Editor: Bracken Lee-Rudolph
The Diablo franchise has been a source of great profit and popularity for Blizzard since the first title’s release at the very end of 1996 – at which point, I would have only been a year old. Through two sequel releases and several expansion packs over the following 16 years, the Diablo series has grown into one of the biggest labels in modern gaming, despite only boasting three titles in that period, including the PC version of Diablo 3 – a controversial and profitable game for the developer, and the console version of the original Diablo, which was a disappointing PC to PlayStation 1 port. However, Blizzard seem to have learnt from their previous failings, and while Diablo 3 on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 will still undoubtedly be the same game, several additions, omissions and changes have been made in order to streamline the experience for console controllers, while still retaining the looting, chaotic gameplay and dark themes that have made the series so popular.
While Diablo 3 on console will be a different experience from a gameplay perspective, it will follow the same narrative and explore the same areas – therefore it would be redundant to cover it again. For analysis of these aspects of the title, take a look at our review of Diablo 3 on PC, written by Jonathan Bester.
However, once we get past the narrative overlays and into the gameplay parts of the title, there are numerous changes to discuss. Applying a control scheme built for a keyboard and mouse to a controller is always going to be a difficult task, considering the limited buttons to assign and the obvious difference in the dual-analog control method – something that was somewhat overlooked in Diablo for PlayStation. Blizzard kept this in mind when designing Diablo 3 on console and therefore the term “massive overhaul” is particularly relevant. While unexpected, a feature has actually been added to the control scheme; an evade function makes its way to the console version, usable with the right analog stick. Several other changes are prevalent, including a simplified inventory, the right sided face keys (ABXY on 360 and X, Circle, Square, Triangle on PS3) and shoulder buttons all being assigned to skills, abilities and spells, while the left-sided face buttons (D-Pads on both consoles) and shoulder buttons have been assigned to quick usage of items from potions to town portal scrolls and targetting of enemies.
In addition to the overhauled control scheme, the port will feature up to 70% less loot drops. While this may sound sacrilegious and offensive to your long-term Diablo fan, the lack of mouse and keyboard precision prevents sifting through loot being a viable option on console. Instead, loot drops are more likely to have rarer items within them, as well as more likely to drop items that are both usable by your class and adapted to your skill set. Additionally, checking if an item is an upgrade to what you’re currently using will be compared by the game itself, so unless you’re looking for an item with particular effects, upgrading your equipment will be quick and seamless. The entire user interface has been overhauled to work more efficiently with the aforementioned dual-analog control system and the new inventory interface works on a sectional radial system which divides your equipment into convenient categories, as opposed to the PC’s Paper Doll and Grid inventory systems.
Graphically, don’t expect Diablo 3 to be miles behind last year’s PC version – despite the clear hardware limitations on console as compared to PC. Alternately, don’t be put off if Diablo 3 on the 8-year old hardware of the two current-generation consoles doesn’t have quite the sheen to it that your semi-autonomous, top of the range, world-domination-capable supercomputer managed to apply. Additionally, as far as the audio is concerned, no great overhaul is concerned and the title will probably sound very similar to its PC equivalent.
Finally – significant changes have been made to the online and multiplayer modes the title offers. Initially, Diablo 3 on console was intended to have a similar always-online requirement to what the PC version had, but research done by both Blizzard and Sony indicated that many PlayStation 3 consoles lacked an online connection – and presumably the same is true on the Xbox 360 too.
Instead, Blizzard have scrapped and replaced certain features – Battlenet authentication is no longer necessary, the real-money auction house is gone and a new, improved co-op mode is in place. Co-op can be played online, split-screen or as a combination of the two with up to 4 players being involved. All 4 players will always be on the same screen at all times – no awkward split-screen will be required, and each player will have a distinctively coloured direction and position reticle to make sure they don’t lose their character in the fray.
It seems as though Blizzard have learnt from their previous mistakes – Diablo 3 on console seems poised to correct the errors of both last year’s mistakes in the PC version of the title, as well as producing a console port which has been optimised for the current-generation consoles as opposed to their previous attempt. If nothing else, Diablo 3 on console will give the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 communities a chance to see what the PC community has been raving about for the past 16 years, and give PlayStation 4 users a chance to experience something similar next year.
Diablo 3 is currently available on PC, and will be available for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on the 3rd of September and for PlayStation 4 in 2014.