I used to play a lot of Diablo II back in the day (read: until 2010, when it caused my OS to crash). I bought the game (and it’s expansion) while I was in college, and promised myself that I would not install it until I finished my thesis (senior thesis for a history major, fall semester). I finished on time (and got an A), installed the game before Fall Semester was over, and had a blast! Like this one time when I was in Act 3 in the town squares after the jungle, and dozed off… only to wake up and realize that I had been successfully playing the game while I slept – clearing areas, picking up and trading loot, and even using town portals! I… took a break after that. I loved playing Zeal paladins and summoning/elemental Druids, but I really had a lot of fun in this game. My main even managed to beat Hell mode! yay! Anyway, Diablo had a really awesome presence in that game despite just being a red Godzilla in a world full of increasingly complex and horrifying demons. When I first heard that deep booming voice say, “NOT EVEN DEATH CAN SAVE YOU FROM ME,” it gave me chills! And then it took me like an hour to beat him.
As all three Diablo games have entire novels worth of backstory, this whole thing might seem a little intimidating, to let me simplify it: Diablo is one of the main devils from the fantasy world where the game is set. In the beginning there was only one named Tathamet. Then Tathamet was defeated, and his essence split into a bunch of other characters – three Prime Evils (The brothers Diablo, Mephisto, and Baal), and the four Lesser Evils (Andariel, Duriel, Belial, and Azmodan). The three big boys got locked in soulstones for most of the series – the first game saw Diablo return and be beaten, and the second game saw him possess the hero of the first, return, and free his brothers… only for all three to get killed and their soulstones destroyed. And the third, well…
Okay, remember the NPCs from the first game? And how most of them got killed in time for the second? Well, Adria the Witch didn’t die – she was Diablo’s sleeper agent, and at some point before the events of the second game she let Diablo-In-hero-From-First-Game impregnate her. Their child, Leah, is actually a really nice girl, and your ally for much of Diablo III. And then he uses her body as a host for his return, and things get really sad. But hey, this is a nice time to discuss certain aspects of his… design.
Wow, Diablo looks girly! He looks like a she! There’s been a bit of confusion on this, so it’s a good time to clear the air. Yes, Diablo has high heels, child-bearing hips, a wasp waist, and boobs. No, Diablo is not magically female in this game. You see, Diablo takes on some characteristics of each of his host bodies – in 1, the host was a child, and he was smaller than the other two incarnations. He was also slightly more humanoid and lacked a tail. In 2, he was bigger, more dinosaury, and more intimidating in general. And in 3, his host was female, so he seems to have kept a few vestigial traits despite still being male, self-identifying as male, and having a dude’s voice. But wait, there’s more! As part of the plot, Diablo merged himself with the essences of all the other Prime and Lesser evils, and instead of just being a big red dinosaur, Diablo’s design now has influences from all of them – general spikes and red Diablo-ness, Baal’s shoulder spikes, Mephisto’s horns, ribcage, and extra arms, Duriel’s insectoid mandibles, extra wing bones from Azmodan, Belial’s shoulder-mouths, and Andariel’s, um… feminine attributes. And hooves, too, as his digitigrade legs kind of match her. So there are two explanations, and both work, but the latter one also explains why he looks less like a dinosaur and more like an H. R. Giger nightmare.
Anyway! blizzard managed to get some old Diablo toys produced back in the day – I have owned Big D, the Barbarian, and the Unraveler Mummy since they were new. The old Diablo toy looked mostly right, though there were some odd differences in his horns. NECA has handled the new figure with picture-perfect detail (I assume the old figure was based on a concept design), and it was somewhere around a year between its first announcement and the actual release. So, let’s take a look!
Diablo’s packaging is typical NECA – a MASSIVE clamshell with the figure tied inside via the use of a twist tie. He has a lava-y backdrop, and also a brief bio - “Since 1996, a name has been whispered — the name of the living nightmare that even demons dread. The terror that can never die. That name is Diablo®: the namesake of Blizzard Entertainment’s best-selling action RPG series, and now a deluxe action figure from NECA!” That’s… not much of a bio.
Diablo’s scale is roughly in line with other NECA figures – he sees eye-to-eye with 7-inch toys, but his spikes push him up to 9, easily. To be honest, he is really in scale with your 4-inch figures. Yes, GI Joe. If you have any medieval fantasy toys in this scale, it’s the perfect place for them! Yes, I know that I have Diablo fighting somebody roughly his size in some of these photos, but that’s because I could not find a properly small barbarian in time.
This sculpt is detailed. Really, really detailed. So much so that taking it all in might be a little while. Diablo is covered in bony, chitinous armor plating (a gift from the other Evils?), and the texturing almost makes it look Gigeresque. His arms and legs are fleshier, with a slightly altered texture. His chest looks almost like it is melting – honeycombed through, with the two breasts acting more as armor plating over his pecs. His shoulders stretch into spikes and open into toothy maws, looking almost like creatures in and of themselves (fun note: You can pop them off and ply with them as worm monsters if you want). His big horns and spikes and spines also have their own texturing, something befitting his age and grandeur.
