Blizzard has done an outstanding job in bringing Diablo III to consoles
Diablo III for PC was a huge launch for the platform. I remember being stuck waiting for an hour and 30 minutes just to be able to login to Blizzard.net and create my character. The launch was a mess, but even so, once the kinks were ironed out, Diablo III went onto sell over 12 million copies and become one of the most successful games on PC. It only makes sense for Blizzard to capitalise on the Diablo brand and bring it to consoles. People know the name Diablo, and some of the older gamers might remember the original Diablo getting a PlayStation port – a port that suffered from a bad interface, poor controls and other numerous problems. It wasn't exactly a port to be proud of. This time around though, that issue isn’t there; Diablo III is a brilliant adaptation to the controller that has been given the love and care it needs to make it succeed on consoles.
You can check out my original review of Diablo III to see how I felt about the game back when it released on PC. The reason why I ask you to do this is because content wise, the game is identical to the PC version. This means that the story, weapons, classes, abilities, and skills are all the same. In fact, it even includes the recent patches that added Monster Powers (now classed as an additional difficulty setting that modifies the original settings of Normal, Nightmare, Hell and Inferno), Paragon Levels and the Infernal Machine, an add-on that was made for people who wanted end game content after finishing the hardest difficulty in the game.
What makes this console iteration interesting is that it lacks the issues that people had with the PC version of the game. They are no Blizzard.net servers to login to; you just start the game and you’re ready to play. This was a godsend, because launch day was a hell of lot smoother than the chaos that was due to the PC servers getting hammered by everyone wanting to play. If you want to go online, you simply open your game to the public or search for other players using the easiest system possible – clicking on quick match, picking your act and difficulty and then letting the game handle the searching. Don’t like the party that comes up? Simply cancel and search again. It’s hassle free and handy for people who want to play with random people. There is no text chat for online – you can only use headsets to communicate with each other – but Diablo III is a simple game to understand, so the lack of communication isn’t an issue.
The Auction House is another feature completely removed from the game. This means that no one can sell items across to other players. The implementation of the Action House was a huge problem for Diablo III. Even if you didn’t use the Auction House yourself, it wasn’t nice to know that the drop rates were so low that the idea was to make players use their gold or real life currency to purchase legendary weapons off the Action House. It was a stink on the game, and even after the patches, the Action House was so embedded into the DNA of the PC version – like a birth mark – that it simply won’t ever go away. This makes Diablo III on consoles a more personal experience. It’s about the loot that you’ve earned. You can still trade with other players, but it’s a hassle to do so, since you can only trade with other people in your game. Also, you need to know what you want from them, so it’s only helpful if you’re playing with the same group of friends or organising a trade on a forum.
To be brutally honest, the archaic way of trading didn’t bother me, because I never traded. I never felt I needed to trade with people. One thing Blizzard has altered for the better is the rate at which rare loot drops. To give you an example, by the time I finished normal difficulty, every part of my equipment, bar the helmet, was legendary. In contrast to the PC version, I never got my first legendary item until Hell difficulty, which is more than two playthroughs of the game. This increase in rare drops makes the game feel more thrilling to play. There is an excitement of always discovering newer items that are an improvement of what you own, especially when you hear the clink of the legendary item drop and its orange light shines up to the sky. There’s a sense of satisfaction as you wait for the identifying bar to finish scrolling across to see if it will benefit your character. I also noticed that I seemed to get fewer items for other classes. This made me feel as if the game was targeting me and not all the other people playing the game.
I think it is safe to say that when it comes to the content and balancing of the game, the console version of Diablo III is better than the PC version. But let’s not forget about the important part of porting to consoles – the controls. If these aren’t good, then no matter how well the content is balanced, if the controls hinder the gameplay, then what’s the point? Well, in regards to the console version of Diablo III, the game plays unbelievably well using a gamepad. Blizzard has moulded the experience to a gamepad in a way that doesn’t handicap the player. All that loot you find? It’s conveniently sorted into categories and selecting them is with the use of an item wheel that rings around the portrait of your character. The whole menu system is easy to navigate, with each topic added to a tab – pressing the shoulder buttons switches between the tabs. Skills use the same concept as loot, meaning the use of a wheel for each of the skill trees for easy access.
One thing that has helped bring the game to consoles is the fact that the Diablo III only allowed six active skills at one time. That doesn’t exactly challenge the keyboard as an input device. Translating from PC to console means that skills are assigned to the face buttons and R1 and R2, with L1 used to activate a health potion. The layout allows for easy access to all the moves. Although, since there is no mouse clicking involved for targeting, the game has been tweaked to compensate for the use of the sticks by employing an auto-targeting mechanic that forces the character to attack in the direction of the enemy highlighted. It can be a little annoying when there is one enemy left and you want to continue on, but can’t because the game spins your character around to attack the enemy when all you wanted to do was smash the door and get through. The auto-targeting affects skills such as the Barbarian’s Leap – only landing where the target is locked. If you want to go further or closer, then you’re going to have to move so that the target locks to the enemy you desire. It’s not the most practical way, but Diablo III isn't about accuracy, since most of the attacks will damage groups of enemies.
A completely new feature is the inclusion of the roll, a move that with a touch of the right stick will send your character rolling in that direction. The roll is quite a change to the pace of the game, because most attacks can be dodged by rolling out of the way – great when you have low health and are waiting for your potions to come out of cooldown. The roll is so powerful that the first boss, The Butcher, is easy to defeat, thanks to being able to roll out of his incoming pulling attacks. I have to say that the dodge-roll is a welcomed skill that makes having direct control of the character feel less clunky.
Multiplayer is a great feature of dungeon crawlers. It adds that sense that you’re helping other people and that the world is bigger than just your own playing field. While I have mentioned that the game does feature online play, one of the best features added is the ability for up to four people to player together on the same console. The action holds up well when all four players are going at the demon spawn. The only issue I had with offline co-op was that whenever someone accesses the menu it means that everyone has to wait until they are done. Now, you can imagine the stop-starting affair that happens with the rate the loot drops, but it’s an annoyance you have to deal with. There is a little help to remedy this problem, as you can use the D-pad to equip the last item picked up. The problem with this is the game only lets players roughly know its damage, armour and health modifications by showing green or red arrows to signal an increase or decrease. It does not tell you other benefits, so it’s a flawed way to go about equipping gear.
The difference between online and offline co-operative play is that the loot for offline has to be shared between all players, so if one legendary armour drops, you have to decide between yourselves who needs it the most. When online, everyone gets their own loot, so you never see what other people are getting.
If there is one area the console version falls short on is the visuals. I’m not saying they are bad, but it’s clear as day that the PS3 version often drops frame rate from 60FPS, and that screen tearing will rear its ugly head from time to time. The drop in resolution also means that the game isn’t as sharp, and lacks anti-analising; jaggies on character models spoil the wonderful art direction that excelled on PC. Overall though, those smaller details don’t matter much; all that you should care about is that Diablo III is wonderful to play on Sony’s platform.
Blizzard has done an outstanding job in bringing Diablo III to consoles, so much so that I was still getting engulfed by its addictive nature even after putting in over 100+ hours on the PC. The controller seems a natural fit, making it a comfortable couch experience. The ease of access this game has, thanks to the controller support, makes it a title that you can pick up and play for however long you like. There’s no dedication needed with Diablo III, be it if you are only playing with your friends an hour a day, or becoming an addict and playing eight hour sessions, you’ll find that Diablo III on console is a port that every console fan would have wished for – a version of Diablo III that plays better than where its roots began on PC, and that’s no easy feat to accomplish in this era of videogames.