E3 2013: Diablo III (Hands-On)

by: John -
I'm a veteran of Diablo III with a couple level 60 characters with some Paragon levels sprinkled in there. Blizzard, who isn't normally at the show, was on hand to show off their latest build of the console port and I actually got to play it with a few others in Activision's booth.

The game looks the same, but adjusted for the console. By adjusted I mean the camera angle has a more tighter focus on the character, but will adjust with multiple people on screen where it widens out to accommodate more players. But before I get too far, I'm only talking about those playing in the same room on the same system. You see, Diablo III can be played offline and can be played all with four people on the same TV. When this happens, you'll have a Gauntlet type experience where you'll be confined to the screen, not allowing a player to wander off on their own. But what happens when a player takes a break? Blizzard has a mechanic though for those that walk away for a bit to perhaps use the facilities. Instead of pausing the game, the away character will automatically follow with the rest of the group should they continue wandering. They can still die, of course, but this won't stop the other players from playing should one have to take a break.

The confined screen aspect only affects those that are playing local. Let's say all the players are playing online. You'll get the traditional Diablo III experience where you can go wherever you please irrespective of where the other players are. You can also have a combination of local and online players with the local players having to be limited to the screen size while those online can venture forth. I'm glad Blizzard has made this decision to accommodate both sets of players to maximize their experiences with the game.

With the move to using gamepads, adjustments to the menus and gameplay were made. First off, for those who play ranged classes such as Wizards and Witch Doctors, your characters now have an "auto-aim" on spells. You can lock onto an enemy and your attacks, such as a blizzard attack, will hit them automatically. On the PC, you can click on an empty space to cast a spell there, but that's been done away with the console version making it a little easier to land an attack. If you cast a spell without facing a monster, it will just cast it in a space ahead of you. I tried out the Witch Doctor utilizing poison darts and it was pretty easy to land my attacks on a target using the PlayStation 3 controller. That's not a bad thing though as you'll still easily get surrounded can get overwhelmed easily with the tighter camera placement.

That's where evading comes into play. With the right stick, you can push a direction for your character to quickly dodge out of the way. This is a new feature that helps those on the console and it's definitely needed as I found myself many times in the middle of a pack of enemies. I asked if this feature would come to the PC side of things, but the Blizzard rep doesn't think this would be needed. Speaking of features found on the console and not in the PC, there will be ongoing discussions by teams to see if some of them do make their way to the PC and vice versa.

Menus have been tightened up and feature a radial style selection to let you go to and change things quickly. Blizzard also implemented a quick comparison system for items consisting of red down triangles or up green triangles in three categories: offense, armor, and health. With this you can quickly see if the item will be an improvement over the one you currently wield. Of course, you can go into the details of the item just like what Diablo III players are used to, but the quick compare is there if you would like to use it. Also, instead of pausing the game and going into the full screen menu system to change gear, you can do so on the fly with the quick compare system to guide you. Pressing up on the D-Pad lets you cycle through your backpack and there you can quickly change to a new weapon.

For changing your skills, you'll have to go into the full menu so if you're playing with others, there's no way around the stoppage of gameplay. Elective mode is here so you can choose skills from the same category if you so desire. The only way you won't interrupt someone is if you play with those online.

Content up to patch 1.07 will be in and I asked about how they are going to do updates. Blizzard is committed to adding content and they said they are having talks with Microsoft and Sony to work with their processes in doing so.

Drop rates are reduced, but you'll be getting better drops in the game. Same thing with crafting as there will be a better chance to get good items on the console than on the PC. 

Diablo III is a separate entity in that you don't login to Battle.net at all. It's can be played all offline, or a combination of local and online play. It was easy to control and it felt like a solid Diablo III experience. As one who has plenty of time on the PC version, the time I spent with the demo of the console version shows much promise. 

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