picking up and upgrading the first items always feels great, but turns into grind for “slightly better axe” all too quickly, and since these games usually lack any interesting (to me) storyline or mechanics, I end up boredly clicking on enemies till the final boss and the ask myself why did I waste my time on this.

    The problem for me is, I think, the real-time action gameplay. I don’t like anything real-time, so to make it bearable, I play on lower difficulty. And on low difficulty, modern Diablo-cones require no tactics, no build optimization, or, frankly, a functioning brain beyond reflexes. But if I try to play on higher difficulty, I end up frustrated about dying too much and quit.

    I guess it’s just really my type of game, even though it occasionally lure me, so _some_ part of it do call to some part of me.

  21. Carlos García says:

    Off-topic, maybe others have mentioned it already, but the pop up notes now seem to run offscreen if they’re at the right edge.

  22. Linkmaker says:

    So, you seek to distract me from productive work with interesting analysis. TWO CAN PLAY AT THAT GAME, SIRRAH!
    (But seriously, if you’re writing about Diablo III, you might be interested in those who have come before.)

    Diablo II’s horror comes not from the personal alienation of being alone in a dungeon full of madness: rather, it comes from observing the decay of this larger world. The more defined heroes serve to flesh out and characterise that larger world.
    One thing I like in Act I is that you do sometimes find old houses or barns in the wilderness. It’s a good reminder that though the place is overrun with demons and monsters now, this used to be just the countryside. Ordinary people lived here.
    The effect of this is that the land is not just an abode of monsters. Instead, there’s a palpable sense of decay. This was a safe and civilised part of the world, but it’s gone bad. Where D1 was an isolated little bubble of evil, D2 shows a world that is gradually falling apart.

    D1 has the sense that there is no way out. It’s a strange, claustrophobic little bubble world. You can never leave Tristram. The map has no borders: it’s just half a dozen brown huts huddled around a well – and around an old church, with a lurid red glow in the windows and unearthly shrieks piercing the night. There is no adventure, there is no outside, there is nowhere to go. There are only two options in D1. You can stay in town, paralysed by terror, or you can go in search of the dungeon’s evil heart. The game develops a feeling of stagnation, then. You can fight as hard as you like, but nothing ever really changes.
    D2 and D3 both have a continental scale, by contrast. You even go to other worlds in the finales. There is a sense of movement, of progress. You travel the world, and you get to feel more bad ass as a result. D3 plays it up a little more – D3 constantly gives you positive feedback, and little XP rewards for destroying lots of items or killing lots of monsters – but D2 still has elements of it. I mean, in D2 you save entire towns and then move on. The rogues get their monastery back, you save Lut Gholein, you kill the corrupted church leaders, yay! There is some development or some improvement. Now, both games do still put the cynical, morbid tinge of the franchise on to this. (I think it’s significant that all of D3’s positive feedback is about destruction. You never interact with the environment of D3 except to destroy it: even in the Heavens, you go around smashing pots and things, and the game pats you on the head in approval. You destroy things. You do not create.) They’re not suddenly happy games.
    Their travelogue format creates a different emphasis, though. D1 is almost surreal at times: after all, the monsters are explicitly the results of Diablo bringing a kid’s nightmares into being. It has a psychological focus, and that almost makes it about the hero’s descent into madness. After all, you never see any monsters leave the church. The dungeon is entirely self-contained. (Do you even have to go in there? You could just wait in town…) Whatever D1 is saying, it’s saying it on a small scale. Whereas I said above, I think D2 and D3 are both more interested in showing you a world as it collapses. If D1 is about your own self-destruction, D2 and D3 are about Sanctuary’s self-destruction. It is really not a coincidence that D2 ends with the destruction of the Worldstone.

    Now for my favourite part of every LP: The part where I give you all a long-winded lecture on the geography and history of a fictional world!

    Diablo 3 in 3 Minutes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcJ_XT3oWtY
    Azmodan: Welcome to the war, Nephilim. You’ll never be able to rally the forces of Bastion Keep before my army breaches your walls.
    Azmodan: So you’ve managed to rally the forces of Bastion Keep, but you’ll never be able to raise the catapults in order to defeat my demonic Hell-terrors.
    Azmodan: So you’ve defeated my demonic Hell-terrors, but while you were busy, my forces mounted a sneak attack and breached your walls.
    Azmodan: So my siege weapons are no more, but my demonic siegebreaker will certainly defeat you.
    Azmodan: So you’ve defeated my demonic siegebreaker, but you must destroy my Sin Hearts, and they are guarded by a DEADLY SPIDER QUEEN!
    Azmodan: So my spider queen has fallen, but you will never be able to defeat the Lord of Sin him—

