Unless Diablo is your life, forget Hellfire!
Diablo is one of those hugely successful games that
never quite buttered my bread. Not that I am blind to its appeal. In fact, Diablo
currently holds the record at my house for the longest continuous gaming session:
my roommate once played single-player Diablo for fourteen and a half hours while
I dutifully scanned the Web for the latest info on the seemingly endless magic
items, runes, weapons and monsters. As you can imagine, my fanatical friend was
quite excited when he learned I was given the task of reviewing Hellfire,
the first and only Blizzard-authorized expansion pack. OK. I’ll admit it. I was
pretty excited too.
one new character class, six new quests, seven new spells, eight new levels,
nine new shrines, twenty-nine new monsters, and more items and weapons than
I can count. I know these stats, because I searched and searched this game for
something to justify the costly $34.95 pricetag. To my dismay, I didn’t
Let’s do a little expansion pack 101 — Gamer loves game. Gamer plays game to death. Gamer wants to play more, but he knows the game inside and out. No more fun. Gamer is anxious. Company sees profit. Company throws together add-on. How many times have we seen this story? It’s certainly no different here.
The basic problem with Hellfire is that despite the deceptive number
of new elements, it just doesn’t add up to much. Instead of creating a new setting
with the same characters and interface, Hellfire grafts its new features onto
the village of Tristram found in the original Diablo.
A new townsman, Lester the Farmer, hands out your first Hellfire quest, but
only after you’ve attained character level fifteen or reached the ninth level
of the original Diablo dungeon. You read that right: unless you start digging
in DOS and copying your Diablo characters into
Hellfire’s directory, you’ll be playing this game for days before you reach
the new levels that Hellfire adds to Diablo. Ugh.
What’s worse is that after
all that build-up, the new dungeons are a let-down. Not only are the eight levels
just variations on two basic models, but they also have weak points not found
in the original Diablo. The first four “nest” levels,
for example, are filled with monsters, pods, and walls straight out of Alien.
I was expecting Sigourney Weaver to pop out of one of these egg-shaped pods,
but instead I found the same old mana potions and swords. We may be living the
postmodern, but can’t our games and fantasies remain medieval? Put simply, pastiche
doesn’t work for Hellfire.
In all truth, the best part of this expansion pack is not the new dungeons
or monsters or shrines or even the new character, the Monk. The best part is
the new ability to “jog” while in town. Apparently I was not the only impatient
adventurer in Tristram. One of Diablo’s weaknesses
was the length of time it took to walk around town and interact with all the
characters. In Hellfire you can move quite quickly from Griswold to Adria,
making supply-stops less painful. Another new feature is a difficulty setting
which increases the challenge factor and makes trudging back into those old
Diablo levels partially worth the effort. Diablo
himself is harder to kill and even if you start the game with an advanced character,
you’ll find that the going can get rough. Other than that, I can’t say there
is much here. Sheesh, Hellfire can’t even be played on battle.net!
The bottom line is that it probably took the cheesy voice actors longer to
memorize their lines than it took the programmers and artists to create the
whole of Hellfire. If you are tired of playing Diablo now, this expansion pack
won’t rekindle any lost fire. If you still like playing Diablo, you’ll probably
have more fun on battle.net than you will with Hellfire. My advice: put your
$34.95 in the bank now and the interest you earn might just give you enough
to buy a copy of Diablo II when it hits the shelves next Christmas.