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Diablo Immortal deserves to sink into oblivion, but I’m thankful it made me finally play Diablo 3 on console

If there’s any good to come out of the shameless Diablo Immortal, it would be that it convinced me to check out Diablo 3 on consoles.

I’m positive I’ve played Diablo 3 more than any other game ever. I go through the whole campaign every 12 months or so, and jump in every now and then when I want to listen to a lengthy podcast – because it also happens to be an excellent podcast game.

Action RPGs and Diablo-likes are not exactly in short supply these days, but I find myself habitually going back to Diablo 3, particularly when I’m done playing a new one of those. I don’t care that Path of Exile has deeper progression, Wolcen has better graphics, or whatever other quality (or qualities) any new ARPG could claim over Diablo 3. Nothing I’ve played feels as good as Diablo 3.

From the moment Diablo Immortal was revealed, I've been naively thinking of it as an expansion to Diablo 3 – just one that happens to be on mobile. My deluded anticipation held firm as I continued to ignore all signs to the contrary. I even made peace with the fact that I’d be playing Diablo on a phone, and I rarely want to play anything on phones.

But then Blizzard said f**k it, and decided to put it out on PC. I no longer have to worry about setting up the iPad just right or wrangling my phone into becoming a miniature console.

No more of this nonsense – it’s mouse and keyboard time, baby! But we can’t have nice things.

I’m going to generously call Diablo Immortal on PC a ‘mobile port’, but it has to be one of the lowest-effort I have ever seen. The fact that it came from Blizzard, a studio whose entire history is built on the making of PC games, really does put things in perspective.

Diablo Immortal on PC doesn’t recognise the scroll wheel, you have to click and drag the window as if you were using a touch screen. It doesn’t assign any function to right click by default. It’s full of prompts intended for mobile players, such as ‘tap to’ do this or that. Its UI is zoomed in to be readable on a phone screen. Its assets were simply made for the limited processing power of mobile devices, and do not look good blown up on a monitor or TV.

But what really made me upset was how poorly this supposed ‘PC game’ controlled with mouse and keyboard. Plugging in a controller didn’t solve my problems, either, as it also defaulted to the layout and handling used on phones. Even after a few tweaks, the UX kept showing how much it was designed for touch gestures. You can’t just rewire your brain to ignore the right stick when you want to scroll down a damn list.

And this is what I don’t understand. Blizzard made one of the best-feeling, best-controlling ARPGs on PC with Diablo 3; it found a way to port the same satisfying gameplay to consoles and devise solid controls for both action, and menu navigation on controllers. It’s effectively a solved problem on both ends.

Yet, Diablo Immortal pretends like neither of those exist. It’s maddening how poor the user experience is for a game called Diablo. From Blizzard!

I won’t even get into Diablo Immortal’s immoral design; it’s well-trodden territory at this point. Though it may be hard to believe, I am more saddened that I never got to that point with the game because it just doesn’t feel good to play.

This little experiment made me realise that I never actually played a Diablo game on a controller. Diablo 3 on PC doesn’t officially support them, and I never found a point in buying the game on consoles since it made the jump.

Having now experienced the sensation of playing Diablo on a controller, it made sense. I wanted a proper game actually designed for controllers, so I picked up Diablo 3: Eternal Collection on Xbox (three console generations later!). It’s on sale for sub-$20 at the time of this writing, and it comes with the full package.

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My god, everyone was right! I’d been missing out on a solid action game perfect for controller, simply because I never considered leaving behind mouse and keyboard. Diablo 3 on consoles is everything I wanted Immortal to be.

It’s made to take advantage of controllers, and smartly gets around their inherent limitations compared to M&K. But its greatest triumph is how it justifies the experience on consoles. Had you not been aware of Diablo’s long history on PC, you wouldn’t ever think this game was made for mouse and keyboard; functions are mapped nicely to a pad, menus are easy to navigate, and looting, equipping and comparing items is straightforward enough without losing the depth offered on PC. Some concessions could make certain situations awkward, such accidentally picking up items when trying to attack a nearby enemy (thanks to both functions sharing the same button). But those instances are rare.

Blizzard’s decision to add the ability to roll – something that never made it to PC – ramps up the pace of combat and marries its mechanics better to controllers. I casually spent over three hours playing it the first time I turned it on after it was installed.

Diablo 3 is an old enough game that it will run well on pretty much anything, including the powerful modern consoles. The game is locked to 4K as far as I can tell on Xbox Series X, and its 60fps framerate never budges.

I went back to Immortal again to see if I could somehow recreate that control scheme and maybe change my mind about it, but it just refused. Maybe months from now updates will make it feel more natural on M&K or controllers, and maybe its monetisation will become less nakedly predatory. Until then, PC players who own a console have a whole new world waiting for them with Diablo 3 on Xbox or PlayStation.

While we all collectively wait for Diablo 4, let’s not give Immortal the light of day.

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