Diablo 1 Review

In my last review I looked at the computer gaming giant that is Diablo 2. While its well known for its loot system and awesome gameplay and large improvements to the original, I feel that it was also a departure from the original game in some ways. So thus, I think a review of the first Diablo is necessary, so here we go!

The first Diablo was released by Blizzard Entertainment in 1996 and is a different experience compared to their other games, such as the strategy game Warcraft or the comedic arcade adventure The lost Vikings. Most of Blizzards games at the time were set in fantasy realms or the far future. But Diablo did something different, sure the world is similar to one in a fantasy game but it adds an element of horror that was uncharacteristic for the time. Diablo takes place in the town of Tristram where the forces of hell have launched an attack on mankind and its up to a mysterious Hero to save the town, and thus the world.

But before I get too far ahead of myself, I need to talk about the three classes. You can choose between the Warrior, Rouge and Sorcerer. The Warrior, specializes in melee combat, the Rouge in ranged weaponry and disarming traps and finally, the Wizard specializes in magic, naturally. I should note that your characters don’t have any real special abilities, your choice only effects your statistics, which you can change as you level up. The neat thing is that everyone can use every weapon/item, so long as they have the stats to wield them. Its a neat system that allows for a decent amount of customization.

After you choose your hero, you are thrust into the middle of Tristram where you can trade items, repair weapons and chat with the locals. The chatting is probably the best part of the entire Diablo experience as it lays down the entire story for the game. Some of the dialogs are interesting and some are even scary or sad, I highly recommend learning as much as you can about the butcher, its some creepy stuff. The story and character development are rock solid in this game and you are rewarded with a lot of detail if you choose to speak to everyone. Sure some of the voice acting is bad by today’s standards but for 1996, its pretty good.

Once you have learned of your task, its time to confront the horrors of hell. And to do that, you must go into a cathedral?!?! Yes, a cathedral, a holy place where no evil is supposed to linger. I think thats what makes this game great, the atmosphere is amazing, the places where evil shouldn’t be able to touch have been defiled by it. Nowhere is safe, you feel trapped as you descend through the 16 levels. There are screams and strange noises in the background, skeletons everywhere, blood soaked rooms and demons everywhere. I’ll be honest, this game had to have scared people, but its what makes the game great, the scary atmosphere, not knowing if you will survive a fight, a constant struggle between life and death against a tide of foes.

Speaking of foes, there are plenty of enemies to combat. These range from small demon dogs, to skeletons, to well, Diablo. But it doesn’t end there, there are other bosses to face, such as the Butcher and Skeleton King. Combat is handled the same way it is in all other Diablo games, click like a madman to swing  your weapon or perform a spell. Its a simple system but it works nicely. But all this demon slaying and clicking has to have an award right? Well, there are loot drops, enemies will drop weapons and gold. I find that the loot isn’t as inspired as in later clickfest rpgs but hey, its the first game of its kind, so it deserves a break.

Another nice thing is the levels themselves and how they randomize. All the layouts will be different in each playthrough, and you wont even fight the bosses in the same order. Now, Diablo is always last but you might fight the Butcher towards the middle instead of the beginning or the Skeleton King will show up first. Its fun to see who your opponent will be next, because you never know.

In conclusion, Diablo is a good game but for different reasons than its sequel. While D2 focused on a fantasy world, D1 went for horror and shock, and a good story with solid characters. Sure some things don’t hold up as well, such as the voice acting, loot system and lack of class specific abilities but if you have played Diablo 2 or even 3. I highly recommend trying Diablo 1, its an awesome experience of story and atmosphere and it created a game design that has been often imitated.

9.2/10

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Diablo 2 + Lord of Destruction

I bet this cover scared little kids at the store.

