Thursday, 4 September 2014
Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition (Playstation 4 Video Game Review)
Of all the missteps ever made by Blizzard Entertainment, from balance problems in Starcraft to World of Warcraft’s increasingly convoluted lore, few failings stand out more than Diablo III. Released with the hype train pulling out all the stops to ensure a smash hit, sales for the title soured despite a decidedly mixed reception within its community. Some loved it for its core concepts, others hated it for the DRM policies and story, but now Blizzard seems to have fully devoted itself to answering the criticisms of its fans. At least on a mechanical level anyway.
The story remains exactly the same as 2012’s Diablo III. Rising up once again after they were previously defeated, the legions of hell seek to plunge the world into darkness and the angels are being particularly unhelpful. It’s now up to a few loot hungering sociopaths to wade through undead guts and daemon blood until no hellspawn is left walking this earth or the next one. So, sadly anyone hoping to see Deckard Cain pull a Gandalf or slap Leah across the face every time she claims demons don’t exist will be supremely disappointed. The true enjoyment lies elsewhere with this one. While time and effort have been put into restoring and improving so many other elements, it’s a definite shame that the quality of lore does not hold a candle to what was seen in Diablo II.
Debuting on the Playstation 4 an Xbox One, Ultimate Evil Edition not only contains the original campaign and with its Reaper of Souls expansion, but also a staggering number of improvements. Foremost among these is the total complete removal of the title’s reviled auction house. Every shred of data transforming a rachidian hack ‘n slash horror into becoming Diablo: Gold Rush Edition has been rooted out and the game is all the better for it.
With Barbarians no longer bleeding their way through hordes of Dune Threshers only to fill their packs with equipment intended for another class, the game suddenly becomes fun. The old idea of pillaging your way through dead cities, tombs and earning your way to victory rather than buying or trading is rekindled here and it remains this version’s biggest step forwards. There is genuine joy to be found in beating bosses to a fine, bloody pulp and raiding treasure chests without any sense of busywork or the auctioning process hanging over the player. It once again creates that sense of escapism and fun which was being strangled by knowing you have to loot your way through countless chests and carry out an additional service just to get any real progress.
This basic and straight forwards correction restores so much of what was missing from the latest Diablo title. Whatever else you might say about the game, there was always a fantastic dungeon crawler which could be seen beneath the layers of bad decisions piled atop the sequel; wiping away so many of them here just proves that the series has so much life left in it yet.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all here is the improvements in terms of combat, retaining all the fluidity and impact you would expect a Diablo game to have despite a far simpler interface. For a series so closely associated with the PC, the transition to console has gone extremely smoothly and the title honestly benefits from a controller. While combat does have the unfortunate habit of locking onto onto the wrong shambling horror, this can easily be corrected and cycled through each foe with the left analogue stick. As such, precision strikes and concentrating fire upon a single hulking foe, then breaking off to much your way through his underlings is a cinch.
This ability for rapid targeting and co-ordination is a godsend at every turn, but most especially during multiplayer. With four people racing around a map, smashing into one another or hacking their foes to shreds, fights can easily devolve into a disorganised melee of dismembered limbs. Here though, with this minor addition, it’s far easier to launch directed attacks through dungeons without losing the ability to let players rampage about the place at will. Combined with steady connections and the ability to smoothly drop in and out of chapters, the game rapidly adjusts to the presence of other powerful players; as a result teaming up remains a solid addition to Diablo on console.
Better yet, for all the failings and controversies surrounding the next generation of consoles failing to meet promised graphical standards (Yes Ubisoft, we won’t forget about Watch_Dogs any time soon) Diablo III does not suffer here. The graphics look gorgeous on each console with no real failings, screen tearing or even major drops in FPS, and every grim reminder of the dark underworld is ported to this version in one piece. Admittedly any fan of the series would hope this would be a given; after all this was a game originally released two years prior and hardly pushed the envelope on hardware even back then.
If there is one failing to chalk up to the title it’s the astounding lack of real difficulty. This is likely an inadvertent side effect of Blizzards fixes in removing the auction house, yet far too often the game can seem like it’s pulling its punches. The masochistic veterans of Master and Torment modes will feel the bite of this the most, but even on the lower setting of Expert players will find themselves strolling through Tristram with little to truly slow them down.
A large chunk of this issue stems from levelling being a surprisingly less arduous grind than on PC, which make culling Diablo’s infernal horde a few less taxing experience. Jumping from the PC to this copy, or even past Diablo titles, may feel like a step down with the game lack real challenge. While the skill, strategy and options for progression are still all there, it’s far easier to brute force your way through the game. While this can be solved by most players by simply upping the difficulty, hardcore fans after a true challenge should definitely be wary about approaching this release.
Despite one or two shortcomings, Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition serves as a perfected version of the original release. Keeping what worked best and ditching the cancerous blights which hamstrung an otherwise fantastic title, it’s a far more worthy addition to the franchise than what we were originally given. Delivering a fast paced, demon killing, corpse looting experience which will players to sink hours into at a time, it’s well worth a look by any jaded fan unhappy with the company’s initial release. Just switch off the speakers any time Leah opens her mouth and you’ll be in for a thrilling ride from start to finish.