I still remember playing Diablo II into the wee hours of the morning. Playing with friends made the action last even longer and now, at long last, Diablo III has arrived. Yes, I’m aware it released last year for PC and we’ve had to wait a while for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One iterations. However, while I didn’t play the PC installment, I’m reading the same thing in most reviews: The latest entry is indeed the definitive edition, as we get exclusive social features, the Reaper of Souls expansion, and an excellent interface designed specifically for consoles.
At first, I thought the dark, foreboding atmosphere would turn me off. Such an atmosphere is effective and certainly makes sense in the Diablo universe, but I remember thinking: “Man, this is a little too dark and depressing…this'll get oppressive." However, the developers do a fantastic job of keeping me interested throughout. There’s stellar enemy design and wonderful special effects, and the various environments – while always exceedingly dark – are diverse and intriguing. Many are distinctly appealing in very bizarre ways… This is precisely how a dungeon-crawler should look, as far as I’m concerned.
Same goes for the audio, which, despite a minor balancing issue, is fantastic. Once again, the effects really shine and the soundtrack consists of carefully selected pieces that match the game’s style. This is a top-notch technical presentation that doesn’t suffer from a lack of identity. What I mean is, Diablo III knows exactly what it is: It’s the dungeon-crawler and as such, it’s all about the gameplay and the somewhat oppressive – yet oddly invigorating – atmosphere. So, it doesn’t try to be photorealistic; it simply gives us what all fans of the genre desire. We get a stable, impressive package that keeps its priorities straight.
What most surprised me when I started playing was the game’s pacing. This moves at a much faster clip than either of the previous two entries. However, as we’re talking about a freakin’ fifteen-year gap , I suppose I should’ve anticipated at least some streamlining and amping up of the game’s progression. Now, let me say for the record that I’m not a fan of making adventures – especially role-playing games – faster and flashier simply for the sake of speed. Yes, I know the populace has the average attention span of a gnat, so I have to suffer through the “faster and dumber” trend in all forms of entertainment.
That being said, I think Blizzard walks a fine line here. I wouldn’t say Diablo III is too fast, nor would I say it drags. You’ll be finding tons of loot and that’s always fun, and it’s nice to see your character progressing at a relatively rapid clip. Admittedly, it can be somewhat tedious when you’re playing a game that offers very little in the way of equipment, rewards, and ability. Adventures that require a ridiculous amount of playtime for a new weapon, for instance, aren’t my cup of tea. You won’t have that problem with this game, though; you’ll upgrade your character on a pleasantly frequent basis.
There’s a constant stream of baddies to take down and you just gotta keep killing. You can sort through the loot after you take down the opposition, which means there’s an appreciated pause between bloodbaths. You can sort through new loot with the d-pad, and you’ll receive temporary attribute boosts by killing certain enemies or destroying certain objects. The process of adventuring in Diablo III is fluid, refined and very entertaining, and you’re always looking for the next group of victims. With so many rewards in such a short span of time, you’re always interested in nabbing the next round of loot. Chances are, you’ll find something cool.
No, I’m not a big fan of the killstreaks. If I’m playing a shooter or a straight-up action game, fine. Such a feature has no place in an action/RPG but then again, I can’t say it doesn’t add some spice to the experience. It encourages you to kill as many enemies as possible as quickly as possible, because the bonuses are even better. On top of which, transforming into a killing machine is always a big incentive. I’d say killstreaks make the game feel less strategic but at the same time, if you wish to take advantage of the feature, you do have to plan, and you do have to master your chosen character.
The general game design is fantastic, as you’re never in one place for too long, and you’re never frustrated at the mazes through which you’ll travel. Just around the time you’re starting to tire of a certain area and its monsters, you encounter a fresh environment with fresh challenges. Again, this enhances the pacing and ensures that the player will want to keep playing. This is a reward-based system, to be sure, but if you’re constantly facing the same faceless denizens of the night, and you’re seeing the same stupid rock over and over, you’ll start to tire of the experience. In this case, you just can’t wait to see more.
The Reaper of Souls comes with the Blessed Crusader class and it’s a great addition. He can use melee and ranged attacks, and he boasts a high defense, too. I’ve been using him pretty steadily but I’ve also experimented with the Demon Hunter and the Witch Doctor. I’ve found that certain classes are difficult to use in a solo play-through, which tells me the balance isn’t quite where it should be. I know the game is based around multiplayer entertainment but contrary to popular belief, not every single human alive cares about multiplayer. That being said, this is probably the one game where I’d spend some time playing with others, because it’s set up exceedingly well.
Co-op sessions are tons of fun because low-level players don’t feel left behind. Working together allows for quick and easy leveling, and the post-campaign Adventure Mode makes the game infinitely replayable. It’s just so simple to team up and go a-huntin’, and I like the accessibility this game offers. I won’t be throwing down in Destiny but you can bet that I’ll be perfectly willing to team up with a few people in Diablo III . The fun factor and teamwork involved is just so addictive. I also love that there are ten difficulty levels; this means you can keep getting stronger and stronger without feeling immensely pressured.
Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition is aptly named. It has just about everything you could want, from an excellent presentation and supremely solid technical presentation to hours upon hours of blissful looting. The rewards are frequent and much appreciated, the pacing is outstanding, and there’s a surprising amount of variety. The multiplayer option is extremely well-implemented and you never feel as if you’re missing out just ‘cuz you want to play solo. It’s not perfectly balanced and I still don’t like the killstreaks but aside from that, this is just about everything I wished for.
The Good: Top-notch visual and audio presentation. Great effects and world design. Superb pacing and constant rewards. Excellent adaptation to console control. One of the best and most accessible multiplayer experiences available. A ton of replayability.
The Bad: Didn’t need the killstreaks. Classes aren’t perfectly balanced.
The Ugly: “It’s only ‘ugly’ when you make a preparation mistake and are subsequently screwed…”