I didn’t believe it would happen. Diablo III is out for consoles, and the scary part is, it is really, really good. What has been known as one of the defining PC franchises, this loot-gathering experience is now available for the console masses. This version takes out a lot of the bad from its PC brethren and replaces it with console-specific goodies that actually make this the version to own. I would be hard pressed to name a better co-op experience released this year.
First let’s talk about the changes from the PC version, the most notable of course being the removal of online DRM and the much-maligned auction house. This means players are not required to create a Battle.net account to play the game, nor stay connected to the internet (unless of course they are playing online co-op). The removal of the auction house also allowed Blizzard to tune loot drops more specific to the player, as opposed to having to balance them with what is selling/not selling. I was never a fan of mixing in real money to get better equipment or items, but whether this hurt or helped the game is still a hot topic of debate.
Loot drops are definitely improved, but I still junked, sold or dismantled about 90% of the items I picked up. Rare items are more common for sure, but the two hundred helmets I found in the last dungeon really only served to eat up my inventory slots. I ended up finding some items, crafting others and of course buying from in-game merchants. Gold was never a problem throughout any of my play throughs, as I always had an abundance of it in my wallet.
While those are things that have been removed, there is a lot that has been added to enhance the experience. The most obvious of course being the controls. No more clicking. This is a big one for me, as I never got the hang of constant clicking or even mastering the click and hold method. Moving my character with the analog stick just feels more natural, not to mention making combat more fun. Setting traps with the Demon Hunter and picking enemies off from afar is much more satisfying.
Blizzard has also added a new dodge mechanic tied to the right stick. Again this really makes combat much more dynamic. Quickly moving out of the way of enemy attacks makes handling mobs much easier. The Demon Hunter actually has abilities that allow them to dodge, and now the entire cast can enjoy it thanks to the new mechanic.
The inventory system has also received an upgrade, both good and bad. The radial menu system works, but still isn’t as ideal for comparing items and equipment. I did like that I could equip items as I picked them up by pressing on the d-pad and cycling through recently collected pieces. Also gone is the Tetris-like management of items. Now it is just a set number that I could carry, which can be increased over the course of the game. Junking items is now also a possibility, which allows for selling a large chunk of items at once, which is great.
Of course Diablo III is a game that is best played with friends, and the console version offers up more options than its PC counterpart. For starters, online play is of course here, and supports up to four players. Those looking for single screen adventures are also in luck. This version supports the same player count on one screen. There is a downside to playing locally though. Everyone shares loot and screen time. What that means is whenever someone pauses to change equipment or assign new skills, everyone stops. I understand why, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.
This isn’t so bad when playing with one other person, as times are less of a hindrance, but for those looking to party up with three other players would be best doing that online. Online matches run smooth and parties can be setup from the main menu. I also liked how I could have nine dedicated characters for multiple game scenarios. I had one solo character, and several multiplayer ones. Diablo III is designed to be played through multiple times, and Blizzard did a good job making it easy to access exactly what I wanted all the time.
Surprisingly, the game looks great on both consoles. The frame rate holds steady most of the time, though the screen tearing crops up constantly in both versions. Diablo III was never a graphically intensive experience, but the level and enemy variety really kept me interested while crawling through dungeons for hours on end. The design is really what stands out. There is a story going on while digging through the game, but a lot of it is contrived, and honestly never kept my attention, even with the solid voice acting and gorgeous Blizzard-quality cut scenes.
Diablo III is a fantastic game that gets even better on consoles. This is something I never thought I would say. Blizzard removed what broke the game for some players, and added things that only serve to enhance the experience for everyone. If you have never experienced the game this is a must own, and even if you have there is enough here to make it worth it if you have friends to play it with. I cannot wait to see how the PS4 and Xbox One versions turn out, but for now this package will serve as one of the best experiences co-op experiences on console for some time.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.