Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3 and PS4
Reviewed On: Xbox One
Multiplayer: 2-4 player co-op
Having been 2-years since its initial release on PC, Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition has arrived on current-gen consoles. Not only does it come packing a whole extra expansion pack on top of the standard game, but console players also benefit from a full two years of tweaking and patches that have resulted in a far better game than what it was at launch. Hurrah!
Yet a confession must be made: I never did play Diablo III. When it was released I hadn’t gotten back into gaming on the PC, by which I mean I didn’t have the funds to build anything more powerful than a small potato with some cables sticking out of it. Following the construction of my new PC I never did get around to playing Diablo III, constantly telling myself I’d get there but somehow never managing to. Until now, of course. The good news is that this provides me with the opportunity to present this review from the perspective of a newcomer, fitting given that Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition launching on Xbox One and PS4 with no other competitors in its genre. Indeed, with sparse libraries for both consoles currently, Blizzard have picked a good time to bring Diablo III to Sony and Microsoft’s new machines.
If you’re not motivated by the concept of slowly upgrading your character via the acquisition of seemingly endless amounts of loot then you may as well stop reading now, because Diablo III is all about the shiny, shiny goodies. New gear pops up constantly with powerful Legendary items beautifully balanced so that just as you’re about ready to stop playing a new one appears, spurring you onwards to the next glorious chest or big bad monster. A randomisation system is in place, meaning most items are unique to you and often oddly named, boasting a variety of stats and effects that ensure you greedily open up the character screen as soon as you’ve picked up something new so that you can examine everything in detail. One of my own personal favorites was a sword which boasted a small chance to summon forth a herd of angry axe-wielding cows to fight by my side. Chest armor, shoulder pads, belts, boots, helmets and both hands can all have items equipped to them, allowing for an immense amount of customisation in how you choose to play the game. While your chosen class of character does place certain restrictions on the weapons and items you can use, there’s still an absurd amount of gear to choose from.
It’s hard to put into words how addictive the search for new items can become, but anyone who has every played Borderlands will be familiar with the constant pull that drags you from location to location in the hopes of finding something rare. Stop a moment to consider the psychology of it all and you realise it’s not the actual items themselves nor the acquisition of them that truly excites: it’s the constant anticipation of the hunt, the thought of what you might find next that is truly pleasurable. Though obviously the Diablo series has been around for a long time on PC, aside from Borderlands loot-driven gameplay the closest comparison console gamers have is the awesome Torchlight, the sequel of which sadly never arrived on consoles. If you’ve experienced Torchlight’s mix of loot, dungeons and combat then you’ll not only understand how addictive hunting gear can be, but also the general gist of how Diablo plays. It’s a top-down hack, slash ‘n’ loot dungeon crawler with an emphasis on co-op, although it servers very well a solo title too.
You’re only able to carry so much loot, though, and thus eventually must come face to face with the harsh reality of having to give up some loot, a heart wrenching task when you’ve sunk countless into the game and have an armory of Legendary items, each seemingly more awesome than the last but not quite as awesome as the new helmet you just found. While you can just drop them on the ground, left to be found by scavengers, they can also be sold to merchants for gold or even placed in your stash back at the local town. If that doesn’t sound tempting you can always gift loot to friends. But the best thing to do is take items to the blacksmith to be broken down in order to use the parts in the creation of new weapons and armour. You can also give the blacksmith some of your hard-earned gold in order to train him, thereby allowing the crafting of much higher quality items.
With the myriad of loot available to you there’s plenty of ways to tweak your character to suit your own style, and that idea of allowing players plenty of control over how their favored class handles carries over to the combat systems. Your standard attack is mapped to A on the Xbox One, but open up the character menu and you’ll find three our four different selectable styles of primary attack, each offering various benefits. Furthermore that attack can then be altered using one of five Runes, with a different set of five Runes for each selectable attack. Likewise each of your other five active skill slots also have three or four skills to choose from along with a set of five Runes for each of those skills. If that wasn’t enough there’s also four slots for passive abilities, of which there’s plenty to choose from as well.
Not all these abilities and runes are available right from the start, but rather they are unlocked as you gain levels. Still, the sheer amount of choice in how you want to bash foes in the face is downright impressive. And boy will you be bashing a lot of foes in the face! Diablo III opts for throwing hordes of enemies at you, and thus it’s mostly a button-masher on all but the highest difficulty settings, but there’s an immediacy and sense of weight and power to the combat that makes hacking through the legions of monsters incredibly fun. It’s a game that places a lot of emphasis on making you feel powerful: attacks set off fireworks of lights and bangs, and crowds of enemies fall at your feet. With four players hacking away at once the game is a veritable feast of mayhem.
Between the loot and the multiple ways of switching up abilities and attacks Diablo III places a lot of emphasis on constantly tweaking your virtual avatar in the hopes of eventually creating the perfect character, a feat which is impossible because there’s always something a little better around the corner. It’s a good thing that the loot and gameplay manage to remain compelling after dozens up dozens of hours, because the story certainly won’t be driving you forward. The tale told is one of a great evil intent on destroying the world because of reasons no more complicated than because that’s what evil does, and of course only a group of heroes can possible stop this from occurring. The plot is rote and predictable, meandering along with a cast of serviceable but bland characters and poor dialogue to boot. There’s nothing to grab your attention along the way, or to stop you merely skipping through every line of dialogue in order to get back to killing things. It’s a paper-thin plot, at best.
