A couple of years ago we reviewed Dungeon Hunter: Alliance on the PS3, a downloadable loot-gathering dungeon crawler that was pretty decent fun but was found wanting in some key areas. Now, over a year since its PC release, we’re sat in front of Diablo 3, a series generally recognised as the daddy of all dungeon crawling loot-gatherers. But with the PC version being pretty tough on resources, could Blizzard really do it justice on their first in-house console title since Moses?
Yes. They could.
There’s a lot to enjoy about Diablo 3. Whether it’s the constant hunt for loot, the randomly generated dungeons that give everyone a slightly different experience, or the focus on co-op gameplay that brings four players together for a frantic and fun loot-hunt, it’s unlikely you’ll come away from Diablo 3 doubting the fun you’ve just had.
The story behind Diablo 3 is pretty decent, full of magic, nasty bad guys and anguish. After a falling star destroys a cathedral and starts sprouting various undead creatures you (and your other adventurers if anyone joins you) are tasked with a series of missions to get to the bottom of the disturbance and put an end to it once and for all. The missions, which include finding and repairing a broken sword, killing huge bad guys to access previously inaccessible locations and finding a powerful magical gemstone, are broken up into smaller manageable chunks which take you through a series of beautifully created locations while still giving you plenty of chance to just dip and and out for half an hour at a time. This ability to enjoy short stints of the game is pretty valuable, especially if you’re playing alone, although it’s extremely easy to get sucked into the “just one more mission” mindset where a quick half hour blast turns into a 3 hour marathon.
In terms of your character there are different classes to choose, basically letting you focus on magic, close up or distance attacks depending on how you prefer to play. There isn’t much by way of customising your character, but you’ll be grabbing so much armoured loot before long an initial setup would’ve been a waste of time. Add to that the fact that your characters are quite small on the screen, and it’s a moot point not worth worrying about. You’ll also be picking up weapons along the way, some of which don’t marry up with your player type but can be sold for cash between quests and others which make you grin with the anticipation of unleashing some more intense fury on whatever crosses you next. It’s a vital element in the cycle of search/kill/loot and pressing further on to see just what you find next is very addictive, especially if you’re hunting with someone sat on the same sofa as you. The class system works well in co-op too, and having a balanced mix of styles is by far the best way to take on the minions that will be heading your way.
Visually Diablo 3 is pretty impressive, and although the dungeons all look quite samey (I’d guess as a result of them being randomly generated and needing a common set of textures) outside areas and certain key parts of dungeons look great. I didn’t experience any kind of slow-down either, even when things got a bit chaotic, and considering this needed a powerhouse of a PC to run that’s no mean feat. The audio is decent too, although some in-game dialogue is a bit rough and can be a bit off-putting when you’re trying to be a bad-ass with a bow.
So with it looking good, sounding decent and being an addictive title that’s tough to put down, everything is rosey, right? Not quite. Moving around takes some getting used to, with the left stick moving the player around and the right stick used to dodge and flip away from attacks. That leaves a problem with aiming, with your character only attacking in the direction they’re facing, something massively problematic if you’re trying to attack foes while running away from other attacks. You can keep the attack button held down once an enemy is highlighted and dodge around, keeping your focus on the highlighted bad dude and making it easier to attack that one enemy, but once you need to re-aim you need to move ever so slightly towards the area you might want to keep away from. For melee based players it’s not as much of a problem as you’ll be getting stuck in and relying on heavier armour and better defenses, but if you’re sending in your attacks from further out it can be quite tough to get to grips with, and makes later encounters with larger enemy numbers an occasionally frustrating experience.
But to focus on that would be being quite harsh on Diablo 3. Everything else is spot on, and if you’re playing as the game is really designed to be played – with three others – then taking an extra second to aim isn’t as big a deal as someone else can cover your backside for a few moments. Not only that but for a game originally made just for the PC the controls map extremely well to the PS3 controller, and even as the various spells and abilities rack up you never feel out of control or like you have too many things to think about.
But despite all this, there are two main things that make Diablo 3 such a great experience. There’s the co-op options, which allow you to play both online or offline with others (an option sorely lacking in most games nowadays) and there’s the fact of just how damn addictive it is. You’ll be finished with the story in 8 or 9 hours, but with more ranking up to do beyond that you’ll probably take up the option of a second run-through with tougher enemies, even funkier loot and a totally different randomly generated series of dungeons. Then of course you’ve got the various classes to toy around with, which could push you to play through again to see what else is on offer. The dialogue will lose its interest after the first play-through, but that’s not what this is all about. Diablo 3 is all about the dungeon crawling, the undead slaying and the loot grabbing. And no other PS3 game does it better.
Reviewed on PS3