Diablo 3 (Console) – Review



Title   Diablo 3
Developer  Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher  Blizzard Entertainment
Platform  Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3
Genre  Action role-playing, dungeon crawl, hack and slash
Release Date  September 3, 2013

There are some things in life that are just meant to be together – Jam and toast, summer and third degree burns, golf and sexism – all perfect match-ups that become more than the sum of their parts in an act of beautiful symbiosis. On the other hand, some pairings are a little less harmonious, such as Diablo 3 and the PC. Server errors, a community up in arms over poor loot drops, and a game that appears to have been designed around a real money auction house (accused of existing solely to ‘nickel and dime’ players) have caused Diablo 3 to have a turbulent time since release in summer 2012. So, for the first time since 1998, Diablo makes its way to consoles in search of a happier home.

Coming some fourteen months after the PC release, Diablo 3 is essentially the same game that Pete reviewed on release. The Prime Evils are back on Sanctuary raising merry hell, spawning  all kinds of nasties to facilitate their hostile take-over. Cute monsters these are not – the imaginatively-designed horrors of evil are just as resplendent on console as on the PC counterpart. Diablo 3 is still, at its heart, a game about laying waste to veritable hordes of beasties, simultaneously looking to wipe the scourge from the face of the pocket whilst also hoovering up all manners of shiny trinkets and doodads.

Playing in a party of up to four heroes, either locally or online, you progress through a tightly-woven story, taking in several familiar faces from Diablo lore. Set twenty years after the second game, you start as one of five hero classes and are united with series favourite Deckard Cain – after a daring rescue from skeleton-infested castle. Without wishing to spoil the story, suffice it to say you are driven forward by the plot to various fantasy locales such as creepy graveyards, mystical deserts, and even hell itself. All of the environments are made of beautifully-realised tilesets, and many of the additional dungeons are procedurally generated, although main level areas are generally the same on each playthrough.

So far, so Diablo. While there is no discernible difference in the game itself, the transition to console has brought about a few changes. The largest of these, of course, is the control scheme – everything from menu management to movement and combat is now mapped to the controller. Initial doubts about the viability of moving a game presumably designed around the mouse and keyboard to a joypad prove, happily, to be unfounded. Controlling Diablo 3 is a pure joy, while navigating menus and dealing with the rapidly-expanding inventory of a loot addict is handled with the minimum of fuss.

Whisper it, but the controls put in place here are extremely intuitive and even feel better than the PC’s native set up – something that certainly came as a big surprise to me. Moving the hero with the left stick feels natural, and the right stick has been put to use with a console specific dodge-roll move. Simply flick the stick in the direction that you wish to dodge, and your character nimbly tumbles out of the way of danger, allowing you to continue merrily-blasting away at the beasties of hell with impunity. The multitude of skills and abilities are mapped to the face and shoulder buttons, as is the ever-important ‘use potion’ button. Menus now have a new radial design, allowing quick and easy access to inventory, equipment and skill assignments. It’s clear that a lot of thought and care has gone in to this aspect for the console port, and the end result almost makes you forget this was ever not a console game.

Graphically, Diablo 3 has jumped to the good ship console mostly intact. The game renders natively at 720p, so there is an inherent loss of sharpness and detail from the 1080p PC version. However, I was able to drop my PC version to the same resolution as the console counterpart and compare the two side by side in both menus and gameplay. The hero creation screen gives the most close up display of character models available, and under close scrutiny there was nothing between the assets in either version – texture detail and extra touches such as hair armour and weapons were identical.

The console version features a slightly zoomed-in viewpoint when compared to PC, due to be designed for being played further away from the action on a TV, rather than eye-breakingly close to a computer monitor (these glasses aren’t for show!). Again, though, there is little to no discernable difference between the two versions in terms of world detail or texture resolution. The breakable objects that litter the world are all present and correct, and the physics rendering of these objects being smashed to pieces is again no different in either version. On console, gameplay is smooth and the framerate holds up well even with multiple enemies and special effects on screen. The only blemish is the odd instance of screen-tearing which can be a little jarring, but overall this is a minor complaint.

This port, then, is technically fantastic – nothing is lost in translation. There is an area, too, in which the console easily outstrips its PC brother – loot. More specifically, the controversial auction house is nowhere to be seen here, and as a result the loot metagame feels a lot fairer – much more like it did in Diablo 2, in fact. Loot drops are frequently far more useful than they ever were in my experience of the PC version, with three legendary (the highest level of loot) drops falling for me within my first fifteen levels. Also scrapped is the always-online requirement, meaning there is no network-induced lag in your single player game to frustrate and annoy.

It was recently announced that in the upcoming patch 2.0 for the new expansion, Reaver of Souls, Blizzard will be scrapping the auction house on PC. Whether due to months of negativity from fans, or positive reaction to the console’s systems, this brings all versions of the game right in line with each other. There’s no work on whether this will affect the always online requirement. The patch is due in March 2014, and should be taken in to consideration if choosing between buying the game on console or PC)

With the core game intact, and a control scheme that is easily on par with, if not better than, the keyboard and mouse original, the console version of Diablo 3 stands toe to toe with the PC original. In fact, with the removal of the auction house and always-online requirement, this is arguably the definitive version – at least until the PlayStation 4 arrives.

Pros
  • Intuitive control system
  • Fluid and detailed graphics
  • The same great game that came to PC last year
Cons
  • Will make you regret buying the PC version
Summary

Blizzard have taken an already very good game and simply made it better. The new control system is natural and easy to use, the seemingly-minor addition of a dodge roll move makes a world of positive difference, and the loot meta-game is vastly improved over the original PC game. While there are no changes to the core game itself, making it hard to recommend to owners of the PC version, for anyone yet to commit to fighting the Prime Evils shouldn't look past the console version as being the one to go for.


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2 Comments

  1. SImonjk says:

    Loving this game! Played the first and tickled the 2nd on a naff PC, waited forever for a console version of the 3rd! It’s a decent length of a game with plenty of tweekable options for making the game easier and a lot harder with at least four very deferring play thoughs and loads of random locations and missions with scores of loot. The playability is very fluid for anyone from a novice to a experienced dungeon crawler and the locations are very varied as are the characters. This game is defiantly going in my ‘never trade-in’ pile!

  2. Stu says:

    Great review. Totally agree that it is a very good game. I skipped D3 on the PC but have been through it twice now on the console and have multiple characters on the go too. I’m a little gutted the talent trees aren’t as customisable as they were in Diablo 2 but that is pretty my only flaw with it. I lapped up Torchlight when it hit the consoles but this game really, for me at least, highlights the reason Diablo is the de-facto standard by which all of this genre is measured. Sacred 3 has its work cut out to match this.

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