Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: Sept. 3, 2013
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: Action RPG
The world of Sanctuary is aflame as the Burning Hells rise up, spreading chaos across the realm. The Prime Evils have been slain, yet their unholy bretheren set forth from the bowels of Hell to conquer and lay waste to the mortal world. As their unhallowed forces spread corruption and terror, not even the High Heavens are safe from the oncoming cataclysm.
Only a small bastion of warriors stand sentinel against the teeming demonic hordes, and with the help of the wise Horadric scholar Deckard Cain and his niece Leah, the defenders set out in a desperate gambit that culminates in the ultimate battle between good and evil.
Stay a while and listen…
The third chapter of Blizzard’s grisly and climactic demon-filled series known as Diablo is leagues different than its predecessor, Diablo II. This is due to many of the key developers splitting from Blizzard North to form Runic Games, the developers of the Torchlight series, and many gamers were disappointed with the WoW-esque feel that Diablo III.
Change can be a good thing, however, and in the case of D3‘s console port change is a great thing. Blizzard’s active campaign to bring a controller-driven console part of the PC release has introduced a wholly entertaining experience to the console market–which is almost devoid of action RPG dungeon-crawling action.
Streamlined and specifically designed for ease-of-use, Diablo III for consoles is undoubtedly the best way to play the game. While the graphics aren’t anything special when compared to PC, the core gameplay remains the game’s shining factor, and it has won over millions of gamers with its resplendent charm.
As Deckard Cain would say, stay a while a listen as we delve into Blizzard’s new experiment that dabbles into the console realm–it’s a memorable adventure that’s filled with horrifying demons, glowing archangels, and an epic story that takes players to previously unvisited areas of Sanctuary to take down merciless foes like the Lord of Lies.
Gameplay: UI, Skills, Loot & Combat
Diablo III‘s basic UI is intuitive and centered around a window interface that contains tabs for basics like Inventory, Skills, Quests etc. Each tab has a dynamic radial menu that’s easily navigable and responsive, which is important in any action RPG where the tides of battle can turn in mere seconds.
Switching a skill or a piece of armor on-the-fly can be the difference between life and death (or earning that famed Legendary instead of a dull blue item).
In terms of general gameplay Diablo III for consoles keeps the traditional gold standard mechanics of slaying monsters for their goodies and earning EXP in the process, with a huge bestiary filled with mini-bosses and enchanted baddies.
The quests and story arc is the same linear plot split into four different acts, with a main boss battle punctuating each area.
We have the same cast of heroes–Barbarian, Monk, Witch Doctor, Wizard and Demon Hunter–all of which have the same main skills and skill runes that are unlocked through EXP progression. On a single gamertag you can have up to 10 heroes.
The modes and difficulties are mirrored as well, with Inferno making an appearance as well as the dreaded Hardcore mode. Players can also switch quests at any time, which can be useful for MF running for those loot hunters out there, and increasing the difficulties gives you bonus modifiers.
For a real challenge, try out the Master difficulties–there are five of them in all, each increasing the toughness of monsters while raising the bonus buffs and perks.
The controls are where the game really shines. Every button is mapped comfortably, and players can assign skills freely to the buttons they choose. Veteran players will know that Diablo III only affords six skill slots that can be used at any given time, so you’ll have to mix things up and experiment with the right combinations.
Some skills compliment each other naturally and afford bonuses, but like any other RPG, the game offers a multitude of theorycrafting opportunities. There are a dazzling number of combinations to explore and try out, but it’s also important to compliment your active skill set with the right kind of gear.
Overall the skills haven’t changed much at all and remain direct reflections from the original. We might be able to expect nerfs and tweaks with updates, but players can get past this by playing offline.
Apart from skills, loot is the other half of the coin of combat proficiency, and in this respect Blizzard has given console players a one-up.
Loot has always been the pulse of any successful character in a Diablo game, and is arguably affects the tide of battle more than skills.
