Diablo 3: Confessions of a console newbie

Diablo 3 has finally hit consoles, and its various revisions feel almost natural enough to forget that it began its life on the PC. Almost.

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Editor's note: Given its similarities to the original PC release, we decided against a formal review of the recently-released console version. Instead, here are impressions of the console game from a player that's largely new to the franchise. To read our original review of the PC release, click here.


We all have our gaming blind spots--pieces of royalty that, for whatever reason, we've never had a chance to catch up with. For me, that's been Diablo. Though I've played a tiny fraction of Diablo 2, and spent plenty of time with Diablo-inspired games like Torchlight and Borderlands, I've never personally committed myself to completing one of the most respected forefathers of the loot-gathering RPG sub-genre.

In short, that makes me exactly the type of person Blizzard hopes to catch with Diablo 3 on consoles. And to the studio's credit, it has made several revisions that feel natural enough on console to almost forget that it began its life on the PC. Almost.

Controller support is the most noteworthy addition made for the console version, as it lets you crawl through the dungeons using gamepads than some arcane PC magic. And rather than endless clicking to dispatch enemies, I found it easy to simply hold down my main attack, intermittently striking with other attacks or special abilities as necessary. This is easily the most natural part of the transition, as the controller support feels perfectly at home.

The controller auto-maps certain kinds of abilities to various buttons, though it's easy enough to turn off that feature and map skills to all of the keys manually. Personally, I've stuck with the default for most of my time so far, since the skills are well organized and don't generally overlap

Playing as a ranged class, though, the ease of use really accents that most enemies seem to have one item in their playbook: run straight towards the hero. As a result, I spend the vast majority of my time dodging back a few steps, letting loose with some spells, and then repeating the process. Maybe later areas or harder difficulties will bring new strategies, but mostly I've felt unchallenged except for when being swarmed. And in those cases, my inability to break out (since I had no skills to do so at the time) felt more unfair than challenging.

The sharp menu system also makes it easy to find, compare, and equip loot. Selling could be made a bit easier, but Blizzard has made a point of outlining the revisions to its loot system in general. The console version purportedly gives out far less "junk" loot. I can't speak to that personally as a console newbie, but I can say I've only had my pile clog up completely once or twice, and even then it was likely because I didn't take advantage of a shopkeep in my most recent visit to town. Most items I've collected have been, if not better than my current equipment, at least passable enough that the game seems to understand that I might want it.

Co-op, such an important feature that Blizzard chose to highlight it in its faux-risque TV spot, is definitely a standout. Finding and joining an online game is incredibly easy, and I found myself pairing up with a partner of roughly my level playing the same mission I was on in the campaign. It was slightly awkward trying to stick together in larger groups when some players weren't ready to move on to a boss fight, and the inability to sell items without going back to camp meant playing catch-up with players after making a trip to offload my stock.

All that said, a few telltale signs betray that it wasn't initially built for consoles. The text is a bit small for the screen, and presumes you'll be sitting proportionally as close as PC gamers do to their monitors. It has occasionally stuttered on me during particularly packed combat sequences, too. Finally, the characters and world aren't quite as nice looking as the PC version, though that's hardly ever too noticeable outside of the character model close-up.

On the whole, though, Diablo 3 plays perfectly well on consoles, to the point that it's easy to see how Blizzard felt this was a good home for one of its biggest franchises. Between a lengthy campaign, several characters, and more content on the way, the console version makes for a perfect entry point for the uninitiated.


This review is based on retail PlayStation 3 code provided by the publisher. Diablo 3 is now available at retail on PS3 and Xbox 360. It is also available digitally on PlayStation Network for $59.99. The game is rated M.

Editor-In-Chief
From The Chatty
  • reply
    September 9, 2013 12:00 PM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, Diablo 3: Confessions of a console newbie.

    Diablo 3 has finally hit consoles, and its various revisions feel almost natural enough to forget that it began its life on the PC. Almost.

    • reply
      September 9, 2013 12:06 PM

      Controller support is the most addition made for the console version, as it lets you crawl through the dungeons using gamepads than some arcane PC magic.

      What?

