When it comes to mammoth sized industry giants, few in the world of games can compete with the substantial colossus that is Activision Blizzard. Holding some of the highest grossing and most popular intellectual properties in gaming between the two comprising companies, the producers of both Call of Duty and World of Warcraft have certainly proved themselves profitable over the past ten plus years, but despite the joining of these two giants, the developed allegiances were clear. Call of Duty’s pick up and play, twitch style gameplay seemed to lock down the console market in Activision’s camp, while the sheer size, scale and internet culture established by the likes of titles like World of Warcraft and Starcraft made Blizzard the PC gamer’s obvious choice. However as we have seen in recent times, the line between a gaming PC and a now current gen console is one that blurs significantly more with each new release.
In a successful attempt to straddle the gap between these markets, last year’s release of another Blizzard colossus, Diablo III, on Xbox360 and PS3 was much more than just a port and allowed many a console gamer to experience some of the finest dungeon crawling, loot dropping action around without having to invest in a brand new rig. Now once again we are treated to an even more definitive experience of this genre staple on consoles with Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition which not only sees releases on previous gen but has also found its way to PS4 and Xbox One. Regardless of if you have been slaying hordes of demons since its original PC release or this is your fist exposure to the franchise, Ultimate Evil Edition should be on your radar.
In case you are new to the franchise, Diablo is an IP with more than a little history. Starting life in 1996, the original set the bar and helped forge many of the dungeon crawler’s genre staples. Augmenting the genre further with Diablo II in 2000; many still believe this entry to be the best entry in the franchise’s history. Despite some scepticism over key staff members leaving Blizzard and more than a few naysayers, Diablo III’s release in 2012 was still a huge success, albeit with a few kinks that needed to be worked out, mainly regarding micro-transactions. What few issues there were however almost all were dispelled by the time it reached consoles last year, either by choice or by proxy due to the architecture of the consoles in question. In short, it could be argued that these console versions were in fact the definitive way to experience Diablo III with their refined systems and of course the addition of couch co-op.
But enough of what came before, the bigger question here is what is new in Ultimate Evil Edition and luckily the answer is plenty. From the offset, those familiar to Diablo III’s previous iterations will notice some immediate changes. Firstly, the addition of the previously PC only expansion brings with it a new difficulty system, and a new class in the shape of the Crusader and an increase in the level cap by ten to seventy. As well as this, improvements to elements like the paragon, loot and enemy systems have also been implemented. The best part about all of this is that all the content that was previously included in the console version of standard Diablo III is still present here making Ultimate Evil Edition a no brainer if you haven’t yet taken the plunge.
Casting players in the role of one out of now six classes, the object here is to kill hordes of enemies in order to level up, find or craft more gear and eventually tailor your character however you want. This can be done alone or in a group either online or even locally as the isometric nature of the game means there is no need for split screen. As dungeon crawlers go, the flow of combat and enemies is second to none here and certainly allows Diablo to maintain its place at the top of the pile when it comes to the genre. However, the real strength here is the diversity in classes and the way they are balanced. The number of ability slots per role is intentionally low when compared to the number of abilities that can be used to fill them, meaning players have to think carefully about their class builds. Despite this, there is also a definite natural flow to class building that means it never feels a chore. Put simply, weather playing as a close quarter combat class like a Barbarian or a distance class like Demon Hunter, the balancing here is so good that the game can be both played solo or as a team without it affecting the challenge or your enjoyment of it.
One potential issue that is often sighted with the console versions of Diablo III is the loading times. Unfortunately this is an unavoidable side effect of last gen console architecture and therefore continues to be an issue with the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of this re-release. Despite not being a deal breaker, this and a few other previous gen issues make the next gen versions of Ultimate Evil Edition a no brainer for those who have the option. Not only are these loading times greatly reduced, but the framerate, graphics and control response are all improved.
The only other criticisms that can really be levelled at Diablo III in any form are those aimed at its mediocre story. Despite the Reaper of Souls expansion bringing with it a slightly more interesting tale, the original story housed within much of the content here is simply a backdrop to the dungeon crawling action. It’s your standard high fantasy fare with plenty of extra demons thrown in, but as those who are already familiar will tell you, the story is not the appeal here.
There is so much more to Diablo III that I haven’t even had time to get to in this all too brief glimpse into its fantastic, addictive world. Sure the story has more than a few flaws, but the games design, structure, gameplay, graphics and overall feel not only destroys its competition but sets a new standard for it to adhere to. Add to this the new content and next gen experience and this makes Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition a must for any potential dungeon crawler.