• Tristram
  • Matt Uelmen
  • Diablo
  • 19 Plays

Don’t get me wrong, Diablo was (and largely remains) a great game.  But looking at it more than a decade older and wiser, much of its stylings are a bit…adolescent.  It is fully a product of the late ’90s “darker is better” mentality, and let’s be honest, it’s no Planescape: Torment when it comes to weaving that particular yarn into compelling narrative.

The art direction seems to have taken a lot of cues from the doodles in the notebooks of high school metalheads, and my goodness—that font.  But when you get down to brass tacks, this is a game about clicking on things.  When you click on those things enough, they usually turn into other things for you to click on.  Everything else is window dressing.

There are really only two things I remember clearly about the game itself: clicking on a sword or potion and having it do a quick flip 5 feet in the air and land back in the exact same spot because it was time to play Inventory Tetris, and the music in Tristram.

I’d say this song is responsible for a good 80% of all of Diablo’s atmosphere.  All the grim graphics, dark caves, “Os” with crosses in them, and despairing townfolk may be trying to tell you a story, but Tristram’s lonely strings are what sell you that story.

Has anyone reading this not played Diablo?  I bet you can listen to this song and still have an excellent picture form in your head of some unfortunate place where Halloween is not a holiday, it is a way of life.  Stay a while and listen: imagine yourself sitting next to a campfire, as a wizened old man recounts harrowing tales of the hard times that have befallen this place, of the horrors lurking behind the shadows of its pale, moonlit evenings.

If you’ve a good imagination, you’ve likely just built for yourself a more fascinating world than the one Diablo puts forward.  Now, keep this world in mind, find your favorite roguelike, and do some delving.  Dream up stories for that room you just entered with the skeletons hanging around the dark altar, or that dusty old bookshelf where you found some arcane secrets.  Work those back into that world you imagined earlier, and you’ve got something pretty special; a unique experience you may remember fondly for years to come.

As it happens, Diablo is an excellent game to do this with.  In fact, that’s how I wound up playing it all those years ago, and that’s why I don’t actually remember much about the game itself, but I sure have fond memories of playing it.  Pretty neat trick for a song, eh?