Diablo III Xbox 360 Review
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment Developer: Blizzard Entertainment Genre: Action RPG
Players: 1-4 Age Rating: 16+ Other console/handheld formats: PS3, PS4
Blizzard haven’t had a game on consoles for 15 years, and even that last game was an outsourced port, so you could say it’s been even longer than that, though the famed developer have made their triumphant return to consoles, with a port of last year’s controversial PC hack and slash Diablo III. It turns out that it’s the rarest of things, a console port which actually manages to be better than the original PC release, dropping the always online restrictions and auction house that many felt marred the original version.
Diablo III takes place 20 years after its predecessor, and sees a meteor falling on the town of Tristam, which also has the nasty effect of not just creating an almighty mess but also waking the dead. It’s a passable enough story, and each of the four acts is interspersed with some lovely FMV sequences, but characters are lacking the sufficient depth to really make them worth caring about, and the universe just isn’t as absorbing as the likes of Mass Effect and Dragon Age.
The controls have been elegantly transferred from a mouse and keyboard to a controller. Movement is carried out with the left stick, while the right one allows you to use a dodge move to create some distance between you and the legions of enemies that often fill the screen. The face buttons and triggers of the controller are meanwhile used to fire off your special abilities.
There are five character classes on offer, including the melee focussed Barbarian and Monk, and the more long distance proficient Wizard and Demon Hunter. The hardest class to categorize is the Witch Doctor, who is able to summon creatures to do his/her bidding.
Levelling up these lot doesn’t reward you with skill points to increase stats, instead you’ll unlock new abilities and runes to modify existing ones. It’s quite a flexible system, though some people won’t like not being able to have more say in how their character grows from a statistical standpoint as they advance through levels.
Unsurprisingly, felled enemies and broken objects will sometimes leave behind loot. It’s always an exciting prospect obtaining new equipment to compare with your current kit and to keep it up to date to assure that you’re strong enough to contend with whatever comes your way.
Menus for equipping your character are well laid out, allowing you to easily pore over stats to compare equipped items with newly discovered ones, and those that like to keep away from menus will appreciate that they can easily see an item’s worth in comparison to your equipment (albeit in a less extensive method than the inventory screen offers) and instantly equip it to gain its benefits.
The art direction is rather lovely, and happily the game runs at 60fps. The screen is often positively thick with enemies, and there’s a real satisfying physicality to the fighting, with some excellent physics that see enemies sent crashing into walls, though in spite of all the chaos that often ensues, it’s nearly always thankfully easy to keep track of your chosen hero or heroine in amongst it all. On the downside, the framerate is a bit erratic and there’s some tearing that some people won’t easily be able to tolerate.
Solo play is very enjoyable and the included AI companions do their best to help you out, but co-op play is where Diablo III really comes to life, and this is how Blizzard encourages you to play, rewarding you with an XP bonus, which in turn allows you to ascend through levels at a quicker rate when playing with others. Online play has loot drops for everyone, so you’ll never have to worry about greedy people hoovering up every piece of loot whilst offline multiplayer has shared loot, which will have people of a competitive mindset racing to any loot.
On the downside, those that are hoping to follow the story should either play with people they know or initially play it in single player, as, in a not very nice bit of design, any player that skips through dialogue does so for everyone, and people typically do with little consideration for anyone else, as they have little else but monster slaying and shiny loot collecting on their minds.
Whilst completion of the game can be done in as little as 20 hours, Diablo III is however a game very much designed with long term play in mind. Completing it once will unlock the more difficult nightmare mode, whilst completing this will unlock the even harder hard mode and then finally comes Inferno mode after that. The additional difficulties not only feature harder enemies, but better loot drops that make additional play throughs more than worthwhile.
Diablo III may not have some of its PC releases more controversial features, but some of its mechanics will still be polarizing amongst console players. It is, however, an immensely enjoyable, compulsive and hugely empowering game, and also one of the finest and smartest PC ports yet released for consoles.