Diablo III is the Action RPG your Xbox 360 has been crying out for. Already a hit series on the PC, this loot-driven adventure is tremendous fun in single player but really shines when you team up with friends to tackle its many challenges. The story takes place twenty years after the events of Diablo II, where series favourite Deckard Cain reads the prophecy of a coming darkness, before being cast into a crater created by a mysterious falling star.
You play as one of the Nephalem, a race who possess unique abilities which lend them the power to save the world, and you begin your quest by investigating the fallen star. There are five character types to choose from - Barbarian, Monk, Witch Doctor, Demon Hunter and Wizard. Every class has their own back story and, unlike other Diablo games, can be cast as male or female. There is a clear difference to each class, providing something to satisfy most play styles. Customisation of equipment and skill sets, with a myriad of skills being unlocked as you progress through the levels, allows the player to craft a character who is uniquely suited to them or the foe they are facing. This can also go horribly wrong, as a poorly balanced character can lead to frustrating battles, so it is important to consider each decision carefully in the later stages of the game. Building a well equipped and skilled character can leave you feeling like an unstoppable force against the thousands of enemies Diablo throws at you during your adventure.
This game is about two things; fighting and looting. From the first scene, you are destroying large groups of enemies using spells, battle axes, ranged weapons or whatever else your playing style dictates. Attacks and items are mapped to various buttons so that combat can flow seamlessly and the addition of a dodge function makes battles feel fluid and engaging. Don't let the illusion of an 'I win' button fool you here, there are areas where real skill is required. Equally, teamwork is a necessity in multiplayer as the action can ramp up and get out of control quite unexpectedly. The temptation is to run like crazy towards every piece of loot, but sharing items is a must to optimise your damage output. The loot system seems to have been improved for consoles, as there is a higher percentage of rare and class specific drops both in single and multiplayer.
As well as loot dropped by enemies or chests in dungeons, there is a crafting interface which allows the player to build high level items by breaking down unwanted equipment into materials and combining these to forge powerful, randomly generated weapons and armour. Craft stations can be levelled up and are a considerable gold sink, but the rewards can be impressive. Some of the best items can only be created after finding recipes dropped by monsters, giving the player yet more reasons to continue exploring at the higher levels.
Most areas and dungeons are randomly generated, featuring different layouts, enemies, events and sub quests. Additionally, certain items can only be found in the later modes which means that it is impossible to see everything Diablo III has to offer in just one or two playthroughs. The fact that you can revisit different areas and modes alone or with your friends (or with random strangers on Xbox LIVE if you dare) is a huge benefit, allowing you to play how you want, when you want. Be aware though, selecting Quick Match online on your first play through can drop you into areas you haven't previously visited, so if you want to avoid spoilers, be sure to stick to your current act and quest when joining games.
Diablo III allows you to experience as much or as little of the story as you wish. The overarching narrative is kept brief enough to avoid annoying casual gamers or those just wanting to get straight into the action, but there is the option to converse with many of the characters to truly discover what is happening in the world of Sanctuary. These conversations are also needed to complete some of the many challenges which will keep completists coming back for more.
Reforged specifically for consoles, Diablo III maintains many of the strengths of the PC version while improving on some of its weaknesses. Although the Xbox 360 can't compete graphically, gameplay feels very much improved by the console conversion. Gone is the sometimes hypnotic and tiresome clicking, replaced by a much more dynamic gaming experience. As this series is all about looting, the improved item spawns make it all the more fun to play. Multiplayer and single player are very satisfying and the random dungeons and increasing difficulty levels make Diablo III a game deserving of multiple play throughs.