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The release of Diablo 3 for consoles was, to say the least unexpected; so much so that its announcement was actually a bit disappointing, as Blizzard’s appearance at an early Sony PlayStation 4 press conference seemed to hint an entirely new game. Predictably, porting one of the PC’s most beloved franchises to the console has caused a fair share of grumbling; diehard computer gamers have, as always, turned their noses up at the couch experience.
But does this mean the console port is really sub-par, or is it just gaming elitism? Can this relatively new game run smoothly on hardware nearly eight yeas old? And has this new version fixed any of the original’s complaints? The answers may surprise you.
Kill The Auction House
The auction house was one of Diablo 3’s most controversial features, and it remains a flash point for online arguments to this day. While some like playing the markets and dumping loot for gold, others hate the need to hop out of gameplay to obtain the best items. Blizzard has tried to resolve the latter group’s complaints, but change has been slow.
On console, however, there is no auction house. That means players can’t simply buy the items they need, which in turn means the loot drop rate has been drastically increased. On PC, players can go a week without seeing a decent drop; on console, one can be found every few hours at most.
Killing the auction house also increases the importance of crafting, an interesting feature PC gamers often overlooked in favor of auctioned goods. Since drops useless for the class you play can’t be sold to others, it makes sense to salvage them, providing a good supply of materials for crafting items.
Opinions may differ, but I find the auction-less Diablo experience far superior. The game feels more like the previous titles, which often saw gamers swimming in loot, and players don’t have to hoard gold to buy decent items. Which is great. Most gamers don’t play Diablo to feel like Scrooge McDuck.
No More Mandatory Internet Connection
Diablo 3’s other great controversy at launch was its mandatory Internet connection. Many gamers were stunned at this requirement, as the first two titles were known for great off-line and LAN play. The console version has, thankfully, restored these values.
While an Internet connection is required for online co-op, every other feature is available offline. You can play the entire campaign without ever connecting. The console even supports LAN play!
All of this goodness sounds like it might come at the cost of cloud saves, a feature Blizzard touted to help justify the PC version’s always-online design. While Battle.net is not supported (meaning you can’t import your PC character), console players can save characters to USB or to each console’s respective cloud storage.
The first two points are obviously favorable to the consoles. PC gamers have been asking since release for offline play and better loot drops, and that’s exactly what the console versions have been given. But is the game as much fun to play?
The answer, surprisingly, is yes. Blizzard deserves props for the quality of its port, as control issues are few and the mapping of skills, which sees them bound to the trigger and face buttons, may even be superior to the keyboard. A new dodge mechanic has been added, as well, though it’s more of a nicety rather than a game-changing feature.
Just one problem exists on the console; targeting. The mouse is very precise, and picking out a single foe from Diablo 3’s hoards of monsters requires that precision. On the console, however, directional auto-targeting replaces the cursor. Some gamers, particularly those playing on Hell or Inferno, will find this system frustrating because there’s no way to absolutely guarantee a specific monster will be targeted. This changes the entire metagame, reducing the effectiveness of builds that require precision in favor of those that fling area-of-effect or cone-of-effect attacks. Whether this will change the best end-game builds remains to be seen.
The interface has been heavily revised, too. The Tetris-like inventory grid of the PC version has been replaced by a wheel system which provides access to lists of items and skills that fit in each respective slot. Bumper buttons allow scrolling between inventory, skills, and stats while face buttons allow for selection and comparison. Managing large numbers of items is more cumbersome on the console version, but the interface effectively translates the PC experience without discarding any features.
Still A Looker
Diablo 3 for PC is hardly the most demanding game on the market, but the consoles are now eight years old. Can such hardware handle the graphics of a PC game released a year ago? For the most part, the answer is yes.
As shown by Digital Foundry, the graphics quality is essentially equivalent to the PC version on high. Some barely noticeable lighting elements have been removed, and the game plays are a resolution of 1120×584 (upscaled to 720p or 1080p, of course), but otherwise there are no compromises. Shadow detail, physics, particle effects, and textures are equal to the best of the PC version.
With that said, however, the console version does look a bit different. This is because the console game’s field-of-view is closer to the virtual ground and more dramatically angled. Some objects look larger, terrain obscures detail more often, and enemies approaching from the bottom of the screen appear with much less warning than those that approach from above.
The console version of Diablo 3 is good. Very good. So good that some PC gamers have shouted their discontent over the features they’ve been begging for, but only the consoles have received.
Is it so good you should buy it again? Maybe. Players who’ve wanted local co-op or LAN play should absolutely jump on this new version, as these features almost certainly won’t make their way to the PC. Other improvements, like better loot drops, will likely be patched in between now and the release of Diablo 3’s first expansion.
If you’ve held off on the game because of its early bad press, however, this is the version you should buy. Better loot drops, couch co-op, LAN play, no online requirement, and all the added features patched in since D3’s original release make the console version the definitive version.
Image Credit: Gamebreaker.tv