Archery Popshots | Diablo
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Archery Popshots | Diablo

August 13, 2019


As a kid, there were two things I loved doing:
maths, and slaying demons. Unfortunately, the classic Diablo that started
it all isn’t as immortal as the wildly successful Diablo 2, and it’s much harder to get these
days. But, for those of us who remember, this is our nostalgia trip straight from hell. Ah, Tristram. The foreboding, hollow music
that played each time you stepped foot in town. The eerie red glow of the cathedral,
and the first steps into the dungeon below. I kid you not, this game gave me nightmares
as a kid. Blizzard’s Diablo was a revolutionary dungeon-crawling
RPG, combining elements of dark fantasy with a then-impressive level of customisation.
Players could choose between three classes in the original game: the Warrior, Sorcerer
and Rogue. In retrospect, the Rogue was actually the only class I never played myself in single
player or online, and I only did this playthrough purely for this episode. Caught between the
reliable sword-and-board style of the Warrior, and the incredibly overpowered Mana Shielded
artillery mage builds, the Rogue was perhaps the most challenging of the classes. But since
we’re toxophiles and this is Archery Popshots, we’re doing this no matter what. While all classes can use bows, Rogues have
unique benefits and synergies. Firstly, bows require both strength and dexterity to equip,
and Rogues have the highest maximum dexterity. Secondly, Rogues get more damage from increasing
dexterity. Thirdly, Rogues have the fewest animation frames when attacking with the bow,
effectively giving the Rogue the highest rate of fire with a bow, though in turn the Rogue
has a slower attack speed with melee weapons. This essentially means that, for the most
part, every Rogue is going to be an archer. This, in itself, presents many challenges
for new players, especially in single player. Since there’s no one to tank for you, you’re
fairly unprepared for most encounters. While your high dexterity gives you some protection
by improving your evasion, you lack the strength to equip the heaviest armour, and you also
lack the mana reserves to exploit the Mana Shield spell that makes Sorcerers nigh unkillable.
You pretty much have the worst of both worlds; your only advantage being a ranged attack
that is actually difficult to hit. The reason for this is the isometric view.
We’ve seen much more fluid ranged combat in the following Diablo games, but the original
game only had set angles of attack, and hitting a target moving across these angles meant
that your arrows simply wouldn’t hit. It took a lot of practice to correctly aim at
a moving target, and with early equipment, it would take multiple hits to bring an enemy
down. The pro-tip that most players wished they
knew decades ago was holding the Shift key to keep the character stationary, preventing
them from moving when clicking on the ground. This simple keypress was the difference between
being slaughtered after stepping into a new level, and being able to clear out enemies
on the edge of aggro distance. And believe me, you really needed that edge as you got
deeper and deeper. With the loot-based mechanics of dungeon-crawlers,
players are at the whim of random number generators to get good drops. The Rogue is hit particularly
hard – next to the Warrior, the Rogue is very gear-dependent, and you can play hours
without getting a decent bow. Much of the Rogue’s gameplay is about careful navigation,
not aggroing too many enemies and making the most of straight hallways. This becomes all but impossible as you get
to the Caves and later Hell, as the dungeons open up to become wider with more ranged enemies.
Yet, while ranged enemies are the bane of Warriors, they are very advantageous to Rogues,
who can shoot at them while kiting enemy missile fire. If anything, the micromanagement of
the Rogue makes it the toughest class to play, compared to spamming left-click with the Warrior
or spamming Chain Lightning for Sorcerers. Fights are a race between picking off enemies
before running out of HP and potions. This is really classic Diablo. To be honest, I was quite nervous stepping
into Hell. I had been here many times before as a teenager on Battle.net, running Nightmare
and Hell difficulties with a bare naked mage. But creeping down the bony stairs with an
under-equipped Rogue was intense. Every step could trigger an entire mob of balrogs or
succubi. Each room was preceded with a barrage of arrows to make sure as many enemies were
whittled away before they closed in for the kill. It was terrifying. Oh man, even after all
this time, seeing the screen filled with lightning bolts was panic-inducing. Death in Diablo
meant your corpse and items remained where they were. Throwing up Town Portals was crucial,
you know, JUST IN CASE. Otherwise it was a long walk back, and good luck getting past
all the enemies guarding your corpse with no equipment. With a decent bow and building confidence,
the walls of hell began to be painted red. Or yellow, or blue, depending on which specific
enemy was spawned. The familiar quests were cleared out. Lazarus was slain, and the portal
to the final level of Hell opened. The four corners were cleared out in turn, each exposing
another set of high-level enemies and bosses before the final section was opened. Big Red himself. No tank, no overpowered Fireballs.
This was going to hurt. …actually, that was a lot easier than I
thought. Huh. I don’t know about you, but Diablo 1 was
really what started my interest in Blizzard games. Before Warcraft, before StarCraft.
I spent many hours on dial-up internet in the late hours of the night crawling through
the dungeons. More so as a Sorcerer or a Warrior, with a sprinkle of Rogue for a change. While most of us will probably agree that
Diablo 2 aged much better, and combat in the original game wasn’t as…mobile, we can’t
forget where the series came from – the heart and soul of Diablo on PC. Thank you for following my nostalgia trip.
This is NUSensei, and as always, shoot straight and aim for your best.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. as a kid I always wanted more of the town and less of the dungeon, thankfully there was dink Smallwood to fill the gap πŸ˜‰

  2. I grew up with this game and I too never bothered with the rogue. Warrior first play though, then Wizard, then…..why would I play anything other than Wizards?

    This was a massive nostalgia trip, good stuff.

    I bet you're super excited about Diablo Immortal, am I right? πŸ˜‰

  3. To be honest, I was expecting a break-down of the archery styles displayed in the animations of each of the characters and how each of them would function as real technique. Great job on beating the game though!

  4. I really disagree with you regarding the difficulty of playing the rogue. Imho, it's probably the easiest one to play, at least in the normal difficulty. It's easy to play in the begining of the game and not that harder in the later levels. In comparison, the sorcerer is much harder to play in the begining of the game (but becomes overpowered after some time) and the warrior is easy to play in the begining (especially when you still have rooms and doors) but very hard to play in the end (when a lot of enemies have ranged attacks and tend to flee when you attack them).

    The archery displayed in Diablo 1 is still by far my favorite of all Diablo games. The animations are very good (the bow actually flexes when you shoot it), the characters have a quiver and appear to actually use it, and the actual depiction of the archery is not overly "magical" or of superhuman capabilities. It just feels like playing a very good archer, at least to me.

  5. Only played D1 briefly, but spent years on D2. Played through with all characters, Amazon favorite class, great counter to the ever popular Paladin.

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