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Face-to-face with evil incarnate: hands-on with Diablo III’s console port

Diablo© Blizzard Entertainment 2013

Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Genre: Action RPG
Platforms: Xbox 360 & PS3
Release Date: Sept. 3, 2013

At this year’s E3 expo, we had the chance to go hands-on with Blizzard’s upcoming console iteration of Diablo III, specifically the Xbox 360 flavor–although there’s not much difference between the PS3 and X360 versions other than controller.

Although Blizzard has received a considerable amount of flak from the community regarding their choices with Diablo III, the game is a surprising match for console play, and provides seamless and fluid gameplay that’s addictive and provides one of the most enjoyable action RPG experiences available on the console market today.

While this isn’t Blizzard’s first venture into bridging the gap between PC and console gaming–they brought the first Diablo title onto Sony’s original PlayStation console back in the late 90’s–it certainly seems to be the best. The gameplay mirrored that of its PC counterpart, providing that raw and invigorating medieval style with the thrills of real-time demon-slaying action–something that has always been a signature aspect of any Diablo title.

So stay a while and listen (sound familiar?) as we brave dungeons brimming with evil to banish the treacherous Diablo–this time armed with a controller rather than a mouse and keyboard.

D3 Screen5© Blizzard Entertainment 2013

Evil is Reborn: GUI, Characters & Basic Mechanics

To bring Diablo III to consoles, Blizzard has redesigned the game’s general HUD, optimizing it for console play. The HUD is your basic series of Diablo-esque meters and bars taken right from its PC counterpart: a skill hotbar mapped to the respective buttons on the controller, an EXP bar that tracks your level-up progress, a resource pool that’s character-specific (Fury for Barbarians, Mana for Wizards, etc.), a nice potion button, and an active ability indicator that shows the passive bonuses given from specific skills like a Monk’s auras.

When it comes to menus, Blizzard has created a radial menu that’s navigable by the analog sticks on a PS3/Xbox 360 controller. The radial menu is optimized for a character’s Inventory, allowing for easy equipping and exploration of found items.

The menu is broken up into five different main parts that correspond with various in-game elements: Inventory, Skills, Party, Quests and Lore. These brackets can be navigated with the RB and LB buttons, and each area is manipulated and controlled with a combination of face buttons and analog button presses.

As far as in-game controls go, the game is streamlined to afford for complete and total combat control. While I personally played as a Barbarian with my adventure in Sanctuary, other characters will most likely feature the same sort of fluidity. Combat with melee characters was surprisingly well-defined and my Barb moved as he should, shredding poor demons in a spinning whirlwind and leaping onto ferocious baddies to extinguish their evil once and for all.

The console port will feature all five character classes that are included in the PC version–Barbarian, Wizard, Witch Doctor, Monk and Demon Hunter–and also contains all of the skills and skill runes available in the PC release. In many ways the console version is a straight port, although there are a few variations…

D3 Screen1© Blizzard Entertainment 2013

Extinguishing Evil: Combat & Randomized Dungeons

Combat was in total real-time, as it should be, and there were no instances of lag. It was very easy to just pick up and play, without any hefty character customization. You can still pick your gender and name, of course, but the general focus was anyone being able to pick it up and start playing.

The controls are very intuitive to the point where anyone can acclimate themselves easily. Combat was progressive–the farther you get the tougher the monsters are, and the better EXP and loot rewards. The console version will include Monster Power as well as D3’s Paragon system, giving bonuses to players who play on harder settings as well as get to greater levels, adding considerable replayability even after the completion of end-game content.

The Xbox 360 port featured that same thrilling demon-slaying action that the PC version does, however it has one extremely helpful addition: the ability to roll at any time. This rolling function allows gamers to dodge and have a back up plan when they get overrun by enemies–and this will happen quite often. Right off the bat, my Barbarian was surrounded completely by baddies, but a well-timed roll saw me out of the conundrum and allowed me to dodge some pretty harsh damage.

The full bestiary is included, along with the various monster affixes and suffixes: it’s possible to come across an incredibly tough monster with that perfect set of boss affixes that make them just about invincible. Along with the monsters, the game will feature all the same Acts and difficulties–Normal, Nightmare, Hell and Inferno.

Additionally the monsters in the game’s bestiary have been somewhat optimized for console play, balancing the game’s inherent challenge with a slew of additional monster changes to provide a fair playing field.

Derek Strickland
Derek is an avid fan of gaming and everything geeky, and is compelled to make his mark in the field of games journalism. When he's not gaming on a console (everything from SNES to X360) you can find him reading about ancient civilizations or enjoying a fantasy epic or two.

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