I grew to like Diablo thanks to… PlayStation Classic

I was never a Diablo fan. Many years ago, I tried the fan-beloved Diablo II and was quickly repulsed by its hack ’n’ slash nature. Then, I decided to give the series a second chance during the last year’s lockdown. I bought a PlayStation Classic dirt-cheap, modded it with AutoBleem, and went on to remember how cool it was to play the PSX with my friends some twenty years ago. Among the games we managed to get was the Diablo port.

In Poland, we say that family pictures are safer than family business (z rodziną najlepiej wychodzi się na zdjęciu). The translation is clumsy but you get the point. Anyway, it tends to be similar with old games: they are way better in our childhood memories than they are in actuality. Take Medal of Honor, for instance. I absolutely adored it in 2000. I never had a console myself so every chance to play a deathmatch at my friends’ was a small holiday of mine. Twenty years later, half an hour — including loading time — sufficed to convince me that every second is a chore.

We tried several games and their old age was showing. All but two were quickly discarded. Having played the immortal Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 until the controllers begged for mercy, I hestitantly decided to give Diablo a try. Diablo is not as black as he is painted

The main question is whether it’s even worth it to play Diablo twenty-five years after its release? The game sure is a museum on every platform. It lacks such basic features as comparison of item stats, walking on invisible tiles feels strange, and mashing buttons on controllers, mice, and keyboards make your head and fingers ache. Well, that’s gaming back in the day. It takes infinite patience to wade through the initial frustrations but there is a strong redeeming quality to be found.

Despite it’s shortcomings, Diablo managed to get me invested because it’s a completely different experience in multiplayer. And I mean a -night-and-day difference. A Heroes III solo versus hot-seat difference. The old and clunky classic shines when you get comfy on a couch or organize an old-school LAN party. Better yet, when the Player 2 is a veteran of the series, which saves you a lot of headaches making beginner mistakes.

Although the console controls take some time getting used to, the fast-paced slaughter and uncomplicated character development, accompanied by music and beer drinking, has its charm. Surprisingly, watching as the simple story unfolds proved satisfying, despite it offering porn sophistication level. And that comes from a story-man. I think overall simplicity was the developers’ goal and it quite worked out. Even in 2021 I can’t deny that the game has great atmosphere. I imagine the intro and outro movies had to be stunning in 1997. With time I also caught myself humming the Tristram theme on several occasions. Give Diablo his due

Originally, Diablo for PlayStation was released in 1998 by Electronic Arts. The game was ported by Climax Studios who also developed WarCraft II: The Dark Saga for the PSX and Saturn the previous year. Similarly to the classic RTS, the game lacks the flagship Battle.net multiplayer mode or even any online play as such. In return, the console Diablo offers a local co-op. The most prominent gameplay changes are autoaiming and single-button healing, which is a HUGE improvement over the original. Just buy a lot of healing potions and you are ready to dish out insane punishment to the abominations that dwell beneath the Tristram church.

The original interface was also butchered to increase the field of view and readability. Couple that with a modded PlayStation Classic and you can enjoy the good ol’ Diablo on a panoramic TV. And with the changes mentioned earlier in mind, I think that gamepad works slightly better in this particular game than a mouse and a keyboard.

Contrary to the PC original, the console port has us save manually. Thus, a cleared level retains its layout and remains empty. You may also safely deposit your items on the ground in Tristram. Game saves can also rescue us from shopping mistakes, reclaiming equipment lost on death, and replaying levels when creating a new multiplayer game. But don’t think that Diablo for PlayStation is that much better, though. Between Diablo and the deep blue sea

There are several downsides to even the balance. Multiplayer sessions on a single screen are slowed down by the fact that only one player can shop, open inventory, or browse equipment at a given time. Then, loading and saving seem to take eternity even on a fast flash drive. I can only imagine how atrocious the load/save times must have been on the original PlayStation. Moreover, autoaiming is great only when it works as intended, meaning when you’re not engaging in friendly fire. And finally, the casting of Town Portal is simply bad design. All it takes is to accidentally hit a triangle instead of a circle… or was it the other way? Great, the scroll is gone and now we have to backtrack to Tristram on foot.

What’s interesting, I’m pretty sure that despite several amenities, Diablo on the PSX is actually more difficult than the PC original. Now, I can only back this up by the fact that we beat the latter version via LAN in two several-hour sessions, while the PlayStation conversion took days of merciless button-mashing, loading saves, and resurrecting the other player’s character. Even with the artificial delays of shared screen and loading/saving, I feel that Diablo on PlayStation Classic challenged me more. Both in terms of patience and gaming skills. Play Diablo’s advocate

All in all, if you are a fan of the series, then Diablo on the PSX/PSC is definitely an interesting experience. Otherwise, I strongly recommend newcomers play co-op with somebody familiar with the game, regardless of the platform. A cult classic it might be, but Diablo in single player can be a chore to a modern gamer.

The hardcore retrogaming types might prefer to play on an authentic PlayStation and an old CRT TV, but let’s be real: this would be torture to most. At least I decided to pick up an immersive emulator for a good balance between atmosphere and convenience. If you’re not much of a tinkerer though, you have to stick with the PC original. Funnily enough, all things considered, I had way more fun playing the console Diablo. I guess that’s my PCMR certificate going out the window.

Overall, I think there’s a reason Blizzard decided to remaster WarCraft III (Refunded) and Diablo II (Resurrected), while their predecessors ended up “as is” on GOG. The former are vastly superior and retained their popularity long after launch, the latter — not so much. So… it’s money, basically. Diablo is way too outdated to be anything but a curio or a quick reminder of the days long gone. But with a right mindset and conditions, it still can be a blast to play at least once.


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