Some of you might have heard of it. Some of you might even be in it. A few of you, and indeed, those are going to be few indeed, might even have had it. A mid-life crisis, which is something different altogether than anything else you might have. That’s right boys, most of the girls aren’t troubled by this particular thingie, other than that they have to suffer the consequences. The mid-life crisis has many origins, and I am really sure you all are wondering right now what a mid-life crisis has to do with PC-gaming, and why in the nine hells that silly bear is bringing it up. Well… here we go… hand on to your seat belts, please, if you have a psychology degree take this with a grain of salt, and make sure you have a glass of strong spirits ready at your side, because here we go.
First, let us take a look at the Real Life mid-life crisis, and its common symptoms. A 45 year old man in his sportscar with a 25 year old woman next to him, driving 90 km/h (or 60 miles, for the mile-inclined) where the speed limit is clearly 70 km/h or 40 m/h. The guy usually wears sunglasses, and the woman is usually dressed smartly. They do kiss, and they do have sex. Uhm, immature readers and parents of immature readers, have no worries, this is about as far as this goes. Love is rarely involved… what is unclear to that guy, but clear to everyone else, is that the woman is mainly attracted to his toys and money, and that the guy is mainly attracted to the woman because she proves “he can still do it”. The mid-life crisis at its best. But for us Diablo players, especially the ones who have already bailed on this game several times but keep coming back, a mid-life crisis is nothing. Pah! After all, what is a mid-life/game crisis other than the realization that whatever you have accomplished up until now has been an utter waste of your time? Your life is half-done, but whatever you are doing is not what you really wanted to be doing, and whatever your plans are, and whatever you have done are not really the things you want to be remembered by. Kinda like playing Diablo II, having done your two thousand eight hundred and twenty-third Baal run with your cookie-cutter Amazon, Barbarian or Sorceress and then realizing you’re not challenged anymore, and all your characters are carbon copies of others on Cattle.net. So what do you do? The same thing as in real life… “And now for something completely different…”
If you are still playing Softcore, chances are you will either go into PvP and start dueling, or start Hardcore. Or… you go for the variant builds. There’s plenty of variety builds out there. To list but a few, we have (and this is by no means the full list:)
- WW-Barbies (cookie-cutter)
- Zerker Barbies
- Concentrate Barbies
- Thrower Barbies
- Singer Barbies
- Basher Barbies (more rare)
- Werebear Barbies
- Bow-barbies (yes, we do)
- Bonemancers (yes, Necromancers…)
- Lord of Magi
- Zoomancers (you can never have enough troops…)
- Curse-o-mancers (tough to get XP, but otherwise hugely amusing)
- Trapsins (Assassins now)
- Phoenix-strike sins
- Blade Fury sins
- Charged Strike Sins
- FoF sins
- Jabberzons (a few amazons)
…And that will do for now, ‘m sure you catch my drift. The number of different builds and tactics is simply enormous. It is one of the biggest appeals of Diablo II that every single character can be abused in about a dozen ways thanks to the wondrous amounts of gear floating around. Any character that can hit a decent attack speed can abuse Crushing Blow in various ways. Any character that can hold a Kuko and can wear Goblin Toe can, eventually, make it past hell. CB + Fire = game over for any monster, eventually. It is not strange that we have all these builds. No, the strange thing is not that someone made them up. Human creativity knows no bounds. The really strange thing is that when people realize they have done a lot in Diablo II, and they are essentially bored, they make up new, insane builds instead of getting on with their real life and accomplishing good things in there. They do no evaluate their gameplay experience other than “I want something more challenging”, they simply pick up a dagger and start stabbing away with Poison Dagger. They do this both on SC and on HC. Whatever goes on SC also goes on HC, but you have to be a tad more careful. Anyway, before we turn this into another fruitless HC/SC debate, we’ll continue on with the insanity.
Why do people keep trying new stuff? Is it something in the Sanctuary Water that drives them to use an underpowered skill, or just their bare fists or Wirt’s Leg, in order to kill the monsters with that? I am curious as to whether the Diablo II design team foresaw all this stuff. It would be nice to think that they did, that they knew that someone would find for example that strange bug which causes Fire damage to be dealt twice with a shot of Exploding Arrow, and the fact that CB also gets doled out twice, and then created say a Kuko-using Assassin or Paladin with that, but I think we’re overlooking the fact that we have about uhm, 15 builds per character (estimate here), and 7 characters, so that’s some 7 * 15 = 95 different builds out there, based upon skills, gear, combination of skills and gear or bug abuse, or a combination of all three. No sane man could have ever come up with that many builds before the game came out, and I simply refuse to believe all was intended this way. No, the Diablo II design team got lucky they had a rather overactive and totally addicted fanbase who kept reinventing the game and its characters into new and different creations because their original intent and indeed way of playing met its “Mid-game crisis,” instead of simply jumping ship to the next hip and cool game.
A large part of the replay-appeal of Diablo II is due to the players. And as far as I can tell, Diablo III might have that same replay-appeal. The Barbarian and the Witch Doctor have been revealed, with only a handful of Skills, and people are already speculating their proverbial behinds off, planning new stuff and character ideas without ever having seen the rest of the skills, the gear or indeed knowing of any bugs in the game. Yep, we are again planning to reinvent the game in order to keep ourselves from getting bored, but this time we haven’t even started playing it yet. Strange, but true.
I’ll be following the revelations about Diablo III as eagerly as anyone else; one reinvention, my favourite one, has already been canceled, no player killing anymore But we’ll save that troll of a discussion for next week.
Baranor’s Den is a weekly column that explores all things RPG and fantasy, with a special focus on the Diablo series. Views expressed in this column are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Diii.net. Leave your comment after the column, or email Baranor directly.