For those that take a look at society, one thing they will notice is that people love to acquire things. Sometimes these things are precious items (Classic video games or good music) other times its frivolous things that make you question why people buy it (Pet Rock). Some people even take this need to acquire stuff to a whole new level. For example, a kleptomaniac will steal things just because they can, but these people get away with it because its a mental disorder. Other times, people will steal things because their desire for an item is so great that they will do anything to have it. So, you might be thinking, “Why is he writing about societies need for things in a game review?” Well, I am here to tell you that this is one of the driving focuses of Blizzard’s Diablo 2, and its expansion, Lord of Destruction.

For starters, Blizzard hands down one of my personal favorite gaming developers as well as one of the most popular. They are the creators of 4 hit game series. Warcraft, World of Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo. All the games in these series have been runaway financial and critical successes. However, its worth noting that they are known for some of the longest development times in the history of gaming. It usually takes years for them to release any new games. For example, the wait between Diablo 1 and Diablo 2 was 4 years. But the wait between 2 and three was a whopping 12 years.

Anyway, back to the game at hand. After the runaway success of the first Diablo, people may have wondered, “How can they improve on a game that is dang near perfect?” Well, they did and they did so in epic fashion. Diablo 2 is an awesome experience.

Firstly, lets begin with the story, its really basic, Diablo has never been about story anyway. All you need to know is that  Diablo, his brothers Mephisto and Baal, along with hordes of hells minions are wrecking havoc across the land of Sanctuary and you must stop them. From here, you select your hero. In the main game there are 5 of them, the Amazon, Barbarian, Necromancer, Paladin and Sorceress. Each of these characters provides unique play mechanics. The Amazon is a weapon specialist with an emphasis on spears and archery. The Barbarian charges headlong into battle, absorbing damage and killing enemies with ease. The Necromancer uses a combination of summoning magic and poison/bone and curse spells. The paladin is a solid fighter with lots of holy magic, most of which is useful when with a team. Finally the sorceress is terrible in melee combat and relies almost exclusively on magic.

The Dream Team

Once you have made your choice, its time to give the minions of hell a taste of their own medicine. Well, not quite yet, you start in a town with some basic equipment. After some talking you will be tasked with some mission objectives. Now its time for the one thing you will do a whole lot of in Diablo 2, fight stuff. Combat is handled nicely. To attack an enemy, simply click on it then hold down your mouse button. Or, like many do, you can click as fast as you possibly can because it makes you feel like you are fighting faster than you actually are. But it isnt just about left mouse clicking, the right mouse can be used to attack as well, or be used for special attacks. The nice thing about this is that you can easily set a specific ability to each of the mouse buttons or use the keyboard to quickly switch between skills and abilities. However, no matter how many abilities you use and how powerful you are, you are going to need health and mana potions. These can be set in your belt and can be used by either clicking on the icon on the screen or by pressing the number assigned to it. Trust me, you will need to memorize the potion buttons as you will use them constantly.

After you hack your way through a horde of enemies you will be rewarded with loot. For the uninitiated, loot refers to the items that enemies drop when you destroy them. For many, this is the best part of Diablo 2. You never know what kind of items you will receive. Many times, they are worthless and broken swords or pieces of armor. However, sometimes you get magical items that need to be identified. This can be done by using an identify scroll that you can find or buy in town. Later, you meet someone who identifies stuff for you, which is nice. Once identified, you can either sell the item or use it on your character. Its this loot system that makes the game extremely addicting as you will want to keep playing just to see what loot you will get.

But there is more to the game than just killing and looting. You will be constantly earning experience points that you can use to level your character. Every level, you can put some new points into your character stats and 1 point into your skill tree. Personally, I really like this part of the game, there are tons of possibilities and you can tailor your character to your own personal play style. Its really fun to play around with. However, I have to say, I hate how you cannot take your decisions back once they are made. Say for example, you have a skill that you hate, well you have to deal with it. They eventually dealt with this but its only possible at one spot in the game.

