There’s no denying my love for Diablo III. Even when you put aside my hand-drawn pentagrams and Vanilla Scentsy Bar Wickless Candles, my “hours played” on both PC and the PlayStation 3 alone would embarrass even the palest of basement dwellers. But the console’s bout of demon-destroying wasn’t just another quick iteration, slapped together like some sort of Angry Birds port.
On console, Diablo III was a new experience — an arcade-like experience — that transcended previous genre trappings without kicking the series’ strengths. The combat system was sped-up considerably, employing the simpler controller inputs with various attacks and powers. The addictive looting made a return, too, eliminating much of the gambling and that silly auction I only miss on occasion. Most importantly, however, was the co-op, which was so enjoyable that making friends became my awkward, socially inept priority for a spell. To summarize: Diablo III was great in 2012, and made considerably better when it launched on consoles.
Since then, and long after my shining review of Diablo III, a lot has changed with the game both mechanically and aesthetically. The Loot 2.0 system happened, righting a whole mess of wrongs and making an already enthralling system enthralling-ier. That’s not a word. More enthralling? That’ll do. Likewise, Reaper of Souls improved on every facet, adding a handful of hours to the lengthy original campaign, and bringing with it an assortment of features exclusive to the Ultimate Evil Edition, to boot.
Visually, Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition on the PlayStation 4 is gorgeous. The color palette, while limited to the darkest shades of hellish plains and crumbling castles, is surprisingly vibrant, with detail brimming from every inch of the environment. It may lack the subtle nuances of its PC counterparts performance, but the characters, spell-effects, constructions and destructible surroundings are striking. And things perform as well as they look, too. I played around 30 minutes of the campaign with the folks at Blizzard, and there wasn’t a hint of slowdown. Not even a drop.
As expected, Diablo III runs at 60 FPS and in 1080p. The world, and every second of content in both the original campaign as well as the Reaper of Souls expansion, is clearly better, faster, and stronger than any version of the title previously released. As with the PC version, all the fanciest of customization options are available on the PlayStation 4, with enough sliders and knobs to tickle even the pickiest of players.
There’s a new view in the Ultimate Edition, too. The closer perspective was chosen to accommodate the addition of local co-op, and oddly enough enhances the experience beyond any expected capacity. While closer to the action, battles feel more involving, ruthless and powerful. Shattering crates and barrels has more oomph and, likewise, exploding demons into fountains of gold and equipment is as beautiful as it is brutal. Even the smallest touches go quite a long way, with the Dualshock 4’s lightbar displaying the color of every characters ring, making bathroom/snack break controller confusion a thing of the past. But ultimately it’s the act of running through the game with a buddy on the same couch that truly captivates.
While the expansions mechanical improvements and visual boost make for a desirable upgrade, the niftiest features are those exclusive to the Ultimate Evil Edition. The first feature being “Apprentice Mode,” which allows players of different levels to play together more easily. In this mode, lowly characters will be able to team up with beefier, higher-levelers and share a session without compromise. The weaklings will receive a power boost, emulating their partners level to better even the field, and there’s bonus experience for killing monsters. Loot gathered will accommodate players’ organic level, making for an enjoyable and useful way to kill some time (and demons) with friends.
The second feature, and possibly my favorite slice of Diablo pie since my first visit to Tristram, is the “Nemesis System.” The aptly named system pits a player’s friends against the foe that defeated them in a revenge fueled match with increasingly trickier odds. Sounds complicated? It’s not, but I’ll explain:
When you’re killed during an encounter, there’s a possibility that the monster you battled will level-up, increase in strength and become a unique baddie that’ll proceed to jump through your friends list, hunting players down until it’s defeated. If your buddies are killed as well, the monster becomes stronger and continues its hunt. Each hunted player will have the opportunity to avenge the death of the last defeated player — conveniently, the monster is tagged with its latest victims name. Once defeated, the monster will grant the successful player loot and a unique Player Gift which can be mailed to the avenged friend. It’s a system that’s both incredibly fun, and a reason to return to the world long after you’ve picked it clean.
If you haven’t battled the devil yet, and you’re not a Roman Catholic priest, grab Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition as soon as you can. The only thing you’ll regret is that you didn’t do so sooner. If you’ve already busted through the campaign, explored every crevice and enjoyed enough of the expansion to last you a lifetime, the new perspective and features make Diablo III fresh again. It might not hold a series veterans attention for more than a few weeks, but it’s worth the admission price. Newcomers shouldn’t even be reading this paragraph right now, there are too many people to save, demons to kill and treasures to loot. Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition launches August 19, 2014.