I’m really surprised that the overall sentiment towards D2 wasn’t disappointment after D1. I’m going to chalk up D2 as the FFVII of Diablo and D1 as the FFVI for the sake of a bad comparison. I’m going to assume less people played D1 overall than D2.
I’ll be honest. I liked Diablo before playing the first. I wasn’t a mega fan of the genre. Titan Quest was the first game of the genre I played. It was okay. I never grew up on crpgs and came in late so I never played Diablo 2. Diablo 3 was my first Diablo. Before playing it I felt the genre was mediocre at best. Like, I’d play Torchlight and thought the game sucked. But Diablo III was the first game of its kind to suck me in in any real way. I loved the game but never had any reason to replay it with another character. I loved the multiplayer and building up your character over time but overall it was just a giant rabbit hole of endlessness and the overall game wasn’t lean or challenging enough to stand on its own without the addiction loop. Still, I had enough fun for it to last a while and dumped hundreds of hours into it.
At the time I didn’t quite understand the hubbub surrounding why Diablo fans didn’t like 3, but now I do. It was Disney by comparison of D1 and 2. Gone was the isolation and was replaced with a bunch of mercs endlessly talking. Gone was the challenge and thinking. The combat was fun and great though, but thinking that I would use for a game like Baldurs Gate wasn’t present. I was curious why any crpg fan could ever find Diablo a top tier crpg franchise. It was fun and all, but where was the choice? Where was the decision making that made the genre so great?
I later played Diablo 2. I liked it far more, but it was still mostly easy and mindless. Lots of great loot, but that’s meaningless if you mow down most enemies with ease.
I gave Path of Exile a shot and it was just jank.
I pretty much just passed the pc action rpg as just not for me. Not a bad genre but not something robust like the Ultima VII’s, Fallout 2’s, Baldur’s Gate’s of old. I pretty much filed the genre as inferior and vapid.
I bought Diablo 1 on a lark. First of all, it was cheap. Second of all, the premise sounded fun. I was still hesitant and figured I’d have wasted 10 bucks going by how it’s considered “old”. Turns out Diablo 1 is the first pc arpg that has the sensibilities of an actual game with choices rather than shoving endless shiny shit in your face.
Reasons why Diablo 1 is the best arpg:
the feeling of isolation is unparalleled. As you slowly descend the church you get further and further away from a safe haven and it feels like it too.
one centralized locale and organic storytelling. You’re not traveling all over the world and fighting in jungles or ancient Egypt Esau’s country. Keep that shit simple, fam. Get in, get out. This makes the characters not only more in depth but there’s a great feeling of slowly unraveling a mystery. You don’t know who the witch on the edge of town is. Turns out she just suddenly showed up the night of the attack. Details are revealed slowly. Why’s Farnham an alcoholic and why’s his mind broken? Oh. OH. Who is Lazarus? Each question is thoroughly examined as you go through the game like the fog of war in an RTS. This makes the storytelling in Diablo 1 involved. By contrast no one will shut up in D2 and 3. Far too much dialogue and spilling the beans through back story.
Mobs mean death. In D1 you must take every precaution to make quell death. You lack inventory space but that’s okay because loot drops don’t disappear when you leave the game. So you can drop something you don’t need now and save it for later. That’s a decision. Even in the early game you have a pretty big chance of dying and it’s up to the player to best decide how to overcome the odds. Loot helps, but it will not save you alone.
less drops which makes the loot you find more meaningful.
the rogue esque singular dungeon motif really fucking works and is far more addictive than D2’s loot cycle. Being able to make it to the next floor, starting the next quest, that shit makes the soul burn.
Diablo 1 is by far the most complete game I’ve ever played in the genre and rivals the best crpgs.
TLDR: I used to think that KOTOR was the turning point for the wrpg. Turns out it was Diablo 2. Diablo 2 was the FFVII of wrprgs. I like D2 and 3 but they aren’t even remotely on par.
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