    The reason I’m singling him out first is because his ineptitude is even more compounding on his character given that he’s supposed to be a master of lies and deception. Belial is about as cunning as a shoe.
    What makes all of this worse is that it appears as though Belial *doesn’t* really even need our heroes to get his hands on the soulstone in the first place.
    He shows up constantly along the way to lend us a helping hand and keep tabs on our progress. It seems like he just knew exactly where we were going from the start and how to get there.
    If he knew all that why didn’t just send his legions of snake-people to get the soulstone instead? That’d be one way of getting what he wanted without, you know, risking *everything*.
    Azmodan faces a similar problem of his actions conflicting with what we’re told about him. He’s supposed to be a master strategist, and yet all he seems to do is throw his army against the walls of a keep until they eventually get pushed back and defeated. Again, you can imply that more things went on off-screen before we arrived, but if we’re left to assume that his amazing strategy happened sometime somewhere that we didn’t see or hear about then it has no impact on us as an audience, and it doesn’t help us buy into the idea that Azmodan’s a character capable of things worthy of caring about.
    What if there’d been some back and forth during the battle for Bastion’s Keep?
    We light the fires, so Azmodan extinguishes them?
    We bring out the catapults, so he targets them with his flying demons?
    We try to cross the bridge, so the demons collapse it under our feet?

    Diablo is certainly the most effective villain in the story, and he does manage to accomplish part of his plan against all odds and bring the war to his enemies’ front door. It’s not set up particularly well but you have to admit the sulphurous blemishes all over Heaven’s pristine walkways and demon soldiers rampaging through the streets amidst the impaled bodies of angels paint a pretty clear picture of what Diablo’s capable of.
    The problem our main villain faces however is that he inherits both the overly complicated, flaw-ridden plotting of Belial, and the ineffectual monologuing of Azmodan.
    The overall idea of this as I understand it is that Diablo knew about the black soulstone and had been planning for years to combine the powers of all the other demon lords within it so that he could become the prime evil and demons could finally win out over their angel counterparts. To do this he enlists the help of Adria and has her pop out a babby for him so that it can be used at a later date as the vessel for his rebirth.
    Alright then. So this all gets revealed to us in a very short amount of time in the middle of the most confusing and awkwardly handled scene of the entire game, and the questions it throws up not only muddy the tone of the moment even more, but also force us to question what the heck Diablo was thinking when he thought all of this up.
    So what about all the other demon lords? Were they in on this? I guess not because Belial and Azmodan were trying to take over the world for themselves, and it’s established that they’re not exactly on good terms with the rest of their demonic brethren.
    Was Diablo dying (twice) a part of the plan? I got the impression it was because he needed his soul in the stone along with all the others right? Sheesh. That’s a pretty big risk to take.
    And from what we can gather the only person in the world who was in on it was Adria, an old human lady that Diablo apparently entrusted his entire plan to over the twenty years he spent being dead.
    Diablo apparently entrusted his entire plan to Adria over the twenty years he spent being dead.
    What if Belial and Azmodan didn’t make their move for another fifty years and Adria died of old age waiting?
    What if Belial and Azmodan hadn’t been complete idiots and managed to succeed in their plans?
    I guess it takes a lot of confidence in the superiority of your people for your entire scheme to hinge on every single one of your most powerful contemporaries being murdered within a few short years. Sure am on the edge of my seat about these dangerous demons now.
    Every time you strike a blow against Diablo he makes sure to pick up the phone and explain to you how useless your efforts are, even though the player has enough of a brain to know that what they’ve been doing is the exact opposite of useless.
    I honestly felt like Diablo and Azmodan were out of their depth during these segments.
    It is possible to introduce villains early and often without having them show up and taunt the player constantly until any potential feeling of intimidation is crushed to dust — especially in the horror genre, in which playing up the element of the unknown is paramount.
    Let the villain’s reputation precede him; create an air of mystery while dropping clues; reference the villain indirectly;
    show his effects on the world and its people; slowly build up to the final reveal.

    If all else fails just have them sit in their dark pit brooding and just generally seeming evil, then allow the audience to make them threatening with their own imagination. Diablo II used the latter option primarily because of the limitations of the storytelling resources available at the time, and ironically succeeded in creating much more threatening villains than Diablo III even with all its hours of dialogue, cutscenes, and background lore.

    1. djw says:

      I agree. Silent Diablo was much more effective than chatterbox Diablo.

  23. droid says:

    Dear Shamus,

    Everyone should know that SHA-1 is busted. You gotta use SHA256 to find your username, that way Google won’t use its massive computing power to find an embarrassing collision.


    1. Droid says:

      What a striking username you chose. Of course, as reasonable robot AIs there is no need to become territorial about it.

      (especially not after my Orbital Death Laser will be complete. Mwahahaha!!)

      What, no, I didn’t say anything. Must have been the wind.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Hm,yes,interesting.So many new robots are visiting the blog these days.Well my robot friend,hello.Stay awhile and listen to the tales of diablo.

  24. baud says:

    Funny, I don’t remember reading this and I’m sure I started following the site in 2015 (I think, after spending 40 min going through the archives). Oh well, I think it’s going to be interesting.

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  26. TsundereTTao says:

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