Devil-ishly Clever

Battle the Lord of Terror in one of the classics of the genre.

Yes, yes, I know that "Diablo" has been around for a while. I even know that Blizzard's already got "Diablo II" out on store shelves. Despite this, I'm still going to suggest that you read this review, since "Diablo" is one of the best RPGs ever made, and you don't know what you're missing if you haven't played it yet.

Like all good ideas, "Diablo" is based on a simple premise: the great Lord Of Terror, Diablo, is trying to break out of his prison, and it's up to you to stop him. You start out with a few basic weapons, and pick up more as you go along; you also get to meet a number of interested characters, learn a little magic and kick some monster butt And you get to do all this in an environment that's so well-designed, it almost makes you weep!

Before you can begin, though, you need to select a character class. There are three character classes in "Diablo" - Warrior, Rogue and Sorceror. Each of these has unique character traits and skills - the Warrior is stronger than the Sorceror, but the Sorceror can wreak havoc with his magic spells. Each character's traits are measured on a numeric scale, and they will change as you proceed through the game. Once you've selected a character, it's time to make your way into the dungeons and begin fighting assorted nasties as you carve your way to Diablo's lair.

The dungeons are where you'll be spending most of your time, and Blizzard's done a fabulous job of making them look both scary and dangerous. As you wander around, you'll have to use your weapons and armor to defend yourself against some of the dungeon's more frightening denizens - skeletons, zombies, gargoyles and other assorted ghouls - as well as search for clues to Diablo's hiding place. You'll also find spellbooks, which you can use to learn new spells, and gold, which you can use to repair your armor or buy new equipment in the town above. Once a dungeon is clear, you are allowed to proceed to the next level, and you'll also be given a bunch of points which you can distribute between the various character attributes in preparation for the battles ahead.

All this is pretty standard, though, and Blizzard's genius lies in taking these seemingly common elements and mixing them up to create a truly addictive game. For example, the dungeons are generated randomly each time you start a game, which adds substantially to the game's replayability, and Blizzard's also made it a point to reveal different sections of the back story at critical points during the game to hold your interest. You also have the option of accepting quests from the townspeople, and entering the dungeons to carry them out - successful completion of each quest usually gives you a useful new inventory item.

The graphics in "Diablo" are pretty good, too - all action takes place from an isometric perspective, and there are some novel touches, like the swirling clouds that appear around your character when you cast a spell. Sound effects and music have been carefully chosen to accentuate the environment - in the town, you may hear soothing background music, while the music in the dungeons is more likely to get your blood up (and let's not forget all the moans, groans and howls either).

A word must be said here about the user interface, which is extremely simple and easy to use - a bar at the bottom lets you easily track your health and energy, while a toolbar lets you access inventory items (like spells or weapons) with a single mouse click. Both inventory and character attribute screens are also a click away, and are displayed without affecting your view of the on-screen action. As always, Blizzard's designers have done the company proud with an interface that is so intuitive, you don't even need to refer to the manual to figure out how to use it.

What am I trying to say here? Very simple - get off that chair, walk down to the store and get yourself a copy of this game. Now.

This article was first published on16 Nov 2000.