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Diablo 3 Xbox 360 first look - Blizzard's colossus finally comes to console

Skills, UI tweaks, new moves and dumping the Auction House

The trick to creating a real blinder of a role-playing game isn't to load the plate down with esoteric skills, weapons, magic and what-have-you. It's to do so while communicating all these tactical options easily and naturally to the player. Blizzard is a past master of the art, having crafted some of gaming's greatest dungeon-crawling franchises, and that's nowhere more apparent than in Diablo 3.

There's a world of stats festering away under the surface, but what a clean, accommodating surface it is. A bar along the bottom left of the screen shows you which skills, spells and the like you've got mapped to which face buttons. Thumping a Beastman upside the noggin produces a spatter of damage numerals and a crisp status effect notification, accompanied by a telltale graphical flourish around the victim. Run low on health, and a potion icon will appear in mid-air above your character, saving you the terrific inconvenience of manoeuvring your eyes down to the health bar, literally centimetres of screen estate away.

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The inventory is also a triumph of intuitiveness, making it possible to get on board with the game's labyrinthine levelling options in seconds. The console versions benefit from some controller-friendly tweaks: in place of the old lists and grids, weapons, armour and items are arranged in a circle and tabbed out by pulling the analogue stick.

Want to know whether something's worth equipping, without wading through steaming pools of jargon? Look out for a colour-coded arrow. If you'd rather skip the inventory entirely - perhaps because you're playing local multiplayer, and don't want to interrupt things for other players - you can quick-equip things via a D-pad shortcut. It's accessible in a way a trek through hell has no right to be.

The business of hacking and slashing has been fine-tuned with controllers in mind. For starters, there's now an evasive move on right stick. "We thought it was important to bring that to Diablo III and it helped us solve a few of the issues that were inherent with bringing a game that was designed for PC to consoles," explains senior designer Matthew Berger.

"For instance on the PC if I get surrounded by enemies and they start to overwhelm me, I can pop a potion, click and tell my character to move somewhere else - click a skill that makes me temporarily invulnerable. I can do that practically all at once. On the console that can be a little more overwhelming if I have to actually move my character out of the way. So the evade gives room to breathe."

The game's skills are as they were on PC, but the implementation is more elaborate - the Barbarian's savage long-range pounce can be extended by holding the button, for instance. The item drop system has been tweaked, in acknowledgement of the fact that not everybody has the time to farm for rare loot. "On console, you get fewer drops that are higher quality, and more targeted to your class. If we were playing local co-op with two Monk characters, we would see more items with higher dexterity, and more Monk uniques."

Item crafting now grants bigger boosts, Berger continues. "Crafting has a better chance of returning higher quality, more targeted items. I've been playing through the console version at home and I made a wizard. I've made it all the way to Inferno and I was slightly overpowered with my crafted gear, which was wonderful. It doesn't mean the first roll is going to give you something amazing, but the chances in general are very high."

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