I have no idea if I’m going to get Diablo III – I’m tempted not to just because of Blizzard’s fuck-you attitude to single player gamers – but it’s made me hunger for Diablo II, which I played in 2000 but never got around to finishing. I traded for a copy of the Battle Chest, and then figured I’d just go all the way and start with the first Diablo. What follows is the first of a few entries on my return to Tristram. I’m assuming you know the basics of the game – if you don’t, well, you probably should do some research on this “action RPG” thing that became popular in the last fifteen years. Or just stick to Rogue, you relic.
Diablo wants to kill me. I mean, that’s pretty much a given. He’s the Lord of Terror, I’m some errant do-gooder who has decided to throw his life away in a haunted cathedral for no apparent reason. I’ve decided that my character is a crazed gourmand looking for the finest in demon-flesh delicacies, though the townspeople don’t seem to think less of me for it.
Incidentally, I’m also a sorcerer. I went to Sorcerer College (rather than its rival institutions, Warriors Academy and The Rogue Charm School for Young Ladies) because a fortune-teller told me that I’d be really powerful once I learned mana shield. I also heard that Warriors sucked in the end-game, though that was told to me by a friend when we were 10, so I’m not betting my life on it. Well, actually, I am, but you know what I mean.
So my dashing young self arrives in Tristram. There’s no welcome, but given that the town has a visible population of six able-bodied people (and a drunk, a cripple, and one unseen old lady) I can’t really blame them. What does make me indignant is that they won’t give me any quests. Not one! Ogden the Barkeeper has the balls to tell me that he might tell me something useful later, if I wander around in the dungeon for no reason and by some small miracle make it back alive.
As I said, Diablo wants to kill me. Not just the titular Spaniard, but every person, creature, and pixel in the game itself. I think even the little statues holding up my health and mana jars are plotting my imminent demise. I’m sure the good folks at Blizzard North thought they were making a casual, player-friendly version of Rogue, and indeed they have; there’s a single save slot, which is one more than none. But having become accustomed to so many forgiving elements of the contemporary action-RPG, well, I’ve become a bit spoiled.
I didn’t expect regenerating health (Halo didn’t kick off that trend till five years later). I didn’t expect an auto-sorted inventory (Dungeon Siege) or a dog that goes to the village and sells my stuff (Torchlight). I didn’t even expect to start with halfway-decent equipment. I did, however, expect to be able to venture into the first level of the dungeon without staring death in the face.
See, it’s not just the health that’s static; the mana is, too. I can’t face anything much bigger than a rat with the blunt end of my staff (and, breaking with RPG tradition, there are no rats, not even giant ones), so I gotta cast spells. But for spells I need mana. And once my mana depletes, I gotta replenish it with mana potions. And to get more mana potions I have to either find them (by killing monsters) or buy them (with gold I get from killing monsters). You begin to see the problem.
So I run into a room, fling a few carefully conserved firebolts and use the precious charges of my crazy-lighning-balls staff, and then glare at every pixel hoping to find that gold pile I missed. I repeat this a few times, then head up to town and find that selling all my loot is *just* enough to recharge my staff and buy a potion or two.
This is what some people would call “dependency.” Ignore that gourmand joke earlier. It’s clear that the reason I’m in this miserable town is that my sorcerer needs to chug every last drop of mana he can find, and the only way he can finance this boondoggle is to disentomb every skeleton this side of Westmarch.
Which wouldn’t even be necessary if the townsfolk did the smart thing and gave me every potion and artifact they had for free. Adria tells me that if I don’t stop him, the undead king Leodin is going to take his undead army and kill every living thing within an area the size of Rhode Island. And then she tells me it will be 215 gold to recharge my staff.
Are you INSANE, Adria? Think about it. If I fail, YOU DIE. So it is in your best interest to do what you can to maximize my chances of success, which means recharging my staff whenever it needs recharging, and giving me all the spellbooks, and a lifetime supply of mana potions. That goes for you too, Griswold.
What’s that? You say it would upset the balance? What are you talking about. You WANT me to have an advantage. I’m SAVING YOUR LIVES. What, do you have anachronistic cameras scattered throughout the catacombs that broadcast my adventures in some horrible predecessor to reality television?
Fuck it. I’m outta here. These morons have it coming.
Tune in for Part 2, in which I get bored and go back into the catacombs anyway.