Also On: Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360
Publisher: Activision Blizzard
When Diablo III originally hit consoles on PS3 and Xbox 360, it came at just the right time for me. I had been burned out on the PC game for a number of months, having spent hundreds of hours in search of elusive legendaries and quality upgrades for my roster of characters. Changes were right around the corner, with the upcoming release of the Reaper of Souls expansion, the removal of the Auction House, and the “Loot 2.0” system being introduced. So while my interest in Diablo III was pretty high, I still wasn’t actively playing until these changes were made.
But the console version of Diablo III brought me out of my Sanctuary slump, big time. It had enough significant changes in comparison to the PC version of the game that I couldn’t help but be hooked again. The biggest of which was the improvements to loot, with legendaries feeling plentiful, and smarter loot drops that were more likely to be useful for the class you were actively playing. The controller support worked great, as did online co-op, and and while loading times and monster density could have been better, it was an overall great port of the PC experience.
Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition, releasing next week for PS4, Xbox One, PS3, and Xbox 360, doesn’t feel like a big leap forward, however. That’s not to say it isn’t good, it’s a really excellent port of the PC experience. This review was done with a PS4 copy provided by the publisher, and this is a clear step up in performance compared to the original PS3 and Xbox 360 versions. Loading is kept to a minimum, and the initial install only takes a matter of minutes. Monster density seems to be on par with the PC version of the game, with no noticeable hiccups or framerate drops regardless of how busy the on-screen action gets. Outside of the UI changes and the controller support, this is virtually identical to Diablo III: Reaper of Souls on PC.
But with significant changes right around the corner with patch 2.1 on the PC side, Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition doesn’t bring with it enough major changes or additions for current PC players. Of course I don’t think that this release is really aimed at those still playing on the PC side, but I felt like this was worth pointing out for anyone that had thought about making the leap.
But there are some modifications and additions in Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition, with one that feels significantly impactful. This is the addition of a gifting system, allowing you to send items to other players via a mailbox found in each town hub. Unfortunately, prior to the embargo lifting much of the online components weren’t available, so I haven’t had the opportunity to test how this works. But just having the opportunity to actually trade with other players, without being in the same party when an item drops, is pretty big. As of this moment there’s really no way to trade on the PC side, outside of same party play, so I could see this functionality being a big enough draw to entice the existing fanbase over to the console release.
The other changes come from massacre bonuses and destroying breakable objects, along with environmental traps, which give you a little on-screen meter that winds down after each successful kill or break. Depending on how high you drive those numbers up, you’ll earn an experience multiplier, speed boost, or replenish a primary resource, which is neat but certainly not game changing. Of course controller support is also a major difference between console and PC, but one that’s obviously expected. The layout here is the same as the original release, with some added touchpad functionality when navigating skills on the PS4 side.
Another online focused addition that I haven’t had the opportunity to test out yet is the console exclusive Nemesis system. This features a unique enemy mob that can potentially kill a player character and then reappear in another person’s game. With every subsequent kill, the monster grows more powerful. If one player manages to kill the beast, everyone that encountered it can benefit with loot, but it survives unscathed it’ll eventually disappear into the digital ether. It’s a fun concept that I’m interested in checking out, along with the new apprentice mode that allows you to effectively power-level low-leveled friends online.
While I haven’t had the chance to see how other console versions of UEE fare, I can’t imagine any other release will outstrip the benefit of remote play on PS4 using the Vita. While tethered directly with the PS4 under the same roof, the remote play functionality was a flawless experience. Lag was virtually non-existent, regardless of how many enemies and affixes were appearing on screen at once. And while the text is certainly small for items and dialogue, the image is crisp enough to not make it unreadable. Having the ability to play Diablo III on my Vita while laying in bed at night is easily my favorite aspect of this release.
If you’re coming to Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition after only being exposed to the original console version of Diablo III, you’re really going to love all the changes in store for you here. This release features the base Diablo III experience, with most classes being overhauled significantly. You’ll likely need to re-familiarize yourself with current skill loadouts and class builds, and certain skills will actually be renamed or completely altered. The first thing you should do, if uploading an existing character from either Xbox 360 or PS3, is go into your skills menu and mess around with the options there. Some of your skills may have been removed entirely from your current build, so you you may need to even re-slot skills before starting.
Outside of the base game you’re also getting the entire Reaper of Souls expansion, bringing with it a new Act and a new major boss, with the titular reaper Malathiel. There’s a new area for Act V with Westmarch, a number of new items, both with legendaries and sets, and a host of new monsters to battle. There’s a new class with the Crusaders, paladin-esque tanks that can wield both two-handed weapons and shields at once. And while it took a bit of time for the class to feel great after the expansion release on PC, console players get the much improved version of this class right from the start. Another major addition between the original D3 and Reaper of Souls is the Mystic, and in-town crafter that’ll allow you to reroll one stat on an item as many times as you want, provided you have the material and gold to do so.
Lastly, and easily the biggest draw of the expansion, is the new Adventure mode. Gone are endless Act III farming runs, replaced now with bounties and Nephalem rifts to explore across all Acts. Adventure mode is entered into separately from the story, and not bogged down by any quest related dialogue or shenanigans. Instead you’ll be able to freely pick from a number of waypoints across all five acts at once, with five per act containing active bounties to complete. Knocking out five bounties in a single act will net you a Horadric Cache, a goodie bag with the potential to drop unique legendary items in each act, found only in these bags. Start familiarizing yourself with the term “Act 1 split bounty runs” now.
Nephalem Rifts can be entered after collecting five keystones, earned by completing bounties and opening caches. Rifts featured randomized maps and monster combinations, culminating in a boss encounter after you’ve defeated a number of foes. Most rifts can contain a number of floors to explore, and the PS4 version of the game has its own unique The Last of Us themed rift to check out as well. The big draw here is the addition of blood shards that drop after defeating the Rift Guardian bosses, which can be cashed in lottery style for random items in town. There’s a chance at earning both legendary and set items by doing so, extending that carrot on the stick ever so slightly, keeping you coming back for more.
So if you’re a returning console player, you’ll really enjoy all of the new things and changes that await you in Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition. There’s a significant amount of content to check out, and new gear to obtain, that you’ll likely spend dozens if not hundreds of hours hooked to the game. If you’re a PC player with prior experience with Reaper of Souls, then I’d suggest keeping your expectations in check. I’ve still had a lot of fun with this release, but I can’t shake the feeling that time spent here would be better spent grinding out Paragon levels on the PC side, at least for now. On the plus side, Blizzard has announced patch support for the PS4 and Xbox One releases, and depending how close dates are between console and PC patches, I could see myself sticking to Ultimate Evil Edition for the time being.