It’s difficult to review a new version of a game that you’ve played already. You’re not sure what criteria to judge it on- should I target my review to the crowd who’ve played it on PC already, like myself? Should I target console gamers playing the game for the first time? Should I review it as a stand-alone product, or review it in the context of its present-day environment, where the game’s age (over one year) may no longer justify the $60 price tag, especially in the wake of new competition like the much-cheaper Torchlight II, and the free-to-play Path of Exile?
Hell, if so, is it even fair to compare a console game to a PC game, given the different demographic? Basically, I’m going to wing it. I’m going to try to do all of the above, while focusing more on the differences in the console version. There are plenty of Diablo 3 reviews already out there (like ours!). This is no mere port; Blizzard clearly put in a ton of work to re-tune the game for consoles. There’s only so much tuning you can do when the core game is directly designed for PCs, but it works a lot better than you would expect. The game is still fun. It’s different. For better or for worse, it’s more casual.
The graphics are fine, although the PS3 is obviously going to underperform higher-end PCs. I haven’t missed enhanced PC graphics too much, though. The game has been optimized for the PS3, and looks vibrant and colorful on a big TV set, although some of the character detail suffers when inspected up-close. Fortunately, I haven’t experienced any slowdown so far.
I’m not even sure if I should discuss the new looting system as an exclusive feature of the console version, as it is apparently now going to be implemented in the PC version as well. It’s an improvement, to say the least. In Diablo 2, the most-effective gear you could ultimately get your hands on were some high-bonus rares, and they still are in Diablo 3. However, the coolest gear you could get your hands on were unique and set items. These items more often had unusual and themed attributes- visual effects, improvements to certain skills. The rarest uniques had even more fantastic abilities, like the power to bestow abilities entirely foreign to your class, or a persistent aura that buffed you and your allies (or debuffed all enemies). There was a notable lack of such interesting items in Diablo 3, and those that were common were quickly overshadowed and abandoned in favor of more effective- but much less cool- rare items. The new looting system fixes this issue for the most part, and is a necessity on the console version where the possibility of trading is limited, to say the least. Above all, I respect Blizzard’s ability to try new mechanics, and when they sometimes disappoint in unforeseen ways, their willingness to abandon them for other systems new and old.
The UI has been dramatically improved (or at least reimagined) for consoles. PC-to-console ports often fail when developers try to funnel the vast array of inputs possible with a mouse and keyboard into the smaller amount of buttons available on a controller. However, the upshot of a controller is that all buttons are constantly in reach, so if you do it right, gameplay can feel much more natural. Diablo 3 has done a better job mapping their numerous PC inputs onto a controller than any other port I’ve seen. Attack/skill keys have been remapped to the face and shoulder buttons, and other common buttons have been mapped onto arrow keys and other shoulder buttons (potions, map, portal, etc.).
I said the game was more casually-inclined, and I meant it. Quick-select wheels, huge inventories, and a quick-equip button for items with attribute upgrades mean that there will be less time spent poring over your inventory, agonizing about which items to keep, equip, or vendor. In the PC version (and moreso Diablo 2), the increased RPG elements made me want to spend the time to make my character the best he can be, but frankly, it was a relief not to deal with it as much in the console version. However, as someone who has already extensively played it on PC, this may simply be my bias betraying itself- newbies will be happy to know that you can be as meticulous as you want, manually choosing upgrades for maximum control.
Unfortunately, “Best port of PC controls to console that I’ve ever seen” does not mean perfect. Obviously, the gameplay elements have to be completely re-designed, and certain gameplay elements were clearly designed with PCs in mind. We can’t point-and-click anymore, and no targeting system, no matter how solid and natural Diablo 3’s new system is (and it is very intuitive) is going to fix the fact that I can’t drop my spells on flat land in between me and my enemies, which is seriously important for certain classes. The best I can do is direct it at a nearby object or enemy. Consequently, the game will feel even more hack-and-slash-y than its PC counterpart, which will appeal to some and disappoint others. Barbarians and summoning-Witch Doctors will likely feel more comfortable than on PC, while Rangers, Wizards, and other classes/builds will suffer, as they rely somewhat on singling out individual enemies in a crowd at range- something the “nearest target in your direction” targeting system doesn’t always allow. That being said, the new “rolling” mechanic feels great, and mitigates this issue somewhat.
