Diablo III review – Smashing monsters on the couch
Having been released for PC early last year, many of those who are fans of the series have already been able to play Diablo III for over a year now, but with Blizzard reinvigorating their interest in the console market, there are many potential new fans to hook into the Diablo world. The question is, does it translate to from PC to console well, and if you’re not a fan of the series, should you be interested? Most likely.
Diablo III is an action-RPG which is all about loot and gear. Set in the world known as Sanctuary, you create your character by picking from five immediately available classes: Barbarian, Witch Doctor, Wizard, Monk and Demon Hunter. My first character was a Barbarian called Prince Charles. Just because he’s a Barbarian doesn’t mean he can’t be classy, right?
Set twenty years after Diablo II, the game starts out with Deckard Cain and his niece Leah studying ancient texts in the Tristram cathedral. Deckard is concerned by a new threat foretold in his history books, and takes the threat very seriously, whilst everyone around him seems not to care. The plot throughout Diablo III isn’t exactly engaging, but it’s certainly enough to get the player interested and start playing the game, even though it’s not a new milestone in videogame storytelling.
Truth be told, in the first few hours of play I was a bit underwhelmed by Diablo III. Throughout, it was easy to see that the game had been designed for PC. Some menus, although perfectly functional, take some time getting used to, and the thought that a mouse could helpful came to mind. And yet, the more I played Diablo III, the more these problems seemed to vanish. Combat felt somewhat repetitive during the first hours of gameplay, but once my character’s level raised and the moves at his disposal increased, combat actually became quite fun and interactive. Early on most fights are quickly over if you just keep pressing a single button, but later in the game the moves you use make a huge difference between life and death.
It wasn’t until an early boss encounter that I realised the potential Diablo III had. Before that I felt it was too easy and straight-forward, but once I realised that mashing a single button wasn’t going to win this battle anymore, and that I needed to deftly dodge, attack and heal, things became much more interesting.
Like most RPGs, moves can be changed and customized. Each move has several runes that can be unlocked through levelling up, and these runes give each of your attacks different abilities. Chances for life recovery, enemies explode upon death, extra mana… There are huge possibilities for customisation to suit your playstyle.
As can be expected with a Blizzard RPG, the amount of different items and gear that’s available is huge. The game is filled with things to be collected, making the customization of your character to suit how you play very rewarding.
Graphically, Diablo III on console is inferior to the PC, but that’s to be expected with such older hardware. Textures look slightly fuzzier, spells don’t look as impressive, and screen-tearing is fairly common, especially when the game is displaying weather effects. But still, this doesn’t really distract from the fun that can be had, and minor issues can be ignored since Blizzard has provided us with a joyful 60FPS, something console gamers definitely don’t see enough of.
One thing you’re sure to notice are the sound effects in Diablo III. There’s not much in the way of background music aside from during cinematic events or bosses, but each time Prince Charles swung his blade or axe, a deep thundering sound would erupt from my speakers. This simple thing made each attack feel like it had weight behind it, and really helped immerse me in the game.
A majority of dialogue in the game is voice acted, and it is voice acted fairly well at that. Although it’s easy to ignore the NPCs whilst you’re questing to save the world of Sanctuary, it’s a good idea to occasionally slow down and listen to a conversation two NPCs may be having in a tavern, or take a detour into a hidden cellar. Some NPCs talk about the events of the main quest, whilst in one area a distraught man asked for my help, and then introduced me to his wife, whom happened to be a skeleton. She’s “a bit thin”, he told me. Needless to say I left him be, but as always Blizzard managed to infuse their trademark charm throughout the smallest details.
Speaking of Blizzard’s charm, their art department has once again done a splendid job. Indoors I found most areas to be somewhat bland, running about very similar looking corridors, but outside there’s truly a myriad of hidden visual details, which if you take the time to look at, they’re truly beautiful, especially one city encountered early in the game. For a title with a fixed-isometric camera angle, there is a truly staggering amount of beauty to be found.
But the most important thing about Diablo III is definitely that it’s better with friends. No matter how repetitive the combat can be when fighting standard mobs, and no matter how frustrating it can be to repeat a boss encounter, friends make it a lot more enjoyable. Diablo III can be played with up to four players, online or local co-op, and it is certainly the best way to enjoy the game. Besides, what’s the point in having a super-rare piece of armor if you have no-one to show it off to?