Title: Diablo III
System(s): PS3 (Also available for PC, Xbox 360)
Release Date: September 3, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Activision Blizzard (Blizzard Entertainment)
ESRB Rating: “Mature 17+” for Blood and Gore, and Violence
I’ve never played a Diablo game. Diablo III tempted me, since I had a gaming PC capable of finally running the game, good internet, and a new appreciation for this kind of game due to Torchlight II. Then I heard about the always-online requirement, and I decided to take a pass. Fortunately, Blizzard found another way to lure me into the series, with the siren call of console ports.
I’ve spent over 30 hours playing Diablo III in the last week on my PS3, and I’m hooked. I can’t imagine playing it on my computer. Sure, it may have looked a smidge prettier that way, but the ability to play offline, or online with my PSN friends, made this incarnation an easy sell.
A holy mission against an unholy menace.
With a name like Sanctuary, you’d assume Diablo III‘s world was a relatively safe and happy place. Not so much. 20 years ago, a group of heroes defeated Diablo and saved the world from evil, but it was a momentary reprieve. The dead are rising, demons walk the land, and a strange star fell into a cathedral, drawing the interest of the witch Maghda and her cult.
Players control a heroic avatar, come to New Tristam to investigate the falling star and discover what it is. There, a young woman named Leah reveals that she and her uncle were also investigating it, but were separated. Her uncle, Deckard Cain, is now trapped in the cathedral where the star lies, but various monsters and the unholy King Leoric bar the way to him and the truth.
However, this falling star is only the beginning. Dark happenings were occuring before its arrival, and it may just be that players are the only ones who can bring light to Sanctuary again.
It’s time to “loot grind.”
Diablo is most famous for being a dungeon crawling, loot-grinding game, and this latest incarnation perfectly carries on the experience. Players create a Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Witch Doctor or Wizard character, and then go through numerous areas and dungeons, taking on hoards of enemies, hoping that they’ll drop equipment whose names use a purple, yellow, or orange font. While there is a story, which is actually pretty interesting, the main focus is to level up and find the best equipment, until your characters are practically gods.
Given that Diablo III is a port of a PC game, controls are a concern. After all, the PC version relies on a mouse and hot keys for all of a character’s special skills. Rest assured that the PS3 version’s controls are intuitive and lovely. Those ready to work with whatever Blizzard laid out for them will find the X button handles standard attacks, L1 uses a potion, and all other extraneous buttons are automapped to certain skill groups. The left analog stick moves the character, and the right lets a character dodge or target enemies with special skills. It’s a fine control scheme to start, but those familiar with the game and various classes’ skills can turn on the Elective mode and map any unlocked skill to any button. This allows battle to proceed in a flurry, with players to easily launch into huge combo attacks against onslaughts of enemies, with an auto-targetting system that works quite well.
There’s only one thing that has tarnished my otherwise perfect Diablo III experience on my PS3, and that’s a freezing issue. Diablo III froze three times on me, during the second act. Each time, it happened when my monk was exiting a house or building. It didn’t happen after extended play sessions, or coincide with internet issues. Just for some reason, the game halted. Diablo III didn’t freeze on me during any other acts, so it could have been some random occurance. After Act II, the problem went away, so it didn’t cause me too much trouble, and it’s the kind of problem Blizzard will undoubtedly eventually fix with a patch, so it isn’t something that should keep you from the game.
Fortunately, none of these freezes ever occured while I was playing Diablo III with friends. In fact, I never had any problem finding someone else willing to dungeon crawl, and our online experiences always worked perfectly. If they joined me, we’d work together on whatever quest I was undertaking. If I joined them, I’d be dropped into the middle of their story. Banners in the hub town allow players to teleport to someone else’s location instantly, and it’s easy to resume progress in your own story after one of these online excursions by choosing the act and quest you wish to resume from the main menu.
Swapping among your own characters is just as easy. Just visit Diablo III‘s main menu again, press triangle, and you can play as any character you want. I’ve stuck with a Monk thus far, simply because she works well in both single and multiplayer matches. Especially so in multiplayer, since even if I feel like I’m not contributing as much as possible in battle, I can always heal my allies or inflict status effects on opponents. The money I earn with her, as well as the super rare items I slip into her stash and the investment I make in leveling up the blacksmith and jeweler, carry across all characters, which means experimenting until someone finds the perfect class for him or her is encouraged.
Diablo III‘s console incarnation is practically perfect.
I’ll be frank. Yes, Diablo III did do a little freezing on me. It was minor, though, and I’m so confident in Blizzard’s abilities that I know it’s a minor problem and will likely be fixed before long. It only happened three times in over 30 hours of play, and the rest of the game is such a perfect console port that it doesn’t even matter. Diablo III feels like it was made to be on the PS3. Players can customize characters to their liking, from equipment, to skills, to controls, and it’s easy to jump on and play with friends, or explore Sanctuary alone. I imagine anyone who picks up Diablo III will be compelled to master it.
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