I’ve been playing Diablo III on and off since it was first released, so when Blizzard announced a Diablo throwback event — “The Darkening of Tristram” — would be coming to Diablo III to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the franchise, I was looking forward to taking “old school” Diablo for a spin. After playing through completely, our “The Darkening of Tristram” review takes a look at the ultimately short — and underwhelming — Diablo tribute.
Before we begin, check out the Diablo 20th Anniversary Retrospective from Blizzard below.
In case you’re unaware, this event is only available for the month of January, and future anniversary events will feature a pre-cursor event available from January 1-3. One of the things that intrigued me about the patch notes was that you’d have to unveil clues in order to find the portal to Tristram’s past. Surely this must be the start of a grand adventure!
A mysterious group of Cultists is stirring up trouble! Hunt them down in Adventure Mode to uncover clues that reveal a portal into Tristram’s past, and rediscover the terrifying darkness that took hold of the town so many years ago…
Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed when I found that all you have to do to access the event is to head into Adventure Mode, open the map, switch to Act 1, and then head over to The Old Ruins to find the portal. The portal wasn’t very hard to find either as it’s barely south of the waypoint in this area. That being said, there is a “precursor” event of sorts which requires you to collect seven Cultist’s Pages from Temporal Priests in various areas of Act 1. While finding them all rewards you with a classic Diablo resource bar frame, you do not need to complete this step to access the event itself.
Once you enter the event portal, you’re treated with old school graphics and 8-direction movement. You would think that the change in movement style would affect gameplay but to be honest I really didn’t notice that much of a difference. For the most part, playing through the 16 levels felt pretty much the same as playing through parts of Diablo III. As I didn’t play the original Diablo, I really had no reference to go by but after reading a few posts apparently it was basically the graphics that changed with the various areas of Diablo being reskinned with “old school” looking Diablo III zone graphics. If you’ve played both, please correct me in the comments below if I’m wrong.
My first playthrough was with a L70 Monk and it barely took an hour. Unfortunately, I hadn’t realized at the time that there were specific ways of running through the event in order to get Butcher and Royal Calf pets as rewards. Thanks to a post over at Icy Veins which covers how to get the pets, transmogs, and different portraits, I fired up the game again, this time opting for a L1 seasonal character (Demon Hunter, not that it matters). The run took about the same amount of time, and at the end of the run I had hit L20 and received the Butcher pet as my reward for completing the run in one go, solo, starting with an L1 character. One thing I’ve read on a couple of forums, be sure to not kill anything on your run to the portal as this will invalidate the completion reward for some reason. It’s not hard to run straight to the portal, but definitely something you’ll want to keep in mind.
Throughout the course of the game, you can pick up a few different transmogrifications for your weapons including the Red Soul Shard head transmog (attained by defeating The Dark Lord and then inserting the Red Soul Shard legendary gem into your helm), the Butcher’s Cleaver transmog (drops off of The Butcher), and Wirt’s Leg transmog. Both the Butcher’s Cleaver and Wirt’s Leg transmogs can then be applied to 1 handed axes, swords, and maces. Wirt’s Leg takes less than 5 minutes to get if you manage to find and snag the starting component during your run through the event.
- Reach Level 9 in the Labyrinth, and look for The Black Mushroom object (guaranteed spawn). Clicking it will yield a Rotten Mushroom.
- Go back to the Old Tristram starting area of the event, and go to Adria’s Hut (down the road towards the Cathedral, then to the right). Inside, click on the Cauldron object to obtain Witch’s Brew.
- Take Witch’s Brew to Farnham’s Corpse, down from the entrance portal.
- Take Drunkard’s Debt to Ogden’s Corpse, upwards from the entrance portal.
- Take Garda’s Letter to Pepin’s Corpse, left of the entrance portal.
- Take Healer’s Prescription to Griswold’s Corpse, right of the entrance portal, and he will drop you the plan for Wirt’s Leg.
- Teleport back to town, teach it and craft one at the Blacksmith; you will find it under the Maces tab.
A couple of notes to the above steps. In step 2, make sure you go back into the event and then head to Adria’s Hut and that you are not going to Adria’s Hut in Act 1 of Diablo III. Secondly, Wirt’s Leg costs 1,000,000 gold to craft which isn’t a big deal if you’ve been playing for some time but if you ran through it on an L1 seasonal character you’re not going to have the gold in order to craft the Leg right away. Fortunately, I snagged the Rotten Mushroom by chance on my first run through with my L70 Monk so it didn’t take long to redo steps 2 through 7.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’re probably wondering how you get the second pet — the Royal Calf. Once you’ve crafted Wirt’s Leg, salvage it. Instead of getting a Forgotten Soul like you normally would, you’ll get a map which when opened reads “2-1-3.” Head back to Adria’s Hut, and just past the cauldron in step 2 above you’ll find three cows. Click the middle, left, then right one and you’ll open the Abandoned Farmstead entrance just to the right, pop in and find a chest called “Wirt’s Stash” in the middle of the map that will give you the Royal Calf pet.
For most seasoned Diablo III players, 1,000,000 gold for the Wirt’s Leg transmog and the Royal Calf is peanuts, but it does still seem a bit steep considering.
Overall, “The Darkening of Tristram” is a short, reskinned Diablo III, with a few cosmetic rewards.
There’s no doubt you’re getting old school graphics here. While the actual game and toolbar are reskinned, the map and other text overlay items (including monster health bars, kill streak counts, and more) are not which — in my opinion — detracts a bit from the experience. As mentioned in the gameplay section, it sounds like the reskins basically put Diablo III zones and monsters in a Diablo looking environment which will no doubt be disappointing to hardcore Diablo players looking to play through a portion of the original game “as it was.”
That being said, the nostalgic graphics were pretty well done, as well as the movement of your character and the monsters, and offered a glimpse of what gamers used to have to endure when gaming 20 years ago (heck I still remember the pixelated NHL ’96 many moons ago).
As far as sound effects go, they’re just as well done as they are in Diablo III because they are the same sounds that you’ll encounter in the main game. Given the retro graphic look and feel of “The Darkening of Tristram” I would have liked to hear some of the original sound effects with a lower sound quality to round out the experience.
Even though it is short and relatively disappointing, a quick playthrough of “The Darkening of Tristram” is worth it for the pet and transmog rewards if you’re into that sort of thing.