Ah, Diablo 3. It was probably one of the most hyped games of the past 5 years, and all of that hype went right out the window when it was released. Plagued by launch problems, “always-online” DRM, and the auction house, it was well recieved by critics but almost universally hated by fans. But here it is, a year later and this time on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The real question here is does this console release make a better game? And surprisingly, the answer is yes. It seems as though Blizzard intended Diablo 3 to be played on consoles.
It’s no secret that the PC release of Diablo 3 was a complete disaster. Many people, myself included, were disappointed with what they were playing in 2012. The good thing with this release, however, is that it is a lot more fun to play in the long run. Playing with a controller just feels so much more natural, and even though some base problems aren’t fixed, Diablo 3 is a great time with some friends in couch or online co-op.
If you’re unaware, Diablo 3 is a hack and slash action-rpg game. You pick one of the five characters – a witch doctor, barbarian, wizard, monk, or demon hunter – and go through the 4 acts that make up the campaign. The story this time around isn’t necessarily gripping, but it gets you from point A to point B and ultimately ends with you facing off against who other than Diablo himself.
If you’ve played games such as Torchlight, you know what to expect here. Loads of enemies to cut through, plenty of randomly generated items, and huge bosses to mow down. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t addicting, and if I didn’t feel like a complete badass. But don’t get me wrong, there are differences compared to the typical ARPG; for one, you now get to pick and choose your skills and switch them out at any time. This brings a huge variety of playstyles to each character, and lets you change your build if you do not like where it’s going. You also unlock runes to modify each and every skill in crazy ways. For example, as a Witch Doctor, I can modify certain spells to have life leech or poison, and each rune changes the way the skill looks. These really spice up the variety in spells as each rune seems to have its own purpose while playing.
The biggest bummer, for me at least, is the way the items are handled. Picking stats upon leveling up is gone, and now you are at the whim of your items. The problem here is that pretty much any item can be considered useless if it has the wrong stat on it. No vitality or damage? Well, might as well salvage it at the blacksmith and hope you can find something else because it won’t help you. This is also true for legendaries, those elusive orange drops that make your heart skip a beat. I’ve gotten legendaries that are useless for me, even though they were “supposed” to be better for me. I might just be lucky, but I’ve been finding about 1 legendary every one hour or so on the normal difficulty. Seems like a bit much, if you ask me.
However, the removal of the auction house and addition of couch co-op are some of the greatest things to happen to Diablo 3. Removing the auction house makes it so you don’t have to rely solely on paying for your gear, and consequently the drop rates were adjusted for monsters. Local co-op runs smoothly, and it’s great for an evening with friends and a few beers. Drops are not instanced while in couch coop, which harkens back to the older Diablo games where it’s almost like a competition.
Visually, Diablo 3 surprised me when I booted it up. It runs at a relatively stable 60 frames on consoles even with four players on screen, which is not very common on these aging consoles. It also has many of the small visual details and physics from the PC version, such as spiderwebs billowing in the wind and props exploding in every which way when you attack them.
As most Diablo games, you are meant to play it repeatedly so you can get better and better gear. It takes probably 3 or so runs through the game to get to the max level of 60, and it also has several difficulties which can get become really challenging. There’s definitely plenty of content here to work with, and can easily last you for dozens of hours. Being Diablo, there are plenty of areas in the game that are randomized as well which make for a different experience each time. However, other areas, while still random, are still linear.
If you’ve played the PC version of Diablo 3, the console port won’t change your mind or anything. But this isn’t necessarily for you; this is for the millions of people without a gaming rig that missed out on the Diablo franchise, and this serves as an introduction for them. While it doesn’t fix all the problems of the PC version, Blizzard seemed to improve the experience. If you haven’t played Diablo before and enjoy the genre, I would say Diablo 3 is at least worth a rent.