The console version of Diablo III isn’t nearly as pretty as its PC counterpart. It hangs up sometimes when you use some of the more complicated skills. Inventory management is a bit clumsy, and some of controls are weird.
Yet, after a few hours with it, I have no interest in revisiting the PC version ever again.
Blizzard made some interesting choices when developing this new version of Diablo III. There were plenty of games within the genre on consoles that work well and could have easily been copied, but the end product here is more personal. Most of the buttons on the controller are predictably for skills, but players have two options for mapping. The default is that each button has its own locked-in skill set, categorizing primary, secondary and defensive abilities. However, there’s an option to map any skill to any button.
Having that as a non-default option is a good idea, because the players that are going to want that are likely the ones who will fiddle around with the options anyway. The more casual players, wanting options without too much micromanagement, will appreciate the default. Movement using the analog stick feels natural, and it really is nice to have moving and attacking separated from each other, no matter how much precision a mouse allegedly affords.
Two new additions take up the left trigger and right analog stick: target lock and evade. Both of these are good ideas for console play, but their execution is off, as if these new features were thrown in as an aside rather than something intended to change things up in a big, meaningful way. Target lock is meant to override the auto-locking, which simply targets the closest enemy you’re facing. It’s useful for sticking onto a boss or specific mob in a group (groups get pretty big and chaotic), but the problem is getting to that enemy in the first place, since there is no easy way to pick a target. Using the function to manually cycle through targets as well as locking would have made more sense.
Evade is a multi-directional roll move that feels smooth enough and ostensibly adds more defensive mobility, but… it really doesn’t. I’m not sure which, enemy or player, but somebody has enormous hit boxes. I’ve rolled out of the way of something well before it hit me, only to take damage regardless. After a few tries, it didn’t seem more useful than just running away, and is made irrelevant anyway once you get an evasive skill. It does break barrels and doors for some reason, which can be funny, but that’s it.
The reason to own this version is, of course, the multiplayer. Some aspects of it are a bit strange, but being able to play a game so clearly built for multiplayer offline, with friends in the same room, is exhilarating. It’s exciting enough to refuel interest in the genre as a whole. Progress is tied to the first player’s character, so dropping in and out is easily facilitated. You can even take friends online with you if you want a full group. If you want your guests to be able to save, however, they have to make user accounts on your console, which makes things a bit awkward if you weren’t already prepared (especially on the PS3).
Loot can be messy of course. A fast-equip option tells you if what you picked up will increase or decrease stats without stopping for the main menu, but it won’t tell give you magic information. It’s also pretty easy for one character to grab everything in the middle of a fight. My group elected to not worry about loot and swapping equipment until the end of a dungeon or section, so while not a mechanical part of the game itself, teamwork does play a large factor in the experience.
As I mentioned, this version of Diablo III can be played offline. If having to maintain an Internet connection interfered with your enjoyment of the game before, you’ll be happy to know that it, along with the auction house, are gone without a trace. Outside of the occasional hang-up when, say, teleporting or something, lag is never an issue and you can freely pause the game.
It isn’t completely ideal, but this is much closer to being the game I wanted when Diablo III came out the first time. I can play with my friends and family without hassle, use a controller with ease (and options!) and not bother with signing up for a Battle.net account to do it all.
Pros: Local co-op, offline play, accessible controls
Cons: Lesser tech, lock-on/evade mostly useless, loot management still problematic