By Jon Hood
Editor in Chief
I have fond memories of the original Diablo. Countless hours of my freshman year of college were spent with my friends, delving into the dungeon to fight The Butcher for the umpteenth time. With such fondness for the original game, I was initially excited to try out the sequel, Diablo II. However, my poor computer at the time was ill-equipped to handle the new, graphically intensive version of the game, so my time with Diablo appeared to be at an end. Many evenings were spent in my friends’ apartment watching them try out a new “Hardcore” character, while I seethed with hidden jealousy.
After many years of waiting, the talk of the new Diablo game among these same friends began again. Their chatter revealed a desire to spend every free moment playing the game together. This time around, I actually owned a PC that could run the game at high settings, but it was different. My desire to play a “click fest” style game had passed, even with my friends. Ultimately, the release of Diablo III on the PC platform came and went, with little fuss on my behalf. The console versions of the game on PS3 and Xbox 360 inspired a similar level of apathy from me.
On a sudden whim, I purchased the Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition release for the Xbox One, and after many hours of play, I can confidently say it was a good decision for single-player mode alone. If you have a couple of friends willing to play, either locally or online, the game can be considered a must-buy for fans of old-school dungeon crawlers like Gauntlet or Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance.
After loading up the game and linking it to my Battle.net account, a process that was surprisingly seamless, I had to decide what I was going to “roll up” for my first and possibly only character. Simply by looking at the portraits and character descriptions, I settled on the Crusader, the lone exclusive new class released in the Reaper of Souls expansion. I liked the idea of being a holy warrior fighting the forces of evil, and in an homage to an old D&D character, I named him Alexi.
With the brief character creation done, it was time to dive into the game. Many of the PC purists lamented the original release of the game; it appeared that Blizzard had a console release in mind for this game from the start, since playing with a controller couldn’t feel more natural. The one thing I will suggest right off the bat is to go into settings and make sure “Elective Mode” is enabled, as this allows you to assign any power to any of the available buttons. This may not seem like a necessary option, but I did find myself wanting my favorite powers assigned to more commonly used buttons. This is an excellent feature.
And then we come to the meat of the game, the gear! There is nothing more satisfying than taking down an elite or unique monster and watching it explode like a treasure piñata. If I had to manage my inventory through the normal screen, I think I would barely take note of anything less than legendary. Thankfully, the game has a streamlined means of determining if a new piece of equipment is worthwhile or not, and allows you to assign the latter as junk with a simple button press. This makes trips back to town in order to sell or salvage your dealer trash infinitely faster.
With the gameplay and gear being such a focus for this game, you knew something would have to get the short end of the stick, and in this game it is the story. True, the game features lavish CGI cutscenes and expansive narratives, but it is definitely not the drawing point for this type of game. That’s fine. I did watch all of the story beats and did my best to pay attention to the various plotlines that played out, but in the end all it did was provide me a brief respite from killing more waves of enemies.
Blizzard included a nice touch with the optional companion stories you may engage in while in the various towns. I particularly enjoyed the Templar’s tale, which culminates in a memorable confrontation with the Templar leader after some stark realizations about his past.
While I played the majority of the game solo, the drop-in/drop-out cooperative play is quite cool, as I had several extended sessions with a buddy traipsing from one dungeon to the next. The game also makes sure that your partner(s) are not just standing in the back trying their best to survive, as it buffs their abilities to match the main player’s level. However, the game still allows both of you to progress at a much faster rate, since the monsters get more difficult the more people are playing. Also, if you possess a fair degree of skill in games of this genre, I would recommend starting the game on Hard difficulty, as the default setting was far too easy for me. In Hard difficulty, the game at least inspires a sense of risk in the difficult battles. In fact, I recently bumped the difficulty setting up to Extreme as my character was having too easy a time with even the tough bosses.
As someone who really didn’t have any desire to play the game on PC when it launched, I’m surprised at how much I have enjoyed my playtime with Diablo III. The changes made to the game to ensure it controls well on a console and the ability for local co-op are what really makes the game worthwhile for me. I enjoyed many extended periods on my couch tearing my way through wave after wave of enemies, all while hoping a shiny new weapon or shield would drop.
For those of you who played the game upon its release two years ago, there isn’t much new here aside from direct character control and a few other tweaks, but for those of you who didn’t play the game before, I’d highly recommend this title. And if you can wrangle a few friends together for some couch co-op play, even better.