My history with the Diablo franchise

Back in 1997 I picked up a copy of the first Diablo game. I didn't get it on release and I'm not entirely sure how I learned about it because I wasn't heavily involved in any sort of gaming save for the occasional BBS door game or whatever shovelware I happened to come across. I also don't recall where I purchased it. It seems likely that it was from one of a handful of mom and pop software shops in the area.

I believe my copy still exists, save for maybe the CD. I think the box is still at my parents' house somewhere. I remember the instruction book that came with it fondly. I would carry it to school with me and read it repeatedly. I spent time sketching the various monsters that I saw in the book. I even used the names of the demons as my username in a few instances. I was enamored.

I think I only beat the game a single time. I often made it near the hell levels but never quite much further than that because my builds weren't the best. I quite enjoyed the loot slot machine and the dark atmosphere. I also remember the fright that the Butcher gave me (and countless other players, I'm sure). A couple of years later I discovered some character editors and really enjoyed making ridiculously overpowered characters just to see what was possible.

When Diablo II came out, I was quite excited. I heard about its release a little late because I wasn't in the country at the time. I was traveling abroad on an exchange program. I managed to acquire a copy probably 3 or so years after its release. The game was just as fun as its predecessor but the online component really hooked me. I fell into the community and that's where I learned about hardcore play.

I started rolling hardcore characters and interacting with the banana community from that now-defunct forum. I never made it to the top of the ladder or finished the game more than a couple of times but I built fond memories with the community and the loot flowed freely. I played like this on and off for several years, rediscovering the game and community each time. Occasionally I would tinker with mods like Median XL but I mostly played vanilla.

When Diablo III came out, I wasn't very excited. It looked a lot like World of Warcraft. WoW was another game I enjoyed but its overall appearance and theme wasn't suitable for the world of Sanctuary. I wanted a darker, grittier experience. I waited a while after its release and tried to play it on the PlayStation 4. I found it to be generally boring. It lacked some of the magic that the previous titles held and I couldn't put my finger on it. The one feature I loved was the inclusion of an auction house which I believe was eventually removed. It made trading a little more safe. I probably didn't spend more than a dozen hours in the game as it simply didn't grab me like the others. I did, however, appreciate an encounter with the Butcher once again.

At this point, I tried Torchlight on the recommendation of some friends but found it to be lacking the same dark gritty feeling and loot chase of the first two games. It was no better than D3 in my mind. I would occasionally revisit D2 during this time but never stuck with it for very long.

Then came Diablo Immortal which was released with heavy criticism. I didn't hear about its release announcement once again until sometime after it was already out. Perhaps a year or so after its release I picked it up and tried it out. I found that it still had the cartoony appearance of WoW, although darkened a little with lower contrast. The character models still could've easily have been lifted from Stormwind. I also found its various systems of currencies and materials to be very confusing. Combine that with the mobile game cash grab tactics and I was displeased. I played this game for a few hours and moved on (although more recently I have revisited it just to see if it had changed).

During the gap between Diablo Immortal and Diablo IV, I played Path of Exile and Grim Dawn hoping that they would be the Diablo we never had. While both games proved to be fun in their own right, they weren't quite what I was looking for. PoE came closer to it than Grim Dawn but I just didn't manage to stick with either title.

Fast forward to today: Diablo IV recently came to Game Pass. I had loosely followed the Diablo IV release but didn't really care to play it because I was worried it would be another Diablo 3 or Immortal flop. Given that it was free for now, I figured I'd try it out. I'm glad I did because I am currently really enjoying this game.

At the time of writing my main character is only around level 23 or so and I haven't finished more than three of the main storyline quests. It's dark and gritty like the first two games. The loot drops feel really good and the fights aren't a slog most of the time. I'm playing with a controller on the Xbox but that's not been much of an impediment. It took me some time to learn a lot of the new things but there is so much to do in this game.

The icing on the cake for me was bumping into my old friend: the Butcher. I was in a dungeon and he arbitrarily spawned and scared me just as much as he did when I was a kid. After he beat me to death, I found myself grinning like an idiot. I was hooked. It has its own rough edges but I'll definitely be sinking more hours into Diablo 4. It feels almost like the game we should've had after Diablo 2.