A Return To Sanctuary, But This Time On PS3
One of my major concerns heading into PAX East was that the end of the world might be drawing near. In order to test out this theory, I made sure the Blizzard booth was my first stop during media hour. I anxiously awaited an earthquake to rip through the convention center, a tornado to blow us all away, or a fire to burn the thousands of con-goers alive. I picked up a PS3 controller and started to play Diablo III on a console. None of my fears came true; the world didn’t end, and I made it back to tell the tale.
The announcement of a console edition of Diablo III was expected, as Blizzard has been showing interest in the idea for quite some time. I, too, was interested in the idea. How would a PC franchise transition to consoles? Sure, people are arguing that the “simplicity” of Diablo III made the process a lot easier, but that doesn’t necessarily affect how the game controls. Is it weird using a console controller to play Diablo III? Actually, not at all. It feels incredibly comfortable and smooth, playing like a traditional button masher/action RPG. There are even options for quick equip, you’ll directly control your character instead of clicking to move, and there’s a dodge button.
The game feels far more accessible than the PC version, probably because it feels more natural to directly control your character and mash on some buttons instead of clicking your mouse thousands of times an hour. In addition, it’s also far more comfortable to hold a controller and relax on the couch instead of sitting at a desk. In fact, this is one of the factors Blizzard is banking on to help make Diablo III’s console release successful.
Still, there are a couple of things that have me hesitating about picking up the console version. First and foremost, I have a pretty powerful PC, so it’s capable of running almost everything I throw at it. (Note: I said “almost.” I’m looking at you, Crysis 3 on ultra. You win this round). At PAX, the demo took place during Act III, which was a visually impressive act on the PC. Sadly, I didn’t get that impression at all during the demo. I remember hoards of enemies on the screen, my friend’s laptop being unable to handle the visuals; the PS3 doesn’t even try to render everything. It reminds me of the PS2 port of Resident Evil 4: It’s there in spirit, but the heart and soul are missing.
But people who didn’t play the PC version won’t necessarily miss this. People who didn’t play the PC version are also probably wondering how cumbersome the process of equipping items and setting up skills is. Trust me when I say that it won’t be an issue. It’s an incredibly easy and familiar system for console gamers, which is nice to know, as it was one of my chief concerns. Again, it feels a lot like a traditional button masher/action RPG.
That’s twice I’ve said that phrase now: “traditional button masher/action RPG.” I’m honestly a bit worried that Diablo III’s console port will feel like nothing more than just that. How dare I ever call Diablo such a thing, right? But this doesn’t play like PC Diablo. There are less enemies and less loot, and the story doesn’t do enough to help the game stand out on its own. I’m going to miss running through countless enemies with three different special abilities on my monk with friends over Battle.net.
But there’s one trump card for the console version that Blizzard has ready to deploy: It’s playable offline. That alone might be enough for it sell millions upon millions of copies.
There’s plenty of reason for both optimism and pessimism for Diablo III’s console adventure. It plays really well, it doesn’t require an Internet connection, and it supports local co-op. But decreased enemies, loot, and visuals do scare me off a bit.
Then again, we merely saw the PS3 version. We don’t know what it looks like on PS4, so all of these worries might be thrown out the door when the game lands on Sony’s upcoming console. Plus, this is Blizzard. They deserve the benefit of the doubt. They were able to show that Diablo III can work on a console. Now let’s see if they can deliver a superior product.