Diablo III Feels Like It Was Made For Next-Gen Consoles

Diablo III Feels Like It Was Made For Next-Gen Consoles
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It all started with the dodge button. Blizzard added that to Diablo IIIwhen bringing it to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2013. Dodging was a great feature, but it wasn’t enough to make me switch my allegiance from playing on a PC. Now that Diablo III is out for the PS4 and Xbox One, it’s a different story.

I’ve played a lot of Diablo III in a lot of different ways since it first came out in 2012. I’ve played on PC and Mac, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. I’ve experimented with all of the character classes (the Witch Doctor is the best by far, no matter what our latest poll says), and tested the game across different difficulties alone and with other players. But it wasn’t until I played the newly-minted PS4 version of Diablo III that I started to feel like I’d discovered the best possible version of the game — the one that launches today for Microsoft and Sony’s newest consoles. Now that I have, I think I can finally sit back and enjoy the game without worrying if I’m missing some other, better version of Diablo III.

See, even when Diablo III wasn’t a console game, it still felt like one. Blizzard made a lot of big changes in the twelve years it took to produce a sequel to Diablo II. The most controversial adjustments were the ones that simplified character customisation and abilities by removing some of the minutiae of skill trees and only given players access to a handful of special abilities at any given time. A lot of Diablo purists hated this because, as Mike Fahey put it in our original review, the tweaks meant the game was “a bit on the easy side, especially for players who have followed the series for any extended period of time.”

I was one of the people who recoiled in fear and disgust when I first saw how Diablo had changed in its third act. But even then, I remember thinking that there might just be a silver lining. Maybe Blizzard didn’t want Diablo III to just be an epic clickfest like its two predecessors. You could only use four abilities at any given time, after all — a number that seemed destined to be matched with a gamepad or two. So maybe the company thought it could also capture some of the magic that gamers remembered from playing games like Gauntlet: Dark Legacy together back in the glory days of the PlayStation 2. Then it could make up for whatever Diablo III sacrificed in depth and complexity by offering amazing couch co-op instead.

I don’t have any special window into the minds of the people who made Diablo III. But regardless of Blizzard’s original intentions, the game began to evolve when it was first ported to then-current-gen consoles back in September 2013. Longtime fans didn’t welcome the shift with open arms, but something about the game just felt right when I revisited it on the Xbox 360. It scratched that same itch as the old Gauntlet games of yore.

At the same time, however, Diablo III didn’t look nearly as good on the PS3 and Xbox 360 as it did on the PC. This is the one major problem I had with the 2013 console ports. Thankfully, it’s also one that Blizzard was eager to fix.

There are a number of small improvements and adjustments that have been made to the Xbox One and PS4 versions, but the jump in visual fidelity is really what transformed the game from a promising experiment into the definitive edition of Diablo III for me. I swapped back and forth between my old Xbox 360 version and the new PS4 game when I was playing at one point this weekend, and didn’t have a hard time appreciating just how much better it looks on a current-gen system. All the rough pixelated edges have been rubbed smooth, and the new game has a much richer and more subtle colour palette than what I saw on my 360. It felt like I’d gone from playing the game on an outdated graphics card to the latest and greatest model I could find.

Of course, “the latest and greatest” means something very different for console and PC gamers, respectively. There are PC rigs out there that could do laps around the PlayStation 4 when running Diablo III. But the PS4 version of the game still looks good enough that it can hold its own against pretty much any other game I’ve played on the console so far, which is the more important question as far as console gamers are concerned.

Also, the game works perfectly with the DualShock 4. You assign special attacks and other abilities to two of the face buttons and two of the controller’s shoulder buttons, which makes the actual gameplay feel a lot like you’re executing combos in a beat-’em-up style game like God of War or Remember Me.

My favourite part of playing Diablo III on the PS4 is how you move with the two joysticks. The left stick is the main way to steer your character around the map, and you can adjust his or her speed depending on how hard you’re pressing it in any given direction. The right joystick, meanwhile, is how you dodge. Simply flicking it in any direction will send your character tumbling. This seemed like a minor addition at first, but it soon became one of my favourite tools to get out of a tense battle as fast as I could.

Much like the good old fashion mouse-and-keyboard combo, the gamepad provides a familiar template regardless of what character you’re playing with. But what I love in particular about the PS4 version of Diablo III is that the DualShock 4 really feels like a different beast depending on which class you choose. The Demon Hunter and Witch Doctor both have strong ranged attacks, which makes for a more distant, tactically-oriented style of gameplay. Melee-friendly grunts like the Barbarian and the Crusader, meanwhile, are what really give the game a new God of War-type vibe.