NECA’s got good sculptors, and it shows whenever they manage to produce something this detailed in mass-market. Especially becaue it’s a really unsubtle, unfriendly devil, and those things are hard to market. “Hey kids, wanna play with a spirit of infinite evil and cruelty? Yay!” So that’s what you habel whether it’s his spiny tail, skull vicage, or even hi child-bearing hips, this Diablo form is more than intimidating enough. In fact, I lament that I do not have the materials for a properly grand or horrifying backdrop for him. Well, it’s not the worst thing that could have happened. I still have my soul, right?
Diablo is red, red red! Well, he’s ashy-black with several gradient shades of red, orange, and yellow. You know, like he is in the game. Eschewing his old Red Dinosaur motif, Diablo now has more of an inferno demon look to him. Most of the red is on his front, with his back primarily black except for a few well-placed highlights. His eyes are appropriately glowing yellow (albeit a little flat and uneven), and he has some surprisingly fleshy tones in places like his eyes or shoulder mouths. Eyes aside, the paint is very well-done, and helps him stand out on a shelf.
If anything is wrong, it might be that he seems a little too red – Diablo in-game is slightly more of a burnt orange – think coals and embers instead of blazing fire. But it works the way it is, and it could be that the effect in-game just seems darker because of the ambient lighting. You know, like the Alien. So really, it’s just the eyes that are an issue – and they are tiny eyes!
The old Diablo figure from a decade and a half ago swiveled at the waist, arms, hips, and tail, and had a ball-jointed neck. And this one? Wow. Diablo has ball-jointed secondary shoulders, hips, torso, and neck, ball-and-socket main shoulders, main elbows, secondary elbows, big shoulder spikes, knees, shins, ankles, and main hands. He also has a hinged mouth and double ball joints in his shoulder mouths – the pieces are conencted by male-to-male ball-joint adapters (removable, too!). And finally, he has a bendable, removable tail. Wow! Diablo is extremely poseable in a lot of ways, and you can get some great personality out of its poses – you know what I mean, where just the slightest tilt of the head or movement of an arm can make a figure come alive. Those back spikes are a great example – pivot them in or out a little, and the creature looks totally different!
One oddity – Diablo’s elbow joints are uneven on his main arms. His left arm bends inward while his right bends a bit to the side – if you look, the joints are actually set to bend at different angles. It’s odd and a little awkward at times, but ultimately not a problem. Mine’s mouth is uneven when you close it, but that might not be the same on every figure – this one could just have an uneven jaw. Still, he looks better with his mouth open than when it’s closed.
Diablo could have come with a few things – companion monsters, a soulstone, or such – but all he has is a base to stand on. I am actually very glad for this base, and my assumption is that the figure budget could not afford any accessories. Of course, there is one little stealth thing – Diablo’s weird shoulder-mouths can be pulled off from his body very easily, at which point they become scary monster worms! And yes, they pop right back on with no trouble.
This figure costs $25 – and considering that it’s about the same size as a $30 Pacific Rim monster (albeit not as thick), that’s a pretty good deal.
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:
I would be careful with Diablo’s spindlier pieces – they don’t feel breakable, but it’s best not to put too much stress on them. Some of his joints might grow loose over time, as well, but such is life.
WHERE TO BUY:
Sure, you can buy these from Amazon and eBay (NECA’s official stores), but why not go straight to Toys R Us and let them know that stocking NECA toys is a good thing?
Despite how it may seem (Goetia figures, etc.), I don’t exactly run around going “Demons demons demons demons yay!” I just like a good monster. And Diablo, in any of his forms, is a good monster. His design in 3 may take some getting used to, but it’s really very great -his hermaphroditic aspects make him unsettling without being too overtly Freudian. And you know, this whole thing illustrates an interesting issue – Diablo received his general design (red Godzilla) long before Mephisto and Baal. When we saw the latter two in the second game, the Big D looked oddly out of place. You know, what with Mephisto as a floating multi-limbed rotting corpse and Baal as a spider-genie hybrid, the Lord of Terror seemed oddly pedestrian by comparison.
And man, this thing… it’s scary. It’s something twisted and surreal, distorted like a nightmare. Diablo’s new body has enough cues toward his old shape for there to be continuity, but for once you can see him as the Lord of Terror and not just brute force. It makes me wonder what kind of horrible thing Tathamet was, too. It’s a pity that there is only one other Diablo toy on the market – I would have loved to have figures of all three of his forms for comparison. NECA did an excellent job witht his figure, creating something that not only looks good, but is very much functional and fun, too – that articulation is honestly mind-blowing, even with the weird nitpicks I brought up. NECA plans to produce a “Shadow of Diablo” repaint later on this year, and it looks incredible. You’ll see a review when the time comes, and maybe, just maybe it’s time to finally play Diablo III.