My love for the Diablo series is huge. Over the years, I’ve assuredly spent more time playing through all three of its fantastic loot-filled entries across multiple formats than any other game franchise out there, and this is coming from someone who’s spent over 200 hours on Castlevania: Harmony of Despair.
I’ll never forget my first foray into the dark labyrinths of the original Diablo upon picking it up for the PlayStation One, many, many moons ago. It would be years later that I then played through the vastly superior PC version, but I digress. The fact of the matter is, the original Diablo created within me a love for many game features and aesthetics that still stick with me to this day. The love of finding varied loot, for example, and clearing screens filled with enemies like a badass. The grim visuals and oppressive atmosphere no doubt nurtured my leanings towards horror and the macabre, whilst its soundtrack made me realise that videogame music could be more than what people give it credit for. Diablo was a masterpiece, and then Blizzard announced they were remaking it within Diablo 3 for a special event.
Luckily, I tempered my expectations.
The Darkening of Tristram event places a 16 floor labyrinth within act 1 of Diablo 3 that isn’t so much as a remake of a the original title as an homage. Though since it’s free and successfully prompts players like myself to reminisce about the good old days, it’s hard to feel anything but thankful for it.
Accessible by entering a portal in the centre of Old Tristram, straight away the pixelated graphics, gated movement and classic music take you back to a bygone era, but it’s an illusion that’s shattered quickly by the unmistakable Diablo 3 gameplay. Enemies crumble quickly from your varied range of attacks as you storm through with your characters who are undoubtedly level 70 by now, and even with your movement restricted to just walking you’re likely to complete the event in just a couple of hours. But you won’t mind too much, as along the way you’ll have experienced a healthy dose of nostalgia.
From the original sounds of gold falling to the floor to the chilling encounter with the horrific Butcher, you’re treated to a whole host of throwbacks to the original game that mostly satisfy. I’ll personally admit to having a moment of joy upon once again coming face to face with Gharbad the Weak, although I was disappointed that I couldn’t speak to him before strewing his corpse on the floor. It may just be my memory that’s failing me, but it would appear that even some enemies and their attacks have been visually altered somewhat to make them more like their original counterparts, such as the Storm Lords with their lightning attacks.
Perhaps the only truly disappointing aspect of the Darkening of Tristram event is that the loot is rather rubbish. As usual you’ll find loads of it as you move from level to level, and whilst there’s always the chance you can stumble upon a decent legendary from the standard pool of items, the many interesting legacy items unique to the event that you can also discover are always useless. Griswold’s Edge, the Empyrean Band; they’re there for the taking if you search hard enough but you’ll never use them as they’re simply magical. One worthwhile thing you can acquire though if you work for it is an amusing pet – and in the process you’ll discover why the cows are so pissed off in Diablo 2.
Only available until the end of January, if you own Diablo 3 on PC, Xbox One or PS4 and are a long-term fan of the series it’s worth giving the Darkening of Tristram a go.