Diablo III, when it arrived on PC, was widely seen as a disappointment, and I was among those voices. And even though it’s sold millions of copies, it’s not a game you can argue is beloved. The console port, believe it or not, might change all that.
It’s not the PC game: This is, actually, something completely different. This is the old Blizzard, unencumbered by real-money auction houses and piracy gripes and Battle.net login problems. This is the game everyone wanted, but never quite got. But a few things in particular really stand out.
The Controls Are Stunning
Blizzard hasn’t made a game for consoles for nearly two decades. But from the controls on this game, you’d think that they’d never left. In fact, one expects this to be an argument for Diablo to have gamepad support from now on, because you’re really going to prefer this.
First of all, the right thumbstick is your evade command, not unlike God of War. It can’t be emphasized enough how much this changes the game; everything about your strategy will become entirely different simply because you’re just so nimble on the field. Even the most plodding character will handle differently, and frankly, it turns the game from a chore of clicking into something much more thrilling and visceral.
Also a nice touch is that the attacks can be mapped to any of six buttons, and you can either rely on autoaim, which is really good, or you can hold the button, point the left stick towards your foe of choice, and cut loose. You can almost hear Blizzard laughing at the would-be Diablo clones on consoles which never figured this out.
That said, the Witch Doctor does suffer a bit in the sense that he’s more of an indirect attacker, so you’ll be running away constantly. But it’s still a pretty amazing control scheme you need to try.
Almost All Of The Features Are Here
It’s a little amazing what this game supports. Custom soundtracks? Feel free. Export your character to a USB stick? Sure, why not? Mods? …OK, you can’t mod it. But that’s pretty much the only thing you cannot do. This game wants you to have fun your way, and that’s an odd feeling in an industry that has come to hate that very idea with an intensity you can almost feel.
The Loot Drops Are Much, Much Better
Since the game no longer expects you to unload your crap at the auction house, the loot drops have been rebalanced. There’s still plenty of vendor trash, mind you; it’s just there’s a lot less of it. Also useful is the fact that you can see without even touching a piece of loot whether it fits your skills and strategies; of course you’ll probably pick it up anyway, but what the heck.
The Boss Fights Are Far More Satisfying
The less said, the better, on this, but suffice to say this is another aspect where you’d think Blizzard had been developing console games for years. I’ve had two boss encounters, and both of them were jaw-dropping blowouts, completely different from the PC version.
Local. Freaking. Multiplayer.
I actually dropped by a friend’s house to try out the local multiplayer, and got so sucked in that I nearly missed my deadlines. Four player, offline, local co-op play is the kind of experience that far too many publishers no longer want you to have. And it’s compelling to an absurd degree; having four people on the couch, yelling strategy and cheering, is something you never forget, and something gaming needs more of.
Oh, and apparently the Xbox 360 version gives you LAN playing capabilities. I tried out the PS3 version, both at my friend’s house and at home, but trust me, either way, it’s an amazing feeling that changes the tenor of the game completely.
Don’t get me wrong, there are problems here. The menus are impenetrable until you figure out what they’re aiming for, the text is so tiny you’ll need a telescope to read it, and the story is unchanged, and thus still pretty, well, let’s be honest here, terrible. But it’s also, unreservedly, the game we all remember and love so much.
Good job, Blizzard. Welcome back.