Attack of the Fanboy

Diablo III Console Review

by William Schwartz

As someone that’s put nearly 200 hours into the PC version of Diablo III, I have a natural inclination to despise the console release of Blizzard’s 2012 loot-grinding dungeon crawler. For starters, current-gen hardware can’t replicate the visuals found on PC — the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 just aren’t powerful enough. Sure, all of the core features are here in the console release, but there have been considerable sacrifices made to get this game playable on 8 year-old hardware. Noticeable in the game’s resolution and finer graphical details, it’s not quite the visually stunning title that Blizzard released on PC last year. Alongside dumbing the game down in the visual department, Blizzard needed to overhaul the user interface and control scheme to make it work on consoles.

Though as a fan of Diablo III, I also understand that not everyone will play it on PC. And if it never came to consoles, these players would never get a chance to have a go at stopping Diablo’s reign of terror. For what’s it’s worth, Blizzard has put a lot of care into getting Diablo III on consoles to rival the PC version. It’s just not quite the “PC Killer” that some claimed it might be. It’s obviously a technically inferior product that’s a really exceptional experience if you can forget all about its big brother. Which by the way is in the best shape it’s been in, having been patched incessantly by Blizzard over the last year.

For those that haven’t tackled the game on PC, Diablo III is a class-based isometric dungeon crawling action-RPG that has you fighting through heaven and earth to stop the main baddie, Diablo. It’s a game that’s focused on gameplay, but doesn’t scrimp on presentation and atmosphere either. It’s hurried along by some pretty impressive cutscenes, but they are few and far between when compared to games like StarCraft II. But back to the meat and potatoes of Diablo III, the gameplay. Diablo III is broken into four acts, and in each act a major boss governs the world. Diablo III is a fairly linear trip to that boss battle in each act. You’ll be asked to reach an objective on your map where getting there is half the fun. Sometimes you’ll need to scour entire maps and fight hordes of enemies to uncover the correct path to your target location. Sometimes you’ll waltz right in. It doesn’t help that these maps are randomly generated to an extent. Though throughout, there are three classes of enemies you’ll encounter — your standard issue enemies, blue Champion Mobs, and golden Rare Monsters. The standard enemies are usually themed with the locale. You’ll find zombies in the cemetery, you’ll fight demons at the gates of heaven, and burrowing lizards in the desolate sands of the desert. The Champions and Rare Monsters are variations of these standard enemies that are denoted by their glowing exteriror. They will put up a much harder fight, and they’ll usually have buffs of some sort. These fights can be harrowing, but they’ll also reward you more handsomely. Your reward is gold, XP, and loot…oh sweet loot.

It’s worth noting that there’s a pretty big drop off in the amount of loot in Diablo 3 on consoles. There’s a lot less micromanagement of your inventory, and a lot less trips back to merchants to sell your finds. Player characters are completely customizable with the loot that you collect on your journey when vanquishing foes, buying from vendors, or crafting at the blacksmith. The more aptly you customize your character, the better you’ll fare in battle. Items have numerous stat buffs, magical powers, and range from the common to legendary. D3 on consoles is much more streamlined than its PC counterpart, and depending on how much you like the micromanagement of your inventory, you could even say that its dumbed down. Starting out, XP will also begin to unlock your class specific abilities, though you should have these unlocked by the time you face Diablo for the first time. Depending on which character you choose, the way you play Diablo III can range widely. You can build tank like characters that take lots of damage. Or you can go the opposite and build a glass cannon that can take no damage, but deal heavily. There’s a Demon Hunter, Barbarian, Witch Doctor, Monk, and Wizard. Each class can be played from either a male or female perspective, and each has its own distinct strengths and weaknesses. These strengths and weakness can be accentuated by your gear, and the higher levels reward you with better stuff. Ratcheting up the difficulty will bring more valuable rewards as well, so there’s still a heck of a lot of replay value on the console version.

The premise is pretty simple for Diablo. The hook is the grind. It doesn’t tell the most fascinating story every told in games, and it’s not delivering bombastic action around every corner. It’s a game that sinks its teeth in with the deep customization and chance for loot in every battle. Or at least it has been, traditionally. Diablo III on consoles is still very much a grind, it retains a lot of the same appeal that the PC version has, it just feels somewhat hobbled in a lot of areas when compared to its PC release. For those that have never played the game on PC, you won’t notice the tiny details and drowned out color palette on consoles. It looks fine enough for that player, but its certainly not going to make PC players jump ship in the near future. That is, unless they want to get in on the local co-op options. Which is a throwback option for those looking to really crowd their televisions with action. There’s almost too much action on the screen at one time when playing locally with friends, and while it’s a novel idea, it’s one that technology has made obsolete in the last decade.

Blizzard reworked the control scheme for Diablo 3 on consoles. It was probably no easy feat. Diablo III on PC is not an easy game on its hardest skill levels, and it’s not an overly complex game from a control standpoint. Pointing and clicking is the primary mechanic for movement on PC, and it gives a really accurate way to navigate the map. On consoles, the controller is just not as accurate. And to make up for this, Blizzard introduced a rolling mechanic. I’m guessing the jury’s still out on the rolling mechanic, but for me, I didn’t like it one bit. For starters, it’s merely used to dodge projectiles. If an enemy begins his animation to attack you by melee, you’re getting hit, regardless of how well and how far you’ve managed to roll out of the way. This mechanic does make the console version feel fast and on par with the PC version, and by no means does it make the game any easier.   Worse yet is the auto targeting, with the controller, it’s absolutely mandatory to have the game able to lock onto the correct target.  The targeting in this version is frustrating and downright broken in spots.  With all of the handicapping done to Diablo III on consoles, it probably would have been beneficial to add a healthy dose of aim assist to remedy this.  Diablo III on consoles is just as taxing as it is on PC, and its got all the same difficulty levels and even a “Hardcore Mode” — which has you trying to make it through the game without dying one time.

With Diablo III’s primary draw being the continual grind for better loot, giving players less opportunity to find said loot is a bit of a let down. Blizzard also introduces loot rewarded for completing quests, and in our time with the game, it seemed like these were the best pieces that I added to my arsenal. Instead of grinding through Champion Mobs again and again, it seemed like the better alternative was to just keep pressing forward. The game’s just not quite as grindy as it is on PC, and that could be a good or a bad thing depending on what types of games you enjoy. I personally like the loot grind and micromanagement of D3. Looking for that perfect piece of loot that had the sockets and buffs that would better my build was a really fun part of the PC version. Turning to the auction house when I had no luck was also an option that I enjoyed. Unfortunately, this controversial feature is also not in the game. Diablo 3 on consoles definitely gives you some of that feeling, again, it’s just feels watered down.

Diablo III on consoles is a great game, that is, if you don’t have a PC that can run it. It’s definitely got all the trappings that it launched with on PC, and will keep you busy for hours on end if you fall into the black hole of the higher difficulty levels and hardcore modes. If you haven’t played it on PC, I recommend you pick it up. Unfortunately, I have, and there’s no reason whatsoever to play the console version over the PC version.


Diablo III

  • Available On: Xbox 360, PS3
  • Published By: Blizzard
  • Developed By: Blizzard
  • Genre: Dungeon Crawler
  • US Release Date: September 3rd, 2013
  • Reviewed On: Xbox 360
  • Quote: "Diablo III on consoles is a great game, that is, if you don’t have a PC that can run it. It’s definitely got all the trappings that it launched with on PC, and will keep you busy for hours on end if you fall into the black hole of the higher difficulty levels and hardcore modes."
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