Diablo 3 for Console - a review from a PC gamer's perspective
Just gimme the facts! (a.k.a. TL;DR)
If the article is too long for your liking, here is my basic breakdown of the finer points I cover between the PC and console versions of Diablo III.
What's the same:
- Same dungeon crawling goodness
- Same characters
- Same story (but is that good?)
- Same action-packed Beastie Bashing Bonanza!
- New control scheme;
- The item screen is new;
- No more paperdoll equipment screen
- Loot 1.5 (not quite 2.0, but it's rather LEGEN - wait for it - DARY!)
What I like:
- The loot is awesome!
- The control scheme is simple and easy to grasp
- Couch co-op is fun - my daughters and I can play together, now!
- Finding a public game is hassle free
- The Dodge maneuver is pretty sweet!
- Did I mention loot is awesome?
What I don't like:
- Monster Power is present in an altered form; I like the original
- The item screen and vendor screens are confusing and cluttered
- I have died some unusual lag-deaths in multiplayer
- Graphics are a step down
- Where's my other zombie dog? On PC I had 3 to start!!
- This is the game I would have loved to play on the PC!
I'm a gamer, and before about 2 years ago, I was a PC gamer only. I have played many different genres in my 20+ years of computer gaming, but one of the series I have come back to the most has been Diablo. I started on Diablo back in the 90s, bought Diablo II Collector's edition (which I played on and off over the course of a decade), and in December of 2011, Pre-ordered the Diablo III Collector's edition.
On May 15 of 2012, Blizzard Entertainment finally released the PC/Mac version of their epic Action RPG game. That day, I - along with several million other eager fans - started playing this latest episode in the series. I'd had high hopes from the time I realized the game was coming, and I had researched the game in it's entirety - the classes, skills, runes and artisans, among other things - and watched as things changed over time to become the game that was finally released.
I played Diablo 3 for countless hundreds of hours, and have, to date, nearly a quarter million kills, and a little under 9000 Elite Kills to my various characters' credits. If you would like to check it out, my profile exists here: SlydeDraco#1566.
So you could say that I had played the game, played it well (I suppose that is subjective), and gave it a good, fair shake!
Despite the incessant whining that you will hear in the forums, I do not think that Diablo 3 is flawed, broken, or in anyway an embarrassment to the Diablo name. There were some decisions that may not have worked the way they were originally conceived, but overall, I was happy with the game I bought, and happy with the changes that came along over the last year and a half.
I used the Auction House (gold only) to upgrade some equipment from time to time, and some may think that was a bastardization of the game - the RMAH suxx0rs threads were as infinite as the complaints about every other aspect of the game, and many said that having an auction house at all was the ruin of the game - despite the incredible sales that broke records at the time. To me, having the auction house was the "safe" alternative to trading with random players, so I was happy with it as it was originally created. Since I had no use for the real money auction house, I did not find it's presence in any way a help or hindrance to my play.
I also look happily forward to the upcoming improvements that will come with the expansion, Reaper of Souls, and Loot 2.0, and I am hopeful that the expansion will eventually come to the console as well.
Yes, I have bought the game twice. And I am happy with the decision to do so. The last year and a half in Sanctuary have been some of the most fun times I've had in the Diablo universe. And the last month doing it all again on the console have been even more fun.
Yep, I said it: I think Diablo III on console is the better fit for me. Maybe it isn't for eveyone, but for me, it has definitely hit ALL the right chords and made me fall in love with the series all over again... again! There are things that I don't like about it, too, but I think the good definitely far outweighs the bad.
Read on to find out some of the reasons why!
What is Diablo 3?
If you're not a gamer, Diablo 3 is the third installment in a series of games that started around 1997.
The Diablo saga takes place in a world called Sanctuary which is a world that was created by the Angels and Demons who are locked in "The Eternal Conflict". Some of them created Sanctuary as a place away from the war, and some of them created children who are known as the Nephalem. Forgotten to the world, the Nephalem become the heroes that are told of in legends.
The first episode of Diablo told the tale of a hero who was tasked with finding the passage down to the lowest dungeon below the Tristram Cathedral to vanquish the evil that has sprung up from the depths of hell! Demons attacking the town need to be defeated and by plunging further into the underworld, the hero finds and must finally beat Diablo, the Lord of Terror. Playing as a Warrior, Rogue or Sorceress, you fought your way through, picking up weapons, spells and other items to make yourself stronger as you progressed through the levels.