The lackluster storyline certain isn’t the fault of the game’s overall presentation, though, which is brilliant throughout. The in-game graphics are vibrant and lively, constantly filling the screen with barrages of light, particles and other lovely stuff for your eyeballs to goggle at, and it’s all backed up with some great artistic design. The environments are truly wonderful to behold, and successfully create a world you genuinely wish to know about, making the less than stellar story all the more disappointing. Of course look closely and you’ll note that a lot of the textures aren’t very detailed, but in motion it’s hard to truly care. The really impressive visuals stem from the rare but stunning cutscenes, which really are superb to look at, acting as eye-candy of the very highest order. As for the audio the voice acting is generally solid throughout, while the rest of the audio design is fantastic.
There’s a lot of nice touches to be found within the game, such as the fact that there’s a ridiculous ten difficulty levels to choose from, each level offering increased XP and gold bonuses. Speaking of difficulty on top of all that the game also goes out of its way to welcome newcomers into the fight via Apprentice mode, which automatically levels you up when joining a game filled with higher ranking players then yourself. Other neat multiplayer features are present, such as the Nemesis monsters which can hop around your friends list, growing in power for each person it defeats until somebody manages to kill it, at which point everyone involved gets a reward. Certain Legendary items you find are also geared toward your friends, and will be automatically mailed out to them as soon as you pick it up, meaning they get rewarded simply by you enjoying yourself.
Indeed, multiplayer is where Diablo III is at its greatest. Though any game is infinitely more fun with friends involved, it’s doubly true of titles like Diablo III. And yes, I’m aware that you can’t double infinity. Just go with me here. Various powers can provide buffs to your team, but ultimately it isn’t a game demanding of anything that could be described as teamwork. Like playing on your own, with friends involved Diablo III is still mostly a relatively mindless button masher for most of the time, No, the fun comes from the sheer mayhem that erupts on-screen during a fight, and the continuing hunt for loot with your mates. Best of all, you can take part in four-player local play, the perfect excuse to get some friends round and order in some pizza.
Control-wise the transition to console almost feels like an improvement, mostly in the way you move and attack. Whereas on the PC version you had to click around the screen to move and launch attacks, here movement is more direct thanks to the left analogue stick, with dodge being mapped to the right stick. It feels smooth, and the menus are easy to navigate with a controller.
Even once you’ve worked your way through the already substantial campaigns of both the main game and the add-on Reaper of Souls, which throws in an extra fifth act, Diablo III seeks to keep you hooked. Adventure mode is the big addition here and pits you against new types of enemy mixes in a never-ending quest. In Adventure Mode you’re free to teleport straight over to any part of the world unlocked during the main story, with Bounties presenting you specific challenges to undertake, the reward being some awesome loot. Completing a Bounty also awards you a Rift Keystone, which when used back at a town opens up a randomised dungeon packed with a mix monsters, and a boss which naturally offers you a good chance of getting even more awesome gear. These Rifts can be tough, but generally have the best opportunity to get powerful loot. Meanwhile the Paragon levelling system means you can technically continue to level up indefinitely, though the more ranks you achieve the slower your progress will be. The Paragon system is activated once you hit level 70, and from then on for each level you gain you’ll earn a shiny new character border, plus a point that can be spent on bolstering your core stats, something that cannot be done during the regular levelling process. It’s just a shame that Adventure Mode is locked away until after you’ve complete the main story at least once, though given that the Ulitimate Evil edition is targeted at an audience who haven’t yet experienced Diablo III it’s an understandable design decision. Adventure Mode and Paragon levels keep things moving along with the chance of finding a new, interesting item grant Diablo III an immensely long life-span.
That is, of course, if you can overcome the game’s single biggest problem: Diablo III is an inherently repetitive game, its very nature demanding that you repeat the same things over and over. As satisfying as all the loot is and as satisfying as the combat is, there’s no getting around the fact that battling through hordes of enemies can begin to become a tiresome prospect, regardless of how many shiny helmets you find along the way. What’s surprising, though, is just how long it will likely take you until you actually stop and realise just how mindless it has all been. The endless cycle of killing and looting eases you into a comfortable, enjoyable rhythm.
There’s no performance problems, either. During my entire time of testing the game held a stable framerate of 60fps, with no noticeable drops even when enemies began to number in the hundreds. Loading times are practically non-existent as well, making for a far nicer experience overall.
If you’re looking to upgrade from your existing Xbox 360 or PS3 version of the game, or to even transfer over from PC, then the good news is that you can bring your characters with you, provided that you’ve signed up to a Blizzard account on both systems. But that’s not the really, really good news: you can also transfer characters from PS3 to Xbox One, or from Xbox 360 to PS4. All your items plus progression through the game will also come across with your character. The only negative here is that PC users can’t bring their data to consoles, a real shame for those looking to transfer, perhaps because they have a group of friends on Xbox One or PS4 planning on picking up the game.
With two full years of tweaking and patching plus an expansion pack Diablo III has arrived on current-gen consoles with a bang, proving that it’s the best of the dungeon crawlers. With such a sparse library currently for either the PS4 and Xbox One, and so few examples of the genre on either this or last-gen consoles anyway, Diablo III is in prime position to dominate. And for good reason: it may be repetitive, but it’s going to suck away huge chunks of your life.
+ Fun combat.
+ Co-op mayhem.
– Lame story.
The Verdict: 4/5 – Great, bordering on awesome.
A veritable loot-fest filled with great action.