So ‘Diablo III’ apparently drove our writer insane

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Venue makes all the difference in the world. Think about the way you see a band. It’s awesome to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in a massive stadium outdoors, but it sure would have been awesome to see them in some nasty Lower East Side Dive back in 2001, with Karen O spitting beer on the crowd, playing those early punk songs fast and loud.

[Editor’s note: Anthony wrote 15,000 words over the past 24 hours and we don’t know what he’s talking about anymore. Just go with it.]

Blizzard’s been playing the stadiums for the past fifteen years or so, pushing out genre defining PC games like World of Warcraft and StarCraft. Diablo 3, an always-online dungeon crawler fueled by an auction house where players hock rare items for real cash, felt like the biggest show yet back in 2012. It’s pretty cool now to see Blizzard come back to consoles with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 version of Diablo 3, a return to their roots in the clubs making small games like Blackthorne and Lost Vikings. It’s got all the PC trimmings but it feels very much like its own fast and loud thing on PS3. 

Story

This is a direct port, people. It’s the same old Diablo 3 you know, love, and loved to hate for its silly auction house when it launched last year. The world of Sanctuary can’t catch a break. Two decades after Diablo 2, the lord of all things fiery and evil, the titular Diablo, is raising the dead and raining all kinds of havoc across the land. The character you build joins up with the mystic Deckard Cain and his niece Leah to try and stop all this badness from going down in an adventure that takes you into heaven itself to fight alongside and against angels.

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Feature complete. The console version includes everything from the PC game through the version 1.7 patch, which includes things like the Infernal Machine event.

Gameplay

Move over mouse and keyboard. What a difference a gamepad makes. Level designer Matthew Berger described the familiar mouse-click-a-minute play of the PC version of the game as a staccato rhythm. Click this, go here, click that skeleton, click that loot, repeat. The console version is more focused on creating a flow, leading your character around with an analog stick like you would in any other action game.

The game feels natural with this new element, like it was always meant to be played that way. The same goes for attacks. Face buttons and the right triggers on the PlayStation 3 controller give you access to six attacks and skills while the left triggers are for potions. The right analog stick is used for dodging; just flick where you want to go.

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So long, suckers. It’s not just the controls that have been tweaked to accommodate the shift to consoles. Since the largely reviled auction houses are nowhere to be seen in this version, preventing people from buying the gear they want, rare loot is dropped more regularly and will often be tailored to the character you’re playing as. Inventory management is also tweaked, with a new radial menu interface rather than the PC-version’s mouse-friendly grid. 

Presentation

Muddy waters. If there’s one area that Diablo 3 suffers on PS3 and Xbox 360, it’s the port’s visuals. With such a dark-hued color palette in the first place, much of the visual flare in Diablo 3 came from its more advanced lighting effects and other tricks that were not present in the console demo shown. If you want the prettiest Diablo 3 version around, you’re better off playing on PC or waiting for the still unseen PlayStation 4 (and maybe unannounced Xbox One…?) version of the game. 

Takeaway

Blizzard’s always been suited to the PC. Strategy games, dungeon-crawlers, and MMOs are best on customizable computers with a mouse and keyboard interface. Yet Diablo 3 feels right at home on PlayStation 3, a speedy slice of fun that’s especially swell with four people playing together in the same room. Even for people who played the PC version, it may be worth taking time to check out this dirty, awesome old club version of Diablo 3.

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