Why Diablo 3 is better on consoles

DIablo-3-Xbox-360-2

Calamity
Legendary Hand Crossbow

410.5 Damage Per Secod
72-410 Damage
1.76 Attacks per Second
+285 Minimum Damage
+291 Maximum Damge
+46% Damage
Increases Attack Speed by 11%
Critical Hit Damage Increased by 82%
Increases Hatred Regeneration by 1.27 per Second (Demon Hunter Only)

45% chance to target enemies with Marked for Death when you hit them.
Empty Socket.

Almost everything you need to know about Diablo 3 is hidden in that weapon stats sheet. If you are a longtime RPG player, those numbers will mean much more than percentage increases and incremental boosts. Reading that Calamity will increase Critical Hit Damage by 82% will either fill you with giddy glee or mild indifference. An empty socket will either make you wonder about the possibilities of customization or wonder when COD: Ghosts is out.

Not to say that Diablo 3 is the sole preserve of the hardcore. Crucially, in its transition to console, Diablo 3 manages to preserve the statistics optimizing of the PC endgame with an approachable and, more to the point, overwhelmingly fun offering.

Diablo 3 is, in many ways, the archetypal loot-em-up boiled down to its barest bones and crucially, made more engaging. For a game built on numbers, much of the meat of Diablo 3’s gameplay is frenzied and exhilarating. The same is true of Diablo’s PC version. Admittedly, upon hearing of the games console port I was wholly unfazed and was certain that Blizzard would turn in a sub-par version of the game, full of compromises that would allow it to run on consoles. It was something of a pleasant surprise when I found that not only is Diablo 3’s console port a great experience, it is in fact better than the PC original. The sound of a thousand internet fanboys screaming at their webcams aside, why is Diablo 3 better on soon to be last generation console hardware?

diablo-3-2I purchased Diablo 3 at launch on the PC. If I were to have allocated the hours I spent exploring Sanctuary on my laptop elsewhere then I might now speak Japanese or have an online degree is business marketing. Diablo 3 is the kind of title that swallows you whole.

I finished the game on Inferno before it was nerfed. Way before there were ‘Paragon levels’ and adjustable difficulty, I faced a Butcher who could inflict near 20K damage a hit. Elite mobs with Invulnerable Minions, Horde, Reflect Damage and Vortex.

You could pick out other players of Diablo when you passed them in the street. Like Edward Norton in Fight Club, you could tell another member of your private club by their appearance and mannerisms. Red eyes, twitchy mouse fingers and a propensity to ask your DPS instead of your name meant that, yes, they play Diablo. Not to say I didn’t have problems with the PC version, but damn, I played a whole lot of it.

Much of the launch week was spent staring at, an admittedly pretty, start screen only to be greeted with Error 37 after Error 37. Blizzard’s enviable amount of experience in massive server loads and associated issues promised that Diablo 3 would have a solid launch – this was not the case.

Whilst not much more than a mild annoyance for me, considering I spent the majority of my time playing online with friends, but for some, the always online requirement was another notable fly in the ointment. Blizzard’s insistence that the measure was imperative for its online auction house and to prevent cheating did not stop grumbling. That said, for me, complaining that always online DRM meant that you couldn’t play the game on the train was like complaining that you couldn’t masturbate in public.

Diablo-3-Auction-House-bidsThe other issue with Diablo 3 was its most far reaching. The online auction house. Whilst Diablo 3‘s early game does not necessitate its use, the auction house became an essential part of the titles later stages – for all the wrong reasons.

When describing Diablo 3 as a loot-em-up, the general understanding is this – play is structured around the collection of equipable items or gear which increase character potency by means of statistic or ability boosts.

The system is an endless repeating heroes journey re-imagined for a digital generation which is built on speedy gratification. An epic, difficult struggle for an item of great power distilled into minutes or hours of gameplay. Arthurian legend retooled so that the player finds a newer, better Excalibur after every boss fight.

In Diablo 2, Neverwinter Nights or the genre-bending Borderlands, the best loot comes with a story. Getting a second life on a stray tentacle with the rest of your team dead when fighting Terramorphous in order to come back and win the fight. Grinding Mephisto for hours until a Stone of Jordan finally dropped.

The biggest problem with Diablo 3 on PC was this – the likelihood of good equipment dropping from enemies was minimal. Frustratingly so. That said, with the online auction house, players wouldn’t have to worry about the loot drops as they could browse the auction house and purchase the necessary equipment for real or in-game currency.

