Diablo III Event: The Darkening of Tristram

For some reason I have rather a headache this morning.

How completely extraordinary.

“Did I get drunk or did I get drunk? I remember betting you I could climb the disco wall using only me lips… and then… Oh, God, I juggled the goldfish, didn’t I?”


– Dave and Deb Lister; Red Dwarf; ‘Parallel Universe’

I’m sure it’s nothing at all to do with last night spent in the company of my beloved wife, the ‘Darkening of Tristram’ event in Diablo III, and some rather nice rum.

But let’s be realistic. For anyone I’ve ever annoyed by saying, “I never get hangovers”: now’s your chance.

Still, what about Diablo III, though? Suzanne found the event first. When she logged in last night, there was a new portal in the heart of the ruined town of Tristram, the village that had been the setting for the original Diablo game (what I will clunkily call Diablo I from here on even though that obviously isn’t what it was called) when it was released way back in 1997. Stepping through the portal shifts the player back in time to the setting of that original game – and throws in a load of graphical and sound details to try to recreate Diablo I’s look and feel.

Tristram Cathedral in happi… in older, still-miserable times. From the original ‘Diablo’.

And it’s lovely. Full of great touches and references. Old characters (Farnham the Drunk Guy, my old spiritual mentor!), old monsters and even old pieces of equipment… Within the simulated retro environment, all the weapons and gear you can loot from slain demons is named according to the old pattern so you can once again set out to collect endless variants on the Adjectival Noun of Verbing (bonus to crit chance).

(Farnham, by the way, was an odd character. You find him grievously wounded outside the cathedral, as seen above, and you can click on him to talk to him. If you do, he says a few scene-setting, quest-initiating things – and then dies. If you don’t talk to him, however, he doesn’t die. So… Kind of a dilemma there, what?)

They’ve even reworked the user interface to, if not faithfully recreate the original, then at least evoke it with the older, simpler demon/angel motif:

The old…
…and the new-old.

And not only that, they’ve modified the character appearance and movement to emulate the original eight-way flat sprites of the original, and there’s an eye-gouging simulated-low-resolution fuzz all over everything that… doesn’t… actually look… like the original game used to look, but it’s all about the said evocation, I think, rather than true visual fidelity.

In other words, while it’s all very neat and I love it, it’s not completely true to what Diablo I was, because… well, let’s face it, we’re gamers we’re people playing games in 2019 now, and there’s a balance to be struck between faithfully rendering the full Diablo I experience and letting today’s players keep the features and the fluidity that have evolved over the twenty-three years since the first game appeared.

Just for interest’s sake: Tristram Cathedral in more recent miserable times.

Twenty-three years. Gods damn, but that’s depressing.

Anyway, the game event isn’t depressing; and indeed Diablo III isn’t either. It’s a great game even outside this event and well worth a go if you’ve not tried it before: and if you can hold your nose for the whole “giving money to Activision-Blizzard” thing.

But Diablo III is a remnant of a time when ActiBlizz tried to massively monetise a game, failed miserably, backpedalled and ended up releasing what has to be one of the most content-generous, endlessly replayable action games I know of. It’s open, a lot of it’s procedurally generated, it’s supports multiple characters and lets you carry kit between them… As long as the setting (a fantasy-mediaeval world steeped in vaguely Christian-aesthetic mythology of angels and demons and heavens and hells but with an entirely fictitious pantheon of deities*) appeals to you then I doubt you could go far wrong with it.

It does retain a very irritating always-online requirement, but honestly I’ve found the regular updates and events make that a fair trade-off.

My hopes that Diablo IV will be similarly generous are not high. And in any case, even aside other dark patterns that game developers build into their products, always-online requirements are generally manipulative and controlling. They’re nothing to do with piracy prevention: they’re just scammy game publishers being scammy. Unless it’s an explicitly multiplayer game, and clearly needs to be (i.e. not Elite Dangerous which would’ve worked perfectly well as single-player offline), then assume there’s no legitimate reason for a game to have to be constantly online. It’s just so the company can sell it to you and still retain control of it.

Anyway before I drift completely into snarling surliness, I’ll let you get on. But in summary:

  • Diablo III – great game, love it.
  • Diablo III event ‘The Darkening of Tristram’ – great fun, thoroughly enjoying it.
  • Blizzard for the Diablo series – fabulous job well done.
  • Activision Blizzard in general – boo sucks chiz chiz.

I think that about covers it.

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