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Diablo (video game)

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Diablo Coverart.png
Cover art
Developer(s) Blizzard North
Publisher(s) Windows, Mac
Producer(s) Bill Roper
Designer(s) David Brevik
Erich Schaefer
Max Schaefer
Eric Sexton
Kenneth Williams
Programmer(s) David Brevik
Artist(s) Michio Okamura
Writer(s) Chris Metzen
Bill Roper
Eric Sexton
Erich Schaefer
Composer(s) Matt Uelmen
Series Diablo
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, Classic Mac OS, PlayStation
Release Microsoft Windows
Mac OS
  • NA: May 8, 1998
Genre(s) Action role-playing, hack and slash
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

Diablo /diˈɑːbl/ is an action role-playing hack and slash video game developed by Blizzard North and released by Blizzard Entertainment on December 31, 1996.[1][3]

Set in the fictional Kingdom of Khanduras, located in the mortal realm, Diablo has the player take control of a lone hero battling to rid the world of Diablo, the Lord of Terror. Beneath the town of Tristram, the player journeys through sixteen randomly generated dungeon levels, ultimately entering Hell itself in order to face Diablo.

An expansion pack, entitled Diablo: Hellfire, was released in 1997 by Sierra Entertainment. In 1998, Electronic Arts released Diablo for the PlayStation.[5] This version featured direct control of the main character using the PlayStation controller and was developed by Climax Studios. A Sega Saturn version was also considered by Electronic Arts but never released.[6] The game's success led to two sequels, Diablo II in 2000, and Diablo III in 2012. To celebrate Diablo's 20th anniversary, a quest entitled "The Darkening of Tristam", was added in Diablo III in early 2017.[7]


Diablo is an action role-playing hack and slash video game. The player moves and interacts with the environment primarily by way of a mouse.[8] Other actions, such as casting a spell, are performed in response to keyboard inputs.[8] The player can acquire items, learn spells, defeat enemies, and interact with non-player characters (NPC)s throughout the game.

The dungeon levels are randomly generated, although they follow parameters according to their type; for instance the catacombs tend to have long corridors and closed rooms, while the caves are more non-linear. The players are assigned a random number of quests from several tiers; these quests are optional but help to level up the character and/or reveal more of the backstory. The final two quests, however, are mandatory in order to finish the game.


A warrior engages in combat with a ghoul enemy. A "Level Up" button indicates the character has attribute points available to distribute. The icon at the lower right indicates that the character's head protection is damaged and in danger of breaking.

Diablo has three character classes: the Warrior, the Rogue, and the Sorcerer. Each class has a different level of assigned attributes along with a unique skill. Each class is capable of using almost all of the same items and spells, in contrast to later titles in the Diablo series which have class-specific items and spells. However, the limitations in the attributes for each class reward play that utilizes them efficiently; for instance the Warrior's low maximum level of Magic prevents him from learning the higher levels of powerful spells like the Sorcerer, instead the Warrior is best suited to melee with a faster weapon swing plus a "critical strike" for bonus damage.

  • Warrior: The most physically able of the three classes. The Warrior is a close-quarters fighter and can generally take the most physical punishment. The Warrior's primary character attribute is Strength. The Warrior starts with the skill to repair objects in his possession at the cost of overall durability.[8]
  • Rogue: A master of ranged weapons. While not as strong as the Warrior, the rogue is very effective at attacking enemies from a distance with the bow. The Rogue's primary character attribute is Dexterity. The Rogue's unique starting skill is the ability to disarm traps.[8]
  • Sorcerer: A spellcaster being the most physically weak of the three classes, but can learn the most spells at the highest levels. The Sorcerer's primary character attribute is Magic. The Sorcerer's unique starting skill is the ability to recharge spell staves at the cost of lowering the maximum number of spell charges that the staff can hold.[8]

In the expansion set, Diablo: Hellfire, the Monk was added. The Monk was meant to be proficient at melee combat with the staff, and is not related to the Monk class in Diablo III. Two other classes, the Bard and Barbarian, were unfinished but remained hidden characters in Diablo: Hellfire, and could be enabled using a hack. Using the in-game sprites of the Rogue and Warrior, respectively, the Bard is capable of dual-wielding weapons while the Barbarian was a two-handed axe specialist.[9]


