On Thursday during the last few hours of E3 2013, I got a chance to get some hands-on time with Blizzard's console version of Diablo 3. This play test was on the PlayStation 3, but the company also had the Xbox 360 playable build available as well. I only chose Sony's console because the station was the only one open to play – it had nothing to do with fanboy preference (I own both consoles thank you very much).
For the demo, I stuck with my favorite Wizard character class which was already leveled up to around 35 and packed full of potent, boosted abilities like Disintegrate and Frost Nova. The difficulty was also set on Hell or Nightmare – I don't remember exactly but it sounded like bad news for my character. Luckily the Wizard was ready for action.
The setting was during the "Trailing the Coven" quest towards the back of ACT I. I really didn't recognize the area although Diablo 3 gamers will know the overall terrain: each ACT has their own unique style. I mostly blew through this area killing everything with a red hot dose of Disintegrate or Frost Nova if the masses got too overwhelming. The Wizard had several other abilities on call, but these two were my most used.
So how does Diablo 3 work on the console? Incredibly well. The left analog stick handles movement while the right stick adds a new evade feature. Push down and the character quickly steps back. Push left or right, and the character jumps left or right. Piece of cake. This makes it extremely easy to stay alive in the higher game modes like Hell or Nightmare.
For skills, they're all mapped to the right side of the controller. The "X" button is Skill 1, the "Square" button is Skill 2, the "Triangle" is Skill 3, and the "Circle" button is Skill 4. The R1 button is Skill 5 and the R2 button is Skill 6. I believe the skills themselves can be mapped to wherever you want them.
On the left side, the L1 button is for potions, and the L2 button is for targeting the enemy. Finally there's the D-pad: press up for fast equipping weapons, right for using a Town Portal, and down for pulling up the map. That's it.
It's funny: Diablo 3 feels extremely comfortable on the console given it has been a PC/Mac exclusive since May 2012. Unfortunately, my time with Diablo 3 was limited, so I didn't explore other options like using the Town Portal or digging through the inventory. However the Select button brings up the Character Menu and the Start button activates the Game Menu.
So what's the verdict? Did Blizzard do an awesome job translating a PC hack-n-slash into a console gem? Yes indeed. I guess it felt a little awkward because it just looks and feels different despite being nearly identical: I can't exactly pinpoint what that "different" is outside the control setup. It could be that the point-of-view may be zoomed just a bit more than the PC versio, or maybe I was just tired and ready to wrap up E3 for the year.
Regardless, Diablo 3 for consoles doesn't feel like a port. It feels like Diablo 3 on another screen, only with controller support. That's a good thing, but don't expect to play with your buddies on Battle.net or Xbox Live: all versions are locked to their proprietary networks. Bummer I know. As for multiplayer, gamers can choose to lock everyone out, open the game up to friends, or let the entire Diablo 3 population invade their game.
Look for Diablo 3 to arrive on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in September.