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PC Beta in Diablo Immortal: A First Look
2022/06/09 at 5:28 PM
Full disclosure: I have been a PC-only gamer for more years than I care to admit. I hadn't played console games since my days of quarter arcades and the Atari 2600. And until Closed Beta for Diablo Immortal, I hadn't played anything other than on the PC besides occasional word games on my phone and tablet.
I was very happy to learn of Diablo Immortal's PC port, since I also have serious issues with cumulative repetitive motion injuries in my hands. On top of that, I've had arthritis in both thumbs since I was a teenager, making console-style controllers uncomfortable to use for long gaming sessions. For me, a PC port is an accessibility accommodation as much as it is a gaming alternative.
That said, I did purchase a Stratus Duo controller to use with a borrowed Android tablet during Closed Beta, and was pleasantly surprised. Yes, my hands and thumbs got sore, but not as badly as I thought they would. The Duo also works with the PC, so I could test the controller in PC mode when that became available, as well as the keyboard controls. (I also found I liked the controller so much I bought a Stratus Nimbus to pair with my iPad, my mobile platform of choice, so I could do a fair comparison between the mobile and PC experiences).
With everything I'm going to say below, do keep in mind that this is a PC Beta. There is still work to do to make the PC version run in top form.
PC and Display
Conclusion: Needs a way to set resolution.
The major complaint many players have had with the PC version of the quality of the picture. As gamers, we tend to prefer larger monitors, and a game made for a mobile device is going to look comparatively fuzzy blown up to the native Windows resolution of larger monitors. There is currently no way to change the resolution.
Compared to what you see on a phone or tablet, this picture looks out of focus, even with all the graphics turned up on their highest settings. Turning on Image Sharpening under Graphics helped a little.
What helps the most is to use Windowed mode rather than Fullscreen, its default. It isn't as eye-popping as it is on my iPad, but the results are a considerable improvement. This setting can be found under Settings > Display, not under Settings > Graphics.
Graphics in Windowed mode -- still not up to phone/tablet standards, but much better
Of course, the best long-term solution would be to add what nearly every other PC game on the planet enjoys -- the ability to change the resolution to your liking.
PC and Keyboard
Conclusion: Mostly good, except for lack of mouse wheel support -- and one game-breaking flaw for Demon Hunters.
Having played Diablo III for years, I was happy to find that most of the default keyboard setup was nearly identical. Mouse movement, using the mouse to deploy the Primary Attack, everything was very familiar. Keeping the fingers hovering over the 1-4 keys for the four skills and using the mouse for movement and Primary Attack is just how I have played Diablo III for years.
Admittedly, many of the other default key assignments were a little wonky, mostly because of the weird assignment of the WASD keys for movement. Yes, those are traditionally movement keys, but having the movement keys and skill keys assigned to the same hand feels awkward. But ignoring those movement key assignments allowed me to make some changes to make some of the hotkeys more logical -- W instead of B for Warband and S instead of N for Skills (N? Why N?) -- that sort of thing.
My major beef with the mouse and keyboard system is I could not figure out how to scroll in my inventory or on vendors showing more items than would display. The normal method for this is to use the mouse wheel, which didn't work. In my inventory, using the mouse wheel was just making my paper doll just look a little bigger, a function I saw no particular reason to perform. Finally, my co-worker Tharid told me that you had to hold down the mouse button and drag it around. It's probably meant to mimic the function of dragging a touchscreen with your finger, but on a mouse it's awkward and unintuitive.
One of the problems several players have reported is the inability to move and cast their Primary Attack at the same time, which is a special problem for Demon Hunters. Their Primary Attack
is meant to be used this way, which is not possible the way that the Primary Attack key is implemented off the mouse left-click. Left-clicking a target runs the character up to range to deploy their Primary Attack -- and stops the character when it reaches range and attacks. This is counter to the Demon Hunter
ability, which is supposed to be executed on the fly. It's fine for most classes -- it works great with my Necromancer -- but it's a game-breaking problem for others.
There has also been a problem reported with keyboard inputs locking up in cases where players tend to spam skills quickly.
It's important to remember that Diablo III was built as a PC game, and that the controls were always meant to be played through the keyboard and mouse. While Diablo Immortal's earliest development was also on PC, it was always built as a phone game using a joystick/controller as its main interface. The keyboard commands then had to be back-mapped from the controller, not the other way around.
It's obvious that the keyboard functions need improvement, and better use of the mouse wheel needs to be included. The Demon Hunter isn't really playable using the PC at present due to the way that the Primary Attack works with the mouse.
(Honestly, the biggest issue for me switching back and forth between PC and iPad has been that I keep trying to use my monitor as a touchscreen. I just wish large touchscreen monitors weren't so stupidly expensive).
PC and Controller
Conclusion: Obviously a work in progress.
Since my Stratus Duo works with both Android and PC, I was able to test the Duo for the PC mode in Diablo III.
I've been using my Stratus Nimbus with my iPad (generation 8) very successfully since the mobile launch on June 1st. The controller there is very responsive and quick, and while I still sometimes finding myself hitting A when I mean to hit B, that's the fault of the operator and not the hardware. The controller works super smoothly with the iPad.
I wish I could say the same of the PC port with a controller.
My Stratus Duo works perfectly with the Android tablet -- like the iPad, very responsive and quick. By contrast, the PC port with the Stratus Duo as my controller was mushy and sluggish. The joystick controls are a perceptible distance behind, sometimes turning at least a half second after I've turned the joystick. Skills and Primary Attacks went off well after I'd pressed the appropriate buttons. There's also a frequent problem with drifting, where the character just seems to slide off randomly on its own.
I tested the Duo in a couple other PC games and it's just as responsive as I expect it to be. In the Diablo Immortal PC version, though, it causes serious driving issues. Switching from Controller to Keyboard immediately got rid of all the response time issues, and switching back to Controller brought them all back.
Many players with other controllers have reported similar issues when trying to use a controller with the PC version. Several players have reported input lag and drifting, even on controllers such as the Stratus Duo that are specifically listed as compatible controllers. Some Xbox controllers don't seem to work at all.
This is a beta. PC access was never tested in any kind of beta setting prior to launch on June 2, so it's fully expected that the port will not be perfect. Hopefully Blizzard can fix some of the glaring issues to make it just as playable and enjoyable on PC as it currently is on mobile platforms.
Let's remember that this was never even meant to be a PC game at all, so the fact that it is one is a great thing for the future of this game. Despite its flaws, I'll be using the PC version as well as mobile -- though I'll probably reserve my controller use for mobile until the sluggish controller issues on PC get addressed.
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