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GOG and Blizzard bring Diablo 1 back from the dead

Warcraft 1 and 2 to follow!

GOG and Blizzard have brought Diablo 1 back from the dead, and it's available - for the first time ever on digital distribution - right now (£7.89/$10)!

That's not all: the pair have signed a deal to bring Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, and Warcraft 2 back. No word on when; more information to follow soon.

Diablo 1 on GOG has two modes of play (it does not include the Hellfire expansion - there's "no information about Hellfire at this time", GOG told me). One is the warts-'n-all Diablo 1 from 1996, with classic multiplayer matchmaking support. The other is an updated "DX" version of Diablo 1 optimised for Windows 10.

The updated version doesn't have support but does have DirectIP multiplayer. Specifically, the updates include resolution and refresh-rate control (up to 4 and 8K); aspect ratio-correct upscaling; borderless windowed mode; and vertical synchronisation control. There are bug fixes too.

I've played both modes and notice little difference. I actually prefer the 20fps original, which works fine on Windows 10. You may want to lower your mouse sensitivity in Windows to stop it whizzing around. Oh, and I couldn't find anyone to test multiplayer but everything looked in working order (and my, how charmingly retro it is).

Here I am, having a lovely time in warts-n-all Diablo 1.
And here I am, sauntering around the updated version of Diablo 1.

More to the point: I finally see what everyone means about Diablo. I missed it first time so when people talk about how different the series was back then, and wouldn't it be amazing if Diablo 4 could be like that, I didn't really know what they meant. Now I do.

Diablo 1 feels completely different. Whereas today you recklessly surge forward, smashing everything in your path, in Diablo 1 you edge forward, scared of what awaits. It's so tense.

The eerie music and dreary look magnify this. It's hard to see what's around you, and there are no health bars to gauge fights by, and no numbers popping out of heads. It's a much more concealed approach, which adds to the feeling of unknown.

It's also awkward, which naturally adds difficulty. There are no reams of flashy moves, only spells. All three classes - Warrior, Rogue, Sorcerer - can use them, to varying degrees of success, but only one spell can be equipped at a time. If you want to change it, you have to manually swap it.

There are no health blobs spewed after fights, no regenerating health or mana pools. If you don't have enough potions or scrolls, you're in trouble. It's tough. Just you wait until you come across the relentless Butcher or the towering Leoric - my goodness do they smack you down! And when you're down, you're down - there's no respawning, only reloading.

Diablo 1 can be so oppressive. There's no invisible developer presence buffeting your enjoyment; the challenge is the point. It's very refreshing.

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