Many items have attribute minimums to be used effectively. White-colored items are normal items, blue-colored items are magic items and gold-colored items are unique items. Any items that are not white in color must be identified to make use of their magical effects, however, characters can use unidentified items as they would the base item. Items wear down through use and only have a certain amount of durability. When an item's durability is zero, it is destroyed. Players can return to the town and pay a fee to an NPC, Griswold the Blacksmith, to have the items restored, while the Warrior can repair objects in his possession at the cost of overall durability.[8]

Bows are the ranged weapon of the game, best used by rogues. Staves, while capable of physical attacks, are mainly used for the spell charges that they contain, as casting from a staff does not require the player to learn the spell or use mana. A staff's spell can only be cast a certain number of times before it requires a recharge. Swords are typically one-handed (though two-handed varieties also exist), while axes are all two-handed. Maces and clubs add a 50% damage bonus against the undead. Shields, when paired with single-handed weapons, allow attacks to be blocked. There are three classifications of armor: light, medium and heavy. Characters are also allowed to wear a helmet, two rings, and one amulet.[8]

Books contain spell formulas. Spell books cannot be used more than once, but multiple books of the same spell will increase the spell level, up to a maximum of 15. Scrolls allow use of both spells not yet learned, and spells not available in book form. They vanish after one use. Many potions are available for use, including health and mana restoration, and elixirs that increase statistics.[8]


Multiplayer can be done with up to four players. Multiplayer characters' states are saved periodically. Players can either be aggressive towards, or play co-operatively with, other players. Players can connect by one of the following: direct connection, modem connection, connection or IPX network connection. The game lacks the stronger anti-cheating methods of Blizzard's later games and as a result, many characters online have been altered in various ways by common third-party programs known as trainers and/or game editing programs such as Cheat Engine.[8][10]



The setting of Diablo includes the mortal realm which is the world of Man as well as the High Heavens and the Burning Hells.[8]:61, 62, 64 & 72 After eons of war between angels and demons, the ascension of man prompted the three Lords of Hell (including Diablo himself) to seek victory through influence, prompting their exile into the mortal realm. There, they sowed chaos, distrust, and hatred among the humans of Sanctuary until a group of magi, called the Horadrim, trapped them in enchanted crystals called "Soulstones". Diablo's soulstone was buried deep in the earth and a monastery was built over the site.

Generations passed and the purpose of the monastery was forgotten. A small town named Tristram sprang up next to the monastery's ruins. When King Leoric rebuilt the monastery as a cathedral, Diablo manipulated its archbishop, Lazarus, to destroy his soulstone prison. Diablo subsequently possessed the king, sending out his knights and priests to battle against peaceful kingdoms, and then possessed the king's son, Prince Albrecht, filling the caves and catacombs beneath the cathedral with creatures formed from the young boy's nightmares.

Tristram became a town of fear and horror, where people were abducted in the night. With no king, no law, and no army left to defend them, many villagers fled.[8]


The game starts when the player's character arrives in Tristram. Several of the remaining townsfolk assist the player such as Deckard Cain the Elder.[11] The labyrinth under the Cathedral descends from the dungeon/church, to the catacombs, followed by the caves, and finally Hell itself, each with a mixture of the undead, animals, and demons. Leoric has been re-animated as the Skeleton King.

Late in the game, the hero must fight Archbishop Lazarus, and eventually Diablo himself. At the end of the game, the hero kills Diablo's mortal form.[12] The hero then takes the Soulstone out of Diablo's forehead after which Diablo transforms into a lifeless Prince Albrecht.[12] The hero then drives the Soulstone into his/her own forehead, and he or she contains the essence of Diablo within himself or herself.[12]


