Fifteen long years have passed since the Dark Lord descended upon us lowly console peasants. Promising deadly monsters, fiendish traps and an obscene amount of loot, so why did it take so long for his re-emergence? Many pretenders to the crown have come and gone but Diablo still reigns supreme, so are we all ready for his hellish return? Many fans of the PC version, which released in 2012, had no clear idea how a console version could work. Much of the combat could only be replicated on a PC, especially the combat speed and ability to aim some of the core skills. Blizzard would have a tough time on their hands when it came to making a console focused Diablo game. Torchlight XBLA had already shown developers that a loot focused game could actually work on consoles, even so, Blizzard remained very reluctant to bring their loot-whoring champion to PS3 and 360’s players.
The game actually works really well on the console! Instead of the endless mouse clicking of the PC series, players now assume direct control of their character. Played from the eyes and weapons of 5 unique classes, you are free to roam the land, embarking on a grand quest to punish the overwhelming evil that has ruined the land of Sanctuary and at the same time hit things till they explode in a shower of gore and, maybe, some shiny trinkets to play with! Players choose from two melee focused characters, The Barbarian and Monk, and three ranged classes, Witch Doctor, Wizard and Demon Hunter. Skills are now assigned to face buttons, so the combat does feel more like a fighting game than the left mouse button clicking frenzy of the PC version. Skills and abilities are all unique to the class you play and are handed out like brutal candy as you level up through the swift destruction of hell-spawn, which is accompanied by satisfying squelches, groans and splat noises and maybe a sprinkling of rag-doll effects causing them to go flying off the screen. You also unlock Runes which further modify your class skills to have varying effects. You will find yourself playing with each skill and Rune combination that unlocks just so you can find what feels right. Some skills do require a certain amount of aiming, so the console version have a target highlight option, which picks out a target that is in front of you, plus you can also use a lock-on feature to keep yourself focused on one monster in a large pack. While not as quick as the PC version, you may actually find yourself really enjoying the combat feel and options of the console version.
For a game built around loot, the PC version messed up in the eyes of many Diablo fans. Part of the joy of Diablo is the progression of items you find. Humble and often pathetic grey items are nothing more than vendor trash. A blue item might have some minor abilities and stat boosts, which have more pronounced effects for classes that use that particular stat more than the others. Strength for Barbarians for example. Yellow items slowly start to increase in usefulness and power, slowly becoming the main focus. Then you have orange Legendary items. Instead of the anaemic supply and usefulness of the PC version, the console version of Diablo 3 has the Legendary Items in their correct place. You start to get them much earlier on and they are actually good for your class. When they drop, you have to identify them which does not require old-school Scrolls, its just a button press away. Then quip the item (if you can) and then embed it into the skull of the nearest squishy demon.
A staple of the Diablo series has been its difficulty options. Usual progression of Easy, Medium and Hard is found in most games of this type. Easy for those that have no idea what type of game Diablo is, Medium or Hard for people who know their way around. You finish the game on one difficulty, it unlocks the next one up, furnishing you with achievements and the option to start it all again with more challenge and chunkier loot. Inferno was the most brutal challenge available for the PC release, where now Blizzard have cranked the dial way past 11. Browse the difficulty options and you have the Master Settings. Loot and xp is increased, as is the killing power of the enemies. Where once the tutorial Zombies were a push-over, now they can kill you with 1 or 2 hits. Want even more of a face-pillaging? Mix Master setting with multiple players. Sadistic does not even begin to explain the choices you have.
The UI and Menu graphics in general feel a little rushed and overly simplistic, especially noticeable during the more hectic co-op sessions since it can be hard to see what is going on. The PC version was hardly the most cutting edge tech wise but the console version have taken a drop in graphics fidelity, which leads to some muddy textures and some noticeable aliasing. While the framerate is mostly consistent, there are a few minor drops here and there but nothing that should be of major concern. Also the loot and co-op focus of the overall package may turn off some players who were hoping for a more singleplayer focused adventure. Sure the story is there but it seems like a minor blip considering the games heavy loot collection focus.
Some slowdown is present during the more hectic battles but these are very infrequent since the console versions of D3 have had their monster pack density lowered a bit. Maybe this is a technical consideration or maybe because Blizzard think console gamers cannot quite handle it but it does not get in the way that much.
The game has a huge variety of difficulty options for gamers that really want to get into the meat of the Diablo series but some gamers will not enjoying repeating the same content over and over just to unlock the higher settings. Some may just finish it on the default difficulty and wonder what all the fuss is about.
So is Diablo 3 for the 360 or PS3 really worth picking up? There is more than enough content within Diablo 3 to keep gamers playing, if they have a group of like-minded friends and an overwhelming need to find shinier and prettier loot. The extra difficulty options will also appeal to players who want to keep playing well past the end credits, since that addictive draw translates very well from the PC version to the PS3 and 360 versions. The couch co-op option is also a bonus over the PC version, which just had the more traditional online option. Getting friends together and quickly getting into a game of Diablo 3 is one of the most entertaining console gaming experience you can have. For some gamers it could be a few hours and the game is done, for other it could literally be hundreds of hours and with still more to spend. Such is the addictive nature of Diablo, so for console gamers looking for their next loot-fix, look no further, Diablo has returned!