Blizzard’s Diablo series will always call the PC home. However, the PS3 version of its third installment presents enough constructive distinction to breathe new life into the franchise, thereby giving strictly console gamers a chance to experience Diablo III on their own terms. Not having played any of the previous entries doesn’t limit one’s enjoyment of the game in the slightest, but, as is typically the case with Blizzard, being a brand loyalist results in plenty of canny callbacks likely to induce gleeful nostalgia. From the classic background music cues to the decidedly trademark macabre Blizzard visuals (albeit moderately downgraded in overall quality from those of its PC counterpart), Diablo III is a love letter to fans who’ve been there from the beginning, as well as an open invitation to novices who’ve yet to venture into the deepest caverns of hell, hectically laying waste to countless monstrous adversaries and looting them for all they’re worth as they go.
Diablo III is more than just a ho-hum cash-grab port, and it’s clear that when developing the keyboard-less variation of the game, Blizzard took the most nagging criticisms of the original to heart. No longer must an operational Internet connection be established at all times. The relentlessly taxing auction houses have been completely exiled. Legendary item-drop rates have been significantly increased. Most important of all, perhaps, is that the majority of the stiff control issues have been wiped away in the transition from point-and-click slaughtering to gamepad-orchestrated killing sprees. The action feels faster-paced and more fluid this time around, as using the left analog stick for general movement in succession with the right for a refined evade tactic is an intuitive maneuverability scheme that generally bests the PC’s by a considerable margin. The main issue is the lack of precise aiming that vanishes with the departure of a mouse; long-distance attacks may miss their marks more often than not, but it’s a fair price to pay for the comprehensive flexibility of handling your character with the progressively forgiving nature of a tightly clutched DualShock 3.
Jumping into the fray in Diablo III is as quick and easy as hacking a low-level demon in half. The five available classes (Witch Doctor, Barbarian, Wizard, Monk, and Demon Hunter) all offer an extensive variety of skills to learn and perfect, and dealing heavy damage to oncoming enemies is a pastime that’s almost as entertaining alone as it is when dismantling foes with a group of friends. However, some of the cracks in the PS3’s presentation become increasingly visible when battles reach a massive scale: The framerate occasionally approaches a persistent chug and texture blurring is an unavoidable annoyance. Outside of combat, the reprogrammed non-keystroke-managed option windows feel dated and uninspired, looking like basic pause-screen interfaces from any mid-’90s adventure RPG. On the other hand, inventory system functionality has been specifically tailored for the PS3; using the D-pad for an array of collectable-related commands (scan/equip/drop), in addition to a larger pickup quantity space, relieves some of the woes in relation to the utter plainness of the game’s menu designs.
Aside from the magnanimously upsurged Legendary loot-drop rates, the single most praiseworthy aspect of Diablo III is its winning revival of epic living-room cooperative-mode sessions. Have you found yourself in need of a break from the four-player 2D side-scrolling anime-style murder quests of Dragon’s Crown? Diablo III should do the trick in a pinch. Online scenarios are pleasant enough, but nothing special. The developers at Blizzard have proven that they know what stands the test of time in this field, and they don’t shy away from that here. On the whole, this is one of the better PC-to-PS3 ports to come along in the dying days of the current generation, and with an expansion pack and a PS4 edition scheduled for 2014, presumably, Diablo III won’t require a sequel for at least another decade.