Blizzard Is Recreating 'Diablo 1' in 'Diablo 3,' and It's Pissing Players Off

Dec. 31 marks the 20th anniversary of the landmark Diablo RPG series, and fans think Blizzard's celebration is halfhearted at best.

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Nov 6 2016, 3:00pm

Image: Blizzard

Diablo 3 finally has a name as a fine RPG after going through hell and back via a series of game-changing patches, but at its genesis players howled like the damned at its differences from 1996's Diablo and its 2000 sequel. Now, almost 20 years after the series' launch, Blizzard's poised to give those players a taste of what they've wanted all along. And wouldn't you know? They're not that happy about it, but then again, some of their arguments aren't without merit.

As announced at Blizzcon yesterday, players who own both the base Diablo 3 game and its Reaper of Souls expansion will get to play a 16-level dungeon called "The Darkening of Tristram" that's based on the original Diablo and its four main bosses. That's likely the Butcher, the Skeleton King, Lazarus, and Diablo himself. Strangely, it'll only be around for a month or so every year before retiring to the Blizzard crypts to await reanimation at a later time.

Exciting stuff in theory, but on the whole it sounds like the current game briefly masquerading in a new set of duds as if for Halloween. On paper, it leaves the faint aftertaste of one of Blizzard's famous April Fool's jokes, leading one player to remark that "I actually thought it was a prank before the real announcements."

A filter Blizzard playfully refers to a "glorious retrovision" will blanket the whole thing and downsample its graphics to the rough edges familiar from the Bill Clinton years. The framerates will get chopped down, and it'll limit you to using the rigid eight directions of the original. It'll even sound much the same as the 1996 Diablo, thanks to the welcome inclusion of Matt Uelman's original score. As screenshots from the press kit show (below), it's still recognizable as Diablo 3.

Image: Blizzard

Players of the PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 versions will get it on an unspecified date in the coming weeks, but it'll be available on Diablo 3's Public Test Realm next week if you just can't bring yourself to wait that long. And if that's not enough nostalgia for you, the news accompanied the announcement of a separate backward-looking and paid patch that'll bring back Diablo 2's Necromancer class along with two new levels to Diablo 3 proper sometime next year.

It's not going over too well in the community, to put it lightly. Very few loyal players like that they'll have to pay to play the Necromancer class, and many others find the "Darkening of Tristram" dungeon a poor way to celebrate 20 years of such a storied franchise. A user named mat82284 on the official Diablo forums seems to have caught the general attitude in a highly upvoted post entitled: "This Is the Worst 20th Anniversary Ever" (as opposed, you know, to all the other 20th anniversaries it had):

Image: Diablo Forums

Another popular post argues that the original Diablo just won't work in a shiny Diablo 3 coating, reigniting a controversy over the art that plagued Diablo 3s launch.

"Diablo is a horror game," says a user named Starchild. "Diablo 3 is an action game in a horror-inspired setting. Though they are superficially similar, pacing sets these two apart and makes them incompatible."

The controversy carries over to Reddit, where the Diablo subreddit is dominated with topics like "What a huge letdown" pulling in over 1,100 upvotes. It's even carrying over into other subreddits, where players of the competing action RPG Path of Exile are posting welcome threads for once-loyal Diablo 3 players jumping ship.

And yet I imagine most of us will end up playing it when it comes out anyway. That's not to say I don't get some of the pain. Diablo is certainly worthy of celebration, and it's hard to overstate how innovative the first Diablo felt 20 years ago. Its action took place in real time when most other RPGs were clinging to Dungeon & Dragons-inspired turns, and its random levels helped redefine the concept of replayability.

Last March, Diablo creator David Brevik posted the original eight-page pitch document from 1994, including its key message of "reinvigorating" gaming at a time when many developers substituted "gameplay with multimedia extravaganzas."