Co-op in the console version of Diablo 3 is interesting, because some elements are dramatically improved, and other elements are almost entirely crippled. Let me first say that *the* reason I bought the PS3 version game, (or asked nicely for a review copy, rather) having already owned the PC version, is because I want to play couch co-op with my friends and girlfriend. If you’re like me, your favorite gaming memories are sitting on a couch, playing co-op Streets of Rage, Twisted Metal 2, or Dynasty Warriors with your brother, sister, or best friend. Unfortunately, this aspect of gaming has suffered immeasurably in modern times. I’ll set aside my soapbox and just say that Blizzard and similar companies do gamers a service by reintroducing this game style.
All players are on the same screen, and surprisingly, I’ve run into few problems with the couch co-op system confining all local players to a single screen- the dynamic camera system makes conflicts rare, and when it does happen, it will teleport one player to the other side to prevent most accidental deaths. If one local player goes idle, his avatar will begin following the other player around. I think that conceivably, the new system, along with new-ish mechanics like party-boosting Nephalem orbs, encourages co-operative fighting and support classes in a game where historically everybody is just trying to be the DPS hero of the group. In my opinion, this is significantly more fun than soloing. That being said, local players share all item drops, so you will have to manually split up loot like you did in Diablo 2. Local co-op play almost demands that you use the quick-equip feature, as one player manually changing equipment and skills will dominate the screen for the entire party.
Unfortunately, select co-op elements of the game that players take for granted on the PC version barely exist in the console version. Most of these aren’t Blizzard’s fault, but are instead simply a consequence of working with hardware with limited input devices. Without a keyboard, communication between players rarely happens at all. When it does happen, it’s only between players with voice chat, and most don’t seem to bother. This really hurts the online co-op experience relative to the PC version.
As one would expect, trade suffers for the same reason. Most trade that does happen seems to actually take place in external online forums. Blizzard removed the auction house because they realized that the system, while fun and interesting in its own right, short-circuited the core kill & loot cycle of the game. What they may have forgotten (or at least were unable to implement on consoles) is the allure of the trade system. In Diablo 2, the thrill of finding an Arreat’s Face helm was only matched by the thrill of trading it for a Vampire Gaze, which was what you needed in the first place. The new system makes it easier to find unique loot, but more difficult for you to obtain the gear your character actually needs.
Overall, I think that Diablo 3 for consoles is a great game. It is clear that the developers put a lot of love into this “port”, and spent a lot of time re-designing features exclusively for console players. The key question is, however: “Should I buy it?” If you already own it on PC, buy the console version only if you are interested in couch co-op with your friends. If you are someone with a good PC with no interest in couch co-op, but possible interest in online play, you must understand that this game was originally designed for PC, and you will likely miss out on the most functional form of socialization and trade by buying the console version. Furthermore, I might suggest instead downloading the free-to-play Path of Exile– an extremely (unapologetically) similar game that harkens back to the feel of Diablo 2. However, if you are a PS3-exclusive gamer, you should absolutely buy this game. It is incredibly fun solo, and provides a much needed, near flawlessly-executed couch co-op experience as well.
This will be my last post as a member of Twinfinite. It is fitting, as a closed-beta preview for Diablo 3 was one of my first successful posts for the site. I have spent a lot of time working for this site since Yamilia and I first founded it 2 years ago, and I’ve made a lot of great friends, with diverse perspectives on gaming. I hope that you will all stay around and support this fantastic site and these fantastic (and dedicated) people. I know I will, if only as a fan.
STAY FIERCE, GAMERS, KEEP YOUR EARS ON THE ACTION AND YOUR EYES ON THE HEARTBEAT OF THE INDUSTRY WITH TWINFINITE.NET!
[+Perfect port] [+Couch Co-op] [+Re-imagined UI][+Hack-N-Slash Controls Feel Natural] [-No Price Drop] [-Reduced Communication/Trade Between Players]