The real fun begins when playing the Diablo III’s excellent multiplayer, however. I wasn’t able to test out much of the new version’s online offerings prior to launch, but I can already tell that local co-op will be a major asset for the Xbox One and PS4 versions, just like it was for the 360 and PS3 ones. There’s something inescapably charming about playing a game with someone else when you’re sitting right next to them. And Diablo III isn’t just any game. It’s a massive world filled with countless nooks and crannies. As much as I loved the original PC version, exploring all of those avenues got lonely at times, even when I was playing online.

I haven’t sunk nearly as much time into the PS4 version of Diablo III as I have on the PC and Xbox 360. Playing the game over the past few days, I’ve only managed to make it partway through the first act — so I know I have a lot more monster-slaying and loot-hoarding ahead of me. But since I’ve already beaten the game many times over, I’m not in as much of a rush at this point. And that’s a surprisingly good feeling to have about a Diablo game: it’s something I’m looking forward of playing with friends at a more relaxed pace than I remember burning through the original PC game.

Most importantly of all, then, the new game’s control scheme is an incredibly comfortable one. That might sound silly at first. But after playing through three full Diablo games many times over, I didn’t realise how relieved I was to be able to experience the game in a new way. However subtle the shift to a gamepad-style controller might seem, it made playing Diablo III a much more casual experience for me. And by doing that so well, it also made me realise that “casual” doesn’t need to be such a bad thing.

I wasn’t hunched over my PC, I realised after I’d been playing for a few hours. I wasn’t clicking endlessly to amass ever greater piles of loot. Instead, I was tapping an x button endlessly to amass ever greater piles of loot.

It felt familiar, even repetitive at first. But just being able to sit back on my couch and do so with a friend made all the difference.


  • launch day on PC, I had the feeling that it was indeed made for last gen consoles.

    only 4 skills available at a time (mapped to 4 face buttons)
    no attribute management
    general streamlined vibe compared to the first 2.

    always thought it was designed with consoles in mind.

    • It does make it seem like the PC version was the trial run of the game, especially with the RMAH and the eventual changes to how progression worked after the main story was completed.

    • Yeah: Designed for console but without all the good stuff they put in the console versions, like offline or local co-op.

      Bliizard can smd, not giving them any my cash again. Plenty of people have their PC’s set up on their TV’s as well, but they’re saying I have to buy a bloody console to play couch co-op with mates.

      No. SMD.

    • What does that have to do with consoles though?
      The idea that console versions need to be dumbed down is just one of those out of context points made when people argue about preferences.

      They clearly had cross platform in mind though. (Like most who do, by avoiding questions on the topic when it gets released)

  • Got it launch day, played it, and really didn’t like it. Definitely knew it was going to be coming to consoles, it just felt like that’s what it was built for.

    I’ll stick with Path of Exile, I’ve put many more hours into that game and enjoyed it a whole lot more without paying a cent!

  • This story could also be titled “Diablo 3 feels like it is freakin’ awesome on next-gen consoles”, because it is. Playing it on PC left me pretty cold, but it sings on PS4.

    As a wise man once said “if you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up”.

  • I’m really hopeful it comes to PS+ one day, I’d like to play it but I’m not interested in paying for it twice… Can’t afford it because I’m buying The Last of Us twice 🙂

  • Can I say I thoroughly enjoyed NOT playing D3 last night due to Tuesday peak time maintenance on the PC version because?????

    F you Blizzard, F you very much.

    • Blizzard servers are all interconnected, they all go down for maintenance at the same time. The majority of players are in US, where the maintenance time is around 3am, or in Europe where the time is around 10am. It’s unfortunate that it happens during peak time in Australia but it’s unavoidable, all servers need to have their software updated at the same time.

      • But if it’s not required on consoles then it would mean that it isn’t “unavoidable”…. 😛

        • I’m pretty sure maintenance affects the console versions as well, but I haven’t got a copy to confirm with.

          • I don’t think it does. It’s in offline mode.

            I’m pretty sure we would have seen a bit of OUTRAGE!!!!!(TM) if it was released and then unplayable.

            Long running joke is that the PC version was the playable beta.

          • Maintenance doesn’t affect jack if the console isn’t plugged into the internet. Stop running damage control for them.

          • I think it was fairly obvious I was talking about online play. Don’t be so quick to jump to conclusions.

          • I couldn’t connect to the server to link my PSN account but I was able to play the game fine in single player. No idea if you need the battlenet server running to play multiplayer or not but it’d be a particular dick move if you did

          • It’s a dick move because even single player D3 cannot be played on PC when the servers are down.

          • Offline mode has nothing to do with what he said, which was that it would be a dick move if “you need the battlenet server running to play multiplayer” (emphasis added)

          • On the PS4 I mean and I’m working on the assumption that PS4 multiplayer would be peer to peer or PSN based, I might well be incorrect in that assumption though.

