Despite being one of the most anticipated PC games of all time, Diablo III divided much of its fan-base when it released last year. Be it the controversial additions of always-online DRM and the auction house, or the simplification of many gameplay elements that players loved in previous games, many had mixed opinions over Blizzard's latest in their dungeon-crawling saga. Regardless, Diablo III was a fun, polished, and successful continuation of the series, and Blizzard has followed up on its success by bringing the demon-slaying and loot-dropping to PS3 and Xbox 360 owners. But how do the console versions stack up against the original?
The most immediate difference is the removal of the auction house and the always-online requirement present in the original PC version of the game. Diablo III’s original auction house, in which players could choose to spend in-game gold or real world money on better weapons and gear, was controversial and easily exploited, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of many. Blizzard has removed the auction house in the console version (and is due to remove it from the PC version eventually as well), rectifying what was quite possibly the biggest complaint against the game. The removal of always-on DRM, meanwhile, allows Diablo III to be played offline, meaning players are no longer beholden to the whims of their internet connections or Blizzard’s Battle.net servers. This change alone makes recommending the console version of Diablo III over the PC version an easy choice.
The next most apparent change is the way you control your avatar, directly controlling your character with the gamepad’s joysticks instead of clicking every time you want to move, attack, or pick up loot. As someone who felt tedium from the constant clicking of the PC version, assuming direct control of the player character makes the game’s many battles feel more visceral and engaging. With movement, attacking, and dodging freed up from the confines of a single click, positioning is much easier to take into consideration when taking on hordes of enemies, and makes for a more tactical and fun experience.
Aside from these major changes, at its core Diablo III is still very much the same game as it was when it released a year ago, for better or for worse. You still play as one of five character classes - Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Witch Doctor, or Wizard - and battle monsters across four acts to stop the insurrection of Diablo’s forces. Each class feels completely distinct and unique from each other, almost to the point where playing as each class feels like playing another game entirely. Many have expressed issue with the fact that all of the abilities for each class become available as each character levels up (as opposed to a more traditional skill-tree branching), but I appreciate the ability to completely change the tactics of my characters without having to start a whole class over.
As noted in our review of the game last year, Acts I and II both start the game off strong. However, the varied and open levels of the game’s first half quickly devolve into linearity and monotony. A major complaint levied against the original release of Diablo III was the seeming lack of randomization in the level design, making repeated playthroughs - a staple of the series - feel more like a chore. That said, it’s worth noting that with the removal of the auction house, drop rates for rare and legendary items have seemingly increased, which helps to lessen some of the tedium the PC release often fell into. Now that Blizzard has announced they will be removing the auction house from the PC version next year, perhaps these updated drop rates will carry over to that version as well.
Time and time again Blizzard has proved the ability to create stunning and memorable iconography, and Diablo III remains yet another example of this. Character and creature designs, the setting, and the lore are all exceptionally well-realized, and made me want to spend countless hours in the realm of Sanctuary besides the endless hunt for better loot. It’s a shame, then, for as creative and memorable the world of Diablo III is, that the story it tries to tell is one full of tropes and cliches lifted from better fantasy media. It could be argued that plot is not the reason why fans of the genre play this game, but as the last two acts devolve into linear levels and monotonous battles, a sense of urgency or drama would have gone to great lengths to alleviate boredom.
Playing online is a different story entirely. Players will enter your world if you happen to be within their level range and playing the same mission as them, increasing the strength of the monsters around you as well as increasing the chances of finding better loot. As in both Diablo II and Diablo III, the hectic battles and sense of camaraderie forged in online battles makes playing online the best way to play Diablo.
Diablo III is a definite improvement over last year’s PC release, and any complaints to be made are simply holdovers from the original version. Regardless of how you feel about the quality of Diablo III’s original release, it can’t be denied that this port is a step in the right direction. It’s still not the masterpiece that Diablo II was, but Diablo III remains an exemplary addition to the genre.
This review is based on a retail copy of Diablo III for the PS3, provided by the publisher.