In Diablo II, we see that the shard of Diablo's soulstone was jammed into the head of the one tasked with containing his essence and controlling it so that Diablo could no longer invade the world. It doesn't work, however, and a new hero is needed to follow him across Sanctuary and defeat him. To start there are 5 classes - Barbarian, Amazon, Sorceress, Paladin and Necromancer. In the expansion, Lord of Destruction, two new classes are added - the Assassin and the Druid. Unlike Diablo, in Diablo II, each hero has a unique set of skills that they can use. The more points that are put into each skill, the more powerful that skill becomes, to a maximum of 20 levels (not including gear that can extend it further). Every 3 levels, new skills become active, with the most powerful being available by level 30. Once you defeat Diablo in Normal mode, you still have Nightmare and Hell to work on in order to beat Diablo again.
Diablo 3 is the latest installment in the series. 20 years after the events of Diablo II, some of the Lesser Evils have risen up with the absence of the Prime Evils (Diablo, Mephisto and Baal who were all defeated in Diablo II). Heroes must again arise to take down these evils and, yet again, defeat a newly risen Diablo. Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Witch Doctor and Wizard are the 5 classes of champion to emerge, and each has specific class skills and more powerful versions of the skills that are available and interchangeable at any time. Where Diablo II required putting points in to various skills and attributes (such as vitality and strength), Diablo 3 automatically assigns points to your attributes, and you assign your individual skill, which grows in power as you grow and find better weapons, etc. There are increasing challenges with each mode as in Diablo II, with the "ultimate" challenge being Inferno (unlocked after you have reached Level 60 with your character)!
What's the Same Between the PC and Console?
The core gameplay of Diablo 3 remains the same across the different platforms. You make a character, choose your skills and runes as you level up, and run through the game from beginning to end. Along the way, you pick up items that make you stronger, faster, and able to become a lean, mean, death-dealing machine!
At level 1, you have very few options for your attack. A basic attack is given to you and when you hit level 2 you have a secondary attack that you can add. At this point, it's not so much a choice of skill as it is: here are your two skills; go out and learn to use them. Later, once you have levelled up a bit, you will be able to decide on which skills to assign, and where to put them.
The choices of skills and the progression of skills and runes available remains the same through both iterations of the game. The story - a much debated piece of the Diablo III puzzle - also remains in an unchanged form, which I suppose makes sense, but it certainly isn't for the story that I play the game. It does help to make you feel like you are a part of something, but the story really only give you a straight line from where you start to where you end. A few minor course changes let you do things in one game that you didn't in another, but the area progression is always the same. After defeating the game more than about 4 times (I have done it 16 times on the PC, and 3 times so far, already, on the XBox), the story is only a guide. You know the lines, you know what happens, and you will just quickly skip through the dialog to get moving to the next part.
In general, the basics of the game - story, characters and progression - remain unchanged, as well they should. Being the core parts of the game, they are the things we expect to see, no matter what platform we choose to engage the game upon.
What's Different between PC and Console?
The list of differences are probably substantial, but on the surface there are some very obvious changes.
The control scheme is the first thing that you will notice. Where on the PC you point to a place on the screen with your mouse, and move your character in that direction, you use the left analog stick to point your player in the direction to travel. This has another fairly major point of difference in that where you would point directly at an enemy to choose who you shoot at (and this would sometimes result in a dance of sorts if the enemy moved rapidly and you could not click directly on them!), on the XBox, you aim in the general direction and it automatically chooses the nearest target to where you are pointing. While you won't have the dance maneuvers of the PC, you sometimes do not get the target you are expecting.
Along with this general, automatic targeting comes the disadvantage of not choosing precisely where you target AOE (Area of Effect) skills such as Blizzard, Rain of Vengeance, or Acid Cloud. While the console attempts to make up for this with the automatic targeting of the closest enemy in the direction you point, it removes the precision strikes you can make against bosses when they are the ones to worry about and the pawns they send to distract you are more annoyance than danger. I have not had the chance to test Meteor Shower on the console, yet, to see if it works as well as I was able to manage on PC, but I suspect it will not work quite the same as I had determined was best for my play style and preference.
The console also has a dodge mechanic that was not present on the PC, and has been a life saver in a number of occasions where I needed to get away from those smashing hits that some enemies can throw at you. It is a well thought out use of the second stick, and I was happy to discover how it is used when I first picked up the demo to try it out.
