# of Players 1-4
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
Score: A (95%)
My experience with Diablo III on PC was an ab-Normal Hell Nightmare of an Inferno thanks to the always online requirements, Error 37 woes and a raft of other issues that have finally been patched up over time by Blizzard, but not quickly enough to get me playing again once I finished up my initial review. When the console version of the game was announced, I was one of those people jumping for joy at the news because I know that the game would soar as an untethered from the internet solo or co-op experience because other chase ‘n chop dungeon crawlers were plenty of fun without the online ball and chain. On the PS3 however, the game is not only superior to the PC version in nearly every respect (save for visuals, but it’s not a bad looker at all), it makes for both a great entry level and hardcore experience that’s a must-buy.
While the story isn’t what you’d call “deep”, Blizzard keeps things rolling along through some fine CG cinemas and a few nifty (if not too unexpected) twists before things are wrapped up (sort of) in this sequel. You don’t need to have played Diablo II (or even the first Diablo) to get off and running into the fray at all. But it helps if you’re a continuity freak or someone looking for references to previous installments. Of course, the chances of Blizzard getting those two older games onto any console is slim to none, but it’s something to dream about since this super-enhanced “port” that’s not a port turned out so well…
For those PC die-hards convinced this can’t be as good as it is, give it up already. It is (and then some). Some of you have been wishing doom on Blizzard ever since they dropped the bombshell that they were indeed bringing the game to consoles and making some improvements over the original and yes, actually kept that promise. Getting more people to enjoy a game like this is always a good thing (and better business sense), so the fact that the company has succeeded at what they intended to do is something to be admired, not dumped on with out of place fervor and ridiculous threats. Granted, the PC version’s raft of issues is being or has been fixed (save for the ability to play solo offline) and there’s that coming Reaper of Souls expansion that to date, is only coming to PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One sometime in March.
The transition from keyboard/mouse to gamepad is excellent, allowing direct control of your character and easy access to hot-keyed skills mapped to the assorted buttons and triggers. If you’ve played the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, Champions of Norrath, Marvel Ultimate Alliance or other similar isometric view action RPGs, you’ll feel right at home as soon as you pick up that controller and create your character. Diablo III significantly revamps the skills system as well as other elements from previous installments mostly for the better, allowing you to either gain skills automatically or choose which ones you use as they unlock through gaining levels. As with the PC version, I chose a Demon Hunter for her ranged skills and ability to summon turrets and lay traps among other fun enemy killing things. But the game is so replayable that diving back in to create a new hero or heroine and blaze through the story again is a no-brainer.
Well, “blaze through” is a bit misleading once you’re past the easiest mode. On Normal, you will indeed power through the assorted demons and bosses until you face the big guy, Diablo himself. But even on Normal, he kind of goes down too quickly if you’re packing the right skills and have decent enough gear. Nightmare boosts enemy strength, speed and resistances up a few notches and even adds a few surprises that may make some players jump off that chair or couch. Beating Nightmare unleashes Hell mode, a terrifying trip through the game with lightning fast monsters, traps galore and a few to many cheap tricks from the assorted bosses and sub-bosses. And then, there’s Inferno mode. Um… let’s not talk about Inferno Mode now. It’s nothing but bum rushing mobs almost all the time and health-sapping, magic-tossing non-hilarity that I’ve yet to make it through (but am enjoying the attempt as we speak. For the most part).
There’s also local co-op here as well as online play, so you can grab friends physically or digitally for hours of demon-bashing, loot-grabbing great times. There’s a simple addictiveness to this style of game that’s easy to explain, but hard to grasp unless you’re holding a controller and seeing what all the fuss is about. Run through randomly generated maps, kill anything that moves towards you (no need to worry about innocents here, as Hell isn’t a friendly place at all in this series), collect gold and random drops, rinse and repeat. As for those drops, the new crafting system insures you’ll be either selling off the junk drops you get for gold or salvaging those blue items and some rarer gold ones for materials on a regular basis.
While you can cruise through the easier modes fairly quickly, there are assorted books and journal pages to find in each area that add to the game’s lore. You’ll only find all of them by either quitting and continuing a save or through completing the game and replaying at a higher difficulty level. One sore point is you can’t revisit completed acts without losing your progress (boo!) or battle beaten bosses more than once. I’d gather this is in the mix to keep players from gaining too many rare drops from “farming” bosses, but there’s a trade off in those kooky treasure-carrying creatures that randomly appear on some maps. Kill them before they escape and you rack up some nice gold and gear (yes, it’s a variation on those speedy dwarfs from Golden Axe).
In addition the the fine visuals, the music is subdued and gloomy stuff and even the voice acting is pretty much flawless. The game could have used a few more side quests, but even those are doled out randomly when you’re in some dungeons meaning how many you get is up to how many times you play through an area. There’s a lot to love here and pretty much nothing to hate at all other than a few timed dungeons where you’ll need to play fast and flawless in order to succeed. Overall, this one’s worth whatever you spend to get it, I say. I’ve been a Diablo fan since the first game stormed out of Blizzard and surprised millions with its updated Gauntlet meets Rogue style and Diablo III makes me want to go to hell and enjoy the trip because each time out I know I’m going to be taking down the big evil guy in his own home and stripping his corpse for piles of loot once he goes down in flames.
As for the upcoming Reaper of Souls expansion? It seems that PS3 and Xbox 360 owners will be hell out of luck, but at least your save data can be transferred over to those new consoles so you can play as your leveled-out hero or heroine in those new areas. I’d rather see RoS get a “last-gen” release as well, but I can see Blizzard wanting to get “next-gen” owners an even more superior (and closer to PC on the visual front) version of that update sooner than later. I have the feeling that by March when that expansion hits digital and retail, I’ll still be grinding through the PS3 game with a few newly to recently created characters as each one plays vastly different than the last. That’s called an “evergreen” game, by the way and those are always keepers because they never, ever get old…