Diablo III‘s loot-drop system, like that of every Diablo game–is based on a randomization. Players can stack Magic Find, enhance the difficulty, or team up in a group of four to enhance the odds, but all in all drops have always been based on a series of complex mathematical in-game parameters.
This can lead to some awesome and memorable finds. For instance, it’s plausible to find one of the best items in the game from a small chest–no not those golden glowing Resplendant Chests–or even from a single non-boss monster.
Additionally players all get their own respective loot. If you’re playing online in a team of four, every member will get their own drops, and it’s impossible to be a loot ninja and steal the drops. Sadly this isn’t supported in couch co-op and heroes will have to compete for the best loot–but you can always share, can’t you?
As for the grades of the items, they’re all mirrored from the PC version: regular grade is your standard white, magical is blue, rare is yellow and the coveted legendary items keep their orange/brownish shade. Set items are green, and they’re more rare than legendaries, but they also offer bonuses when more than one piece of the set is equipped at once.
Drops are equal for each player so you won’t have to worry about someone snatching your prize, and Blizzard has also made it so legendary/set items are displayed as a star on the mini-map. So if you bring up the map via the D-Pad and see a little star, be sure to head there right away as some treasure is waiting to be picked up.
Since the console version has no trading system, there’s no standardized way for players to get new items except by finding them or buying them. You can always have a friend toss you a nice Legendary or Set item, but you’ll have to drop it on the ground D1-style.
To address this, Blizzard has adjusted the loot drop system so that useful items are more likely to drop for certain characters. And Legendary items pop much more often than in the PC version, which is a nice touch.
For example, a Demon Hunter will most likely find a Legendary bow, quiver, helm or other item that is tailored to their main skills or attributes, featuring modifiers that enhance Dexterity and perhaps Attack Speed.
Of course there will always be those useless drops, like a Legendary two-handed axe falling from Izual for a Wizard, or the Izzucabob Crossbow popping out of an urn for a Barbarian.
Diablo III‘s combat excels in many ways and keeps the emphasis on real-time action.
To help with the chaos that can ensue in general combat, Blizzard has bestowed some incredibly helpful additions like the new rolling feature as well as the highlight marker, which shoots out a colored beam above your hero to distinguish your position in battle.
In Diablo III you’ll be surrounded by snarling monstrosities quite often. This can lead to death, but with the new rolling feature you can nimbly avoid this dreaded scenario. And the best part is you can do it as many times as you want.
Another invaluable tool is the lock-on mechanism which is triggered with LT. You can also switch between targets on a whim, but it helps not only isolate the bigger enemies but gives players great control in combat.
The enemies are split up between everyday baddies (white names), magical mini-bosses (blue names), area-specific mini-bosses (purple names), and mini-bosses with minions (yellow names). These foes are randomized (except for some of the purple-named baddies) across any given level, and all have specialized prefixes and suffixes that make them quite deadly.
The prefixes range from spells and abilities like Vortex, which pulls heroes into the monster’s vincinity, to Desecrator–a particularly deadly affinity that opens hellfire on the ground that burns for massive DPS)
The mega-bosses are peppered throughout the game’s storyline and players will usually fight 2-3 bosses each act, culminating with an end-level giant like Azmodan, Belial or even the hulking Butcher. The harder difficulties enhance not only the health and power of the monsters, but also increases the prefix and suffixes associated with each mini-boss, making for some tough baddies.
Online Multiplayer & Couch Co-Op
Diablo III is best enjoyed playing with others, as many character classes and skill sets naturally compliment one another to afford for the ultimate demon-slaying dream team. Whether it’s couch co-op or online multiplayer, this adventure was meant to be shared.
To start up a party you can create your own game and set it as Open under Network Settings, or join someone else’s game in progress. The search parameters can be assigned to target players tackling certain quests in certain difficulties as well.
Variety is always fun and can lead to some pretty explosive results. With the right team and the right skills, you can decimate the Lord of Terror and the Lesser Evils without a single death, but Inferno may lay waste to all your efforts.
