Platform: PC | Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: Blizzard | Developer: Blizzard | Released: 1996
Years later, it's easy for a cynic to dismiss Diablo as nothing but a mindless clickfest. Click to move, click to attack, and click to open chests. Click, click, click, click, click. If you walked into any PC owner's room in the mid to late 1990s and heard the rapid-fire staccato of a mouse button, you could reasonably bet that the occupant was playing Diablo. Despite the naysayers, what can't be denied is Diablo's wide-ranging impact on the gaming industry. The game birthed the action-RPG genre as we know it, spawning dozens of copycats on the PC in the years following its release. Consoles even began to get into the act with Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, which was very heavily influenced by Diablo. To this day, Diablo is used as a point of comparison for any game that involves simple point-and-click combat, character development, hordes of monsters, massive levels, and collectible loot and equipment.
The premise of the game was simple: You played the role of an adventurer happening on the town of Tristram. A powerful evil brewed underneath the desecrated site of the town cathedral, which served as the entrance to a massive, multilevel dungeon. You could pick from three classes--warrior, rogue, and sorcerer--each of which had different strengths and weaknesses. From there, you'd make your way into the depths of the dungeon, slashing, shooting (with a bow), and firing spells at hordes of monsters, ranging from demons, undead, and other types of beasts. Monsters would drop gold and or loot, such as armor, weapons, and potions. There were also many chests and barrels to break open for loot. Indeed, Diablo probably contributed as much as any game did to the box- and barrel-breaking cliché associated with many games. Nonetheless, the everlasting quest for better loot was a major motivating force to replay the game over and over again. Thankfully the randomly generated levels kept the experience fresh.
Named bosses also roamed the dungeons, and they would often drop magical items. The ultimate end boss was, of course, Diablo, who waited on the 16th level of the dungeon, deep in the heart of hell. As you'd expect from a foe named "Diablo," the end-game fight was devilishly fun and challenging, whether you played the game solo, or you joined forces with three friends over LAN. You could also play multiplayer Diablo on the Internet through Blizzard's free online matchmaking service, Battle.net, which debuted with the game. Of course, playing in a multiplayer dungeon didn't just restrict you to cooperative play. One of Diablo's (in)famous legacies was the treacherous player-killing and ganking, whereby fellow adventurers could turn on you at any time and kill you for your equipment, which you'd automatically drop upon death.
The town of Tristram also played a great role in the game, particularly the townspeople, who would offer you goods and services. While it seemed irritating that they'd charge you through the nose for weapons, potions, and repairs (you were trying to save their town, after all), you could converse with them for lore and then embark on quests to kill named monsters deep inside the dungeon. The characters were quite memorable, particularly Wirt, the peg-legged rascal who'd fleece you while selling his cache of magical wares.
Beyond the atmospheric, brooding soundtrack of the game, the occasional grunt of the characters, and the chilling sound effects of battle and monsters, the game's 2D, isometric graphics were quite good for its time. The art design for characters and monsters evoked an appropriate sense of dread and despair, and many of the game bosses were large and imposing in size. The first encounters with the Butcher and King Leoric were memorable ones that caused many a player to jump in his or her seat. Then there were the cinematics in Diablo, which were definitely the crown jewel of the game's presentation. They may not look like much today, but at the time, the CG movies in Diablo were arguably the best in games right up until (and maybe including) those seen in Final Fantasy VII.
All in all, when you consider the popularity and huge impact that Diablo had and continues to have on the gaming industry today, it's no wonder that the game remains GameSpot's highest-scoring PC game ever. And it also makes it very easy for us to name it one of the Greatest Games of All Time.
How many mice did you break while playing Diablo? Did you ever get ganked on Battle.net? Talk about it on the forum!