If you follow my Facebook or Twitter you would have noticed that I was fortunate enough to win the chance to be one of the lucky few to be invited to the Sydney IGN Head Quarters for an exclusive pre-launch taste test of the console version of Diablo III. Here is the story of that adventure down memory lane.
The story begins back when I was in high school. Back then, I barely knew anything about PC gaming. I was a console girl, through and through. I had grown up with Nintendo products and had recently gotten a PS1. It is on that PS1 that I had my first experience with Diablo. People had mentioned that they played it on the PC, but I loved it on console, and it played naturally. I feel it is because of this that I was able to adapt, not just in ability to play the game with a controller, but psychologically, to the idea of Diablo III being on the PS3. Most people at the pre-launch constantly discussed the novelty of such an iconic PC game being on a console, whereas for me it felt like Diablo had come home. Now don’t get me wrong. I am well aware of the fact that Diablo was originally created to be a PC game, but it was my history, my context and my experience, that lead me to feel this way.
Some of you may scoff at the idea of porting Diablo III to console, so let me assure you, this is no port. The console version of Diablo III is exactly that, another version of the game, created from the ground up to feel native to console gameplay. The story is the same, and it has the same characters. The game play, in essence, is even the same. The difference is in the mechanics. Apart from the obvious using a controller instead of a keyboard and mouse, the way you play on a shared screen and navigate your inventory has been altered to allow for a better flowing experience. While you can still pause and prepare the regular way, there is a feature that allows you to cycle through the most recent items of equipment you have picked up, and it lets you know whether it is better than what you already have equipped. What this means is that you can upgrade your equipment and drop what you don’t want, all without stopping the game by going into the menu, and thus making everyone else wait for you. Also, having four people multiplayer locally is a lot of fun. Do you remember the days when you played multiplayer with your friends in the same room? Blizzard remembers.
IGN and Blizzard provided us with the beginning of the first act to play through, and my party was the first to reach the Skeleton King. Sadly though, since we were playing on Hard Mode, we were beaten in defeating him by the party behind us who were playing on an easier mode. After we did defeat him though, we were set up with a demo play of level 34 characters. With the skills acquired by this point, every attack looks impressive, especially on the large screen shared by four players playing together. Everyone agreed that it was a lot of fun. After this demo we were all called for a presentation. We were presented with the very same video being shown at Gamescom; Diablo III: Reaper of Souls. The atmosphere of sitting in a crowd of fans, watching that Grim visage in person was bone chilling. Even when everyone was quiet you could feel the tension. As exciting as it is to watch these cinematics on YouTube, it is nothing compared to seeing them in an official presentation. I suspect that after receiving this news everyone made plans to prepare for their next quest. What self-respecting adventurer wouldn’t? I mean, the first stop they made was for more beer, so logically…
From what I could gather and from talking to people, the game was received quite well. There were a few criticisms, but they can be put down to user errors as others did not experience the same problems (people just not quite getting how to play it on a console rather than PC). I did overhear a group of young males playing behind me stating that only people new to the series could get used to the idea of Diablo III being on a console, but myself and the diehard Diablo fans I spoke to (who had been playing Diablo since its first release) quite enjoyed the game. To me especially, it felt natural. You needed to come to the table with the fresh mentality of playing a new game with a familiar setting, rather than comparing it in every nuance to the original PC release of Diablo III. Let this be a lesson to younger gamers: when speaking in the company of people who have been playing video games longer than you have been alive, please be mindful of what you say, lest some ignorance dribble out. The average age of gamers is well into their 30s and we have a well of experience to draw from.
Back in Tristram, I would always play the Rogue. I have fond memories of running around shooting demons with my bow and collecting ALL the money! I also remember having to turn off friendly fire as I would often get carried away and shoot my friends. Now, in New Tristram, I tend to regularly play the Demon Hunter and there is fortunately no friendly fire. Could you imagine pulling off all of the epic skills, many of which are Area of Effect or target multiple enemies, while having friendly fire enabled? The arguments would rival those from playing Monopoly with family members and it would also result in no one wanting to play with me anymore… That and the fact that money pick-ups are now shared so no one complains that I have all the money.
It was clear that the focus of Diablo III on console was the experience of playing with others together locally, and in my opinion, this game fosters that quite well. Not only in the features, but also in the advertising with tag lines such as “Make it a foursome.” It had us playing with people we didn’t know, swapping controllers so everyone got a turn. Rather than being the console version of Diablo III, it feels more like the Diablo III version of console Diablo. I enjoyed it so much that I pre-ordered it when I got home. It comes out next week and I look forward to playing it the week after at my birthday party with my friends over. This is a really well put together social game, and if you are a fan of both the Diablo and console adventure games, I suggest you look into it.
To read my original first impressions of Diablo III, click here.