When Diablo 3 first launched in 2012, the game was a mess. Here was a decade’s worth of expectations crammed into a game that was riddled with bugs, the infamous Error 37 that hampered the mandatory online-access requirements and a real-money auction house that divided fans.
All of these issues have been ironed out since then, with the game popping up on console in a superb port from Blizzard. The third time’s the charm however, because the Ultimate Evil Edition isn’t just a great hop from PC and old-gen systems onto newer console hardware. It’s quite simply the best version of Diablo 3 so far.
Two years after Diablo 3 was originally released, has resulted in time well spent by Blizzard in polishing up one of their key franchises to create a game that isn’t just more exciting, but complete. A rare feat in the industry today. What your cash buys you isn’t just the original Diablo 3 and the Reaper Of Souls expansion, but bonus features as well.
Hell, even if you’re playing Diablo 3 for what may be the umpteenth time, it’s still magnificently fun, and the option to invite some friends over from around the world with absolute ease and minimal fuss makes for a better game. If you’ve yet to actually try the game, here’s the skinny on what’s has happened to Sanctuary since the events of Diablo 2 and its Lord Of Destruction expansion.
Reality is a mess, with both Heaven and Hell warring against one another and humanity caught in the crossfire. Enter the player, choosing to start the adventure as one of several classes: Barbarian, Wizard, Witch Doctor, Monk, Demon Hunter and the new Crusader. Each character brings their own strengths and skills to the battlefield, with their various powers being dependent on new pools of energy such as Discipline, Rage, Wrath and Fury.
Along the way, players can improve on those skill, unlocking new ones and adding more to them with runes that become available as their power grows. On the surface, it’s a simple system, but when you realise that you can create a Crusader who rushes into battle on a horse that leaves holy fire in his wake and he calls down bolts of lightning from the high heavens as opposed to a warrior who kills his foes from a distance and hurls his shield at them in a manner reminiscent of Captain America, the choices to create become far more detailed.
But it’s the transfer of controls from mouse and keyboard to gamepad controller that make the biggest difference here. What Blizzard has done, is absolutely astounding. The controls don’t just work well, they actually make the game better. This has resulted in a far more visceral and exciting experience, with players plunged headfirst into demon-slaying action, with each press of the button feeling wonderfully mapped and intuitive. With the gameplay also now focused less on keeping an eye on both your energy reserves and health, players are naturally led into situations where they want to use all of the skills available to them, instead of mindlessly hacking and slashing.
The inventory system is also simplified, giving players the nuts and bolts to find out which gear will work for them, with navigation through your kit being handled through a radial menu. It still feels a tad clunky, but it works and it shows off that in some aspects, there’s a reason why action-RPGs of this type are dominant on PC. Still, the PS4 version of the game makes use of the touchpad as an optional input method, which works rather nicely.
But for the returning Diablo 3 player, what’s the real difference here? Well for starters, the game is running beautifully on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 hardware. It doesn’t boast new-gen visuals that’ll knock your socks off entirely, but that smoother frame-rate is a treat, as players navigate through New Tristram, Caldeum and various other locals that are rendered in that inimitable Blizzard visual style, beefing up their Nephalem hero and slaying evil. A new vendor in the form of an enchanter is also present, with players able to train this specific shop to enchant new bonuses on their gear and change the appearance of what they take into battle, in order to create a far more distinctive character.
There’s a story to be had as well, but when compared to previous tales from Blizzard, it’s rather rubbish and poorly strung together, one of the few faults that I have with Diablo 3. Completing it doesn’t take long either, with a single initial playthrough easily taking under 8 hours for players to hack their way through. While that might be a deal-breaker in certain games, running through Diablo 3 and completing it then unlocks newer difficulty modes and the far more enticing Adventure Mode.
What this mode does, is give players the run of Sanctuary and task them with tackling various bounties. From slaying a few hundred monsters to re-murdering a boss, these bounties then reward players with more loot, bloodstone shards that can be used to gamble for new items and an opportunity to open Nephalem Rifts.
These levels then have players exterminating their way up a monster food chain, until the big bad boss of that region shows up, itching for a fight and packed with high levels of XP and loot. In fact, once players hit level 60, the game gets even deeper with the Paragon system, which provides further opportunities to create a powerful hero.
In terms of social fun, there’s the afore-mentioned hop in and play option right from the start, with an apprentice system that gets players up to speed with their chums. There are also other social ideas present, such as Legendary gifts that can be sent to friends, and various Bane monsters crashing your party. You’ll know that these friend-killing beasts are arriving, when you hear a cloister bell ring, your controller rumble and OH HOLY TYRAEL THIS MONSTER IS OVERPOWERED! It’s a neat twist to social fun when you tackle a monster that is responsible for slaying one of your buddies, a small but meaningful addition to the core gameplay.
Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition was played on Normal difficulty on PlayStation 4. Then it was played through again on Hard. And then again on Nightmare and Darryn has yet to emerge from his room and we’re starting to get worried about him and that funky odour he emits.