Blizzard Software.

If I stuck to my principles I should hate Diablo. Diablo is a slug fest through 16 levels of dungeon. It has a pitiful storyline, scant character interaction and virtually no puzzles or brainwork. Hell ! it even only takes a couple of hours a day over a week to complete. But I actually had a ball. What Diablo does well is excellent graphics, atmosphere and good plain fun, the monsters even seem to have an ounce of intelligence.

The story is just enough to construct the levels around. Demon ( Diablo ) holes up in dungeons below church, a few other minor ' foozles' join the party, demon enlists Archbishop Lazaras as hapless minion, townsfolk enter dungeon never to be seen again. Hero ( you ) arrives on scene to put things right. Your typical ' kill foozle' plot. When you arrive in the town you are immediately asked to perform your first quest and rescue people from ' the butcher '. Once you enter the cathedral the carnage begins, hack,slash,hack,slash. You gain experience points and rise through levels just like a typical CRPG, you even get to manage your statistics. But don't get to carried away, the game is still primarily a slug fest.

Graphics are excellent. The view is top down, slightly side on like Ultima VIII. I am glad that Blizzard did not resort to the Quake 3D type view, it simply would not have worked with Diablo. The monsters are well animated and unlike some recent games, do not float, walk on air or sit there acting dumb. There is even intelligence built in. Start trying to kill those goat-man type creatures ( Clan ) that attack with a bow and you will see what I mean. Combat is real time and it's the major activity of the game. The level progression has been tuned perfectly so that you should never have to resort to cheats, but neither is it a cake-walk. If you find a particular quest too tough, simply do another floor or two and gain some levels and you should be able to come back and finish the task. You can play a mage, warrior or rogue character.

The magic system is rather simple, but enjoyable. Diablo is one game in which a magic user isn't a useless weakling. Just send a fireball into a pack of Night Clan and watch three or four falling dead at once, you will soon appreciate magic. There are some spells that are invaluable such as Town Portal.

Music is good, but not great. Sound affects are in my opinion rather poor and used too sparsely. The one saving grace on the sound front is that the character voices in the village are well done. Blizzard are one of the few US software companies that have realised that American accents and medieval villages do not go together well. Good on them ! The voices seem a strange mixture of Scottish and English accents.

HELLFIRE EXPANSION - This expansion is well worth the money. Hellfire adds another 8 levels to the game. The extra levels come in two sets of four. The first a insect colony that must be destroyed, the second a crypt. The graphics in the crypt levels are the best in the whole Hellfire / Diablo game. The Liches especially are well animated. Magic is even more important with the expansion levels as there are many monsters that use ranged attacks.