For the most part, that’s all there is to it. Its a fun formula that can get dull at times as some of the missions are really long and you are required to chop through tons and tons of enemies, most of which you will see a lot of. But, thankfully, the game throws in boss fights and sub boss fights. Its really common to run into one of the numerous sub bosses just wandering around. Also, in every game, the map layout is different. That is right, there is no set map world, there are certain areas that are the same mainly due to story reasons but the rest of the map is randomly generated. This does add some freshness to a very repetitive game. Its nice to see that they thought of this.

Next, its time to talk about the multiplayer. Its one of those games where the multiplayer is just as fun as the single player. Its neat because the game becomes more difficult depending on how many players are in a single multiplayer game. So if you want to play with four friends, then more teamwork is required in order to face your foes. The loot system also becomes interesting as everyone scrambles to pick up that piece of loot before that useless teammate of yours does. Its almost comedic to watch as everyone will fight over who gets the new items. However, if you are a good teammate, you will give your weapons to the people that need them. But most people tend to forgo the team and feed their greedy little souls.

All in all, this game is seriously fun, and helps feed ones greedy nature, but Blizzard didn’t stop there!!

FACE BAAL!!!

A year after Diablo 2, Blizzard unleashed its expansion pack. Lord of Destruction adds a 5th act to play through, in which the player faces off against Baal. I can firmly say that it is my favorite chapter. Its scale is epic but it isn’t frustrating like the long act 2. It also provides closure to the story as well, you finally kill all three prime evils.

It also gave some gameplay tweaks as well. I find that it upped the single and multiplayer difficulty a bit, which is welcome because I found D2 a bit too easy at times. But the additions don’t stop there, two new classes are playable. The assassin who sets traps and uses stealth tactics to defeat her enemies whereas the Druid calls upon the forces of nature to fight. Both of these classes are fun to play as, in their own way and add some interesting dimensions to the game overall. Finally, we have more items as well as class specific items. Yes, there are special weapons that provide huge bonuses to certain classes. For example, the Barbarian has special helmets that he can wear that boost his skills. But they are only wearable by the Barbarian.

All in all, Diablo 2 is an awesome game and Lord of Destruction just makes it even better. Sure its repetitive and has some sections that I just dont like, act 2 is way to long for its own good. But the loot system, random mapping, fun boss fights, awesome character progression and wonderful multiplayer make it all worth it.

Diablo 2 8.8/10

D2 with Lord of Destrction 9.5/10

Kung Fu (short review)

When people think of NES launch games, they generally think of two games. Super Mario Bros. and Duck hunt. However, there were more than just those two.  Those that ventured deeper into the game library may have discovered Kung Fu, a console port of the arcade game known as Kung Fu Master.

The goal of the game is simple, you are Thomas, some Kung Fu warrior, and your mission is to rescue your girlfriend Silvia from the fiendish Mr. X. But first, you have to fight through the evil tower against a horde of smaller enemies and, at the end of each level, a boss.

Plot?

Gameplay is extremely simple, you walk with the directional pad and punch or kick your enemies with the buttons. You can also jump kick and perform low punches and kicks. It is really simple but there are plenty of enemies that stand in Thomas’s way. These range from standard warriors that love to grab Thomas and, I’m guessing, give him a brutal hug or something. There also little midget warriors that jump around and annoy you. Finally there are wasps, dragons, snakes and confetti balls that explode and harm Thomas.

You fight through five levels and that’s all there is, then you do it over and over again until you run out of lives. And a playthrough only takes about 5-6 minutes. Its that simple/bland/short. For me, I found myself wanting something more and the gameplay becomes monotonous quickly. But I do admit, its fun for a half hour or so.

Next we need to talk about the graphics, well, they are mediocre but for an NES launch title, ill let it pass. They have some detail but its obvious that the NES was in its infant stages graphically.

Thats really all that I have to say about this game because thats really all there is. I guess the sound design is alright but its the NES so its nothing special. I only recommend this game to someone who likes doing the same thing over and over. Its an ok challenge but I really didn’t like it.