To survive harder difficulties you’ll need to part ways with your pride and accept help, and in the process you’ll not only get aid in combat but also nice buffs like increased EXP, Magic Find, and more.
There are a few irksome elements to online co-op, however: when a host leaves a game, the entire session gets reset and a new host is picked. After migration the dungeons and quest progress gets reset to the most recent checkpoint, and all items that were dropped in town or in a dungeon all disappear, which can be extremely annoying.
If you accidentally sell one of your prized items to a merchant and a host gets reset before you can buy it back, the item poofs and is gone forever. The same is true for goodies that drop out of monsters; during a host migration they disappear regardless of the value of the loot.
People lose connections for various reasons, and missing out on that perfect item because of a random d/c is frustrating, especially if you’ve just spent a good ten minutes or so tackling the Lord of Terror on Inferno difficulty only to have your hard-earned loot poof before your eyes.
Couch co-op is just as viable as online multiplayer but there are a few differences. For example, when playing in a team of two offline, you’ll have to compete over the drops. Everything else is the same, though, but it can be disappointing to play with a sticky-fingered loot ninja.
Thankfully you won’t have to worry about items disappearing in offline co-op, which is a great plus…but it is somewhat offset by the loot competition. Even still it harks back to the original Diablo experience where players have to be quick and pay attention to what’s going on.
Diablo III‘s introduction to the console market is a great idea, as there aren’t many mainstream dungeon-crawling RPG’s available. Blizzard has packed in all of the demon-slaying loot-filled action from their triple-A mainstream release into a nice consolidated package that offers as much replay value as the PC version.
Interestingly enough, Blizzard’s console port actually seems like the definitive version of the game. Its PC counterpart was such a huge leap in terms of game mechanics from Diablo II that many gamers felt alienated and disapproved of the changes, but these changes feel right at home with the console flavor.
Mechanics weren’t the only problem with the PC release as controversial inclusions like the Real Money Auction House–which allows players to buy and sell items for real cash via PayPal–and no offline singleplayer led to general disdain across the gaming sphere.
The console port not only takes advantage of the game’s natural mechanics and set-up to afford a fluid and streamlined controller-based experience, but it waves goodbye to the Auction House while introducing both offline singleplayer and co-op at the same time.
These additions, coupled with various other tweaks, make Blizzard’s console port of the iconic action RPG a must-have for Xbox 360 and PS3 owners. Rolling a new character is a fresh experience that’s akin to a new brand new game, bringing a plethora of memorable moments to take part in across the game’s dynamic ever-changing dungeons.
With a massive offering of content and a host of unique experiences, gamers could play Diablo III for months and not have the same exact experience twice.
It’s an adventure into the realm of pure dungeon-crawling action-RPG action that gets better the more you play it–which is in no small part due to the randomized drops, dungeons, and re-playable quests and difficulties.
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The game has something for everyone and accomadates for former PC players as well as newcomers to the series, incorporating a unique and re-playable action-RPG experience that hasn’t been available on consoles since Diablo for PlayStation in the late 1990’s (with the exception of Runic’s Xbox 360 adaptation of Torchlight).
A host of extra challenges and the alluring psiren’s call of loot keeps players returning to the hallowed, monster-filled depths of Diablo III‘s dungeons, and it’s a journey that can be experienced time and time again with friends across the world or on your couch.
+ Offline singleplayer & co-op
+ Improved item drop rates
+ Engaging dungeon crawling experinece
+ Fluid controls & UI
+ Online multiplayer
+ Huge level of replayability
+ Array of skills, characters & loot
+ Speedy load screens
– No auction house or trading
– Players don’t get separate drops in offline co-op
– Minor hiccups here and there
– Losing items during host d/c’s
Diablo III is now available in stores for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 for $59.99. Additionally Blizzard has published a demo of the game both on the Xbox Games Store and the PlayStation Network to allow gamers to try it out for themselves.
For more information be sure to head on over to Blizzard’s official Diablo III site to check out forum posts, news, and the goings-on of the Battle.net community.