Diablo 3 makes a surprisingly graceful transition over to the console, but I still have my doubts about whether that’ll be enough to attract an audience.
When Blizzard finally announced that D3 was headed over to the PS3 and Xbox 360, the first question that most Diablo fans asked was “How are you supposed to play that game with a controller?” The answer is simply “Surprisingly well.”
The left analog stick controls your character, while the right analog stick controls your dodge moves, a-la God of War. The cross/A button does your basic strike, while pretty much every other button on the controller is a customizable “hotkey” that you can map your special skills, potions, or other items to. Obviously, a controller is never going to give you as many shortcut keys as a keyboard will, but the game played surprisingly well: there’s enough hotkeys to give you access to all your essential skills during combat, and the dodge maneuver was actually a little easier to execute on the console than it was on PC.
New to the console version is the ability to have four players on one TV for local co-op. This sounds like a good idea on paper, but in practice, it was simply too chaotic: since all four players have to stay on the same screen, you couldn’t split off and explore on your own, and when the screen became crowded with enemies and spell effects, it became hard to keep track of where my character was and what direction they were facing. On the plus side, the console versions will still feature the same online multiplayer that the PC version had (sans the real-money auction house,) so if want to play multiplayer but still want a screen all for yourself, you should opt for online rather than local co-op.
Blizzard has managed to pull off the impossible and has created a port of Diablo 3 that (besides for the local co-op,) works just as well on consoles as it does on PC. The question now is if anyone still cares: while Diablo 3 sold a lot on its initial launch, the game got a mixed reception from hardcore fans of the series, so sales quickly tapered off and the number of players still active on Battle.net sharply declined. Still, despite the game’s mixed reputation, Diablo is still one of the biggest franchises in gaming, and it’ll be interesting to see how console audiences receive it.
Diablo 3 will be released for the Xbox 360 and PS3 this September. A Playstation 4 version is also in the works, but a release date for that platform hasn’t been announced yet.