A largely negligible story coupled with technically perfect gameplay make this console port of Diablo III the perfect “podcast game”: something to hammer away at on the controller while doing something else.
Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition
Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4
Release Date: August 19, 2014
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Can we all just agree that Diablo III is Candy Crush for the hardcore? Like King’s world-conquering puzzle game, Diablo III uses its barely-there narrative wrapper to cram you into its game world. And that’s when they’ve got you: twitch/instinctive gameplay pretty much takes over as you get caught in a feedback loop of win-reward-repeat. Really, Blizzard‘s game just offers more technical complexity while throwing a seemingly endless loot system on top of things and… that’s good enough, I think.
Yeah, I’m kind of in a weird spot with Diablo III, which recently made its way to the PS4 and Xbox One (the edition we’re reviewing here) in the Ultimate Evil Edition. Bringing together three years of updates, mechanical fixes, and the March Reaper of Souls DLC, Blizzard has found some ways to keep us playing past the level 70 cap and the endgame, but it means embracing not ignoring the repetitiveness of the experience.
What’s so appealing about this dungeon crawler is that – some technical niggles aside on the console – it’s so incredibly accessible, that it’s easy to think of this as the current generation’s Gauntlet.
What this game does is dig down deep into your brain’s wiring and appeal to the part that likes numbers – particularly seeing numbers going up. I spent more of my time comparing items in menus than I did planning strategies for Diablo III‘s enemies, a quirk in its design that’s a feature, not a glitch. Finding the right set of skills and equipment for my lady monk was often as time-intensive as taking down any of the elite-class enemies in the game, Blizzard having found the perfect mix of randomized equipment with just the right collection of magic affects and status nonsense inside of a largely coherent interface for the consoles.
And when you get out into the game’s world, killing demonic minions, skeletons, and the like, the game excels with all sorts of explosions and particle effects alongside massive kill combos, making your outfitted hero(ine) feel like a complete badass. There’s something so raw and vital about pulling off a move like the monk’s hundred hands attack and seeing enemies collapse in a pile of loot. That’s how Blizzard gets their hooks into you, and that’s presumably what will keep you playing once you’ve finished the main campaign.
Some of you might care about the story in the Reaper of Souls expansion (I sure didn’t), but it involves the Angel of Death deciding that he wants to end the war between heaven and hell by wiping out all of the humans and angels in one sick move. The net result is more enemy types rolling around Diablo III‘s dungeons, but the plot is so negligible that it could be ripped out without affecting the game in any way at all.
The Adventure mode allows you to return to all of the locations from the campaign to wreck things on a higher difficulty level (you’re better off starting at the second or maybe even third highest difficulty settings – the game doesn’t offer much in the way of challenge otherwise). Grouping up with other adventurers is a largely coherent affair (just hop into Quick Match and find another game to dive into).
If you’re worn out on the campaign content, earning Rift Keys (awards for killing enemies in Bounty missions) will let you drop into randomized missions with harder enemies and more rare loot. The Paragon system will ostensibly keep you playing beyond the level 70 cap by offering points that can be shared across any new characters you create in your Diablo III account. I’m still not sure how the season system (implemented in the PC version of the game) will be implemented across consoles, but it’ll be interesting to see how Blizzard keeps its hooks in us going forward.
It’s not all mechanical near-perfection and terrible storytelling: there are a couple of quirks to the console versions that bear keeping in mind. Mostly, it’s down to the action button (A), which will sometimes trigger traps/doors/etc. instead of attacks, preemptively ending a sweet combo by sending you out of a room. Similarly, I wish there was a way to compare stats on multiple pieces of equipment, but Blizzard erred on the side of large, readable content rather than lots of it.
You’ll probably burn through the main campaign in a matter of hours (playing it off and on, I wasn’t counting, but it couldn’t have been more than four on the middle difficulty), but that’s okay: hopping online and playing Diablo III with your friends is an essential and addictive experience which has survived (and thrived in) the port to consoles.