Squint at the devil with Diablo III’s remote play on the Playstation Vita

, | Games

Sony’s 2013 E3 press conference was the exact moment I knew I’d be buying a Playstation 4. It was also the exact moment I knew I’d be buying a Vita for the second time.

I had abandoned my first Vita the previous year due to a lack of compelling games. But the PS4 itself promised good indie support and none of Microsoft’s then draconian policies. I also preferred Sony’s exclusives over Microsoft’s first party stable. But what really pushed me over the edge and back into the waiting arms of the Vita was remote play.

After the jump, is that a devil in your pocket?

The irony of wanting a $400 next-generation console so that I could stream games to a five inch screen is not lost on me. But all that disappeared once I got everything working. I’m not going to say Knack was any good — in fact it was pretty poor even by launch game standards — but playing the technological wizardry of remote play elevated it. Before remote play, if it was time to watch TV with the missus, Knack’s cruddy checkpoint system meant I’d lose progress. Not so now. Now I could pause the game, go upstairs, connect via remote play, and continue playing until I hit a checkpoint or didn’t feel like playing any more.

Since then I’ve played every PS4 game I’ve owned via remote play. Infamous: Second Son and Killzone got cursory glances, but Assassin’s Creed IV and Watch Dogs saw at least twice as much time on the Vita as on the PS4. Contrast was only played via remote play. And when Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition was announced for the PS4, I was less interested in the Reaper of Souls content than the ability to play Diablo III on my Vita. Aside from Dungeon Hunter: Alliance, an execrable upgrade of a mobile dungeon crawler, there aren’t any dungeon crawlers for the Vita. Now with remote play, not only would I get a good dungeon crawler, I’d get the 800 lb. demon gorilla of dungeon crawlers.

Having played so many games via remote play I was initially concerned with how well Diablo III’s controls would map to the Vita. The Vita uses a combination of back and front touchscreen taps to make up for the lack of clickable thumbsticks and triggers. This worked fine in Assassin’s Creed IV and Wolfenstein: New Order. It works less than fine in Watch Dogs. Thankfully Diablo III’s controls translate perfectly. Skills mapped to the face buttons are unchanged and using the back touchscreen to fire off your R2 skills works like a charm, for both one-tap skills such as the Crusader’s swirling hammers or burning flails and also extended skills like the Wizards disintegrate-o-ray. Players who make use of the game’s lock-on feature via the L2 trigger may endure extra finger wrangling, but I don’t use the lock on feature, so I can’t speak to how seriously you’ll have to contort your hands. But the Vita isn’t as spacious as the PS4 controller so extended periods of remote play dungeon-diving leave my hands feeling cramped.

Unfortunately this isn’t the only source of physical discomfort.

Diablo III on the PS4 is a gorgeous game. A gorgeous game filled with lots and lots of text to tell you how much worse or better the Doodad of Extreme Importance you just found is compared to your currently equipped Doodad of Extreme Importance. I’m 42 and I have two different levels of astigmatism in my eyes ranging from “can see with glasses” to “the tall blob is my wife/the shorter blobs are my children”. After two hours reading Diablo III’s weapon stats on the Vita I’m in serious need of an eye break.

So why keep playing? Why force a gorgeous game onto a tiny screen and buttons that leave my hands cramped and my eyes watering? Simply put, it’s because the game is so damn good. I play Diablo III like a cartographer with OCD. Every bit of the map must be uncovered, every object destroyed, every event vanquished, every dungeon explored. If I get halfway through the map before having to quit without finding the next waypoint, it bothers me. I know that this game is all about killing and looting so uncovering the map again is another opportunity to kill and loot. But when I’m onmap, I need to discover it all before moving on. Remote play lets me do this. It also lets me explore one more hallway, kill one more nemesis, find one more legendary.

Sure I could probably wrangle more time on the PS4 proper. But when you play as many games as I do, spousal patience only goes so far. If that means I squint at two-inch-tall Death Maidens and the fine print on a pair of Inscrutable Pauldrons of the Beaver while giving half of my attention to The Mentalist to ensure marital harmony, that’s a price I’m happy to pay.

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