Mistakes were made. Also, there may be some spoilers.
When I got home from work yesterday I got to check out the new anniversary event in Diablo III, the Darkening of Tristram. The patch had been deployed, the event was live, it was time to log in. And, upon doing so I was greeted with the announcement.
At the bottom of the announcement was a button that opened up the achievement list for the event, because how else will you know you’ve done the event unless you get the T-shirt? Yes, I know some of you will object, but I admit I like getting the T-shirt.
After that I got into my character, got into the Act I area of Tristram and looked around on the map until I found the marker for the event portal.
I immediately went there and started running around… and died. It had been more than six months since I last played, the game was set to torment level VII, which I think was me pushing things last I played. I decided that I ought to dial that back a bit. So I dropped it down to level VI, then V, then down to III because I really couldn’t recall how bit the jump between torment levels was and I wasn’t sure if this event was going to be harder, easier, or the same difficulty curve as everything else. Paranoia.
At Torment level III I was able to clear my way to the portal to the even easily enough.
The portal has a pixelated texture to indicate that you will be going back in time. It also causes some sort of glitch with the cursor when you take a screen shot. On my screen there was just one fist cursor, but in the screen shot it shows the six variations that make up the animation, all laid out in a row. I went back and tried that screen shot a couple more times and always got the same result when it was over the pixelated portal to Tristram.
Glitch aside, it was time to go through the portal and see what lay on the other side.
Now we where the rubber meets the road and I was not sure what to expect.
There are a couple of problems with Diablo nostalgia for me. For openers, it has been nearly 20 years since I first played it and maybe 17 since I last played it in earnest. So I remember some bits quite clearly. I recall going to town, piles of excess gold laying about, the Skeleton King and The Butcher, the alternate entrances to the dungeon that allowed you to pick up your quest in progress between sessions so you didn’t have to start back at the repopulated level 1 every time, and that last level with Diablo himself, where you had to clear the level around him in order to unlock his chamber to fight him.
But it is all pretty hazy and a lot of my memories are clearly Diablo II graphics and features impinging on the memories of the original game. The problem is that, for me, Diablo II was such a good sequel that it overshadowed the original. The way I never even considered going back to play the original Civilization once Civilization II came out, I never thought to set foot in the original Diablo after Diablo II came out. One just eclipsed the other and that was that.
So there in old Tristram, I had to sort through mixed memories. The event itself doesn’t have the story of the original. It is more like a massive dungeon with that single “Kill the Dark Lord” objective. You just have to go get him, and so off I went.
My feelings on the whole thing are bit mixed.
Overall I am happy. A five year old game got some new content. All else aside, that is a plus.
While I appreciate the work done on the graphic filter to make things feel more like 1996 than 2016, I am not sure how well that has really paid off. The problem is that even with fuzzed up visuals, the whole thing is clearly made up of assets from the current game. You would have to pixelate the visuals into oblivion to hide the fact that you’ve seen all these dungeon tiles and layouts before.
Without wanting to spoil the event, I sort of wish there was a “Diablo III visuals” version of the dungeon.
The pixelation also didn’t help with one memory I had of the original game, which was that of different parts of the labyrinth feeling distinctly different. The top part was an architectural basement of sorts with lots of skeletons, and then there was the tunnels with the goat men, then magic users then demons. The blur of everything managed to wipe out some of that feeling of distinctness. Yes, it did progress from skeletons to goat men and so on, but was so indistinct in color/tone/visuals that they blended together.
And then I added to the problems by dropping the difficulty down to Torment III, which made everything trivially easy to kill with my current gear. I was tearing through things like no other, to the point that even bosses were like soap bubbles. I tried to get a screenie of The Butcher, but I clicked first and one-shotted him.
The experience was good. I managed to get seven paragon levels running through the whole thing, which I did in one sitting. That, too, is true enough to the original I suppose. I remember starting new characters in the evening with friends and running through and killing Diablo before the night was through.
The loot was almost a bit too good. Lots of stuff dropping everywhere in a game that already drops things everywhere.
I had to go back to town a few of times to clear my bags. There were even some good old reminders of loot from days gone by, including the coveted Godly Plate of the Whale that everybody wanted.
I actually got six of those on the run, no doubt a nod (as is the description at the bottom) to the fact that back in the day somebody had a hack or exploit to obtain them well beyond what Blizzard expected.
Also a plus was the sounds and music, which certainly did their bit to evoke the spirit of the original.
Another item true to the old game was the ability to sort of rush on past things. Bosses like the Skeleton King and the Butcher were optional in the old days, and if you pressed on every time you found the way down to the next level you might very well miss them. I managed to miss the Skeleton King on my first run as I was taking every downward option, which got me down to the portal to level 16 in under an hour.
As with the Butcher, I clicked on Diablo before I managed to get a screen shot, so he was dead before the camera went off.
If you look at the time stamp at the top, I walked in at 4:19pm and Diablo was dead by 5:09pm, which left me time to go pick up my daughter by 5:30pm. Such timing.
As I noted above, despite some issue, overall I am happy to have the new content this month. The speediness of the run was largely my fault. However, one of the achievements for the event is to take a level 1 character into the event and run them through to slay Diablo. I will have to find time on the weekend to do that, during which I will give the whole thing a much more thorough examination.
But now I have had a preview of it, a mission, and I am back playing the game. A success on that front.