When is the last time a PC game played better on a console? This time.
It's safe to say that Diablo III for the PC might be the 'beta' version of the game when compared to the PlayStation 3 version. I'm half-joking, but when you first pop in Diablo III and start really digging into it for the PS3, you might just adopt this opinion. Let's get this puppy started, shall we? Yes, we shall and there is no better place to start than when it comes to loading the disc for the first time.
Boring speak, but technically impressive
Not since God of War III have I been impressed by a game that doesn't install itself partially or wholly. When I acquired Diablo III from the good folks at Blizzard, I immediately expected to have a 7-8gb install time, which would be enough time for me to do dishes, feed the cats, talk with my kids, hug my wife…well, you get the picture. As soon as I popped the disc in, the load screen with the 'Diablo III' logo appeared, stayed there for about 10-15 seconds, disappeared and the game began. What kind of black magic is this, right? Well, I was hedging my bet that the in-between load screens would take forever because there's a lot of loading with this game, and pretty much a majority of PC games. I mean, there's no way this could just run off the disc, right?
The most you will have to wait for a load screen on the PS3 version of Diablo III is probably going to be 5-10 seconds -- at the initial load screen. Once you're actually in the game on the adventure, switching between locations takes about 2-5 seconds; sometimes less than three. It's amazingly speedy and, again, there is no install necessary (there was an update, but oh well). Most of the game runs smoothly off the disc, although there are times when the screen gets packed that the game will briefly stutter or very briefly slowdown. It doesn't happen too often to get annoyed by, but it does happen. As a whole, Diablo III is impressive when it comes to the technical aspect of simply running off the Blu-ray disc it's on. By all accounts this game is too beefy to accomplish this feat, but it does it well.
Boring disc loading descriptions aside, what else is different in this game? Let's talk controls because that's generally a large area of concern for PC games translated to consoles (see Final Fantasy XIV for details).
It's an oddity to say the least, but Diablo III for the PlayStation 3 seems like a natural fit once you get inside and start playing the game. Left stick moves our players with the greatest of ease, while the right stick controls the 'rolling' technique. For those of you who have played the PC version of the popular series, you understand how absolutely useful 'rolling' can be, especially when you're outmanned (demon'd) in a boss fight and have to constantly dodge to get away. For example, during the first act, you're going to happen about a boss called 'The Butcher'. He throws out a hook to snag you and bring you closer to him, which is a bad idea for you, and also features a multi-chained spear that he constantly casts your way. By having the ability to roll during this fight, you can pretty much 'stick and move' with him, avoid said chain spear/hook. Such a 'roll' technique wasn't very easy to pull off with a PC setup. This simple thumbstick movement adds another dimension that the PC game didn't contain. It will certainly get you out of some tight spots during gameplay, which makes the initial game far less frustrating to deal with.
And that ain't it.
The entire control scheme of firing off spells, skills and whatnot with the buttons makes complete sense. You hit 'select' to go into your character modification menu, where you can easily switch and assign different spells, skills and whatnot to the buttons as you see fit. My main concern with this game was how they were going to mimic the control scheme for the PC, as the mouse and keyboard are generally superior to this type of game; but that's no longer an issue. My issue now is how are we going to get this controller to work with the PC? Yeah, it makes that much sense. I'm simply amazed and astonished that Diablo III was translated so well to PlayStation 3. If you don't have the right feel for the control of your characters onscreen, then you have a miserable experience generally. Diablo III really kicks ass in this category.
One big issue, which people have a legitimate beef about, is how the inventory is used and maintained. You get a circular wheel that you can search through weapons, armor and jewels. You can select the category you want, go into that certain category and switch between items. Is it easy to do? Yes. Is it easy to screw up? Yes. Did they screw up the 'compare' feature when it comes to items? Yes. One would assume that when you scroll over an item you don't have equipped, that you might get some details on the functionality or 'specialness' of said item, but you don't. Blizzard put the compare button in to alleviate this issue, but it doesn't work perfectly, especially when you're done comparing the item and you hit the 'O' button to back out -- and you're backed out of the category completely. And don't get me started with how many times I accidentally dropped an item. All in all, it's a bit clunky, but manageable.
Technicalities aside, the presentation value that you get with the PC version of this game is translated very well onto the PlayStation 3. The cutscenes in the game are amazing in detail, as the faces of the characters, the emotions they express are flawlessly presented. It's been a long while since I've enjoyed a cutscene (not since Metal Gear Solid 4 -- which was basically an entire cutscene), but I really paid attention to Diablo III's; very stunning stuff. Cutscene aside, the isometric view of the game was filled to the brim with little details that add to the dreary atmosphere of the game. For example, in Act II, the desert surrounding my character's journey was teaming with life. You get bugs, snakes and beetles crawling everywhere. When you got close to the edge of a cliff in the same level, you could see the depth of the drop, sometimes it would drop down to the entrance of a cave. The lights, shadows, shading and just little details really carried over well with the PC to console translation. Sure, the action RPG does look a bit dated in comparison to other games of its type, but it still brings the illusion of the fantasy world to the visuals, and is comparable to previous versions in the series.
Having said that, the dialogue was a bit goofy here and there. I respect the fact that Blizzard went full voice over for Diablo III, but it's still a bit goofy. It's not Resident Evil for the PSOne bad, not even close, but it's a bit overdramatic in some areas. I won't harp on it too much because of the type of game it is. It won't harm the illusion of dire straits for the good folk of Santuary, but it won't actually add anything to it either.
Overall, you won't be disappointed in the presentation. It's solid and visually appealing.
Visuals and gameplay aside, what about the depth? Diablo III has changed a bit from the PC version. The first thing you'll notice, and should appreciate to an extent, is the absence of the auction houses. I'm not sure Blizzard thought the original idea through when Diablo III was developed for the PC, but this time around on the PS3, they're gone. What you do get with the PS3 version is the ability to go solo on your quest or you can play with some friends via online co-op. The latter part of that sentence works really seamlessly. One of my good friends who owned the game, and I didn't know that had it, popped into my game immediately. We played a bit together before he had to pop back off and go to work, but it was fun while it lasted. The instantaneous feel to it is so perfect that there's literally no stoppage in gameplay.
So, with all this said, is the game fun? Well, to be honest, the start of the game is a bit back and forth. It is tiring for the first few levels, and even bland when you're hunting through graveyards for the first time, over and over again. Towards the end of the first act things begin to pick up. When you finally end the first act, and you get some pretty sweet weaponry, then you're hooked. It takes a little longer than most games to get past the initiation stage for getting use to the character (I'm a wizard in mine), but once you get real quests, the story gets moving and focused on something interesting (like chasing down a witch) then you want to keep playing. You'll play this for a **** ton of hours and at the end, you'll want to replay it with a different character. You'll keep searching for legendary items, which are much easier to acquire, and challenge yourself to do better and go against the highest level of difficulty. There's a lot here to mix and match in the game that you won't mind continually going through the same schtick.
In other words, it's worth your time.