Diablo III Review

By Adam Ma on September 2, 2013

Whether it was finding powerful artifacts, exploring a dark and foreboding world, or vanquishing powerful unholy forces most players recall their Diablo experience as a largely multiplayer one. Sure the single player content is just as enjoyable and everyone remembers their first encounter with The Butcher alone, but being the sole light in the darkness is only so much fun. Doing just about anything with a friend makes the task better, and with Diablo's penchant for difficulty teamwork was a far more engaging and rewarding effort.

With Diablo III Blizzard kept close to the theme of the originals, while at the same time making a few minor changes. Dungeons and the outdoor areas were made a bit brighter, or illuminated thematically in order to provide a greater sense of depth to the world. A series that was largely dominated by dark fields and pitch black surroundings is now something a little easier to see in, while destructible environment pieces add the extra bit of visual "oomph" to those powerful attacks.

On a design level the UI and inventory system has been given much more thought. The old inventory grid has been removed, keeping the focus more on the action and less on the juggling of items while you're in the field. Naturally there is a limit as to how much you can carry, but this is rarely an issue as vendors are present at regular points throughout the game. Other changes from the PC include potions being placed on a cooldown, health orbs dropping to compensate for the lack of potions, and a complete overhaul to the talent system for all five classes.

Five classes allow for a decent variety of play styles. The melee oriented monk and barbarian, the ranged demon hunter, and the spell slinging wizard and witch doctor each give you something different. All five share a decent grouping of damage, crowd control and self buffs for players to shift around and since there's no such thing a defensive healer, selecting a class that you'll enjoy killing monsters with is all of the fun and strategy.

Instead of slotting points into individual skills, you'll learn new moves through levelling, and then learn additional ways to alter moves through runes. For example the Demon Hunter's bola shot can be adjusted to explode on multiple targets, or stun targets with electrical damage, or poison targets, or simply do more damage when triggering a normal explosion. This sort of customization is present throughout every ability and class in game, providing a surprising amount of flexibility for every skill while opening up quite a few different play styles.

Those similarities aside, where the console version of the game begins to shift away from the PC version is in both the controls and the delivery of the multiplayer, both of which can be considered superior depending on your own personal preferences.

Attacks are mapped to just about every button on the console, with L1 controlling potion use and X, Triangle, Square, Circle, R1 and R2 all linked to individual attacks. Instead of clicking to move players navigate using the left analog stick and dodge rolling is done through the right, giving D3 the feel of a smooth action arcade title. A small arrow around the base of the player indicates the direction of the attack, and although there is a slight bit of auto aim against foes that are a great distance away for the most part players will find that targeting and movement transition beautifully onto a controller.

Without constantly clicking to move players have a lot more fluidity in their overall control of a character and their attacks; for those of us who don't particularly enjoy rapidly slapping a mouse button this just means that console is the way to go. It's a seemingly small change for some of us, but anyone that's ever struggled with MOBA style game will appreciate the difference having a solid analog option makes.

Characters are stored per-account on a console, which means anyone looking to sit on the couch to play needs to have a profile or make one, but once that's over with everything else falls right into place. Select your class, select the chapter, select the difficulty, and you jump right in just as easy as the PC. Depending on what player you are, the game will slot all of your health, resource and cooldown information into a different corner of the screen but the camera is almost always intuitive enough to give plenty of space for everyone to see all the action.

One downside to the cluster of players using one screen means that when one player sorts through an item or skill everyone must wait for that player to be finished, but in an attempt to mitigate some of the constant pausing Blizzard's come up with a reasonable (although not always definitive) solution: items have three stat categories, Health, Armor and Damage which are then represented by either a green arrow (facing up), a red arrow (facing down) or a line to represent neutral. Picking up an item immediately shows whether or not it could be a potential upgrade depending on the arrows, and you'll even have the option to equip the recently acquired good or drop it for a friend through a quick hotkey. It's not the most accurate means of inspecting an item, but the general information it gives saves a lot of time in sorting through the inventory.

Itemization overall has been improved, and though it's still quite possible to craft items that aren't particularly good for your class, or to pick up loot that doesn't match what stats you're interested in, most of the drops you receive are at least relevant to what your class can use. Very rarely were there any items dropped across single or multiplayer which were absolutely useless.

Another problem is the framerate which suffers to the graphical demands of the game at times. Enemies which teleport, explode, summon swarms and then must content with your own party's barrage of attacks can occasionally cause lag depending on what else may be going on in the environment. Given the quality of the graphics overall it's a given, as the game looks about as close to the PC version as you can get. That doesn't make it any more jarring with the title freezes mid a hectic action sequence, and is a firm reminder that the console does have its limits.

That being said if you have friends that enjoy sitting down together for a good bit of cooperative demon-rending violence then the console version of Diablo III simply cannot be beaten. It's almost unfair to say, but there's just something about gaming right beside a friend that's better than working from one monitor to another and Diablo III delivers exactly the kind of experience that's meant to be enjoyed in small portions with a few close companions. By integrating the somewhat easier to manage controller into the game Blizzard opens the learning curve to anyone that didn't have the time, patience or rig to learn how to handle the PC version and there's absolutely no shame in that. Particularly when it feels like it's the way Diablo was meant to be played on this generation in the first place.

Final Thoughts

Those of whom have never played Diablo III because they either didn't have a computer that could handle it, or didn't enjoy the controls should definitely give it a shot. The updated controls really do make a huge difference in the comfort of playing it. If you've already purchased the PC version of the title, enjoyed it, and have friends that who enjoy sitting side by side with then Diablo III for console will likely still provide a good bit of fun for you.

Controls work extremely well.
Playing co-op with your friends.
Great transition for a MOBA style game.
Framerate drops.
Pausing when people try to look at items.
Took too long to come out.
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