Every button on the XBox controller has a function associated (and I presume the PS3 version works similarly), but there are some things that you cannot do, such as Zoom in to see your character in closer detail within the game, have multiple windows open at the same time and close them with a tap of the spacebar, or adjust the level of detail in the game.
My PC is not the newest version on the planet, so it's graphics values are toned down by a good margin in order for the game to run smoothly for me. However, after playing on the XBox, I went back to play as my monk on the PC and a few things struck me right away. The level of detail was MUCH higher on the PC, but the speed of actions seemed quite a bit slower. Now, maybe that latter is a function of my PC, but even in playing online with others, I never saw my speed as any different from anyone else. I may be wrong, but I think they sped up the game slightly on the consoles to make it more action packed and exciting!
A major difference is the new item screen in which you see the items you have gathered and equipped. The PC version shows you all items that are equipped as well as all of the items in your pack at the same time. Based on the resolution of the game on console (even on an HD screen), that level of detail is not possible, so a new scheme was devised in which each of the equippable slots are arranged in a circle around the view of your character. When you select a slot to look at, on the right it will show 4 of the items you own for that slot, and the item you have equipped (if any) beside that. You can compare stats of an item with a click of the X button.
The last major difference you will notice is the loot. The bountiful, joyful, masses of amazing loot that was missing on the PC! There is definitely less dropping for white (normal) items, but blues (magic) and yellows (rare) seem about the same. Legendaries, however... well, there are FAR more legendaries on console than I ever saw on the PC. But I will get to that in an upcoming section. I have seen about the same number of Set Items on both (i.e. NONE).
What I Don't Like About Console Version
I thought I would start with this, because in the end, I do like the console version better. So I would like to end on the positives. That is not to say, however, that the console version is without flaw.
My biggest gripe is the items screens (not just for the inventory, but also artisan and merchant screens). While I understand that the need to lower the resolution created a need for another method of displaying what you are wearing and carrying, I find the new layout confusing and tedious to get used to. Maybe that is PC gamer superiority complex, but I just prefer being able to see more and not have to spin the wheel to get to the piece of gear I want to check. Being able to only see 4 of the available items for a given slot also makes comparison of various items very time consuming, to make you sure you pick the right piece for your character. To compare, however, you need to click X, and then are only able to see one in your pack and the one you are wearing. It was a necessary move, I suppose, but regardless of the design limitations present, it is the one thing I dislike most.
Now, of course, all of this is because of the fact that the graphics have been reduced to what the consoles can handle. After the week and a bit of constant D3 on the 32" screen, I went and sat at my 19" PC monitor (4:3) and was amazed at the increased clarity and the massive amount of area that I could see around my character. On console, I am often running into mobs and getting owned because I did not have the proper time to prepare and attack appropriately. On PC, I could see nearly twice as far, and I liked it a lot!
A minor thing that bothers me is the reduction in the number of zombie dogs available. On PC, I get three to start. Why now, on console, do I only get 2? And I can only have 3 with the passive that allows for the extra dog? Are the consoles really THAT weak that controlling a single extra npc with all of the others that can clutter your screen, going to make the game stop or stutter? It isn't a major thing, but sometimes that one zombie dog has your back right when it needs to be there.
My last "dislike" is with the Monster Power that has been redefined as Master I through Master V. I was pleased with the smaller jumps in difficulty that the 10 options of Monster Power gave me, and don't understand the need to change it in the fashion it has been rehashed for consoles. Having a "normal" level of difficulty, and then 10 Monster Power levels that add approximately a 10% increase per level of difficulty, seemed like a good system that really didn't need to be changed.
I was also displeased when I learned that Easy, Medium and Hard did not alter anything but the amount of health and damage that enemies did, and provided no bonus to magic find, gold find or experience gain. Since Master I was not available until level 10, I was sure that playing on Hard had a benefit aside from being more challenging! I was wrong! And so, I have pushed my characters to play on the more difficult levels to get the bonuses. It has had it's own rewards, however, as the bonuses have led to some good finds, which I will get to next.
Which option of Diablo 3 do you prefer?
What I Like About Console Diablo 3
There is a lot that I like about the console experience for Diablo 3. Again, it is not flawless, and there are some things that I prefer about the PC experience, but in the grand scheme, for me, the console version is the more pleasing and fun experience I was hoping to have with the PC.
