During our recent trip to E3, we were able to sneak behind the seriously tight security of Activision Blizzard’s booth, and get some hands on time with the Playstation 3 build of Diablo 3. I know, I know... a lot of you guys were disappointed by the PC release, so why care about this one? Because, in my eyes, it’s clearly the best version of the game. Say what you will about consoles, but Diablo 3 on the Playstation 3 (and PS4 and Xbox 360) will be incredibly rewarding for couch-potato play with my wife. And what’s more? The PS3 version is doing away completely with the RMAH, and forced online play. That’s right: you can actually play D3 solo and offline. Now, if only they would put out a patch to do that with the PC version!
But what’s different about this version, aside from those two bigger details? Well, for starters the UI has been overhauled to better fit the PS3. You can see in the screens below that instead of dominating the lower portion of your screen, the health and hotbar sit off the lower left. If there are two or more players playing on the same screen, one hotbar and health bar goes into each corner to help the screen from getting too crowded. Similarly, when playing with multiple folks, the screen zooms in and out based on how far you are from each other. If a friend goes AFK, they’ll be dragged along with you for a while, so you don’t have to wait for them. If you portal to a new area, they may be left behind but when they return from their potty break they can easily portal back to you.
The inventory has also been revamped to work easier in the PS3 version. Instead of one giant collection of gear, it’s been streamlined so that you can get a good idea of what an item’s stats are just by looking at it through a scrolling menu. Item types are separated into categories via radial menu, and you can compare any item to what you’re wearing at a quick glance. If you want to see the full detailed stats, just press a button and there you go. It works really well for when you’re leveling up and just want to make sure you always have the best stuff for your build.
The action itself is actually intensified too, thanks in large part to having more direct control of your character and not hammering away on the left and right click for hours on end. I always thought Torchlight on the 360 was the best version of that game, and it seems like Diablo 3 on the console just might be the best version for similar reasons. The force-feedback when you strike a critical, the way you actually direct your character to run, and the way you can dodge/roll with a flick of the right stick all work really well. That’s right, dodging has come to D3.
I know that a lot of people will scoff that a console version of a game could be better than the PC. Hell, I’m usually one of those people. Blizzard, contrary to popular belief, holds to the claim that D3 for consoles wasn’t even on their radar until very late in the game’s development. Once they decided to move forward with it, a whole new team took the base code of the PC game and developed it separately from the main PC version. This is why you have a dodge, no RMAH, and offline play. This is also why the console versions have less trash loot, and much more high quality loot geared specifically towards the character you’re playing (as opposed to getting a ton of purples for the wrong class).
If you put all these things together, and then sit down and actually try D3 on the PS3? You might just be as convinced as I am that this is the quintessential edition of the game. Blizzard would do very well to offer up free trials on the PS3 or Xbox 360 for everyone, much as they have with the PC version. And hopefully all the eventual expansion content that is to come hits the consoles as well. All I know is that I’ll very likely buy the PS3 version this September, or at the very least hold out for the PS4 edition. It feels right, it feels more “Diablo” than the original release, and that’s what matters.
Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.