By the time I had wrapped up the campaign in Diablo III on PC, I found that my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. I had dumped countless hours into both the original Diablo and it’s sequel on PC when they released but I just couldn’t muster that same excitement by the end of my first play through of the long-awaited third installment. Between the immense changes, lack of decent loot, and the fact that it took so much effort to just get my PC to run it decently, I had lost interest.
The same lethargy extended into the eventual console version announcement.
For someone who so loved this franchise, it was a disappointing feeling. After finding out that a demo was released, I found myself curious enough to see how the prominent PC franchise had translated to consoles. I gave it a download and jumped in. In an effort to not retread already covered ground, I won’t be going over the basics but if you’re interested in hearing my thoughts on the PC version before it got all patched and updated, feel free to click here and here.
Much to my surprise, I found myself having a good time more so than I really ever thought. While the main story and gameplay are identical to the PC version, there are a number of new features and additions which (for me) make the console version a stronger entry than it’s PC brother at the moment.
I have to admit, moving from a mouse and keyboard to a gamepad felt real good. instead of using the second stick as a sort of aim modifier, it actually now lets your character dodge roll. It sounds very simple but believe me, it’s a lifesaver and a nice bonus addition. Playing as a wizard and being able to dodge out of harms way really did mean the difference between getting that killing blow or dying.
Spells and abilities are now mapped to the gamepad face buttons which includes health potions that you may have. It makes sense and works really well becoming instantly comfortable and feeling natural. The game autolocks on targets that you’re facing, so there’s a little less precision there as you can’t manually aim like you could with a mouse, but for the most part, I didn’t find this to be an issue during my play time. Granted, later in the game this could be an issue with the more aggressive and swarming enemies.
What impressed me the most with this demo is the loot system. The difference is painfully obvious from the PC counterpart and you can clearly see that Blizzard was aware to not overwhelm the player with useless crap. Item drops are rebalanced and reduced so you’re not getting bombarded with common items like “Cracked Belts”, “Damaged Boots”, or anything like that. Not only does this help keep inventory clear, but it also reduces the possibility of overwhelming the player with stats and items to slog through. Another great piece of news is that magic/rare/legendary item drop rates are increased so you’ll be finding more great items that can help you right then and there.
Better yet, item management has been streamlined so that when you pick up an item, you can clearly see red or green arrows letting you know if this item is worth your time compared to what you have without needing to pause the game and dig through the menu.
While many would proclaim this menu system as “clunky” in a PC setting, on console it’s quite elegant and works really well. I can imagine the hardest part of this port was making all these smooth PC features work with a controller. It makes comparing stats and item management a breeze on console. If you dive into the menu, you’ll see your character surrounded by nodes on a circle. You can use the control stick to quickly move around each gear slot seeing what you have equipped and what you have available. It makes comparing and item management much faster which console players will definitely enjoy.
The console version can also be played offline and supports up to four players on couch co-op which may be a big draw for many of you. I didn’t experience this myself so I can’t really speak to any of it but just being able to sit down on a couch and play Diablo with someone sounds wonderful. Not only that, the revamped loot system will also help players to not have to pause the game every five minutes to manage their gear. That’s a win in my book.
I know that many of my initial issues with Diablo III on PC have been fixed (or promised to be in the near future) but it’s still interesting to see these new elements already established in the console port version. I’m still surprised at how much fun I was having just with the demo after my original experience with the PC title. It’s a positive sign and one that has helped put this game back on my radar. Congrats Blizzard, you’ve won me back.
GamesBeat 2014 — VentureBeat’s sixth annual event on disruption in the video game market — is coming up on Sept 15-16 in San Francisco. Purchase one of the first 50 tickets and save $400!