The dodge mechanic is a brilliant and yet simple stroke that could have been implemented in some fashion on the PC. It's a simple thing, yet that small feature adds a whole new aspect to the game experience. Reach down and push the right stick to the side and you dodge that fireball or hammer strike! Simple, yet brilliant!
While I like the precision that the mouse and keyboard combination gives me, I do like the simplicity of the controls. Point in a direction, press a button and fire in the direction. For the ranged characters it works perfectly! However, for melee characters, it is less than a perfect system. You can be just a little too far from a foe and swing at them, yet miss completely if you are not close enough. This is where mouse and keyboard are slightly favorable for me. But for the ranged classes, this control scheme is exactly what the doctor ordered!
And what can I say about the loot? The bounteous bounty of the bountiful loot! While the white drops have been reduced by a fairly good margin, yellow and blue drops are about the same. A nice change has been that you will more often find gear that suits your class than you would on the PC, and this helps you progress and find items useful, not just items to sell or break down for parts to build your own items. I have used the blacksmith to create new items that were good for my classes, but I have more often found new items that were better than I could have made.
And speaking of loot (is it loot 1.5?), the legendary drops are... well - LEGENDARY! I was surprised when I heard that people were often finding legendaries, and once I started playing wondered what I was doing wrong. Then, my buddy Hooch told me HE had found a few different legendaries. Well, I was starting to feel sleighted about it all when I found two legendaries of my own - one was from a blue mob outside of Leoric's Mansion, and the other was in a chest right next to where we had beaten the blues. It was an unexpected but pleasing find. And since then, I can't even count the number of legendary items of all sorts (that were also perfect for the character that found them almost every time) that I have found.
Having heard that so many people were finding legendaries, I started to wonder if it would ever become too commonplace, but so far, every legendary has had me excited to find it! I found a handful in the PC version, but nowhere NEAR as many as I have found in the few weeks that I have played Diablo 3 on my XBox. And even as I approach Level 60 with my demon hunter, I STILL crave the excitement of hearing that PING sound and seeing the orangey-brown glow indicating that a new legendary item has fallen!
Loot is probably the biggest positive that has me loving the game on console, but a close second is the couch-co-op mode. My daughters (I have 4 living at home) all want to play Diablo with me, but with only a single computer that can even run it, it was never feasible. Besides, having to pay $60 for each copy seems a little hefty. So now, they can each login with their own XBox Live Silver accounts to their own created characters and play together on the same screen. It didn't cost $300 to get everyone a copy, and we all get to game to our hearts content! Again, a simple addition, but it adds a huge new aspect to the game that just cannot be copied on the PC experience.
Did I mention the loot? Oh yeah. I did! The loot is THAT awesome!
I've also joined public games and the mechanic for this is pretty straightforward. Decide on a quest or general area you want to quest in, choose loot hunting, brawling or keywarden killing and you are joined to like-minded individuals seeking the same experience. It is simple and elegant. In the PC version, you basically join in and try to find someone to brawl with if that's your thing, or find someone in one of the chat channels to go after the keywardens, or just join a public game if you want to go after loot, and hope the others in the game are willing and able to join you.
2.5 million (as of 08/29/2001)
4 million (as of 07/01/2001)
Diablo III (PC)
more than 12 million (as of end of 2012)
Diablo III (console)
about a half million (in just over a month)
So the game is now out on PC and consoles, and the experiences are different enough that they can both occupy the same niche with their own specific pros and cons. PC Gamers get the better graphical experience, but console gamers get a slightly more polished and pleasing experience that the PC gamers have been asking for. Legendary items are actually legendary, as well as being useful to the progression of your character. I still LOVE playing Diablo III on my PC and will likely continue to do so. But jumping online with my buddies and going loot hunting or just dungeon crawling on a higher Mastery to see how well we can do has an appeal that feels both hardcore and casual at the same time!
I can't say that one experience is better than the other, because they both have their specific strengths and weaknesses, but I can say that for my own enjoyment, the console experience has filled that OHMYGODIJUSTFOUNDALEGENDARY thrill that I didn't even know I was missing on the PC version.
So, hub readers, what do you think of this new version of the game? Killed it? Kill it? Or Kouldn't Kare less...?
Hit me up in the comments and let me know what you think!