Mento's Alternative to E3: Day 01

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00 02 03
 
So while all the E3 nuts are going cuckoo for the Wii U, we're back to this refreshing alternative that has nothing to do with a major electronics convention happening around this point in time.
 
Today, I'm going to discuss the Diablo clones I've played and if anything can be salvaged from these many brazen imitators released in the 15 years since the first Diablo graced our CD-ROMs (Really? 15 years? Why do I keep doing this to myself...) Once again, this is inspired by a recent game I've played (that would be the complementary Dead Nation for PSN users, which I shouldn't really be disparaging since it was a freebie.) Obviously, one could make the case that these games are actually borrowing the far older Roguelike formula and adapting it for an age where all games have amazing non-ASCII graphics ( Dwarf Fortress notwithstanding of course) and gameplay engine capabilities, and just so happen to all play in an isometric top-down format with large mobs and randomized magical loot. I mean, you could make that case. If you were stupid.
 

Revenant

Revenant is actually a lot like the Dreamcast Record of Lodoss War game, as you begin as a resurrected warrior with no backstory. You're summoned because the realm has run out of warriors that can handle the encroaching darkness, and has decided to fight necromancy with necromancy. As you explore and slay things in a traditional isometric format, memories of your original life start to seep in.
 
As Diablo clones go, it's not too awful. There's some variation in the combat, as you can choose between specific types of attacks to suit the enemy you're facing, as well as a slightly more in-depth magic system than clicking the "yo, this one does fireballs" icon. Overall, it's certainly one of the better copycats. Honestly, given how the game industry tends to work, there's nothing wrong with stealing another game's gameplay if you do something interesting and different with it. My usual issue with these games is how they're advertised, as "You liked DIablo? We got something like that but even cooler: You play a corpse!" is unfortunately the direction they tend to go with.
 
 

Darkstone

Darkstone is a little more overt with their take on the Diablo dungeon-crawler. It more or less lifts the premise wholesale, with the player arriving in some non-descript town full of NPCs prepared to sell you shit or send you off on a series of errands. It all has this perfectly functional and uncharacteristic feel to it, like you're playing the game's working beta to make sure it's operational before the designers stick all the personality in.
 
It does have its own house band though, singing something about a dark stone shining. So I guess that's where the name comes from. You also get quests from a giant hologram head, so if you ever wanted to play a medieval-esque Fantasy Diablo-clone with elements of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers thrown in, this is your chance. While Darkstone was predominantly a PC product, I believe there was a PS1 version that probably looks a hell of a lot worse. Go nuts, console fans.
 
 

Nox

Nox mixes things up a little by making the hero an Earth teleportee. While this plot element is nothing new as far as fiction in general goes (I don't really count a plot hook as captivating if its adopted by half of the cartoons made in the 1980s), it's pretty new for a Diablo clone.
 
The game is slightly more linear and less "back and forth from a hub world" than most Diablo games of its time, and it actually looks kind of good. Also, unlike most Diablo clones, the dungeons are the same each playthrough and you're really just chasing the story through cutscenes delivered in a manner similar to the Infinity Ward games. However, it's still highly derivative of the Diablo format, especially with its real-time click-click-clickety-click combat.
 
 

Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance / Champions of Norrath   

I was going to separate these, but since they're functionally identical I think I'll just double-up. There's a sequel for both as well, so that's a full quartet of PS2 hack n' slash dungeon crawlers. Honestly, if you wanted the console Diablo experience in the last decade, these games were your best bet despite being the furthest thing from trailblazers for the genre. It is a little egregious that they felt they needed to use the Baldur's Gate name too (I couldn't care less about the EverQuest name being dragged through the mud, sorry Marino) if only because of how it's an ideal example of the chasm in complexity that exists between PC gaming and console gaming. Especially when that's mostly imagined by the PC gamers. They didn't need the extra snark fuel is what I'm saying.
 

Dungeon Siege

I was all prepared to be sarcastic about this series too but, hey, if Uwe Boll made a movie about your video game, it's gotta be pretty amazing am I right?
 
