Let me get started by saying this isn’t going to be a review of the core game that is Diablo III, if you want to know more about that check out my review for the PC version here. This review is going to focus on the console port’s additions and specific features. The port itself is actually quite good, but that should come as no surprise to anyone who has played games like Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance, Torchlight, or Dungeon Hunters: Alliance, all of which were successful console games based in the ARPG genre. The genre lends itself very well to play on a controller and Blizzard has taken things a step further than most of these other games have.
The most apparent change is how you move your character. The left stick controls your direction and aiming when necessary. Your character will lock on to enemies which makes up for the lack of clicking, but it can make it difficult at times to single out powerful enemies that you want to kill quickly. The addition of a dodge roll to the right stick is nice, but ultimately unnecessary. Diablo III was never built to have roll on the PC and on the console you could go the entire game without using it without issue. Some classes do feel better when played with a controller though. The Barbarian in particular felt perfect on the controller, this coming from someone who did not enjoy the Barbarian on the PC. It almost feels like playing God of War, pressing the attack button and using the other face buttons and triggers to activate other abilities to combo into.
The menus also recieved a major rehaul and are much more controller friendly. Using the right stick you make selections in a circular menu and used the left stick to scroll through lists. The inventory, for example, is divided into the armor type and weapons. Within each selection is the list of items you have available to equip. You can easily compare to what you have equipped and drop or trade items to other party members. The skills menu functions much the same with a skill attacked to each available button. After selecting a skill you can choose which rune you want to equip to it. It is simple enough to work easily on a controller, though it isn’t elegant or mind blowing in any way. Loot managemtnt is relatively non existant and only becomes an issue when your sizeable inventory is full. Each item takes just one spot, which purists may scoff at, but it means you have more time to loot before heading back to town and it also allows you to be less picky about what you pick up. Another new addition is the ability to preview an item in the ground and equip it immeditely. This would be useful were it not entirely too barebones to make an educated decision. Damage or armor increases are denoted by red or green triangles, more meaning a greater decrease/increase. It does not, however, take into account magical attributes on these items which could have a huge impact on your play. It is useful in the early ones when just about everything you pick up is better than what you have equipped, but otherwise it is mostly useless.
The major draw of Diablo III on consoles it the 4 player couch co-op, which is both The game’s greatest strength and the source of most of its annoyances. Joining a game is as easy as pressing start on the controller, picking a character, and getting right into the action. Playing with friends in the same room is a lot of fun and harkens back to the days of old with lan parties. That is, until you pick up that item your friend wanted, or have to go back to town, or want to explore the other direction. Everyone is tied to the same screen, which eventually turns into a test of will as two people want to go up and two others want to go down, each player desperately running against the invisible wall until one side is teleported to the other and begrudgelingly continues on. Want to check out that new item? The other players have to wait. Want to go back to town? Everyone goes. Want that loot? Better grab it first. For every minute of fun, there is another minute of frustration as you debate over who should have the legendary, the guy who needs it or the guy who picked it up. Online co-op functions just like it does on PC, therefore, without these problems. Frustrating as they are, the weakness of couch co-op is not enough to make the experience any less enjoyable than playing online. Maybe it is that little bit of direct competition, or maybe it is just the fact that you and three friends are actually in the same room for a change, whatever it is, local co-op is probably the best way to play Diablo III.
Now, being on a console the game has been toned down graphically, but not too much. You’ll be looking at what equates to around medium-high settings which look just a tad washed out due to the close zoom of the game on consoles. This minor concession is more than worth it when the game runs as smoothly as it does. You’ll likely nave notice the few, very slight dips in the framarate. Also, Blizzard has removed both the always online functionality and Auctions house, both real money and gold. Both of these are smart moves, not just for the consoles but in general, and should allow you to put your fears to rest if these features kept you away from the game this long.
While this may be tough to swollow for the PC elitests out there, Diablo III is much more fun to play with a controller. No, you don’t have the precise control of a mouse and keyboard, or the advanced graphical options, but those concessions are more than made up for with local co-op and the lack of always online connectivity and the auction house. If Diablo III didn’t tickle your fancy when it originally launched on PC, give it another try on your Playstation 3 or Xbox 360, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised.