My sword hews the head from atop the collapsing body of an enemy in one stroke. The mass of flesh is still falling as I swing a second time; I see both the head and body blasted away from my character by a powerful gust of wind and watch as they slam into the dungeon wall, crushing a table in the process. A glimmer of orange light appears amid the blood and body parts. I pick it up, identify it, and equip it. It is a legendary war hammer. Thus begins a cycle of loot-driven carnage and addiction the likes I haven’t felt since Diablo II.
Loot is the primary draw in Diablo III and it falls constantly. The rate of normal, rare, and legendary drops seems finally tuned enough to satisfy a stats geek like me, but the high-powered gear I sought after didn’t appear so frequently that I was constantly comparing numbers in the inventory screen. I can’t speak for the PC version because I’ve never played it–my last experience with this kind of game was Torchlight II–but the inventory on console works well. It’s a wheel-based system that allows for quick selection with the analog stick and while it might feel cumbersome at first its functionality became second nature and didn’t damage my experience in the slightest.
Keeping the player out of the inventory and on the battlefield is optimal considering the quality of combat in Diablo III. The encounter detailed in my introduction was not a singular occurrence. There are subtle physics applied to enemies and when blended with developer Blizzard’s top-notch animations and art it creates an engaging and intense gameplay experience. Heads and limbs, separated from bodies at regular intervals, are sent flying because of the sheer force demonstrated by a characters might. I distinctly remember cracking a smile the first time I attacked and noticed that my weapon was generating air current and moving objects in the environment.
Unlike similar games on PC, Diablo III has the player taking direct control over the character they’re playing as. On PC, pointing and clicking the mouse tells the Barbarian where to go and who to attack. It’s something that has always felt more like giving orders to me. Now, moving the analog stick and seeing my character move in conjunction with that movement, I feel more connected to the action on screen. That connection is further punctuated by the inclusion of a God of War-style combat roll that, to my knowledge, wasn’t included in the original PC release. The roll is an integral part of the combat experience and I don’t think I could play a version of the game that doesn’t have it.
Having come off Torchlight II on PC, I have to admit that I enjoy this style of isometric RPG even more on console. The inclusion of same system co-operative play reminded me of days when my brother and our friends would play games like Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance I & II or Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes on the original Xbox and I’ve always preferred playing this kind of game with friends in the same room to playing online. However, there are two unfortunate downsides to playing Diablo III on the same system as friends: First, while gold appears to be divided among players, loot is not; whoever gets to it first gets it. You’d better hope your friends aren’t greedy. Second, only one player can be in their inventory at a time. It’s a minor gripe, but depending on how many people are playing it increases the amount of time spent out of combat.
There are very few drawbacks to the console version of Diablo III. It has brutally satisfying combat, a steady supply of loot, and for players like me, its couch co-op play tugs on nostalgic heartstrings in a way the PC version never could. In bringing Diablo III to console, Blizzard has developed the best possible version of their action role playing game and I’m sure I’ll be playing it, both by myself and with friends, for some time to come.