Dungeon Siege's primary and perhaps only contribution to the Diablo clone army is the addition of a pack mule, which uses up a slot you could use for another hireling. It's an interesting dilemma: Do you want an additional fighter for the many extra opportunities it gives you when formulating a strategy for combat? Or do you want more space to carry shit between shop visits? Because who even cares about all that combat and gameplay nonsense, really?
 
I try to sound like I'm above this game but then I bought Space Siege. So by all means take everything here with a pinch of stupid.
 

Arkadian Warriors

Honestly, I have no idea what to say about this game. It's an XBLA Diablo clone before Torchlight came along and made it completely redundant. It's still a lot cheaper if you don't particularly care either way though.
 
Honestly, it's not like I can tell the difference between a Diablo clone made by an Indie team for five bucks or a richly-layered PC Diablo clone port made by a full development team for 15 bucks. You kill things and steal their shit. Sometimes there's secret walls. Help me out here, someone?
 

Torchlight

Guess I should mention Torchlight too. It's probably the best Diablo clone on the market, if you're into that sort of thing. And if you are, you already own it. I'm sort of wasting my time bringing it up, huh? I will remark how combining the pack mule and an extra fighter into one versatile pet was a nice way to eliminate your closest competitors by making them look stupid.
 
 

Diablo 3

In the year 2525,
If Mento and Giant Bomb are still alive,
If this blog can even survive,
I'll see if Blizzard's new Diablo can thrive.
2 Comments
3 Comments
Posted by Mento

Jump to other E3 Blogs:
00 02 03
 
So while all the E3 nuts are going cuckoo for the Wii U, we're back to this refreshing alternative that has nothing to do with a major electronics convention happening around this point in time.
 
Today, I'm going to discuss the Diablo clones I've played and if anything can be salvaged from these many brazen imitators released in the 15 years since the first Diablo graced our CD-ROMs (Really? 15 years? Why do I keep doing this to myself...) Once again, this is inspired by a recent game I've played (that would be the complementary Dead Nation for PSN users, which I shouldn't really be disparaging since it was a freebie.) Obviously, one could make the case that these games are actually borrowing the far older Roguelike formula and adapting it for an age where all games have amazing non-ASCII graphics ( Dwarf Fortress notwithstanding of course) and gameplay engine capabilities, and just so happen to all play in an isometric top-down format with large mobs and randomized magical loot. I mean, you could make that case. If you were stupid.
 

Revenant

Revenant is actually a lot like the Dreamcast Record of Lodoss War game, as you begin as a resurrected warrior with no backstory. You're summoned because the realm has run out of warriors that can handle the encroaching darkness, and has decided to fight necromancy with necromancy. As you explore and slay things in a traditional isometric format, memories of your original life start to seep in.
 
As Diablo clones go, it's not too awful. There's some variation in the combat, as you can choose between specific types of attacks to suit the enemy you're facing, as well as a slightly more in-depth magic system than clicking the "yo, this one does fireballs" icon. Overall, it's certainly one of the better copycats. Honestly, given how the game industry tends to work, there's nothing wrong with stealing another game's gameplay if you do something interesting and different with it. My usual issue with these games is how they're advertised, as "You liked DIablo? We got something like that but even cooler: You play a corpse!" is unfortunately the direction they tend to go with.
 
 

Darkstone

Darkstone is a little more overt with their take on the Diablo dungeon-crawler. It more or less lifts the premise wholesale, with the player arriving in some non-descript town full of NPCs prepared to sell you shit or send you off on a series of errands. It all has this perfectly functional and uncharacteristic feel to it, like you're playing the game's working beta to make sure it's operational before the designers stick all the personality in.
 
It does have its own house band though, singing something about a dark stone shining. So I guess that's where the name comes from. You also get quests from a giant hologram head, so if you ever wanted to play a medieval-esque Fantasy Diablo-clone with elements of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers thrown in, this is your chance. While Darkstone was predominantly a PC product, I believe there was a PS1 version that probably looks a hell of a lot worse. Go nuts, console fans.
 
 

Nox

Nox mixes things up a little by making the hero an Earth teleportee. While this plot element is nothing new as far as fiction in general goes (I don't really count a plot hook as captivating if its adopted by half of the cartoons made in the 1980s), it's pretty new for a Diablo clone.
 
