Blizzard made players wait 12 long years after Diablo II before finally unleashing Diablo III onto PC and Mac back in May 2012. The game was worth the wait but console gamers have had to wait a further 16 months before they could play. We’ve been spending some time with the Xbox 360 version but the game is also available on PS3 and it has also been announced as a 2014 release for PS4.
When the gates of hell opened once more even Blizzard couldn’t anticipate just how desperate gamers were to get their hands on Diablo III. The game smashed all day one records for PC games with over 4.7 million gamers trying to play on the first day. The release also managed to upset a lot of gamers by requiring an Internet connection so the game could authenticate with Battle.net in order to play.
The console release is essentially the same game as the current PC version as Blizzard have even included all the updates that have been released since launch. However there are some differences too. The majority of these are designed to make the game playable with a gamepad instead of a mouse and keyboard. Blizzard have thrown out the Internet connection requirement and have removed their controvertial real-world money auction house too.
Diablo III is set in the world of Sanctuary and your adventure begins in the town of Tristram which was the setting for the first game. Like Diablo II the story is split into four acts and there are some incredible cut-scenes to watch throughout. It’s been 20 years since the events of Diablo II and fan-favourite Deckard Cain has been investigating ancient texts at the Cathedral. An unknown object falls from the sky which strikes the Cathedral leaving a deep crater and Cain goes missing.
You play as a hero who goes to Tristram to investigate this ‘fallen star’ and once there you team up with Cain’s niece Leah. There are five classes to play – Barbarian, Wizard, Monk, Demon Hunter and Witch Doctor. Having been big fans of the PC release it was an easy decision which class to play first. We went for our favourite, the Barbarian, a melee damage-dealing tank class that is absolutely brutal and feels incredibly powerful. It’s so satisfying to leap into a massive group of mobs and cut them to ribbons.
It doesn’t really matter what class you choose as they are all incredibly fun to play and you’ll likely play them all eventually. The Wizard is obviously the damage dealing caster class. The Monk is a melee kung-fu fighting healer. The Demon Hunter is a ranged marksman specialist similar to a Hunter in World of Warcraft and the Witch Doctor is just completely mental throwing spiders and summoning swarms of fire bats or packs of zombie dogs. New for the console version is that the right stick can be used to dodge-roll out of the way of attacks. This is a brilliant addition to the gameplay and can really help you out of a tight spot.
When you first play Diablo III your only choice is the Normal difficulty level. Completing the game unlocks Nightmare and subsequent play-throughs also give you Hell and the seemingly impossible Inferno. Your first playthrough on Normal is likely to bring you close to level 30. The level cap sits at level 60 and the game is designed for multiple playthroughs so once complete you’ll want to up the difficulty and keep playing. The option to increase the difficulty of the monsters and their numbers has also made its way across from the PC version.
Once you reach level 10 you also unlock Hardcore which lets you play the game with a single life. You might die after 5 minutes at level 2 or 1000 hours at level 60. With Hardcore there are no second chances. Once you die then you’re dead permanently as there’s no resurrecting and all your hard work, loot and gold are gone forever.
This might sound terribly harsh or a waste of time but we absolutely love playing Hardcore and find it equally rewarding and terrifying. Playing a Hardcore character is intense. Knowing that a single death will end your character forces you to constantly watch your health and also to really think about the armour and equipment you use. In Hardcore you’ll be more choosy about gear as you look to craft a character that can survive.
Specific abilities become available for your class as set levels and stats are assigned automatically which lets you get on with playing. You can set a primary and secondary ability along with four skills to the face buttons and triggers. Using the Barbarian as an example, swapping these skills around means you can easily play as a single target melee damage dealer, a multiple target damage dealer or even make him capable of pulling targets in from range. This flexibility is the same for all classes making it easy to change your play style almost on the fly or to fit in better as part of a team in multiplayer.
Playing solo is a great experience but the console version has been designed with co-op in mind for up to four players. Co-op can be played online via Xbox LIVE or PSN. If you opt to play locally you can play via a LAN using System Link. Finally the game also supports the option for four players to play on the same console while sat around a single screen.
The game is definitely most fun with friends but when playing on a single console you do have to wait each time someone accesses the menus. To try and combat this Blizzard have added the ability to equip loot on the fly without needing to access the menus. Instead you get small icons appear to show you what areas an item differs to what you have equipped.
Fans of Diablo will know that the majority of your time is spent moving, attacking and collecting sweet loot. Attacking and killing each enemy is incredibly satisfying and very addictive. The sound effects deserve a special mention as you can actually feel every single blow. The loot system has been tweaked for console to provide less loot but more relevant upgrades for your character. This reduces the amoumt of time needed to sort through your gear. Also for console all items now fill just a single slot and there is a new interface designed for speed that works better for consoles.
Loot and dungeons are randomised so every area has plenty of replayability. Each time you visit things will be in different places and there’s always a chance of better more powerful loot to drop. The loot in particular has always been the thing that has kept people playing and the loot in Diablo III gives you even more reasons to play.
Diablo III is a marvellous game and Blizzard have made it a tough decision for us to pick a winner between console and PC. The game has endless replayability, plenty of challenge, incredible co-op and it is simply one of the most polished and addictive games we’ve ever played. One thing we can say is that it doesn’t matter if you’re a hardcore Diablo PC fan or a newcomer to the series, if you own a console then Diablo III is absolutely essential.