Format: PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS4 (Reviewed)
Developer/Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
With the release of Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition, the third instalment of Blizzard’s loot-happy franchise finally feels like it’s been released to the world properly.
To the uninitiated, Diablo is an action role-playing game, or ARPG. As the acronym suggests, it combines fast action gameplay with the kind of levelling and character development mechanics you normally see in role-playing games, held together with a ‘loot’ system whereby the player continually acquires new weapons and pieces of equipment to beef up their character even more. While traditional RPGs tend to be just as much about story as character development at their core, ARPGs build their very structure around constantly empowering your character.
The original version of Diablo 3, released on PC in 2012, was a fun game let down by squandered potential. Offering a short Campaign, no endgame content and that most egregious of sins for a game of this kind – lacklustre loot – it seemed entirely geared towards an unnecessary always-online requirement and a real-money gear market that was very profitable for those who knew how to work it, but generally frustrated fans.
This all changed last year with the Reaper Of Souls expansion. The campaign was given an extra act and a mission-based Adventure Mode added to keep players busy once the story was finished. These changes, along with revamped loot and levelling systems, made for a deeper, more rewarding game with practically infinite replayability. This expanded version of Diablo 3 forms the basis for this re-release (incorporating all content from the original version), which among other things marks the game’s long-awaited debut on the new consoles.
Diablo 3 doesn’t look like a game for the subtle at first glance, but the franchise has always taken enjoyment in its own contradictory nature. Your powers are big, your enemies are bigger, and the game is at its best when letting you wreck your enemies en masse in the most spectacular, OTT way possible. Beneath the gleeful manifesto of havoc, however, beats a complex, technical heart that routinely drives players to the kind of intricate strategy and stat-chasing familiar to fans of Blizzard’s World Of Warcraft. The moments where you annihilate a roomful of enemies in a lightning-fast whirlwind of viscera and splintered furniture is the gleefully chaotic carrot on the end of an intensely tactical stick, one that requires careful matching of abilities to balance damage-dealing and survivability.
Given this complexity, it’s a pleasant surprise just how well the controls work. Mouse-controlled games often struggle in this department on consoles, but it turns out that Diablo 3 is perfectly suited to a gamepad. The use of thumbsticks for movement give a tighter, more arcadey feel to the game that arguably feels more natural than the point-and-clicking traditional to PC.
Blizzard have also taken advantage of the more socially structured framework of the consoles with the novel Nemesis system. Giant horned monsters randomly spawn in-game, which are usually significantly higher level than your current foes. If you manage it kill it, it drops a high tier item as a reward. If it kills you, however, it will migrate to one of the people on your friends list, cropping up in their game in an even more powerful form – and so on and so on, until they’re finally slain and the victor gets to share the spoils with their slain friends. It’s an ingenious mechanic, weaving social play into the game without any need for traditional multiplayer, with gear-gifting providing continual encouragement for everyone to keep playing the game. People who do want to slay in the company of friends, however, are well served too, with an easy drop-in system making teaming up a cinch.
The Diablo franchise is beloved in gaming circles and for good reason. Blizzard have been working on these games for nigh on twenty years, Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition showcasing mechanics that have been honed and sharpened to near-perfection and offering hundreds of hours of enjoyment for those who want to delve into it to the fullest though is still accessible enough that newcomers can ease into the game at an easy pace. Throw in lush visuals and several ways to make that friends list pay off, and you get one of the first true highlights of the new generation of consoles and a more than worthy update for 360 and PS3 owners.