Diablo was conceived by David Brevik during the development of the fighting game Justice League Task Force (1995), developed by Japanese studio Sunsoft with two American studios, Condor Games (later Blizzard North) on the Sega Genesis version and Silicon & Synapse (soon renamed Blizzard Entertainment) on the SNES version.[13] Condor, Brevik's studio, was initially unaware of the SNES version, but eventually became acquainted with that version's co-developer Blizzard, who they found to have a similar interest in PC gaming. Condor's proposal for Diablo, then a turn-based role-playing video game, was turned down by other publishers on the grounds that "RPGs are dead" before Blizzard took an interest after pitching the idea to them in January 1995. Blizzard, coming off the success of real-time strategy Warcraft: Orcs & Humans (1994), requested two major changes, to make it real-time and to have multiplayer. Brevik also designed a "modern and cool" interface intended to bring the quick directness of console games as well as Doom (1993) to computer RPGs. During development, Condor was eventually renamed Blizzard North.[14]

According to Matt Barton, the game Telengard, released by Avalon Hill in 1982, influenced the development of Diablo.[15]

At first, Diablo was a turn-based role-playing game, but later in development, also influenced by the previous success of Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, they decided to make it a real-time action game. The game was also originally conceived to be made in claymation (much like ClayFighter), but they decided to have a 3D isometric style instead.[16][17][18]


The music of Diablo was composed by Matt Uelmen. The soundtrack consists of six tracks. It was released after 15 years, in 2011.


Diablo normally requires the original CD to play, however also included on the disk is a shareware version of the software that could be played without the CD called Diablo Spawn. This version of the game allows access to the first two areas of the dungeon, and locks out two of the three playable classes and many of the NPC townsfolk. It is playable in both single- and multi-player with those restrictions. The demo is also downloadable.

The official expansion pack made for Diablo was Diablo: Hellfire in 1997. The expansion was produced by Sierra Entertainment rather than an in-house Blizzard North development team. The multiplayer feature of the expansion pack was disabled with version 1.01. The added content included two additional dungeon segments located within a new side storyline, several unique items and magical item properties, spells, and a fourth class, the Monk. There are also two unfinished "test" classes (the Bard and Barbarian) and two quests which could be accessed only through a configuration file modification.

Blizzard sold exclusive worldwide rights to develop, publish, and distribute console versions of the game to Electronic Arts in 1996.[19] In 1998, a PlayStation version of Diablo was released, developed by Climax Studios and published by Electronic Arts. The game lacked online play, but featured a two-player cooperative mode. Notable differences to the PC version include the auto-aiming for range weapons and spells and an option for increased game speed. It features an option to learn the story through a narrator without having to find the books in the game. The European PAL version is fully translated and dubbed into French, German and Swedish in addition to the original English. The PlayStation version was infamous because of its need for 10 blocks on a PlayStation memory card; the standard size of memory cards for the platform was 15 blocks.

The game was re-released alongside Hellfire in a 1998 bundle, called Diablo + Hellfire. 1998's Blizzard's Game of the Year Collection contained copies of Diablo, StarCraft and Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness. The Blizzard Anthology (2000) contained Diablo, StarCraft, StarCraft: Brood War and WarCraft II: Edition. The Diablo Gift Pack (2000) contained Diablo and Diablo II, but no expansions. The Diablo: Battle Chest (2001) contained Diablo, Diablo II and Diablo II's expansion, Lord of Destruction. Later releases of the Diablo: Battle Chest also have a strategy guide for Diablo II and Lord of Destruction,[20] though subsequent releases do not include the original game, instead featuring Diablo II, its expansion, and their respective strategy guides.

For Diablo's 20th anniversary, it was announced during BlizzCon 2016 that Diablo III would receive a free patch called The Darkening of Tristram that recreates the original game. The patch contains a 16-level dungeon, four main bosses from the 1996 version and special graphics filters and 8-directions limited movement like the original game. The test patch was released on November 11, 2016 on the Public Test Realm server.[21][22]


Review score
Publication Score
Macworld 4.5/5 stars[23]

Diablo has received critical acclaim, with an average rating of 94 on Metacritic.[24] Most praised the game's addictive gameplay, immense replayability, dark atmosphere, superior graphics, moody musical score, and its great variety of possible magic items, enemies, levels, and quests. This last aspect was praised by GameSpot editor Trent Ward in his review of Diablo: "Similarly, although a set number of monsters is included, only a few will be seen during each full game. This means that players going back for their second or third shot at the game will very likely fight opponents they haven't seen before. Talk about replay value."[25]

