When Diablo III was bundled with the Reaper of Souls expansion and released on the PS4 and Xbox One as the Ultimate Evil Edition back in August 2014, Blizzard promised exciting post-launch support for the title.
Specifically, they announced that the console version of the game would receive patches more or less in line with those released for PC, both in terms of content and schedule.
Quite frankly, I think they’ve done a tremendous job of adhering to their words. Since release, patches have been pushed out with a pleasing regularity, ensuring that console gamers aren’t left out in the cold compared to those playing on PC. New areas have been added such as the Ruins of Sescheron, which come complete with new enemies and events. Features have been bolstered and enhanced to improve the end game experience; Rifts and Kanai’s Cube being just two examples. And let’s not forget the wealth of quality of life enhancements that have been implemented, like optimising the layout of New Tristram to reduce wasted time. Diablo III on console and PC is the gift that keeps on giving, which is commendable considering that it’s a title that doesn’t depend on microtransactions or a monthly subscription.
One feature of the PC version of Diablo III still eludes console owners though: seasons. Lasting 3 months, each season allows Diablo III fans to start afresh with a new character, bereft of any equipment and paragon experience you’ve previously earned. The draw is that it offers unique rewards, new legendary items and a leaderboard by which to measure your performance against others. What’s more, when the season is over, any gold, items and Paragon experience earned is transferred over to your non-seasonal characters. It’s a fantastic way to keep the experience feeling challenging and fresh, but until major changes are made to the console versions of the game, it’s unlikely to make the leap.
You see, particularly prevalent within the PS4 community of Diablo III, is cheating. It’s a major problem that discourages many players from playing public online games with strangers. As a result, Diablo III isn’t quite as popular to play online via console as it is on PC, which is truly a shame. It stems from the fact that whilst save games are all handled server side on PC (hence the necessity to be online to play), on console they’re stored locally, leaving game data open for abuse.
With two or more players and a bit of knowhow, it’s all too easy to duplicate items on PS4, making the scarcity of invaluable items such as Ramaladni’s Gift and a whole host of crafting materials a thing of the past. The best legendaries can be shared, items can be flippantly re-enchanted until you’ve got a perfect roll, and Blood Shards can be repeatedly spent with Kadala until you’ve acquired an item you deem worthy of your hard work. I’ll admit that I’ve done it, and whilst in the short-term the rewards feel great, in the long term it leaves your achievements feeling empty and hollow. Whilst the ease of duplication is troublesome however, it has nothing on Diablo III’s main online problem: hordes of players inadvertently (or maybe intentionally) ruining your fun with hacked items.
Playing a public game via the console versions of Diablo III is pretty much a gamble, and so far, Blizzard seems to have done little about it. You can be happy, beavering away at bounties or quests with like-minded players who keep it on the level, but the next player who joins could be one of the many who don modified equipment. Before you know it they’re marauding around, swatting the most fearsome of foes down like flies, and unless you boot them or leave the game sharpish you’re likely to see your experience bar fill up at an alarming rate. The trouble is some players will be in awe of such power, begging the unscrupulous invaders for some similarly corrupt equipment. Chances are it’ll come at a real-world monetary cost, but they’ll stump up for it, perpetuating the issue further.
It’s a cycle that will undoubtedly continue for as long as the game is supported, and only Blizzard has the power to combat it. Maybe they ought to do it soon. With the Rise of the Necromancer DLC pack on the horizon, I can’t help but feel that the renewed interest it will bring to the title would also make it the opportune time to finally bring seasons to console. Blizzard certainly seems open to the idea, although it’s clear that work needs to be done before it can happen.
As an outsider it seems as though the answer is easy – transition game saves away from local machines to instead be stored server side, perhaps flagging accounts that seem suspect along the way. Of course, it’s not quite as easy as that as it will affect the many players who have no intentions of playing seasons and don’t want to have to be online to play. Perhaps then, the better option would be for seasonal characters to have separate saves that are stored on Blizzard’s servers. How that would then affect the transfer of items, gold and paragon levels earned during a season over to non-seasonal characters though is unknown.
Whatever the answer is, I hope Blizzard act upon it before it’s too late. Although, to be honest, after two years of turning a blind eye, perhaps it already is. Diablo III is one of my favourite games, having spent considerable time playing it on PC, PS4 and Xbox One since the day it was launched. Bringing seasons to console would only further reignite my passion for playing it, controller in hands, with friends – and no doubt it would do the same for many others around the world. Convincing those players that it’s finally safe for them play online public games, however, and that action will be taken against those who abuse and cheat the system, may prove to be the biggest barrier to it happening – and more crucially, being a success.