A PC/Mac exclusive for 15 years, the Diablo franchise has made the leap to consoles. Being released for PS3, X360 and (later) PS4, it’s interesting how the title fared in translation and what sacrifices and improvements were made. Does it feel like a Diablo title? It sure does, and for all the right reasons too.
When the PC version was released back in May of last year, it was applauded for updating the Diablo formula to the present generation of gaming, but it also received a lot of slack from gamers. A lot of this centered around the requirement to permanently be online, even in single player mode. The real money auction house, Blizzard’s method for microtransactions within the game environment, also wasn’t warmly welcomed by all. Many claimed it was a way to buy success instead of earning it, and that it took away from the emphasis earlier Diablo games had on looting for the right items to strenghten your character.
Both those issues have been addressed in the console version, which can run in offline mode as well as online and doesn’t include the auction house. It is, in that regard, a welcome step back towards the gameplay style of Diablo II. This doesn’t mean that multiplayer is off the table this time around – it is very much present, and in new and exciting ways. Aside from online play, you can also play cooperatively with up to three friends on a single console. For being able to play out team tactics, this is a huge leap forward and brings an extra social element to the game. This is further strenghtened by the ability to export characters on a USB stick and take them with you when playing elsewhere.
Despite those major changes, a lot has remained the same. You’re still playing through the same campaign, which is structured the exact same way as before. Blizzard has also included all their improvements for the PC version in the console rendition, but did of course have to make changes in the controls. Being a mouse and keyboard game on PC, everything had to be reworked to accommodate gamepad controls on the console versions. Moving is no longer done by clicking where you want to go on the screen, but by pushing the left thumbstick to control your character’s movements. This actually feels like an improvement when you go back to the PC version afterwards, as the thumbstick allows for more direct control over your character.
The PC version’s skills (there are six) have all been mapped to the face buttons and two triggers at the top right of the X360 controller. To accommodate the loss of accuracy when switching from mouse controls, Diablo III on X360 has an auto-targetting feature and also allows you to roll/dive away from a fight – a feature not present in the PC original.
Switching from PC to console in Diablo III also means having to make concessions in terms of the richness of character menus. The menus have been simplified to fit the control mechanism and this fits the console style, but PC players might miss some of the stats and information they could previously use. Instead, Blizzard offers quick overviews to help you make your choices, which for the most part works fine and if you never play the PC version you’re probably never going to miss anything.
So all things combined, Diablo III’s console debut is a definite success. Not choosing the direct port route, Blizzard has managed to tweak the gamer experience in subtle but effective ways. One of the biggest compliments we can give the game is that some of the changes and additions that were made (such as the same-system coop mode) would be more than welcome on the PC version as well. If you’re a console gamer now but played the original games years ago, don’t be afraid to pick this up. If the hacking, slashing and looting genre appeals to you, grab this right away. On the current console generation (without the competition the genre has on PC), this is the best of its type.