If you play Diablo like me, then the console version of the game will scratch that itch that the PC version just did not.
By Tim Colwill on September 26, 2013 at 3:43 pm
Confession time: I’ve spent the last three nights on the couch, playing Diablo 3. And it’s, uh. It’s… really good.
Stop setting fire to those pitchforks and hear me out.
A lot of people take Diablo really seriously; they play on hardcore mode, they use some semblance of strategy in their battles, they pick their fights carefully. I am not that person. My idea of a good time in Diablo is when the screen is filled with exploding monsters and you can’t see the loot for the particle effects, and the person you’re playing with turns to you and says “That was awesome,” after each big fight.
(It was awesome, actually.)
Here’s the thing — I didn’t get that enjoyment out of Diablo 3 when it launched. I couldn’t even play for the first 36 hours.
Yes, I know the servers are better now. I know that some people didn’t have any issues. That’s great! It really is. Me, though, I got lag, disconnects and total lockouts, in my single-player game. And then when I did get through the connection issues to play, by halfway through Act 1 I’d purchased a weapon off the auction house that was so good I didn’t even change it until halfway through Act 2… for another amazing weapon from the auction house.
It was alright, but it felt hollow as hell. I stopped at the start of Act 4 and I haven’t come back. That was a year ago.
I’m going to drop a bit more heresy here: Diablo is kind of a dumb game. I don’t mean that the game itself is dumb, or that people who play it are dumb, or that Blizzard are dumb, I mean that the basic gameplay itself is just that: basic. Dumb. At its most base(ic) level, Diablo (and Torchlight, and Titan Quest, and all of the other games just like it that I love) are monster-killing and loot-grabbing exercises in mindless but bloody good entertainment.
You can add strategy and depth on top if you want, and the game’s designers are clever and support this with well-designed mechanics. But I don’t. For me, it’s mindless. Ultimately, I am Diablo‘s lowest common denominator.
The thing about mindless entertainment is that it only works if it’s, you know, mindless. If you have to pay attention to it or why you’re doing it then it stops being mindless and starts being annoying, which is ultimately why Diablo 3 on PC didn’t click for me. Dealing with lag and dealing with browsing the auction house and, I think, dealing with sitting at a desk as well — a posture that my body associates with work — all act to pull me out of the zone.
For me, and I imagine for a lot of others, the Diablo formula is just better on the couch with a controller. It just feels better. It feels like classic old-school couch co-op, running around with your friends and hitting things until they explode. The controls are tight as hell, and Blizzard have poured a hugely impressive amount of work into figuring out how to transfer basically the entire experience onto a controller. Even the inventory management, which at first had me scratching my head a little, became instantly easier once I picked up on the visual clues spread throughout the UI. It’s masterfully done.
I’ve spent three days playing this game now, on the couch, on my Xbox 360, and I’ve come to the following conclusion: this is the game I wanted to play. This is the game I wanted last year, the game I can switch off and enjoy like I used to when I shared a LAN with my younger brother and we hammered Diablo 2 for 100 hours a week instead of doing homework. This game is closer to Diablo than the original Diablo 3 on PC was, and the bitter irony of it all is that it took a completely different gaming environment — one derided by obnoxious PC elitists who look down on console games as simplistic — to pull it off. No, really.
The best Diablo experience on PC is still Torchlight 2, but for now — at least as far as I’m concerned — the console has taken the crown as the best way to play actual Blizzard-brand Diablo. That’s a sentence I never thought I’d write, but there it is.
Blizzard are shutting down the auction houses (both of them) on Diablo 3 next year, and that’s a genuinely brave move when you consider how much money they must be churning over taking a slice of each transaction. For many players that’ll be enough to bring them back. For me it’s not: I don’t play Diablo on a deeply strategic enough level to need the precision of a mouse and keyboard, I don’t need my after-work gaming to involve the exact same desk-sitting posture that my day job involves and — let’s be brutally honest here — Diablo 3 isn’t exactly a graphically demanding game that is pushing my machine to the bleeding edge.
I’ve changed. I think Diablo has, too. If you’re a fellow Diablo fan and the game didn’t click with you on PC, grab some friends and give it a bash on console. It might just work out.
Free demos for Diablo 3 on console are available on PSN and XBL.
This copy of Diablo 3 supplied by Blizzard.