Toaster’s Delayed Response, Diablo 3
One of the most surprising announcements at Sony’s Playstation 4 reveal event earlier this year, was Blizzard’s return to console gaming with Diablo III. Older fans of Blizzard may remember they tried porting the Diablo franchise to console back in 1998 with the release of Diablo for the Playstation, unfortunately the console port did not do the game much justice, this time around however, they seemed to have gotten it right.
As a Blizzard fan I have been accustomed to playing their titles on PCs, but when it came to Diablo III I found myself thinking that the game just didn’t feel quite right on a PC, sure it looked beautiful but the point and click movement component made it feel clunky, especially when using the Demon Hunter. Now I know it could just be the fact that I am primarily a console gamer but it was this movement mechanic that had the Diablo III icon on my desktop feeling abandoned and unloved. I know, it’s a lame reason not to play the game, but there it is, and after playing Diablo III on my Xbox 360, I think that desktop icon is going to continue it’s lonely un-clicked existence.
So how exactly did Blizzard manage to catch lightning in a bottle twice on the same title, by tweaking an already successful game and making sure it transitioned to console fluidly, and in a way that makes the game exciting and extremely fun to play, make no mistake, Diablo III for console is still at it’s heart the same game, but the small changes that Blizzard has made to the title makes it almost seem like console is where Diablo III should have been released in the first place.
The first time I was able to play Diablo III was at Pax East this year, and I can honestly say I was hooked within the first 30 seconds of playing, here was Diablo III with a gamepad, and it was as awesome as I wanted it to be. Diablo III’s console default controls are extremely well laid out, and easy to get comfortable with, players utilize the X, B, A, and Y buttons as well as the right trigger, and right bumper for attack mapping, while the left trigger functions as your target lock and lastly the left bumper chugs your healing potions for players out there who don’t like being told what to do, selecting elective mode under game play options in the pause menu unlocks the ability to assign any action to any of the control buttons. When it comes to movement the console version completely ditches the point and click mechanic, and instead players move throughout the world of Sanctuary using the left thumb stick, which is extremely out shined by the right thumb stick, why you ask? One word, and one word only. Dodge. I know I know, the game has been out for just under a month and the dodge mechanic has been known at least since Pax East, but even with the dodge ability out of the bag since East it doesn’t take away from the excitement of the ability at all, in fact during the Belial fight the dodge mechanic becomes your best friend on top of the never ending hilarity that is the Barbarian dodging.
I could go on and on about the dodge mechanic, because really seeing the hulking Barbarian dodge is truly funny, but dodging wasn’t the only thing the team behind the console port wanted to change, probably one of the more important decisions that was made when bringing Diablo III to living room entertainment centers had to be in the graphics itself, the PC version of the game while not graphic card shattering was definitely demanding on a card if run at the highest settings. To bring the game to console Blizzard had to figure out a way around the limitations of today’s current gen consoles, and do so in a manner that didn’t sacrifice the look and feel of Diablo III. To accomplish this the team behind the console port pulled in the camera view, and shrunk the rendered map down, this map shrinking by no means decreases the overall size of the open world map areas or dungeons, but effectively shrinks the rendered area of the map, allowing the Xbox 360 or PS3 to only show the immediate area around the characters, and while players are not able to move the camera in and out as they are accustomed to with the PC version, the camera sits at a comfortable distance allowing players to see the entire area around them. While this change in the graphic set up of the game works extremely well, it was not enough to completely avoid any type of frame lag, there were a couple of times when wading through a sea of spiders, or scavengers that the screen would hitch, and suddenly my Barbarian would develop Flash like super speed, which given the amount of other things on the screen my 360 was rendering, I was not surprised, and still, when it did happen, it was so fast that there was no impact to my game, who knows if we’ll see the same thing in any next gen console releases. (Diablo III is going to be released on Playstation 4 sometime in 2014, at the writing of this article there has been no word about an Xbox One port, with Blizzard hopeful that players will be able to transfer their PS3 characters to the PS4)
Right now I want to talk about two massive improvements made to the console version of Diablo III, this first one is one that I felt pretty strongly about when it was included in the PC version of the title and that is the Auction House, be it the real money Auction House, or the not real money Auction House, thankfully the console version has neither, and it’s a beautiful thing. (I was so happy when Blizzard announced they were getting rid of the AH for the PC version, I think I cried tears of sweet, sweet, joy) add in the no online requirement, and viola, we’ve returned to in my mind what makes Diablo such a great game, the act of wading through wave after wave of monsters in an effort to save Sanctuary, and get ridiculously powerful items, rinse repeat. Adding into this “circle of loot” is the randomness of drops, and the complete randomness of the maps generated as players explore the world of Sanctuary and the dungeons within it, which essentially guarantees that that if the Diablo III disk leaves your console, it will be back in soon enough, especially knowing that you can enjoy the game without needing to be online.
The loot in Diablo III is plentiful, and never ending, with legendary items dropping at a pace that will leave players wondering what they’ll pick up next the game encourages players to explore more and open everything, and when I say open everything, I mean open everything, I managed to find Leoric’s Crown in a dried bone pile in a random corner of the desert I was in during Act II. The one drawback to such wonderful loot dropping is the hit to the level of challenge the game presents, by the time I reached Diablo in normal mode I was able to take him down without any issues due to the gear my Barbarian was in, while it does hit the challenge a bit, it still doesn’t lessen the fun, unless you’re into dying, and if you are, there are games out there for you. With loot being so plentiful one would expect frequent trips to town to unload, but the guys over at Blizzard have got you covered with a complete overhaul of the inventory system, ditching the grid layout found on the PC version, the console version instead utilizes a wheel system for head, main hand, off hand, and the rest of the of the slots, and also has upped the inventory slots to 60 items, players also have access to the stash feature for storing jaw-dropping items, and can purchase additional stash slots for a fee.
Overall the console version of Diablo III is worth the buy for console fans, even if the game was originally purchased on PC, the feel and pacing of the game feel natural and completely at home running on a console, throw in the lack of online requirement, and an increased loot rate, and you have a return to what made Diablo great. While there are definitely some subtle differences between the two versions, the team behind the console version of the game did a great job of taking a beloved PC franchise and successfully porting it to console, opening up Diablo III for a whole new group of people. While the console version doesn’t have access to battle.net, you do have access to your Xbox live friends, and with same screen 4 player co-op, access to friends on a couch running loot crazy. Toaster’s delayed response on this one, it’s the 10 that I wanted Diablo III on PC to be.
To see Toaster and Matt the Ninja talk with Matthew Berger, lead level designer on the console Diablo III at PAX East click here.