The problem was not that players could use the online auction house but that, in the later game, they had to. The game’s loot system was geared to dropping vast quantities of unusable items and directing players to an auction house once they found themselves outmatched.

diablo-3-elemental-damage-shcaefers-hammerThis system felt like the antithesis of that modern heroes journey that is the loot-em-up. Why struggle over insurmountable odds for immense reward when you could merely click buttons on an auction house?

Once players reached Inferno, the equipment necessary for progress was nigh impossible to acquire. As such, the auction house prices for said equipment were astronomical. This meant that players grinded not for gear but for the money necessary to purchase that gear – Diablo 3‘s endgame became a loot-em-up without the loot.

Diablo 3 on consoles does not have any of the above problems. This fact alone might make the console version of the title an essential purchase? There is more – Diablo 3 feels like it were designed from the ground up with consoles in mind. Much as it may anger PC players, Diablo 3 on consoles feels like the way the game was meant to be played. All of the features recently introduced to the PC game including Paragon levels and adjustable difficulty are accounted for. Graphically comparable to high settings on PC, the console version of Diablo 3 has made no compromises.

Simply, Diablo 3 on consoles is the best version of the game. Here’s why.

diabloIII01A refined loot and gear acquisition system that does not rely on the auction house, mainly because there isn’t one. Blizzard’s removal of the auction necessitated a re-balancing of Diablo 3’s previous loot system and the result is a more rewarding and engaging experience which incentivizes both short and long periods of play.

Merchants now possess useful gear, ‘Legendary’ items drop at an alarming rate and loot runs consistently offer character upgrades in a way in which the PC version did not. Rather than finding your treasured items on the auction house, you find them after a tooth and nail encounter with a boss or elite mob. Most importantly, you now find these items during play, and not in an ebay-lite auction house.

Multiplayer. In an interview with Eurogamer, lead content designer on Diablo 3, Kevin Martens, stated “We developed this as a co-op game from day one […] We didn’t add co-op in. It’s not a value added feature. It is the ideal.” This attitude to co-op is most evident in Diablo 3‘s console version – multiplayer is accessible, easy to set-up and feels like the best way to play the game.

As evidenced in Blizzard’s recent advertising campaign, they are keen to get up to four players on the sofa playing the game. Diablo 3 allows every party set up you can imagine. Four player’s on one console. System Link. Online. Two players on one console who are then playing with other players online. Much to Blizzard’s credit, whilst other developers with much more console experience make a snafu of having multiple multiplayer set-ups running in unison, Diablo 3 is glorious in its usable simplicity. Everything just works.

D3-ConsoleHowever, there are some compromises. With more than one local player, only a single inventory and menu is viewable at one time. This means that with four players, allocating new skills and selling items can take an age.

Rather than split screen, all local players share a single screen. Whilst not often a problem, players might occasionally get stuck behind terrain at the edge of a screen or have conflicting ideas on where to go.

These problems are slight and certainly not game breaking – indeed, the issues become nigh invisible as unadulterated joy of four people playing Diablo in the same room becomes apparent. Shared loot drops make runs for equipment frenzied chases. The limited PVP introduced in the PC version as brawling is here and, in spite of a scoreboard or variation, is a fun way to settle loot disputes or test your build.

Ultimately, the accessibility of Diablo 3‘s console multiplayer makes it easier to play with friends and strangers alike and thus, allows the game to be played the way it was meant to with greater frequency.

Finally, Diablo 3 plays great with a controller. The arcadey nature of the games combat feels more at home on a 360 pad – mashing buttons rather than clicking keys makes chaining skills into combos feel more like a beat-em-up or old school Gauntlet. Coupled with that already frenzied, enemies-filling-the-screen combat that Diablo is known for, playing with a pad makes the game more satisfying.

The inclusion of an evasive roll on the right thumbstick adds another layer of control that simply wasn’t present in the PC version. That a single new feature drastically changes the ebb and flow of play on Hardcore or Inferno modes respectively is testament to Blizzard’s commitment to the console version of Diablo.

With the recent announcement of Diablo 3‘s first expansion and the ever evolving nature of the PC title, it remains to be seen whether Blizzard will offer the console version of the title the same level of support.

Nonetheless, Diablo 3 on consoles is a confident, feature heavy and most importantly fun title that has much to offer for newcomers or veterans.

Having played over a 100 hours of its PC version, I initially worried as to whether the purchase of Diablo 3 on console was necessary. Having pushed a Hardcore character into Hell and spent many late nights plumbing the depths of Sanctuary with friends, that doubt was laid to rest. Whilst not an essential purchase for PC version veterans who would look to play solo, for newbies or those who plan to play co-op, Diablo 3 is a compelling action RPG that has achieved true greatness over a year after it’s original release.

 Verdict template-01

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