Porting any game from the PC to a console is a one of the enduring challenges of the video game industry. However, when a series like “Diablo,” which is so tied to PC gaming culture, makes the jump from mouse and keyboard to the controller it’s is an even bigger task. “Diablo III,” the latest incarnation in the franchise that helped to define dungeon crawlers, is making its first appearances on consoles, by gracing the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (and eventually the PlayStation 4). In the past, “Diablo” has been less than successful at making an easy transition to consoles (the last attempt was 1998’s so-so PlayStation port), so its reasonable that fans of the series may be weary of Blizzard’s latest attempt. However, it seems like the team that worked the “Diablo III” port learned from the mistakes of others, and created a really enjoyable, controller-based version of the game.
Fundamentally, the console version of “Diablo III” is the same as the PC release; it includes the same classic gameplay, story, and options. You need to save Sanctuary, or else it will fall to the foretold evils while looting dungeons in an isometric view playing as a Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Witch Doctor, or Wizard. The core game remains constant in the console version, while everything else helps sets it apart from its PC counterpart.
With over a year to listen to community feedback and address gripes, the developers at Blizzard heeded much of fans concerns and incorporated them into this updated release. Gone is online auction house, as well as the requirement to be online at all times – the latter of which was one of the main complaints of PC owners. They also fixed the loot system, so you get better loot, and it’s a lot easier to manage. They’ve even included a shortcut that allows you to equip recently acquired gear on the fly, from the battlefield, so there’s no longer a need to take a break when someone in your party wants to customize their equipment.
Outside of the game tweaks, the controls are clearly something that had to be addressed to make “Diablo III” even playable on consoles. A lot has changed since the last time that “Diablo” appeared on consoles, and games like “X-Men Legends,” “Marvel Ultimate Alliance,” and “Crimson Alliance” have helped to refine how to play this type of experience with a controller. The team at Blizzard clearly took notice, making the controls feel seamless, with a minimal adjustment period. The rate at which the characters level up clearly factors into this as well, since most of the skill slots are unlocked slowly, players can grow into their control scheme. PC “Diablo” fans that are used to a mouse and keyboard set up may not enjoy the new controls, but gamers that prefer consoles will feel right at home.
One of the biggest features that has helped to define “Diablo” as a series has always been its co-op gameplay, but the PC version of “III” made that a bit more challenging. The console release sidesteps many of the issues that the PC release presented in regards to multiplayer by creating a more couch-friendly version of the game. This release allows for up to four players to join in on the same quest, on the same screen, making it significantly easier to crawl through some dungeons with your friends who are in the same room. The only drawback here is that now it’s a whole lot easier to share the loot, which is to say, it’s best if you play nice with others.
PC gamers and console gamers are a decidedly different crowd, and they don’t always see eye to eye on things. The mouse and keyboard crew typically have a much different segment of games to choose from, and, up until recently, they rightfully “owned” “Diablo.” However, this console update for “Diablo III” makes the game not only accessible, but also more enjoyable for gamers that are more comfortable with a controller in their hand; especially the ones that like to share a couch with their fellow adventurers. Blizzard did a great thing here and listened to the community while working within the restrictions of the consoles to create an entertaining experience, opening up the door for some potential fans that might have missed the original release of “Diablo III.”
Score: 9 out of 10