          • Interesting, I didn’t know the PS3 version was peer to peer. I had figured the game would connect to Battle.net servers the same way the PC version does. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what they do for the PS4 version, since I know there are other fundamental differences between the PS3 and PS4 versions of the game.

          • @zombiejesus I should clarify I was also talking about invite based gameplay rather than matchmaking. The latter would make sense to use the servers I’m not sure how the PS3 or 360 versions of the original D3 played, never knew anyone else with the game and I don’t play with randoms.

          • I’ve heard that D3 on last generation consoles may use peer-to-peer game hosting so that would make maintenance inapplicable, yeah. Personally I’d hate for that to come to PC though, dedicated servers have always been the best choice in my opinion.

  • Bought it for PC when it was first released and couldn’t really get into it, mostly because of other games I was playing at the time and I guess I was a little swayed by everyone’s negative reactions. This is not usually my style , but I just felt slogging it through to inferno only to need RMAH to proceed further was wasting my time when there were other games I had to play. So I never really completed it (went back a few times but never felt the vibe). Bought the PS4 version yesterday on a whim and I am loving it, it just “feels” like this is how it was designed from the start.

    Started a crusader (only part through act 1) and between the game pad and the crusaders play style I am really loving it.

    the only thing I would say is I started on lowest difficulty with a new character but had to bump it up to second lowest within the first few mins as I was one hitting almost everything. Not sure if it has been made a bit easier or if crusader is OP at the moment (still haven’t died yet)

    Steed1080 on PSN if anyone wants to co-op

  • D3 couch co-op would be awesome. But I don’t have a new console because I’ve been a kick-ass PC. Blizzard don’t seem to care about that though. They’re dead to me.

  • I noticed that there was no mention of the console version conveniently having an offline mode for single player. It’s funny that Blizzard said the following when everyone expected and offline mode to be implemented for the PC version after the first mention of impending closure to the game’s auction house:

    “We do not have plans to implement an offline mode. While the always-online requirement made the auction house possible, the auction house was never the driving factor in our decision to make the PC version of Diablo III require an Internet connection. The game was built from the ground up to take full advantage of Battle.net [emphasis added], which provides a number of important benefits, including persistent server-side character saves, a seamless PC multiplayer experience, cheat prevention, and Real ID and BattleTag social features.”

    Nothing too far removed from the drivel that EA spouted when everyone expected an offline mode for SimCity … all the crap about the calculations having to be done through the ‘power of the cloud’ because they were just too much for client side to handle *cough-lyingthroughyourteeth-cough*. Funny how EA changed their minds and somehow magically produced an offline mode after sales were well below expectation. I mean, the only reason why an offline mode was never implemented for Diablo 3 was because their sales were still strong, despite having rammed their collective fist up every consumers ass who opened up their wallets for them.

    When does it stop? Seriously. The utter shite that oozes out of these sleazy corporate mouths is just sickening. And the fact that so many people still don’t see it happening, that they just follow the rest of the sheep lapping up the hype, throwing money at preorders with just the mention of a name and a side of embellishment … it’s a bad omen if you ask me.

    At least Ubisoft is starting to wake up to themselves. I heard they are going to do away with Uplay and make the PC versions of their games a one time activation deal (about f**king time). They had mentioned that, “we are listening to the feedback from players and are adapting accordingly”. More like they saw the writing on the wall, saw that their PC sales were plummeting. Ubisoft were simply too busy trying to appease the shareholders with heavy handed DRM to ‘combat piracy’, when at the end of the day piracy prevailed because, “hey, I don’t need to run multiple clients and put up with disconnections and maintenance blocking my SINGLE PLAYER experience … I’m pretty sure Mr. Seven Seas over here is able to remedy that problem for me quite nicely”.

    *shakes head* some of the biggest decision makers in this industry are just mind-blowingly obtuse.

  • Diablo 3 is right up there with the newest sim city game in so far as complete and utter failures that ruined an awesome franchise…
    Making people play the same content three times over felt absolutely pathetic particularly when i felt like id been playing it for about 3 hours when i saw the credits for the first time. Diablo 3 is a POS end of story.

  • Shadow Artiste is my gamertag, keen to play some D3 on the Xbone. Please add AND message me if you’re interested.

  • “Diablo III Feels Like It Was Made For Next-Gen Consoles”

    ….. Because it was. The PC release first was just to cash in on the market that made Diablo the name it is.

  • I don’t understand why they put so much effort into the console versions – unlike almost any other game PC sales of Blizzard games would outstrip console sales by a wide margin.

    To add to this who the hell is buying the next gen update just for a resolution upgrade? To my thinking they would have been better off catering to their core market first and foremost

    • There are other core game changes in the new versions apparently. More mobs at once, more affixes on special mobs, that kind of thing.

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