A few months back Blizzard announced that Diablo, an incredibly popular dungeon-crawling series will finally be heading to consoles. It was a time to celebrate that a fantastic series will be available to an even wider audience but at the same time we couldn’t help but be a little bit cautious about how a series that has been a PC gaming icon would transition to a controller but Blizzard nailed it.
The whole idea behind Diablo is pretty simple; you and your friends are trying to bring down Diablo, you know that super evil fella? Yeah, he’s been up to his old tricks again. You’ll be grinding away through destroyed villages to even heaven itself, killing everything in your way, earning that sweet experience and unlocking skills to become even more powerful. The very limited storytelling does unfortunately mean it’s extremely easy to completely miss what the hell is going on; you’re best to just keep following the quest marker and hoping for the best.
You get a choice between five different characters, each specialising in a particular skill set, so it’s down to you to decide which you enjoy the most. The Witch Doctor focuses on the dark arts like voodoo, allowing you to cast curses and summon the dead, the Barbarian is your typical brawler/warrior, the Demon Hunter plays like any old ranger with some fancy tricks up his sleeve like explosive shots, the Monk revolves around fighting with holy power on your side and finally the Wizard is fuelled by arcane power to cast powerful spells to melt your enemies.
If you’re unsure who to spend many hours with, just boot the game up with each character and play until level 5-10, around these levels you’ll unlock numerous spells which will give you a good idea how each class plays.
The main concern I had with the Xbox version of Diablo 3 was of course, how something that was designed to be played on a mouse and keyboard would play out on a controller and it was almost perfect. Fairly simple; left stick moves the character, right stick takes advantage of an incredibly handy roll/dodge move and every other button performs a spell of some kind. Each button is assigned to a specific type of spell, all of which is shown on-screen in the bottom corner which makes it a bit easier to remember which-does-what.
As you kill more enemies, complete quests and finish challenges, the game rewards you with experience which will eventually level your character up; every level unlocks something new for you to play with, making levelling up worth every minute. Each character has a vast range of spells and every spell has several different traits which can change a simple ball of pure energy into anything from a massive fireball causing huge explosive damage to splitting into several smaller balls that pierce through everything in sight.
The downside to there being so many different actions possible at once is that you have to rely on the game guessing which enemy you want to attack by fiddling with the left stick (which also navigates your character). It does a great job of guessing who you want to attack but it still does get it wrong every now and then, especially when you’re trying to target a specific enemy – usually the enemy that is spawning everything around you.
You’ll notice straight away how gorgeous the game is, all the levels are beautifully detailed and every enemy is kitted out head to toe but it seems that the current generations of consoles can’t quite handle the dungeon crawler as you’ll experience numerous frame rate drops as the game chugs along trying to load everything that is going on-screen and it is definitely more notable in the four player local co-op.
Don’t let that take anything away from just how bloody addictive the multiplayer is though. We very rarely see games coming with local co-op these days, let alone four player (both online and offline). This feature is something that games this generation have been missing and if you’re looking for something to play with friends at home that’ll entertain you for hundreds of hours, this is it.
Even if you don’t have any friends, Blizzard has your back as you can recruit AI companions, who will help you tackle the waves of enemies. These followers can even be customised with gear you pick up and you can tweak the spells that you want them to use, tailoring them to your play style.
Once you’ve finished the story, it doesn’t end there. As you’ll slowly but surely unlock harder game modes, which turn this game into a completely different beast; the hell and inferno modes are something that nightmares are made of. At least you’re rewarded with enormous experience and the oh-so precious legendary items if you’re lucky enough to battle your way through the world.
Okay, we’re finally getting to the most entertaining part of Diablo… d’at loot. I enjoy slaughtering undead-beings as much as the next guy but when they’re dropping piles of goodies for me to hunt through, it makes it that little bit sweater. Similar to other RPG-ish item systems; everything is coloured coded giving you an indication of how rare the item is, as well as a list of stats. You’ll collect anything and everything just in case, thankfully you can easily sell it on to one of the many vendors scattered around the world.
The console adaption of Diablo 3 even has a few of its own handy little features such as completely reworked menus that revolve around radial menus, making picking and choosing generic things fairly easy, switching over to a more in-depth list menu like you’re used to afterwards. That’s not all though, to make it more console friendly, making it more action packed such as auto-equipping the best gear when you pick it up, reducing the amount of time you need to spend in menus (unless you really want too, that is). It does however bug me that they did remove the auction house from the game as it added another layer of entertainment; buying and selling gear.
I was sceptical about a game like Diablo coming to a console but Blizzard absolutely nailed it. The new interface is perfect, controls are simple to use without impacting the gameplay and the four player co-op makes it a game that cannot be missed if you’re looking for something to play with friends.