The game is slightly more linear and less "back and forth from a hub world" than most Diablo games of its time, and it actually looks kind of good. Also, unlike most Diablo clones, the dungeons are the same each playthrough and you're really just chasing the story through cutscenes delivered in a manner similar to the Infinity Ward games. However, it's still highly derivative of the Diablo format, especially with its real-time click-click-clickety-click combat.
 
 

Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance / Champions of Norrath   

I was going to separate these, but since they're functionally identical I think I'll just double-up. There's a sequel for both as well, so that's a full quartet of PS2 hack n' slash dungeon crawlers. Honestly, if you wanted the console Diablo experience in the last decade, these games were your best bet despite being the furthest thing from trailblazers for the genre. It is a little egregious that they felt they needed to use the Baldur's Gate name too (I couldn't care less about the EverQuest name being dragged through the mud, sorry Marino) if only because of how it's an ideal example of the chasm in complexity that exists between PC gaming and console gaming. Especially when that's mostly imagined by the PC gamers. They didn't need the extra snark fuel is what I'm saying.
 

Dungeon Siege

I was all prepared to be sarcastic about this series too but, hey, if Uwe Boll made a movie about your video game, it's gotta be pretty amazing am I right?
 
Dungeon Siege's primary and perhaps only contribution to the Diablo clone army is the addition of a pack mule, which uses up a slot you could use for another hireling. It's an interesting dilemma: Do you want an additional fighter for the many extra opportunities it gives you when formulating a strategy for combat? Or do you want more space to carry shit between shop visits? Because who even cares about all that combat and gameplay nonsense, really?
 
I try to sound like I'm above this game but then I bought Space Siege. So by all means take everything here with a pinch of stupid.
 

Arkadian Warriors

Honestly, I have no idea what to say about this game. It's an XBLA Diablo clone before Torchlight came along and made it completely redundant. It's still a lot cheaper if you don't particularly care either way though.
 
Honestly, it's not like I can tell the difference between a Diablo clone made by an Indie team for five bucks or a richly-layered PC Diablo clone port made by a full development team for 15 bucks. You kill things and steal their shit. Sometimes there's secret walls. Help me out here, someone?
 

Torchlight

Guess I should mention Torchlight too. It's probably the best Diablo clone on the market, if you're into that sort of thing. And if you are, you already own it. I'm sort of wasting my time bringing it up, huh? I will remark how combining the pack mule and an extra fighter into one versatile pet was a nice way to eliminate your closest competitors by making them look stupid.
 
 

Diablo 3

In the year 2525,
If Mento and Giant Bomb are still alive,
If this blog can even survive,
I'll see if Blizzard's new Diablo can thrive.
Moderator
Posted by ArbitraryWater

This has reminded me that my favorite Diablo clone is still Diablo 2. What? That doesn't count? Screw it. There's only so much clicky-click loot grabbing a man can take before it all starts becoming a monotounous grind. Torchlight, for all the praise people give it, just reminds me of Diablo. And then I wonder why exactly I'm not just playing Diablo 2 since that's a better game anyways by the virtue of still having people who play it multiplayer as well as having more than 3 classes.
 
You forgot Divine Divinity, which is totally a Diablo clone, but makes itself unique by being A. Open World, B. Punishingly Difficult and C. Having a really good soundtrack. There's also the part where you can learn every skill regardless of class, but that seems almost ancillary to the entire experience. It's a weird game, charming but fairly unremarkable.

Online
Posted by Mento
@ArbitraryWater: Yeah, I didn't even run out of Diablo clones, just ran out of patience talking about them (which probably doesn't bode well for anyone about to read this blog.) Others I've played: Sacred 1 & 2, Alien Syndrome (the newer one), The Bard's Tale (again, the newer one, which is still worth playing for the humor) and what little I've seen of Titan Quest.
 
Divine Divinity seemed more like a Gothic/Infinity Engine clone, with all the open world side-quests and stuff, but like Nox it's so similar to Diablo with its combat that I probably could've included it. I haven't played the sequel yet because of all the confusing hoopla over the extended special edition making the original redundant.
 
If you'd like, you can think of this as like a interstitial guest blog for your "playing old games on DOS" series, covering all the Diablo clones you wouldn't want to try to write a long blog about because they're all identical.
Moderator