When I used to regularly play videogames on a LAN, Diablo and Diablo II were cornerstones of our LAN gaming. I’d have a single copy spawned across as many as six computers. We’d each have characters we were leveling, and I often had to shuffle character files around to different computers.
“I’m the level 30 amazon who is on that computer that he’s using, so I need her over here on this computer.”
“Okay, what was the character name and I’ll find the file.”
“Uh, I don’t know.”
It was part of the charm of gathering locally to play videogames, along with maintaining six computers. It was another era. But the Diablo was a big part of what made it worthwhile. These days, we play boardgames when we gather locally. These days, you have to use the adverb “locally” when you talk about physically gathering. These days, get off my lawn.
After the jump, wait, come back! I was about to talk about Diablo III on the PS4!
Look, just stand at the edge of the lawn, please, so I don’t have to yell at you. Have I mentioned that I’m within a Presidential term of my second half century? I have watched the social element of gaming wend its way from the tabletop to the TV to the LAN to direct internet connections to servers populated with strangers and back again to boardgames at the tabletop. As such, the main reason Diablo III on the Playstation 4 is the definitive version of Diablo for me is its place in that wending path through various types of local and non-local gatherings. The beauty of Diablo III on a console system is only partly that it’s such a smartly made game that Blizzard has taken great pains to make better and better in the two years since it was released. The greater beauty of Diablo III is that the local co-op restores the locally to gatherings. Blizzard has carefully built Diablo to play for up to four people on the same screen, each with his or her own characters on a profile, each able to hop in and out with minimal fuss, with an apprentice system to scale characters so they can play with each other and a lovely quick-equip option so players can sort out loot without having to call up a big-ass full-screen inventory display that puts everyone else on hold. Of course, that’s in there, but you all make a deal to take turns at it when you portal back to town. Diablo III is eminently manageable for four players in a way that almost no console games bother with anymore.
Of course, this being a next-gen system, the beauty of Diablo III is also the beauty of Diablo III. It looks every bit as good as the PC version. Better, since it’s on my big TV and I’m sprawled out on the couch with the whirling noise of the crusader’s magic hammers passing in turn through my left rear and right rear speakers. The drawn-out laid-back hack-and-slash sessions of Diablo’s endless action RPGing and endlessly addicting endgame are so well suited for the living room, and Blizzard has done the hard work of making a port that feels more like a homecoming than a port. Diablo feels so right on a controller, when you move your character directly rather than pulling her along on an invisible leash tethered to a mouse pointer. The price you pay is probably some of the finely tuned targeting of certain powers in certain challenging endgame situations. Oops, I had hoped to use my barbarian jump on that yellow elite and instead I’ve landed on some middling minion. Oh well. At least I’m not playing hardcore characters yet. In the give and take of choosing a platform, you can’t win ‘em all.
This latest release, glumly named the “Ultimate Evil Edition”, for next-gen systems includes all the awesome stuff from Reaper of Souls that finally upgraded Diablo III from a game I really liked to a game I loved. Now it’s here on the platform of choice for local gatherings and couch gamers, and it’s even got a few lagniappes that the PC version doesn’t get. New rewards for killstreaks, gifts to send along to your friends list, a nasty nemesis that dogs you and your friends just to remind you all that, hey, you’re each still playing Diablo III even though it came out two years ago and this is probably your fiftieth time killing the skeleton king. That’s the real magic of effective entertainment, executed so carefully, so precisely by the folks at Blizzard: familiarity that isn’t stale.
(For a look at how Diablo III works on the Vita via remote play, read Brandon Cackowski-Schell’s coverage here. And listen to both of us go more indepth about the comparative advantages of Diablo III on a console or a PC in this episode of the Qt3 Games Podcast.)