Reviewers commonly cited the online multiplayer aspect as one of the strongest points of the game, with it being described as greatly extending its replay value. Computer Games Magazine's Cindy Yans said that "weapons, armor and items are so numerous that you're always acquiring something new to try... not to mention the game's multiplayer universe"; she went on to say that "for anyone who enjoys a good multiplayer dungeon crawl, Diablo can't be beat".[26] The most common complaint about the game was the length of its single-player aspect, which many felt was too short. Cindy Yans finished her review, "Despite the rather pale storyline, [...] watered-down quests and a fair amount of necessary repetition, Diablo is a must for anyone interested in 'just plain fun.'"[26] On GameSpot's main page for Diablo, the subtext used to describe the game when it came out simply states: "Diablo is the best game to come out in the past year, and you should own a copy. Period."[27]

Macworld's Michael Gowan wrote, "The only downside to this role-playing game is that the adventure ends too soon."[23]


Diablo was awarded GameSpot's Game of the Year Award for 1996. As of January 7, 2013, Diablo has GameSpot's #1 spot of all PC games,[clarification needed] with a score of 9.6 out of 10.[28] In 2005 GameSpot chose the game as one of "The Greatest Games of All Time".[29]

Diablo won Computer Gaming World's 1997 "Game of the Year" award. The editors wrote, "For this year, Diablo is the game that everyone will remember." The game was a runner-up for the magazine's "Role-Playing Game of the Year" prize, which ultimately went to The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall.[30] Diablo was nominated as Computer Games Strategy Plus's 1996 game of the year, although it lost to Tomb Raider. It won the magazine's award for the year's best role-playing game.[31]


In 2000, Diablo was the 20th best-selling computer game in the United States, with 260,020 copies sold.[32] As of August 29, 2001, Diablo had sold 2.5 million copies worldwide.[33]


