When “Diablo III” first hit the last generation of consoles, it did so with style and ease for the player. It smartly lacked the always online necessity of its PC forefather and let four buddies get together in one room to take on Hell’s minions.
Coupled with some intuitive gameplay designed for home systems, and it’s a small wonder that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions were considered the best way to play.
With the Ultimate Evil Edition, not only do we get the original “Diablo III,” but Blizzard has also added both the “Reaper of Souls” expansion and the Loot 2.0 update, complete with a new character class and one more story act to power through.
If you are new to the series, this is definitely the best time to dive in.
If you have dabbled in “Diablo III” previously, then you know the scenario — the Lesser and Prime Evils threaten the world of Sanctuary once more, and you pick a class of character destined to eradicate them. You have a choice between the brawling Barbarian and Monk, the distance-based Wizard and Demon Hunter, or the summoning Witch Doctor.
But because we are dealing with the “Reaper of Souls” expansion here, new to the fray is the Crusader, a melee-based combatant that specializes in shields. I played through the game with this particular class, and while I loved the range of her abilities, I almost felt that she was a tad overpowered. On Expert difficulty, I could clear rooms out with a couple area-of-effect moves without even touching my main attack button.
It was not boring to watch, of course. Overpowered or not, each group of demons cleared from a room felt satisfying. The combat is simple, with abilities mapped to the face buttons on the controller, and a handy dodge move for the right thumb stick not found on the PC version.
Adding on to the fun combat, the Loot 2.0 system (less items dropped, but more valuable) makes working towards that next rare or legendary piece of equipment worth one addicting play session after the next.
The plot of the original game (acts one to four) though, is nowhere near as entertaining as the fighting. I could not be bothered with the plight of the world against the hordes of evil, and the few moments that were meant to drum up either urgency or despair felt flat and uninspiring. It does not get any better when one of the few interesting characters faces a cheap fate meant to set the stage for the last act. That said, narrated journals found while adventuring were always interesting to stop and listen to for the world’s lore, and the voice acting was consistently on point.
The tale told in the “Reaper of Souls” act was a little more satisfying, even if it carried a tired cliché. In the town of Westmarch, the Angel of Death Malthael wants to rid the world of evil by killing all humans with an item from the original story. It is a bit of a tired trope, but here the despair of the townspeople is actually believable, and even harrowing. In the midst of a boss fight, I was surprised to see that my Crusader was standing on a floor of corpses, their souls removed and pale bodies camouflaged into the ground. It certainly lent to the oppressive atmosphere felt during the game.
Once the story is finished, Adventure mode kicks in. Here, all acts of the game are unlocked for you to move around in, and certain waypoints carry bounties that can be completed for better loot. It is not so much padding as it is an extension to the story mode, one that can be played constantly. Keys dropped from bounties can be used to open randomized rooms featuring a mix of enemies from various levels in hordes. It should scratch the itch of those looking for more to do after the main game, and ought to keep them occupied for a long time.
Graphically, the game captures the atmosphere of its environments well. The foggy town of New Tristram fields a claustrophobic despair, while the more open deserts of Caldeum push a slight sense of danger under the sands. The game pops with colors even in the darkest of areas, adding vibrancy to each set-piece. The music, while nicely setting the tone for each stage, is unfortunately easily forgettable.
Nothing is perfect, however, and “Ultimate Evil Edition” has a bit of a frame rate issue. Even with a piece of data installed onto my system’s hard drive, the game would stutter and lag at random points outside of combat. It is not anything game breaking, but seeing my character teleport from one point of the screen to the other was a bit jarring. The screen also takes a few hits with large crowds of enemies, but this is also random. Certain areas could handle the load OK, others would have a few skips and hops. I should note that these instances happen less than those occurring when you are not fighting, so it is nothing that ought to wreck your experience.
“Diablo III Reaper of Souls: Ultimate Evil Edition” is a fun and addicting title that will keep you up to the wee hours looking for the next piece of loot. A disappointing story and some stutter issues hold the game down a bit, but they are small defects in the face of entertaining brawls fought with a host of unique characters. And with the addition of better loot and an extensive Adventure mode, newcomers and original console fans alike should get more than enough to keep them slaying for quite some time.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @legendpenguin