The latest issue of Xbox World is on sale now.
Blizzard is a big deal. It's the studio behind PC ultra-mega-hit World of Warcraft, a game that boasts over 10 million subscribers and an advertising campaign stuffed with pop-culture icons.
Thanks to its accessibility and commercial success, World of Warcraft has evolved beyond a mere game into a global phenomenon; it sits alongside such luminaries as Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty and Tomb Raider as a name synonymous with the term 'videogames' in popular culture.
The super-successful StarCraft series is its too, meaning Blizzard gets plenty of respect among the hardcore role-players as well as the Warcraft-playing casuals. It's a company everybody seems to love; a rare position even industry darlings such as Valve and Kojima Productions would be hard-pressed to claim they occupied. So, the fact that Diablo III - because Blizzard's epic fantasy RPG is the most anticipated game of this generation - looks like it's coming to consoles is a big deal.
Just to leap ahead of ourselves for a moment, if Blizzard is willing to dabble with Xbox 360 and PS3 for Diablo, surely it means it's seriously considering consoles for future versions of their other critically-acclaimed, big money-spinning series. Another big, big player in the console market? It's just what Xbox and PlayStation players need. Diablo III is heir to a glorious legacy of hyper-compulsive, ultra-satisfying games. The first two are action-RPGs with an emphasis on killing everything that moves - and some things that don't, just in case. But don't mistake it for a mindless clickfest or a vapid dungeon-slogger.
There's a reason the name evokes hallowed memories in any PC gamer over the age of twenty, and a reason a sequel to a game that came out twelve years ago has us desperate to delve into its depths: the Diablo games, like the soulstones and enchanted gems its players pick from its dungeons, are polished to an insane level.
The previous game saw a band of adventurers stomp the archlords Mephisto, Baal and Diablo, as well a host of their grotesque followers. But it's been twelve real-life years and twenty pretend ones since those events of the PC-only Diablo II, and the people in the town of Tristram are forgetting their land's troubled past. But just as society collectively decides all those stories from two decades ago were total myth, a new evil rises in the undercity beneath Tristram. Enter you, your weapon, and your insatiable desire to murder things by pressing buttons very quickly.
Fortunately for these forgetful folk, you're handy in a fight. New technology and that twelve year wait hasn't significantly altered the formula. Monsters - from lowly zombies to hell's favoured lieutenants, via rotting, bloated aberrations and bleached skeleton warriors - swarm the screen, necessitating swift, tactical fighting to keep them away from your soft skin. Batting them back to the hole they crawled from is a case of whacking them with your favoured weapon or ability, and Diablo III amps both the number of enemies and the scale of enemies: the result is daunting, even if you're not a weakling.
You play as one of five characters, and each has their own special skills, weapons, and combat styles. The Monk is a master of speed and surprise who can quickly insert himself into the middle of a fight, punch everyone in the face and flip back out; the Demon Hunter stands back, peppering the melee with bolts from improbable wrist-mounted crossbows; the Barbarian simply carries the largest wodge of wood available and hauls it into anyone in his way; the Witch Doctor raises corpses and magics frogs out of thin air to swarm foes and do his fighting for him. Lazy.And finally, the Wizard has his own supernatural line, but doesn't faff around with amphibians, preferring instead to roll a ball of elemental energy and blast it out.