  1. ^ a b "Blizzard Entertainment: Legacy Games". Blizzard. Retrieved November 30, 2011. 
  2. ^ Bailey, Kat (September 8, 2015). "In Their Own Words: An Oral History of Diablo II With David Brevik, Max Schaefer, and Erich Schaefer". USgamer. Gamer Network. Retrieved September 8, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b David Brevik (2016). "Classic Game Postmortem: Diablo". Game Developers Conference. Retrieved May 29, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Diablo - PlayStation - IGN". IGN. Retrieved August 23, 2013. 
  5. ^ Gamespot [1], Gamespot online games magazine, review of Diablo Playstation
  6. ^ Sega Retro [2], E3 '97 Sega Press release: 1997-06-19: SEGA INSTITUTES FIVE STAR GAMES POLICY
  7. ^ "BlizzCon 2016: Overwatch's Sombra revealed, Diablo returns, Hearthstone's Gadgetzan, and more". PC World. November 4, 2016. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Diablo Game Manual (PDF), Blizzard Entertainment, retrieved June 15, 2011 
  9. ^ "Diablo Hellfire Tomb of Knowledge - Bard". Retrieved May 16, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Download Diablo 1". GameGoldies Review of Diablo. February 3, 2010. Archived from the original on August 1, 2012. Retrieved February 3, 2010. 
  11. ^ Cain the Elder reveals to the player that his full name is Deckard Cain toward the end of the game. After picking up the Staff of Lazarus from the Vile Stand in dungeon level 15 for the Archbishop Lazarus Quest, the player can talk to Deckard Cain back in town to hear him say, "This does not bode well, for it confirms my darkest fears. While I did not allow myself to believe the ancient legends, I cannot deny them now. Perhaps the time has come to reveal who I am. My true name is Deckard Cain the Elder, and I am the last descendant of an ancient brotherhood that was dedicated to safeguarding the secrets of a timeless evil. An evil that quite obviously has now been released." In a video that was published to YouTube on October 6, 2008, this quote by Deckard Cain starts at the 0:10 mark of the video, and the quote ends at the 0:45 mark of the video. In a different video that was published to YouTube on January 11, 2012, this quote by Deckard Cain starts at the 15:57 mark of the video, and the quote ends at the 16:32 mark of the video.
  12. ^ a b c A video which was published to YouTube on October 6, 2008, shows the ending cinematic of the game. From the 4:11 mark of the video to the 5:22 mark of the video, the ending cinematic shows the hero take out the Soulstone from Diablo and put it in his or her forehead. From the 5:26 mark of the video to the 6:20 mark of the video, the narrator says, "The Soulstone burns with hellfire as an eerie red glow blurs your vision. Fresh blood flows into your eyes, and you begin to hear the tormented whispers of the damned. You have done what you knew must be done. The essence of Diablo is contained — for now. You pray that you have become strong enough to contain the demon and keep him at bay. Although you have been fortified by your quest, you can still feel him, clawing his way up from the dark recesses of your soul. Fighting to retain control, your thoughts turn toward the ancient mystic lands of the Far East. Perhaps there, beyond the desolate wastes of Aranoch, you will find an answer, or perhaps, salvation."
  13. ^ Grossman, Austin (2013). Postmortems from Game Developer: Insights from the Developers of Unreal Tournament, Black & White, Age of Empire, and Other Top-Selling Games. CRC Press. p. 80. ISBN 9781136064623. 
  14. ^ Welsh, Oli (29 March 2016). "The moment Diablo - and the action-RPG genre - were born". Eurogamer. 
  15. ^ Specifically, Barton states, "What is Diablo but an updated Telengard?" Matt Barton (February 23, 2007). "The History of Computer Role-Playing Games Part 1: The Early Years (1980-1983)". Gamasutra. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  16. ^ David L. Craddock (October 27, 2012). "Stay Awhile and Listen, Chapter 8: Condor and Blizzard lock horns over Diablo". DM Press. Retrieved December 13, 2014. 
  17. ^ Blizzard Entertainment. "Blizzard Retrospective". YouTube. Retrieved June 22, 2015. 
  18. ^ Goosebumps. "Thread: Jay Wilson responds to David Brevik interview". MMO Champion. Retrieved June 22, 2015. 
  19. ^ "In the Studio". Next Generation. No. 23. Imagine Media. November 1996. p. 17. 
  20. ^ "Diablo Battle Chest". Retrieved May 8, 2011. 
  21. ^ Schreier, Jason. "Blizzard Is Remaking Diablo Inside Of Diablo III". Kotaku. Retrieved November 4, 2016. 
  22. ^ Sanchez, Miranda. "The Original Diablo Returns in Diablo 3 Anniversary Patch". IGN. Retrieved November 4, 2016. 
  23. ^ a b Gowan, Michael (February 1999). "Name Your Game; From Goofy to Gory, Macworld Reviews 48 Ways to Play". Macworld. Archived from the original on August 10, 2001. 
  24. ^ "Diablo review(pc: 1996)". Metacritic. Retrieved May 21, 2012. 
  25. ^ "Diablo for PC review". GameSpot. Retrieved November 21, 2006. 
  26. ^ a b Yans, Cindy. "Diablo Review". Computer Games Magazine. Archived from the original on July 10, 2003. Retrieved April 14, 2010. 
  27. ^ "Diablo (PC)". GameSpot. Retrieved June 17, 2011. 
  28. ^ "List of all PC games, ordered by score". GameSpot. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  29. ^ Colayco, Bob (July 1, 2005). "The Greatest Games of All Time - Diablo". GameSpot. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on October 13, 2014. Retrieved July 17, 2015. 
  30. ^ Staff (May 1997). "The Computer Gaming World 1997 Premier Awards". Computer Gaming World (154): 68–70, 72, 74, 76, 78, 80. 
  31. ^ "Computer Games Strategy Plus announces 1996 Awards". Computer Games Strategy Plus. March 25, 1997. Archived from the original on June 14, 1997. Retrieved November 2, 2010. 
  32. ^ Staff (April 2001). "Top 20 of 2000". Computer Gaming World (201): 34. 
  33. ^ "Diablo II: Lord of Destruction Shatters Sales Records Worldwide With Over 1 Million Copies Sold" (Press release). Blizzard Entertainment. August 29, 2001. Retrieved June 29, 2008. 

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