Before you try to burn me at the proverbial stake, let me make it emphatically clear that I would be absolutely ecstatic if Blizzard somehow managed to pull off a worthy rendition of Diablo III for the Xbox 360. And while I could sit around twiddling my analog stick worn thumbs for the next several months (or years) waiting in anticipation for what will certainly amount to a controversial console release, I’d rather spend my time slaughtering the minions of Hell from the comfort of my PC. At least I’ll know what to expect. Maybe deep beneath my guise of a game journalist lies a PC fanboy, but regardless, Diablo III is probably not going to work on the Xbox 360.
Let’s temporarily forget that Blizzard has never created a game for consoles, and go under the assumption that they have the in-house expertise to pull it off. Even then they would have to somehow subvert the obvious problems playing a click-and-move adventure game would pose for the controller. At the very least there is the targeting issues. Using the shoulder buttons to switch targets seems awfully tedious for a game that is renowned for its frenetic pacing – it’s simply not an option. The other alternative is to take the Torchlight approach: set all relevant actions to the face and triggers, use a sole analog stick for movement and eliminate the cursor entirely. Problem is, Torchlight is in many ways a recreational form of Diablo III, and hence was able to succeed using a more direct targeting system. But because of the split second decision making processes that define Diablo III, which often involves targeting a caster type at the back of the screen, the virtual cursor seems like a must have.
I think that gamers are going to be able to get over the whole “must be connected to the Internet at all times” obstacle rather quickly – regardless of whether they are playing on the 360 or a PC. However, Diablo III without Battle.net? That prospect seems about as gloomy as a dinner date with Baal. Granted, Xbox Live is no pushover when it comes to socialization and drop-in, drop-out matchmaking but without a keyboard some aspects of the game, i.e typing, are going to go so unbelievably slow. Anyone planning to play D3 on the Xbox 360 would do well to invest in an adaptable keyboard – wait, but then why wouldn’t you just play it on the PC?
Oh right, because the D3 requirements are too high. Actually they’re not very high at all, and we have Blizzard to thank. If D3 took say, a normal amount of time to develop, the system requirements would have been rather cutting-edge. However, thanks to either their ineptitude or obsession, the game stagnated in limbo for so long that processing power caught up. In fact, a five generations old NVIDIA card coupled with a processor faster than the average hamster on a wheel will prove more than sufficient at running D3 on normal. Now, because we have yet to play Act IV, we are at least partially oblivious to exactly how many potential enemies will be onscreen at once, but color me pessimistic when I say it’s not going to be a problem for most low-end gaming systems.
What is going to be a problem is the expected half-life of the Xbox 360. Diablo III is a game that is meant to be played for years, not a year or even two years – which is about the amount of time the Xbox 360 has left before a new console hits the market. Will gamers really be interested in playing a game designed on almost 10-year-old hardware, or does Blizzard wait to release it on the next Xbox? By that time even the most loyal console enthusiast would have probably caved and purchased D3 for the PC.
The list goes on and on my friends. Diablo III is a game that demands frequent patching, not just large updates. These patches will likely come at a substantially slower rate than they would on PCs. Let’s also not forget how much better D3 is going to look on a PC. Hell, if Diablo III ever allow for user mods they’ll be exclusive to the PC. That’s not to say I couldn’t turn the tables and write another, albeit shorter, article on how Diablo III will succeed on consoles, but based on the genre’s history and Blizzard’s MO, the prospect of Diablo III thriving on the Xbox 360 just seems a bit far-fetched.