5.5/10

 

Heroes of Might and Magic 3: Complete

For many, the name New World Computing means absolutely nothing. However, for those of us that have played a lot of classic computer games, that name means a great deal. The now defunct developer gave the pc world some very fine games. The series it was most known for is Might and Magic, a popular role playing experience where you lead your warriors on quests fighting magical creatures and solving puzzles. Personally, I didnt like them, the lack of direction is frustrating. However, they created a spin off of the series and turned it into a popular turn based strategy game with just the right amount of role playing elements. This series is known as Heroes of Might and Magic. To this day, there are 6 of them each with its own unique storylines and play styles, however, the last one that was made by New World Computing was Heroes 4. The newest two were picked up and developed by Ubisoft and are great games in their own right. However, of the entire series, Heroes 3 stands the tallest and is a shining example of what strategy games should be.

To begin, its worth noting the game play elements. This is a rather complicated game that has a rather sharp learning curve, especially at the beginning. It is definitely one of those games where reading the manual is mandatory. To begin with, there are a couple of play modes, the first is to select a campaign and play through the stories therein. Another is to select and play a scenario, which are there to challenge you. There is also a tutorial and mulitplayer, more on the multi later. I highly recommend by first playing the tutorial as it gives you a basic understanding of the game. I do find however, that it isn’t the best tutorial system and leaves out a lot of important details. From there you can launch into one of the three campaigns. The first is Restoration of Erathia, which is the easiest. The second is Armageddons Blade, which takes place after the events of the Restoration. I find this to be the second most difficult, but probably the most fun because the battles are huge. Then we have Shadow of Death which is a prequel to the entire thing. This one has some missions that are brutally difficult so its only for seasoned veterans. Normally, Armageddons blade and Shadow of Death are released as expansions to the original but New World Computing released a Complete edition which has everything in one. Currently, it is 10 dollars on gog.com, that is where I purchased it and it has compatibility with Windows Xp, Vista and 7.

Anyway, after that little diversion, lets talk about the factions that are available (when you pick a campaign, you don’t get a choice). For starters, each faction has several tiers of units that they can hire. For example a simple skeleton is a lower tier unit where a vampire and dragon represent the middle and upper tiers. Each unit has a variety of different stats, such as attack damage and health. Some also have special abilities that lower enemy unit morale or even drain enemies magic power. Each of the 9 factions have 7 different units that they can purchase from their towns. There are also upgraded versions of these units that can be purchased as well. For example, taking a skeleton and then upgrading it to a skeleton warrior thus making it a tougher unit. While this may not seem like a lot of unit variety, its all you really will need because of the fact that you can always incorporate other faction’s units into your armies. This increases the army possibilities to a staggering number. (I made a list at the end of this review that gives some insight into the factions and their units)

However, it isn’t that simple, you will first need to construct your town and hire the individual units into your army. This, however, costs money and resources. This is where your hero comes into play. You can use your hero to move around the world map. On this map, you will encounter resources, enemies, other towns, magical artifacts and other misc. things. All of this is daunting at first because you can only move a hero so far and build only so much in one turn. However, you can hire additional heroes to aid in the process. On top of exploration, your hero gains experience points by succeeding in combat or by performing missions. Once you level up, your stats increase and you get to choose a new trait or skill. These vary from adding additional damage when a unit attacks or giving you the ability to learn new spells. These can provide a huge benefit to an army. On top of experience and levels, you can equip artifacts to your hero to further boost stats and skills. Eventually you can make your hero so powerful that large armies will quiver with fear at the very sight of him/her.

Next we should move onto the combat aspects of the game. This is where the game shows its age a bit. The combat is a simple turn based affair where numbers generally defeat tactics. You and the enemy take turns moving units, based off of their statistics, the faster units move first. That is pretty much all there is, but you can also use your heroes to cast spells that can wreak havoc or give your units bonuses. Thats really all there is to it. Its fun but can be monotonous after prolonged exposure.

