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I remember getting Diablo III on launch day last year via the World of Warcraft Annual Pass. I got together with all my friends for a night long gaming session only to be struck down by Error 39. This is looking back to the start and a hell of lot has changed since then. The game now feels balanced and grounded. Although the player base has dropped, the die hards are still vowing for those top levels and gear and new players will still have great excitement if they pick up the game as fresh. Well, the game has now been reworked for its console brethren and we see if the title can match up to its big brother.
Blizzard has had to implement a large number of changes in order to get Diablo III playing well on the consoles. The main thing of course being the overhaul of the user interface and the inclusion of some gamepad-friendly mechanics such as the ability to dodge attacks from enemies. I'll start off with the control system though as this is one thing that really needed to work well in order for this game to succeed. The game actually works really well on the controller (I played the 360 version). Your different attacks and abilities are assigned to specific buttons on to controller and, although they can’t be personalized with different layouts, the way they’re mapped is efficient enough for it to feel comfortable when slaying through the hordes of enemies. Rather than assigning an attack to every button from the offset, you’re granted two at the beginning with the rest unlocked as you increase in level. This serves the dual purpose of allowing your character’s prowess to build alongside your own skill set of handling the controller.
Being able to play defensively is vital to survival in Diablo III and going up against special enemies or bosses is tough on later levels. Flicking of the right thumbstick enables your character to flip away from harm so you can strike back at the packs of enemies who are now vulnerable after attacking. The defensive abilities actually feel really comfortable on gamepads and the combat is all the better for its inclusion. I still prefer the keyboard and mouse as I probably always will with any game, but the game runs really well on consoles and the control system feels native on the consoles.
The user interface has essentially been redesigned from the ground up to be based around the console so that the experience is rich and organic. The inventory, skills, party, quests and lore menus are easily navigated with the thumbsticks and shoulder buttons. Equipped items, armor and weaponry are switched using the tap of a button which means you can quickly alter your preferred load-out in moments. As there’s a constant stream of incoming collected items, it can be sometimes be difficult to automatically know which to assign in favor of another but like its PC counterpart it's easy to compare the stats and attributes of any potential item to the one you’re currently using whilst viewing the inventory.
Running about sanctuary is the same on the PC as it is on console. The whole experience is comfortable and running around doesn't experience any loss of frames. Shrouded areas of the map become fully visible once you have passed through them. The zone map is accessed by pressing the D-Pad and different locations can be accessed through waypoint portals, where you can fast-travel to any of the places you have discovered previously by selecting their name from the pop-up list, with your current desired area highlighted by an exclamation point. This saves you having to run back over miles of land you have already been through.
The inclusion of a same screen co-op mode for up to four players makes the game really appealing to me and makes me having to lug my PC to a friends house redundant. I can imagine a few of my friends getting together for a few beers and slashing away on one TV. Anyone can drop into the game as they are needed and indeed drop out while the rest of the party can continue and even hoard items for the vacated character. Diablo III on console still provides the online and LAN multiplayer options you’d expect, allowing you to team up with friends or random players while retaining your own loot. Players must share loot drops, and bringing up the inventory pauses the game for everyone which can be a little sluggish, especially when you're in the midst of battle. A quick equip option keeps players out of menus as much as possible, but it doesn't convey the magic attributes of items, and you need to take turns pausing the game in order to assign new skills. This setup could work well with a party of two but larger parties are probably better off playing together online.
A huge difference between the PC and console versions is the need for an always-on internet connection is not needed on the consoles as well as not needing a Battle-Net account. The PC version’s auction house has not made the jump and neither is it going to as Blizzard wouldn't have been able to validate item transactions and sort out potential problems without internet connection. Consoles don't get the auction house like the PC which I think has great and bad implications. Firstly the bad! I often ventured to the auction house when I needed to get some more stamina to take on a hard boss and found loads of cheap auction house items that massively increased my stats to help me out, well this luxury isn't available on console and indeed will make the game a bit harder which some people may enjoy (You can still trade worth your friends however), but what this may encourage is people to actually venture through the zones several times which means exploration will be rife which may help players improve at the game and feel more rewarded when they receive a piece of rare loot. Even though I would have liked to have had it i don't think this non inclusion will be enough to take players away from Sanctuary.
The console versions of Diablo III are different from the PC version and I can imagine diehard fans will hate the console versions as they no longer feel elite or exclusive. The game though is different in the right ways and the control scheme works brilliantly and the interface works amazingly well with tying all the magic of Diablo III into one television set making the game accessible to groups of friends. With a greatly reworked control scheme, no online restrictions, and all the same great storyline of the original, Diablo III is just as enjoyable across all the platforms. I just hope that updates make the game improve over time and maybe bring in that auction house along with the upcoming Reaper of Souls expansion to complete the package.