Share the sofa and share the loot now that Diablo III has arrived on the home consoles.
Dungeon crawling games have been around for ages, and there are more than a few available on consoles (although the genre lives more on PC). But the daddy of the genre, Blizzard’s Diablo series, has been absent from the home consoles for a long time. The original Diablo made a brief appearance way back in the distant past, but since then there has been a gaping, Diablo-shaped hole in our game libraries. The hole can now be filled though, with the highly-anticipated release of Diablo III for Xbox360 and PS3.
Diablo III hits the dungeon-crawling sweetspot by combining a simple RPG experience with masses of combat and tons of loot. Players have a choice of five different classes to play as, from the tough as nails Barbarian to the ranged Demon Hunter, and as they fight their way through the demonic hordes, they will gain levels and unlock new skills and abilities. These are where the player can customise their character, along with equipping the huge amounts of weapons and equipment that they find, and adjust their character to their playstyle. As they unlock these new skills and abilities, the player will have to make choices as to which they equip and thus change the way their hero plays (although skills and abilities can be changed at any time through the menu).
The story follows that the hero arrives in the town of New Tristram to investigate a star that fell to the world of Sanctuary and has spawned an outbreak of the dead rising. Throw in an ancient prophecy, a mysterious stranger, a woman with hidden power and a whole bunch of demonic entities, and you have a classic fantasy story in which the player will just have to save the world. The story may not be ground-breaking, but it is enough to move the player from one massive pile of loot to another.
So far, so the same as the PC version of the game. But there have been changes made that may prove pleasing to some and not so much to others.
The Auction House is not available in the console version, which many will think is a good thing, and the game doesn’t have to be always online. There are also differences in the controls, with the most glaring being the inclusion of an evasion technique mapped to the right stick. Tapping the stick will allow the player to roll out of the way, especially useful when being overwhelmed by enemies. Of course, the downside to dropping the mouse and keyboard controls is the lack of precision, something which is glaringly obvious for the ranged players. There is a certain amount of auto-aim in the console version, but it can be fiddly if you are trying to target from a distance the witch at the back of a mob that is vomiting up new monsters. It’s not an ideal situation, but it does the best it can. The rest of the controls are mapped quite comfortably and work well once the player has them firmly assigned in their head.
Another difference is in the visuals. Don’t get me wrong, the stunning environments which only get more stunning as the game progresses, look just as good. But the heroes themselves, and the hordes of enemies that they have to face, all look a little less detailed and not so impressive.
The big addition is the local co-op. This is where the game really comes into its own, allowing up to four players to share a sofa as they share the loot. Living with another gamer, co-op gaming is something that I always look for, and Diablo III offers up a near perfect co-op experience. The enemies are made that bit more difficult and plentiful when other players have joined the game, and the boss battles are even more epic, but there is something really bonding about taking down the Butcher with a friend. Of course, online co-op is also included, with simple drop-in/drop-out possible if you just want to scratch that Diablo III itch.
But the local co-op is not without its problems. The screen does not slit, so player are limited to the same screen which raises its own issues. Wander away while the other player is getting a drink or something, and they will be dragged along for the ride or zapped directly to your side. If you are playing with some who tends to wander off by themselves. you will be dragged along and may find yourself in some tight situations unable to escape hordes of enemies while your partner runs and hides. But then, this is the nature of teamplay, you need to trust your other players to have your back (and not pinch all of the decent loot).
Make no mistake, Diablo III belongs to the PC crowd. But the TV advertisement really has hit the nail on the head, there is something really special about sitting down with friends and playing Diablo III on the big screen in co-op. Blizzard’s return to consoles has created what is possibly the perfect local co-op experience. But even alone, Diablo III is one of the best dungeon crawlers available, and is addictive and compelling enough to give many, many hours of loot collecting entertainment.