Also On: PS3
It’s taken about 20 hours with the console version of Diablo III to catch up to what I’ve accomplished on the PC version in 300 hours. The difference between the two is night and day, not in the way they look or play, but in the way their respective loot systems work.
Basically, loot and itemization is massively improved here. While Diablo III has come a long way on the PC since its initial launch, loot has remained an issue. There have been some tweaks, but the overall itemization is still pretty bad. Of course we now know that “Loot 2.0” is coming along with the recently announced expansion next year, and that’s probably when I’ll stop playing the console version of Diablo III and go back to PC.
How has loot improved here? I’ve collected more legendary items throughout my complete runs of Normal, Nightmare, and Hell than I’ve ever seen in the PC version of the game. I’m geared to a ridiculous degree going into Act 1 of Inferno, the highest difficulty level in the game. I can even stand my ground on the new Master difficulties implemented here, replacing the aforementioned Monster Power difficulty adjusters from the PC. And I haven’t finished Act 1 of Inferno yet.
Another aspect, and probably the most important improvement to loot here, is that the stuff that drops is actually good. Despite being inundated with legendary gear throughout my playtime, the majority of those drops were legitimate upgrades. Granted, early level legendary items aren’t going to last very long, but it’s clear that there’s a system in place now to assign stats to gear that’s very specific to the class you’re playing as. This takes out some of that pesky randomization that could lead to some absolutely awful stat rolls, so instead of dreading that moment when you identify a legendary item, you’ll actually look forward to it.
And the run of the mill rare items aren’t bad either. While you will see the occasional bit of trash, you don’t tend to see loot drop very often. This actually makes the moments when you spot a yellow piece of gear on the ground feel sort of special. And again, there’s a good chance that gear will lead to an upgrade for you or your follower. There’s a little more randomization to blue and yellow tiered gear, so you’ll run across some stuff that’s not specific to your class. But by and large I think this is a massive improvement to the loot system currently present on the PC version of the game.
And loot isn’t the only change. Gone is the Auction House, real money or otherwise. Also gone is the always online requirement. You can now play online or off, with three other buddies in tow either way. Online play seemed fine from what I experienced, and local co-op is definitely fun if you’ve got a dedicated group of friends to play with. The only real difference between online and offline co-op is that loot is shared when playing offline, but online works in a very similar fashion to the PC version of the game.
There’s a host of other, smaller changes as well. Nephalem Stacks, a mechanic in Inferno that boosts your Magic Find and Gold Find stats when killing elite/champion mobs, has been reduced to a limit of three stacks here. Nephalem Valor is also introduced, which grants bonuses to a variety of things and increases with each yellow power orb you pick up. The boss fight at the end of Act 2 has a completely different camera angle attached, making it more controller friendly for console play. For something Monk specific, you no longer have to manage Mantra’s because the 2 minute timer on that ability has been removed. There are a lot of little changes and additions throughout the console version of the game, and pretty much everything I’ve seen has been an improvement.
The only change here that takes a step back from the PC version of the game is the inventory menu, and its cumbersome management options. You’ll get used to the wheel layout easily enough, but sorting through gear is somewhat slow with it divided up into categories. I do like the simplified way upgrades are explained, with a core focus on attack, defense, and health and small arrows (up to three) that indicate if the item is better than what’s currently equipped in those specific traits. But again, sorting through gear is a pain and one of the few aspects where a mouse is sorely missed.
But outside of inventory management, there are not a lot of negative comments I can level at Diablo III on consoles. The PC version edges it out on the visual side of things, but the console framerate is surprisingly steady at 60 frames per second. There are a few drops in FPS that are definitely noticeable, particularly in enemy dense locations like Act 3, but the overall performance is solid. I thought that playing the game with a controller would hurt some of the more precise targeting abilities for ranged classes, but found the controls to be pretty great for every class in the game.
This is the best version of Diablo III you can currently buy. If you were burned by the PC version of the game, but still found the combat and classes offered to be a lot of fun, then this is certainly worth checking out. Despite wasting an incredible amount of time with the PC version, I can see my addiction starting up all over again here, and I’m looking forward to seeing how far I can take my character with this new and improved loot system.