This week Blizzard will release the dungeon-crawling RPG Diablo 3 on the Xbox 360 and PS3. Advance copies of the console versions were sent out to the press and they've had largely positive things to say about the game.
Blizzard has always been a PC developer at heart. According to Eurogamer, the last console game they developed was The Lost Vikings 2 for the Super Nintendo back in 1997. However, the company's inexperience with the Xbox 360 and PS3 apparently doesn't shine through with D3. The early reviews released so far haven't mentioned any big technical hiccups.
In order to accommodate the consoles' gamepads, Blizzard had to rethink both the controls and user interface of D3. Players now move their characters directly and auto-target enemies rather than point-and-clicking as they did with the mouse/keyboard setup on PC. Players now have a new dodge ability at their disposal as well. The new controls were praised but the redesigned user interface didn't receive as much love. Many reviewers complained that the UI was too small, with information almost unreadable on smaller televisions.
The PC/Mac D3 was highly controversial due to its online requirement. Players had to be connected to the servers at all times even when playing single-player. The console versions receive some brownie points from critics for the lack of an online requirement or the accompanying real-money auction house. The presumed reason for the lack of an online requirement, offline co-op, gets mixed praise though due to some wonky mechanics.
A few excerpts from D3 console reviews are below.
EGM - "The largest UI problems, without a doubt, crop up when it’s playing a passive role. Your HUD is incredibly compacted by console standards, with a lot of information squeezed into a tiny corner of the screen. Since all of your ability and potion cooldowns are still depicted the same way—as subtle overlay wipes on top of the icons—it can be difficult to see if a particular skill is ready to use at a glance if you’re not sitting right up against the TV. This can be a particularly frustrating when you try to use a potion in a clutch moment, only to realize there’s an almost-invisible sliver left in the cooldown clock."
OPM UK - "Starbreeze’s Syndicate, Ninja Theory’s DmC and 2k Marin’s original design for its Xcom shooter were all lambasted for taking liberties with their source material, somehow missing the point of their prequels. Diablo 3 by contrast is nothing if not the essence of the original games, and the anachronisms it displays in everything from an absence of character customisation to low-rent animations are more endearing than underwhelming. It’s an ancient evil residing in a new place, and the marriage of Blizzard’s defiantly old-school dungeon-crawling with its mesmerising craftsmanship works unquestionably. A deceptively simple and expertly constructed Beelzebub-basher, translated smartly for a platform not immediately receptive to the genre."
Eurogamer - "If anything, with all your skills under the fingers of one hand and direct character control, you can now play more instinctively. An evade move on the right stick, which lets you change position while attacking - never possible in the PC game - is a massive boon. The biggest beneficiaries of the move from mouse to pad are the melee classes, the Monk and Barbarian. The latter feels especially right, unleashing his mighty slams as you drum the buttons, brawling away. But the ranged Wizard and Demon Hunter also play beautifully. It's only the indirect style of the Witch Doctor, with his summons and skills that do progressive damage over time, which feels like an awkward fit."
NowGamer - "It helps that it’s a good port. It’s not the most amazing looking game, but it doesn’t have to be, seeing as it’s all played out from an isometric third person view. It moves with a silky smoothness as well, so combat is fun and fluid, with barely any hiccups in its framerate. It’s also been tweaked a bit in other ways too, with a control pad friendly user interface added that makes changing abilities, weapons and equipment relatively quick and painless."
Game Informer - "The new 4-player couch co-op is less appealing; hacking and slashing enemies with everyone on the same screen is certainly fun, but the game’s complexity works against you. Players must share loot drops, and bringing up the inventory pauses the game for everyone. A quick equip option keeps players out of menus as much as possible, but it doesn’t convey the magic attributes of items, and you need to take turns pausing the action to assign new skills. I can see the setup working for dedicated two-person teams, but larger parties are probably better off playing together online."
If you like what you've been hearing about the console ports, you'll be able to pick the game up yourself on September 3rd.