There’s been a recent trend of dungeon crawlers making their way onto consoles and no name looms larger in the genre than that of Diablo. Launching on PC last year, this behemoth of a title has now been reworked for consoles in the hopes of coaxing in a crown not so familiar with the combination of mouse and keyboard.
We need to say right at the start that we aren’t familiar with how the game played on the PC. The review will focus on the games strengths and weaknesses in its current form and how it comes across on console as we can’t keep comparing back to what has or hasn’t changed from its first iteration. That said, we have played the Diablo series before so we aren’t coming at it from the point of view of a complete newcomer.
For those not familiar with the series the game is a hack and slash style dungeon crawler with a slanted top down perspective. The plot revolves around a great evil rising from the depths and needing to be destroyed. It’s standard fantasy folk lore set in a dank and forbidding setting and the whole thing oozes with atmosphere and the feeling of dread and decay.
Starting out you have to pick from one of five classes such as a Demon Hunter or Witch Doctor. These classes are fresher takes on the classic classes of Archer, Warrior, Priest, Mage etc. There is no dice rolling to be done and after you’ve picked from several avatars it’s straight into the game. As you destroy monsters and complete quests you level up and this opens up skills slots which can be customised with a wide range of new powers.
Even for those new to this type of game you will pick up what to do pretty early on. The interface is slick and everything is made very clear about what it does when equipped. The same can be said for equipping armour and weapons as a handle compare button allows you to quickly see what benefits each piece of gear has. Picking up a new piece of year for a slot with nothing in will also see the item automatically equipped. In the field of battle you have to press a button to pick up gear but gold or potions are picked up automatically by walking over them. It’s hard to think how the game could be streamlined anymore and results in a slick and enjoyable experience.
The range of enemies you come across are both varied and plentiful and even at the start you will need to think carefully about how you are going to approach the hordes. On the easier difficulty settings there is no real downside to death but as the difficulty and settings ratchet up you cane even go into the fray knowing one death will end your adventure for you. The settings allow for the sweet spot of any adventurer to be found and it adds hours of replay value as well.
One of the downsides with this type of game is that after a while the combat can feel a bit samey. Though there are a wide range of weapons, powers and enemies to keep things ticking over you do end up performing the same cycle of hit, run and heal more often than you may perhaps like. That said this is by the far the best example of the genre we have come across on a console and it allowed for long periods of play before the feeling of repetition set in. it’s certainly a cut above the Baldur’s Gate hack and slash console games of a few years ago and those were very well received.
Much of the strength of the game comes from venturing into dungeons with friends. There are a host of options available to help with this and you can have strangers join your game as well. The more players in the game means the tougher the monsters get but it really allows Diablo to come into its own when you have multiple classes all trying to take down a giant beastie. In single player you can recruit companions of different types as well. You’ll need to do this early on or simply find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer amount of monsters coming after you.
Overall, this is about as good as we can see a hack and slash style dungeon crawler getting on a console. It’s incredibly user friendly and lends itself to long stretches of play. All the skills you pick up offer genuine benefits and options and there are a huge range of monsters to slay and loot to plunder. It has as brooding atmosphere and a feeling of grandeur that many a console game would kill for. Basically, if you like dungeons crawlers this is essential and if the genre hasn’t hit the right buttons for you yet then this might be the one to change that.