 Next, i need to discuss the graphics. They hold up really really well today, the over worlds are lush and full of detail. The resources stand out amongst the landscape making it easy to find that pile of wood laying there next to a forest. Also, some of the buildings have small details built into them. For instance you can see little fires burning outside of a tomb. Not only that, but the character models look good during the battles. Their movement is a bit stiff by today’s standards but its really good considering that it was made in 1999.

Finally, I have to talk about multiplayer. This game has a fun multiplayer component, if you can get it to work. The servers for the game have long disappeared with New World Computing going out of business. However, there are gaming clients that you can use to get a game going. I used game ranger for mine. This mode is where the real competition can begin and its fun to play against live opponents as the computer has some tricks that you can exploit. This gives even more longevity to a game that already has absurd amounts of replayability.

All in all, this is one of my personal favorite computer games that I have ever played. It has a really deep system that rewards creativity but it also is simple enough for a basic gamer to get into after some practice. I find that the campaigns are interesting and provide some unique challenges, with the scenarios and mulitplayer rounding out the entire package. This game also has a sense of humor, it has sections that are built in for comic relief. I won’t spoil these.

10/10

As promised, I am going to talk about the factions:

Castle: Basically your knights and good hearted creatures. They are the most well rounded of the factions and boast some fantastic units, including the mega powerful Angel and Archangel. Id say that this is the best faction to start with as they are the most straight forward. Heroes include the Knight and the Cleric

Rampart: The friendly woodland creatures. Such as Centaurs, Pegassi and my favorite unit, the Grand Elf which is an archer that can fire 2 arrows each turn with deadly precision. Overall, this is a solid choice that requires some tactics to use properly. Heroes include Rangers and Druids.

Fortress: The fortress is a swamp home that has creatures such as Lizardmen, Basilisks, Gorgons and Hydras. I’m not the biggest fan of this race as their units tend to be weak. Heroes include Beastmasters and Witches.

Dungeon: An underground city that has a wide range of units from Harpies to Black Dragons. I really like this race because they have some awesome unit abilities such as the medusas ability to turn enemies to stone and the Harpies ability to attack without enemy retaliation. Heroes include the Overlords and Warlocks

Tower: The tower faction is one of the most interesting in the game. The creatures are of a magical nature and include the Magi, Titan and Gremlin. This faction has the greatest number of ranged units with 3 of the 6. However, this firepower comes at a cost. This one requires lots of resources. They are also the most magic centric of the factions, so this is the one to pick if you love using a variety of spells. Heroes include the Alchemist and Wizard.

Stronghold: The polar opposite of the Tower Faction. Stronghold units tend to be difficult to kill and do large amounts of melee damage. Their ranged units are ok but there is nothing that is tougher than the Behemoths. They simply do not die. I love this faction. They are so powerful when leveled up enough. Heroes include Barbarians and Battle Mages.

Necropolis: The undead comprise some of the most amazing units. The Vampire Lord may be the best unit in the entire game. Every time they attack they drain the enemies health, this draining even allows you to resurrect dead vampire lords. With enough of them, they are almost unstoppable. The Necropolis also thrives on the ability to create thousands of units and swarm over their enemies. I love this faction. Heroes include Death Knights and Necromancers.

Inferno: Demons and Devils, they are the antithesis of the Castle Faction. They also have the really powerful devil unit and the fireball throwing Magogs that can harm more than one enemy at a time. They are an overall decent faction. Nothing too special. Heroes include Demoniac and Heretic

Conflux: This race is interesting. They are the golems and elemental units. They tend to be very weak and die easily but they have some awesome units. The psychic elemental and firebirds do some crazy damage. Overall, an interesting race to play around with. Heroes include Planeswalker and Elementalists.