Some time last year, a PC owning work colleague of mine came in looking particularly smug with himself. When asked why, he simply replied, “My copy of Diablo III arrived yesterday.” I’ll admit I was jealous, to the point where I actually started to save up for a PC. This didn’t go so well, and in the end I resigned myself to the fact I’d never play this game. Well, guess what? It’s finally arrived on consoles – has Blizzard been able to produce the goods on one of its biggest franchises?
Diablo III is a dungeon crawling action RPG with heavy emphasis on loot collection and co-op gameplay. The player is essentially given a quest, dropped into an area and expected to clear said area of enemies and defeat a boss.
Booting up the main menu sees you given the option of picking a male or female version of one of five character classes; the Witch Doctor, Barbarian, Wizard, Monk, or Demon Hunter. Each one has a different fighting style, with different moves to learn. For example, the Monk is meant to be played up close and personal, dealing out vicious but speedy jabs and kicks. The Demon Hunter, however, requires you to hang back and use ranged attacks.
The most obvious change from the PC game is the control scheme. Gone is the familiar “click, click, click” that PC gamers all know and love, and in its place is a well thought out system designed for console controllers. Character movement is dealt with by the left stick, whilst flicking the right stick will trigger an evasive roll.
Whilst this may sound like a fairly minor addition, it all adds up to a fluid and fast paced experience. Other changes from the PC version include the ability to play offline, and the removal of the auction house – though this will soon be removed from the PC version too.
In terms of combat, everything is mapped to the face buttons and triggers – instantly accessible and not clumsy in the slightest. Whilst there is a rather generous auto-aim, I felt that it didn’t detract from the experience at all. No matter what character class you pick, the combat is immensely satisfying.
From lowly beginnings, your character soon levels up, becoming a tooled-up killing machine dealing out humongous blows which are normally accompanied by dazzling pyrotechnics. My personal favourite is the Monk, whose devastating kicks got me through many a difficult situation.
As expected, customisation plays a huge part in Diablo III. Almost every encounter with an enemy sees loot of some form being dropped, which ranges from gold, to items that can be equipped, boosting your stats. It’s this constant sense of progression that keeps things interesting, so be prepared to spend a fair amount of time checking out weapon/armour statistics as you aim to create your perfect character.
It’s hard to get across just how exciting this can be – especially when you come across one of the game’s legendary weapons! You’ll never get bored of the combat in this game. As well as weapons, each character has a number of skills that will unlock as you progress. You also get Skill Runes, which can modify the effect of an ability.
All this loot could have been a real nightmare to keep track of, but luckily the radial-style inventory menu is easy enough to get to grips with, after a few minutes of seeing how everything works. Every item is clearly marked and it’s easy to see how it compares to what you already have equipped. There’s also a function mapped to the d-pad that allows you to quickly look at, and equip an item in your inventory without ever having to open a menu. In all honesty, I found it just as easy to quickly open up the menu and do it that way.
In terms of content, this is where Diablo III really shines. As well as having the five different characters to max out, there’s so much replay value once Diablo has been defeated, and you can’t even fully level up your character in one playthrough. It’s hard to put a number to how long the game will take to finish, but if it hooks you, then you’ll easily spend 100 hours or more wading through hoards of monsters.
Then there’s the glorious co-op mode to explore. Diablo III caters for up to four players both online and offline, and it’s an absolute blast – in fact, I’d go as far to say that it’s one of the best co-op games out there. Online can either be drop in/out, or by invite only, and is (thankfully) a very stable experience. For my money though, nothing beats the offline co-op, with the banter and scrabble to pick up the good loot.
Graphically, things are mostly positive with Diablo III. Whilst the small characters aren’t particularly detailed, the locations look fantastic with some stunning use of lighting. The pay-off for this is that occasionally the frame rate takes a tumble when things get hectic. I never died because of this, but there were times where I took a bit more damage than I should have.
The console port of Diablo III could have been a disaster. From the control scheme, to the online play; there were so many things that could have gone wrong. Blizzard really has put the effort in though, and it shows with an absolutely fantastic port that plays brilliantly, looks good, and will keep you interested for hours on end. No, it won’t convert those who aren’t particularly interested in the genre, but if you’re after some dungeon based brawling it doesn’t get better than Diablo III.