Something that’s always bugged me about the Diablo games is that it’s possible to go against the nature of the character you’re playing. Why would a barbarian care about a teddy bear? Why would anyone wear armour that looks like a cow? And why does that plate armour fit just as well on the 120lb Amazon as it does on the 250lb Barbarian? These are some of the things I discuss in today’s column. Here’s the start, click through to read the whole thing.
Who To Be, Who To Be…
One of the great things about the Diablo games is that you get to slaughter everything indiscriminately. I can’t tell you how many times this has saved my neighbour’s life. And when you’re killing everything in sight for presumably looking at someone you’ve never met the wrong way, you can do it as one of a variety of character types, each with their own unique talents and abilities. In theory.
Now, don’t get me wrong here: I’m not going to talk about how spell charges on equipment make all the classes the same, or how all armour somehow fits everyone regardless of size or shape, or how you can probably find a way to turn any type of character in to the type you want to play; I’m pretty sure I’ve already covered those. No, today I’m going to take a look at whether the characters in Diablo actually adhere to their character classes.
Now There’s Something You Don’t See Every Day
The original Diablo actually did a pretty good job, through character limitations. Each character class had a maximum stat value they could reach in each of the stats, and responded at different speeds to things like getting punched in the throat, which meant you really kind of had to play Rogues with bows, Warriors with melee weapons, and Warlocks- I mean Sorcerers with spells. We’ll let non-recharging mana slide because it was a first generation game.
The place the first game faltered was with the use of magic. Presumably, the Sorcerers of Sanctuary had dedicated their entire lives to learning how to use and control the mystic forces. They spent years perfecting each individual- actually, let me just pull something straight from the manual here rather than blabbering on like a monkey trapped in a donkey’s naughty bits:
“The Eastern Sorcerers have developed a greater understanding of spellcasting than the other classes […] All sorcerers possess the ability to recharge spell staves by drawing power from their surroundings and channeling them through the staff.”
The problem is that with the proper equipment, anyone can learn exactly the same spells and cast them just as well, though slightly less quickly, and anyone can recharge their mana through the appropriate spell on a staff. I have a Warrior who can cast Apocalypse, and when I was playing Diablo 1 seriously I would always clear an area out with high level spells first, and then only resort to melee on the few monsters that remained. This is the epitome of Warriorhood.
You’d expect a Warrior, or anyone who hasn’t devoted their lives to the study of magic, to look at the scribbled runes that undoubtedly make up spellbooks in Sanctuary, and be completely confused because they aren’t standard letters. The tree means it’s a leafy spell! Nope, turns out everyone’s fluent in dead languages here. If only spells were inherent to the character class, and called “skills” instead…
Hellfire introduced a few new character classes to the mix. The Monk does higher damage in unarmed combat than with almost all weapons, which makes complete sense, and can hit three people at once with a staff. Barbarians get huge damage boosts when using two handed weapons (or is it just axes?), and Bards are all completely insane. There needs to be a lute you can play as a Bard, since Bards are musicians. Instead you get to hit three people at once if you’re wielding two swords. I guess Blizzard took the whole “swords sing when they hit each other” idea a little too seriously.
A Mouse With A Broadsword? Intriguing
Diablo 2 has several new character classes, and they’ve done what they can to differentiate between them. There are items that can only be used by one character class; there are different
spells skills for everyone; health and mana go up at different rates for each class; stat points affect a character’s health, mana, and combat stats differently. To that end, they did a very good job making each class different. If only they’d paid more attention to gameplay.
My favourite example is the Paladin: the beacon of all that is good in the world, driven by only the desire to do good and to eat good food that smells as good on the way out as it tastes on the way in. And one of the first things this Paladin encounters in Sanctuary is what’s identified as an “Undefiled Grave.” Being a Paladin, you’d expect him to stop the rest of the party and say “We must not invade this grave, for it contains the remains of someone who served their family and people well, and they should be honoured in death as they were in life.” What happens instead? The Paladin tosses over the gravestone and loots the body himself. I guess he figures he’ll put the tattered rags to better use than his comrades.
The Paladin should have some sort of punishment awarded to them for defiling a grave. Like lock out his spells until he’s earned 10% of the experience required to reach his next level. Paladin is a very lawful good character class, and going against that should cause him problems. Ever fought with Wirt’s Leg as a Paladin? Swinging someone’s dismembered limb as a weapon would have to come with penalties too.
What about the Amazon? Can’t you just see her sneaking through the jungle, stealthily approaching an enemy with a ninety pound club in her hand, wearing someone’s bleached skull for a hat? Or a Barbarian shooting an apple off someone’s head with a longbow? Or what about a Necromancer, done up to look like King Richard before he was betrayed to the Chinese by Tom Sawyer?
It’s one thing to say the character is a Barbarian, but to truly capture the essence of the character class you need to make sure each character doesn’t wear, use or do things that they wouldn’t in the real world. I happen to have compiled a list of such possible restrictions here:
Amazon: Can only use bows, crossbows and spears, and one handed swords. No heavy armour, gloves, belts or boots, as they need to remain nimble and quiet at all times. Must fight bare legged. Cannot enter confined spaces.
Barbarian: No ranged weapons except throwing axes. No light armour; I’m pretty sure they’d see a rag, grunt, throw it aside and block the sword with their ludicrously muscled chest, then flex and snap it in half. No jewelry. Must have a ridiculously long beard at all times. Bonus for occasionally yelling “HULK SMASH!”
Necromancer: All armour, helms and shields must contain at least one bleached skull. All equipment must be black, white or blood red. Can only use one handed weapons that are one piece, or that contain at least one skull. Not allowed to get a tan. Must rub hands together deviously upon entering any graveyard.
Paladin: Must use a sword. Cannot wear anything with a skull. Must dress in white with spots of red. Can’t wear a crown, because that would indicate he’s getting cocky. Cannot defile graves, and can’t attack anything smaller than him unless he is attacked first.
Sorceress: Can only use staves and wands. Can only use light armour. Cannot wear a helmet, though tiaras are okay and just a little bit kinky.
Assassin: Must wear black. Can only wear light armour, and no hats. Can only use small weapons. Can only use soft-soled boots. May not be played by Sylvester Stallone or Antonio Banderas.
Druid: Um… well… must spend at least 10 minutes standing in awe at the gate to Tristram, contained within Stonehenge. Let’s see… must wear lots of layers, I guess, loose fitting clothing with a hood… Oh, and must complete all spells by chanting in groups of 6 or more.
What Do You Think You’re Wearing?
It’s one thing to have different character types in your game, but it’s another entirely to have the characters be genuinely restricted by them. It’s a fine line between making them different enough to be interesting, and pigeonholing them to completely restrict play styles. You want to stay genuine to what you’re letting the player do, but you also don’t want to suffocate them by not giving them any leeway in playstyle.
So how did Blizzard do? Other than the glaring inconsistencies such as letting Paladins do things that are entirely un-Paladinly, probably pretty well. I nitpick a lot in this column, but the fact is Blizzard is usually pretty good at finding the balance between how things would be in real life, and what the gaming population wants. However, I have it on good authority that the fifth class in Diablo 3 is a fruitbat, and your only weapons are pooping on the enemy and shrieking at them. That’s a character class I can really get behind… but not directly beneath.
Opinions expressed in columns and guest articles are those of their authors, and not necessarily those of Diii.net.
Diconstruction (Diablo Deconstruction) is written by Chris Marks. It examines differences between the two (soon to be three) Diablo games, as well as comparing them to other games, in a hopefully amusing style. Diconstruction is published on the first and third Tuesday of every month. Leave your comments below, or contact the author directly.