Blizzard’s iconic dungeon crawler goes next gen, with new features, better graphics, and some of the best co-op action of the year.
The problem with exclusivity deals is that not only is it entirely unfair on unsuspecting console owners, but it’s always so hard to work out what’s actually going on. When or if Rise Of The Tomb Raider will appear on the PlayStation 4 remains mired in mystery, but it’s hardly the only example of publishers being purposefully unclear about their plans.
Diablo III on console was at first implied to be a PlayStation 4 exclusive, before then appearing first on the last gen, and now finally being made available on every format possible. Who knows what that implies about the boardroom deals funding the game’s release, but at least everyone can be satisfied that they now have access to the definitive version of the game.
It’s been over a decade since Diablo II and yet the series remains master of the sub-genre it created, with any similar title simply labelled as a ‘Diablo clone’. Few of these have ever made it to consoles (although it’s often forgotten that the original Diablo did appear on PS one) but even if you’ve never played one before Diablo III is not a difficult game to get to grips with.
Diablo is a dungeon crawler, a role-playing game stripped to the bone so that its sole obsessions are fighting and looting – not storytelling. The reason Diablo clones are so rare on consoles is that their controls are usually based solely on using a keyboard and mouse.
Not only that but the screen is filled with tiny icons and stats that while perfectly readable on a high resolution PC monitor are clearly not designed with a TV in mind. But Blizzard has already tackled that problem once before, with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions released in September last year. As a result this ‘Ultimate Evil Edition’ is close to half price on the last gen formats, since it’s essentially just the original game plus expansion pack Reaper Of Souls.
There are many tweaks and extras on top though, most derived from the many updates to the original PC version – which is why there’s no need for an Ultimate Evil Edition on PC.
The obvious problem with the gamepad controls is that they’re much less precise than when using a mouse. It’s not that anything doesn’t work but just that all the many abilities and weapons have been specifically designed with the assumption you’d be able to point and click exactly where you want to use them. Controlling your character directly almost makes the game feel more like a clunkier version of God Of War than a real Diablo game, although perhaps the most tempting compromise is the Lego movie games.
Like the Lego games the most addictive element of Diablo III is collecting stuff. Once the screen is littered with a suitable number of corpses you can then go about hoovering up dropped gold, weapons and clothing. It’s easy to dismiss Diablo as mindlessly simplistic, especially if you limit your sample go to just a few minutes combat from the beginning of the game. But although its tactics and systems are never especially deep, and the enemies all fairly dim, the breadth of options in how you play is enormous.
Which character class you choose makes a huge difference to the specifics of combat but the basics are the same for all: you have simple active skills which build up what amounts to a super bar and this powers stronger secondary attacks. Skills can also be upgraded via runes, allowing you to further specialise your character.
There are also passive skills, such as increasing your resistance to magic or speed, and other miscellaneous abilities which work on a timer. Since these used to work by pressing the number buttons on the keyboard though activating them is more fiddly than it originally was.
Diablo III’s backdrops become increasingly impressive as the game goes on, with the fixed camera making the best of the painterly art style. The visuals were obviously compromised in the original console versions, but on the PlayStation 4 they look like they’re running on a fairly powerful PC. And for once the boast of 1080p resolution actually has a clear benefit, in terms of making the interface more readable.
The story is the same old wooden collection of genre clichés though, of the sort that Blizzard always reels out for their games. Most of the attempts at humour fall flat and the voiceovers are often embarrassingly amateurish.
That’s no more than would be expected of a Blizzard game but there are some serious qualms to be had when it comes to level progression. Although there’s an endless array of secrets hiding around every corner the critical path through the game is absolutely linear and you can almost feel Blizzard’s heavy breathing behind you as you play, herding you in the direction they want you to go.
That’s not a particularly rare feeling in games nowadays though and most of these existing problems are softened by a clear advantage that Diablo III on consoles has over the PC version: offline co-op. Having someone sitting on the same couch next to you is far more satisfying than playing with distant friends online – even if it does hammer home the Lego comparisons even more.
The Reaper Of Souls additions are pretty standard stuff, with a new character class called the Crusader, a raise in the level cap from 60 to 70, and a new artisan to customise your weapons and armour (at random though, so it’s a bit of a risk). There’s also a range of new items, skills, runes, and abilities to learn, including a fourth slot for passive skills when you hit level 70.
The mini-quests of adventure mode and randomised dungeons of the Nephalem Rifts (including a The Last Of Us-themed one for the PlayStation 4 version) are the best bits, but some of the other most interesting elements of Ultimate Evil Edition are either brand new or added in from the various free PC updates.
For example, the whole loot system was completely revamped after fans complained they were being swamped with useless gear, and is now much more satisfying than the one PC owners had to put up with for the first year or so. (Don’t even ask about the abandoned auction house system.)
Brand new for the Ultimate Evil Edition is the idea of a nemesis, a particularly nasty enemy that flits between your friends list like a computer-controlled Dark Souls phantom. But the game doesn’t just plague your friends with demons from hell, as it will also send them free loot – while providing a postal service for you to pass on more personalised gifts.
And in a nice admission that the co-op was rather flawed in its implementation the first time round there’s the new apprentice mode, which gives lower level characters a boost and allows them to play effectively with more experienced players. Although you can import your saves from the last gen (including from Xbox 360 to PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 to Xbox One) so that may be less of an issue anyway.
It is very hard to see how Blizzard could have done a better job here, and although the previous console versions of Diablo III worked better than expected this almost makes you forget it’s still a PC game at heart.
It’s also still fundamentally the same game as the 1996 original, but that’s kind of the point. Diablo isn’t interested in innovation or subtlety; it’s interested in empowerment and cheap thrills. It knows that fighting monsters and stealing their stuff is fun and its only concern is ensuring it stays that way no matter how, and with whom, you play it.
In Short: By ironing out the last few wrinkles from the original console versions, and adding in a few extra features, Diablo finally feels at home with a gamepad.
Pros: Satisfying combat with highly versatile character classes. Smartly console-ified controls, with improved co-op options. Useful tweaks and new additions, with clever use of friends lists.
Cons: Deceptively linear and relatively short, in terms of the main campaign. Limited enemy artificial intelligence and awful storytelling.
Formats: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Xbox One
Price: £54.99 (£29.99 on 360/PS3)
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: 19th August 2014
Age Rating: 16
Source : http://metro.co.uk/2014/08/19/diablo-iii-ultimate-evil-edition-review-mouse-vs-gamepad-4837671/