Finally arriving on consoles more than a year after the original PC release, Diablo III has a great reputation to uphold. More than twelve million sales already under its belt and enough acclaim to make even the biggest entertainment properties blush, Diablo III may well have already done more than enough to be considered an overwhelming success, but despite the long running rumours and reluctance to commit to a console release, it was clearly always part of Blizzard Entertainment’s plan. Now that it’s here, it’s easy to see why.
As an action-orientated role-playing game (RPG) Diablo III has little competition on modern consoles, with perhaps only the short-lived Marvel Alliance series able to offer any real challenge to the throne. Many years have passed since Activision had invested in the franchise however, and despite a few digital releases the genre has remained largely faceless on console. Even the forthcoming Sacred 3 has failed to build the anticipation that it deserves, and so Diablo III enters into a landscape that it is free to mould in its own fashion. Very unlike the audience on PC then, but still Blizzard Entertainment managed to rock the boat there, and so it comes as no surprise that the same can be said of the console version.
The most important thing to note is just how well the experience has translated to console. The control scheme is simply amazing, with three face buttons and a trigger providing a home for different moves while the left button (L1 on PlayStation 3) houses your preferred potion or buff skill. Blows are delivered by holding the desired attack button rather than repeatedly pressing it and when outnumbered you are able to break any animation and dodge in any direction with a simple flick of the right analog stick. It’s a very accessible system that most players will have mastered before the end of the first dungeon, however just because it’s simple it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s nothing more to it.
Diablo III is a fairly traditional action-RPG and with that comes certain expectations. With co-operative gameplay being the predominant intention the class system is of great importance; Diablo III makes every effort to justify having variety in your team. There is some unbalance – for example an educated action-RPG player could easily equip a Barbarian with the right kind of armour and weaponry so that his health points are practically irrelevant as the length of the meter recharges fast than any enemy can drain them – but on the whole the instantly recognisable differences between spell caster and rogue make for interesting variation between characters.
Those who are not lucky enough to find themselves with a full cast of friends can instead choose to take artificial intelligence (AI) characters into battle with them. While the experience is not at all comparable the AI does have a good stab at it: never are they intelligent enough to split from the party for a greater good but they will readily attack the correct foe in most given tactical encounters. The player can equip weapons and armour to those associates and even decide what skills they learn upon levelling-up, which does present a great sense of connection (or perhaps ownership).
Diablo III is a slick product, crossing addictive design with production values that grab you from the very start. It’s lengthy missions are complimented by some fantastic characters – aid significantly by high quality voice acting – and the variation of it’s environments proves that not every videogame has to strive for photorealism in order to achieve suspension of disbelief. That being said, the cutscenes featured in Diablo III do push the envelope, with some of the best skin textures and animation yet scene on current-generation consoles.
A fantastic and wholly enjoyable action-RPG experience, Diablo III leads the pack on console. It’s a deep and addictive videogame which never cheapens the experience with unnecessary frustration or poor design. It parallels the PC version in such a way as to remove its foibles and instead delivery a solid experience at the top of its game. Diablo III stands as one of the best console releases this year, and despite arriving so long after the PC debut, it’s most certainly been worth the wait.