Diablo III: Reaper of Souls
Two years is a long time in video games, and it’s rare that a release so far out from its original incarnation can generate excitement. However, Blizzard’s constant improvements and adjustments have led to a stellar port to new-gen consoles, including the complete experience available on PC, plus several smart bonus features. It’s an ideal way to play the game for the first time or the tenth, especially if you have any mix of friends to play with, either on your couch or across the country.
The richly imagined world of Diablo III is a visual treat, and hits all the requisite buttons for epic fantasy world building, but the clichéd and predictable story isn’t what keeps you hooked. That honor goes to the finely tuned character progression and loot system. Months of tweaking have resulted in the fastest-paced leveling and equipment gathering yet.
A new apprentice mode is the most meaningful addition, pulling the stats of low-level players up to a competitive tier with their buddies, and then making the monster fights appropriately challenging for the newly powered group. Apprentice mode eliminates the frustration of players out-leveling each other, and lets the apprentice fly through those lower tiers of play.
Drop rates (especially for coveted legendary items) are notably elevated, and most pick-ups are targeted to the needs of your class. In addition, a clever gifting system adds a satisfying new social wrinkle; upon acquiring a piece of legendary gear, you sometimes also acquire a gift item targeted to someone on your friends list. You can send it through the in-game mail as a pleasant surprise that benefits the whole group the next time you play.
As you wander, the controller may shake as a nemesis approaches. This towering evil has already killed one of your fellows, and has powered up before hopping across friends lists to arrive in your game. If he kills you, the beast heads off to torment another of your buddies. Kill him, and everyone involved in the fight gets commensurate rewards. The nemesis system is another indication of Blizzard’s commitment to social engagement, and adds a small but meaningful twist to gameplay.
The Ultimate Evil Edition includes both the base game and the expansion, which makes it an exceptional value for fledgling players. While the addition of a single new act and character class in Reaper of Souls is relatively modest in scope, the real value in the expansion comes from adventure mode. This endless experience throws high-density monster groups at you in surprising new configurations, and demands you take out bounty targets to receive big XP and material rewards. After completing the story, it’s my preferred way to develop my main characters’ post level-cap paragon levels, as well as build up new alts into the fight. That’s why I’m bummed that Blizzard opted to keep adventure mode locked until a character completes the storyline. Players coming over from PC would have liked to jump right into the best version of the action, but must instead push through the slower-paced story again.
The new-gen versions of the Ultimate Evil Edition look phenomenal, with a level of polish in the flashing magical effects and grim backgrounds that approaches high-end PC quality. Control-wise, direct control over your hero with the left stick simply feels more engaging than endlessly pointing and clicking. Moreover, the console-exclusive right stick dodge is a solid way to get out of danger fast, and a welcome use of the available inputs.
However, the other major playability adjustment on console doesn’t fare as well. Inventory management and vendor interactions are handled on a radial menu. It’s functional, but more than a little clunky when trying to compare multiple items or switch between categories quickly. Given that loot management is so central to the experience, it’s too bad this system feels subpar. In this regard, the PC version and its mouse-click options remain superior.
The complete Diablo III experience is enjoyable played solo, but by allowing a combination of online and local cooperative play for up to four players and adding some fun new social tools, Blizzard has made this the cooperative game to beat on new-gen consoles. No matter your experience level with the game, this is an excellent time to dive in to the action.
We reviewed the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of the Ultimate Evil Edition. The game is also available on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
Blizzard sets a new high bar for cooperative play on new-gen consoles.