      • reply
        September 9, 2013 12:07 PM

        Sentences are hard!

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        September 9, 2013 12:12 PM

        It's rather notable that he forgot "notable" between "most" and "addition"... and "rather" between "gamepads" and "than".

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          September 9, 2013 12:18 PM

          Nice work. My brain was seriously breaking trying to parse that sentence.

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        September 9, 2013 12:16 PM

        I get the hastily written sentence, that happens, but the attempt at humor is poor. Mouse and keyboard control is arcane PC magic. Right.

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          September 9, 2013 12:24 PM

          Well, he is writing this article for console gamers. Which might also explain the hobbled English.

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          September 9, 2013 2:22 PM

          Agreed, Skankcore. Wasn't appreciative of the attempt at insulting humor.

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        September 9, 2013 12:22 PM

        Ugh, that's totally my bad. It was actually correct in the original version, I edited it to something else, and then forgot to fix it.

        ::cries in the corner::

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      September 9, 2013 12:25 PM

      Damn, I was hoping they would add more challenge given the tighter movement control scheme (i.e. pad for movement instead of clicks). I found the PC version tedious/boring after a while, and it sounds like the console port is more of the same. Oh well...

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        September 9, 2013 12:47 PM

        FWIW, I was in trouble more often and dying a bit in "Hard" mode on the console when starting out a melee class compared to playing MP10 on PC where I was never seriously in trouble or even touched for the mouse part.

        And the PC version lets you bind a key for movement so you don't have to click to move ( think W is the default), but the mouse still controls your direction. It's actually really useful when you want to move around without stopping to attack because you clicked on the enemy instead of the empty space. The gamepad controls don't actually feel tighter in practice, either. I was surprised. Even with the dodge it all seemed a little sloppier, was easier to get into situations where you're surrounded with no place to move or escape when using the gamepad. And overall just not as precise.

        Especially when using ranged attacks and aoes and aimed skills. You can't control exactly where you place them on the screen, you can't exactly lead moving targets either. Just lock on to the nearest targeted or highlighted enemy and go from there. If there's anything in your line of sight, placing an attack like meteor strategically to help a friend in trouble or doing a dashing strike to a specific opponent on the other side of the pack for an escape is pretty much impossible with a gamepad as Blizzard has set it up, but natural with a mouse pointer. With a gamepad you'll just auto target and attack what's closest to you for the most part. It's a different game entirely with those aimed skills.

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          September 9, 2013 12:48 PM

          mouse part = most part. mice on the brain.

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      September 9, 2013 12:52 PM

      Did you just forgot to add the score at the end, or has that endeavor been abandoned already?

      • reply
        September 9, 2013 1:04 PM

        Editor's note: Given its similarities to the original PC release, we decided against a formal review of the recently-released console version. Instead, here are impressions of the console game from a player that's largely new to the franchise.

        • reply
          September 9, 2013 1:08 PM

          Biggest release in months. Sure, who needs a review or pageviews or something.

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          September 9, 2013 1:10 PM

          The PC release wasn't scored and still isn't. Similar or not, would make sense to at least echo the PC review and score the brand spanking new version and get it on metacritic since that's the main reason for switching to scored reviews.

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      September 9, 2013 2:25 PM

      Having played a good bit now on the PS3 and having already beaten D3 on the PC, I can't agree with the remark that it's only a bit less graphically impressive. It's quite noticeably less attractive compared to the PC version.

      Also, I've yet to figure out how to determine what certain status effects are since there appears to be no way to hover over them with the cursor to get a pop-up info window. Another failing of the console scheme for the game. Still, for the most part, it works decently enough on console and I'm glad it was ported because it's fun to play local Co-op and/or sit on a couch and play in a more relaxed ergonomic set-up. :)

      If I scored it for console, I'd give it an 8.5.

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        September 9, 2013 9:12 PM

        you can see active stuff on you in the inventory/menu, I forgot the tab name

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      September 10, 2013 1:13 PM

      I know it's blaspheme but I really prefer this type of game with a controller and on the TV. I never was a fan of the Diablo series but having tried it out yesterday the game just feels right. Didn't like all the rampant clicking with the mouse.