Monster Mania: Diablo IV’s Spider Host is Arachnid Nightmare fuel
Monster Mania is a weekly column celebrating the unique and varied monster designs in horror gaming.
For more than two decades, the Diablo franchise has thrown countless demonic hordes at adventurers to clickity click their way through in hopes of discovering new, shiny, stat-boosting loot. Goblins, ax-wielding goat men, eight-legged freaks, and others have been the series stock standard currency for years now. And while I enjoyed my time with Diablo III (all 100+ hours of it), I wouldn’t say the game’s art direction jived with my idea of what Diablo is all about: Black metal hell. Diablo III felt more like high, dark fantasy rather than the demonic depths of the original two games’ monsters. After about 20 hours with the game, I found Diablo IV‘s art style and monster design to feel far more in line with the Diablo I remember from my youth. A noticeably more hardcore horror emphasis has been placed upon the monsters that roam the infested landscape of Sanctuary this time around, and I am oh so thankful for this return to form. And no more monstrous example speaks to Blizzard’s recommence to providing the most lovingly depraved demonic designs within the world of Diablo than the spider host.
Let’s get this out of the way now; Yeah, spiders are fucking gross. It’s courageous of me to admit that here and now, I know. Spiders are also nothing new to Diablo or hack-and-slash RPGs, for that matter. Often, spiders are early fodder enemies that grow in size, as does their deadliness. Somehow, Diablo IV has delivered the most stomach-churning arachnid rendition, combining our collective fears of spiders with a body horror twist. The spider host is a bulbous and bloated humanoid figure that just so happens to have a spider protruding from its back like a half-zipped Jansport backpack.
When standing upright, the spider host is a bruiser that soaks up damage while bashing with its spider-strength arms. It is a reasonably tamable threat, but even with the top-down camera perspective, the skin-crawling details of this beast are noticeable. The humanoid lunges forward as if its movements aren’t intuitive, highlighting the creature’s lack of free will. There is also the invader parasite wedged into the spider host’s back; its razor-sharp, spindly legs caress the numerous egg sacks and open wounds that cover its host’s body. In a fashion that would indicate the spider host is waiting and hoping for the player to kill it so it can reveal its other ability.
It isn’t until the player slays the spider host that its ulterior combat abilities reveal themselves. In the fashion of a typical boomer-type enemy, when killed, the spider host’s bulbous egg sacks on its body will explode, and a dozen baby spiders quickly emerge from the fallen husk.
This makes the spider host not only a nightmare to behold but, from a combat standpoint, is far more versatile than most spider enemies in Sanctuary. Especially on the more complex difficulties, spider hosts in their upright form pack a wallop of a punch, but having a dozen mini threats suddenly appear when the player is already swarmed with enemies can be the final kiss of death for a current run.
There is nothing more insidious than your corpse being defiled and puppeteered by an arachnid, only for your guts to be turned into a breeding ground for their offspring. This is a one-sentence horror story that, unfortunately, takes up real estate in my brain. As a kid, the Diablo series was the first time I can remember being exposed to horrors in gaming that I’d only ever seen in film or the pages of a Dungeons & Dragon monster manual. A more hardcore, unflinching devotion to disturbing and varied monster designs that bucked the simple trend of pitchfork-wielding devils (though there are admittedly a few of these in the series). In this regard, Diablo IV feels like a proper return to form for Blizzard to reinforce that the horrors of Diablo aren’t all just standard fodder found within dark fantasy games. While the content path for Diablo IV is uncertain, I’m hopeful that future seasons or DLC will continue to explore Diablo’s bestiary that will unnerve and provide new disturbing facets to combat.
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