Blizzard consoling themselves over the failure of the Auction House
Diablo 3 originally came out on PC May 15, 2012 and we gave it a respectable 8/10. Changing up the classic Diablo formula to include a player-run auction house and end-game difficulties that flitted between impossible and a piece of cake depending on the patch, Blizzard faced a lot of complaints from the more hardcore side of the audience, but whichever way you looked at it, Diablo 3 provided a lot of entertainment for a £40 subscriptionless game. They’ve come back to launch the game on consoles (this is the current-gen launch, by all accounts it looks like the next-gen releases will simply be prettier ports) and rather than simply replacing the UI buttons with coloured icons, Blizzard have tuned up Diablo into something even more special, could the console version actually be better?
The first thing PC gamers will notice is just how faithful this port is. The menus look the same, the opening is exactly the same, the skills are the same. The console ports do benefit from a year’s worth of patches from the PC version, so there’s a new difficulty and the balance changes that fixed some more glaring issues with the original release, but other than that this is basically the same game. This holds true throughout with enemies and bosses all functioning just how you remember them. Despite the lack of a mouse the controls feel very similar, using a combination of a button hold and direction on the left stick to aim certain spells and ranged attacks. The graphics are faithful too, running at 720p but other than that it retains all of the glamour of what is still a visually impressive title thanks to a strong art style and some spectacular spell effects.
What has changed changes pretty much everything though. First of all, the most important gameplay change is the dodge. It’s incredibly simple, but now every character has a simple dodge controlled with the right stick that’s so responsive it makes for a very different gameplay experience. Every character stands a lot to gain from careful kiting and if you start on anything above normal difficulty you’ll find it essential to your survival, even in the early fights. The game might start off slow but once you have a few different skills to manage crowds of enemies the dodge allows you to be much more daring than you could be in the PC version. Playing as a barbarian it’s easy to stun, rend and then get a few attacks off before rending again and dodging out of the crowd to let them bleed to death. Every enemy has some kind of tell before its attack so you quickly learn when exactly is the best time to dodge and can outright avoid huge amounts of damage. It leads to a much more dynamic playstyle and after now it’s hard to imagine playing without it.
The other big change is local multiplayer. Of course online multiplayer is present, and works perfectly in much the same way as it did on PC, but local multiplayer seems to be what this game was made for. Being constrained to a single screen isn’t much of a problem and the increased communication and focus that comes from being crowded around the same TV allows for some amazing moments. You’ll cheer when you all dodge out of a boss’s attack just in time, and you’ll shout when someone misses a stun and leads to a wipe. Thankfully the death penalties aren’t harsh at all so you won’t be holding a grudge for long against weaker players.
The final difference is the lack of the auction house. The auction house was my biggest problem with Diablo 3, completely defeating the quest for loot which is at the heart of what Diablo is. You could simply sell everything you got and buy the perfect weapons and armour for your skill sets, or even spend real money to buy them. With that gone on console, fighting a good piece of loot is much more exciting and you find yourself ‘making do’ much more in order to progress. No longer are you only held back by your wallet, now you need to play to find the items you need to take on the last few difficulties. It might be a longer process but it’s much more interesting when you feel like you’re earning it, rather than just grinding up a number until you can buy the ‘right’ gear. In online multiplayer or over LAN you still all get your own loot but in local multiplayer it’s all shared in true Gauntlet fashion so expect some entertaining arguments about who gets what.
Other than those modifications, Diablo 3 still has the same positives and negatives. The combat is compelling and arranging your skillsets to work out what works well together is a huge amount of fun. The physics seem to be turned up to eleven and each satisfying hit, even with the most basic attack can often lead to corpses flying across the scenery and bouncing off walls. There’s nothing better than taking a fully-loaded character into a horde of tough enemies and surviving it all thanks to skill and ridiculous attacks. That being said, the game can be tedious alive once the power trip of the combat has worn off. You’re clicking your way through hordes of similar enemies, with incremental upgrades along the way. If you want to get to the maximum level you’re looking at a huge amount of time and multiple playthroughs and the story and setting is nowhere near strong enough to keep that interesting over such a length of time. If you’re playing multiplayer though things are very different and the fun doesn’t stop. The game copes well on current-gen tech and having four players tearing through dungeons is as impressive as it is exciting. Throw in some party chat and it’s always a lot of fun.
Diablo 3 has made the leap to console gracefully, and is even improved over the PC version thanks to the lack of the auction house and inclusion of the dodge mechanic. When the expansion hits, assuming it comes to all platforms at once we’ll be tempted to play it on the next-gen rather than PC, where we’ll get the best of both worlds with console controls and PC graphics. As it stands Diablo is admittedly a slightly hollow single-player experience after the first few hours, but if you’ve got people to play with or don’t mind matchmaking it can easily last you 100 hours or more. It might not be endless and eventually gets repetitive but with an expansion on the way it’s well worth the money.