A few weeks before Diablo III came out, my review copy arrived and I quickly realized my aging PC could only handle the game on its lowest settings. Not content to play a game I had waited over a decade for on peasant settings, I went ahead and bought a new computer so I could experience it “the way Blizzard wanted me to.” The PC I had worked fine and my being between contracts meant I really couldn’t afford the purchase. That didn’t keep me from dropping a pretty penny on it — a little over 140,000 of them, actually — so I could once again get my dungeon crawling, demon slaying and rare loot collecting fix.
Looking back at my gaming career, there is only a handful of games that stand out as defining experiences in my life. The list is short, an elite club whose membership is limited to only a small selection of video games like Diablo II, Resident Evil 4 and Silent Hill 2. Membership is only granted to a game that I can play indefinitely, no matter how many times I’ve vanquished that final boss.
With Diablo II, I had made it a habit to return to the game at least once a year since its release in 2000 to scratch that distant itch that only the Diablo series seems capable of reaching. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my time with similarly themed games like Torchlight and Path of Exile, but it’s not the same. Blizzard has been my dealer for so long now, and my addiction has become very specific.
The Diablo III: Reaper of Souls Ultimate Evil Edition is Blizzard’s latest attempt to improve on a foundation they built in 1996 with the original Diablo and continue to return to, tweaking and improving things with each sequel, expansion and update. They’ve been mastering their craft for nearly two decades now, and the Ultimate Evil Edition is the result of all that work.
Don’t let the lingering hatred for the now long gone auction house fool you; Diablo III was and still is a fantastic game. Like Mass Effect, which is now most often remembered for its unsatisfying ending, Diablo III became defined by a few serious missteps on Blizzard’s part. The gaming community is usually willing to forgive, but they’ll never forget, and this fact keeps many from being able to see the game as it is today.
It’s unfortunate, because with its last remaining flaws sanded out, the game Diablo III is today has no equal. If it’s a dungeon crawler you crave, none are as polished or as deep as this game is today. If you’re only looking for something to play with some friends, few games are able to match the suite of social features the Ultimate Evil Edition brings with it.
If it’s excitement and unpredictability you want, the addictive (and recently upgraded) loot system offers a literal treasure trove of powerful weapons and gear for you to collect, and the randomized events alter the world every time you play. I’ve beaten the game a few times over at this point, and I’m still finding new events and side quests.
Or maybe you simply want something that’s easy on the eyes, the kind of game you can show off to your non-gamer friends or family to let them know what they’re missing out on. In that case, the environments in this game have a painterly style that makes it more of an interactive work of art than a game.
Since I’ve already reviewed the base game, this review is instead going to focus on the console-exclusive features and the Reaper of Souls expansion. The former encompasses a bevy of new features and options that help make this not only the ultimate version of Diablo III, but the ultimate co-op game as well. It features four-player online and local co-op, and in both modes the loot is unique to each character, so you won’t have to bother figuring out who gets what after completing a particularly lucrative raid.
Diablo III is plenty fun when played solo, but many of the more exciting features have been implemented to benefit those who play it with friends. One example of this is the ability to send your friends gold and/or loot. Because the unique drops your character gets depends on their class and level, much of the really good drops likely won’t be useable for your friends unless they’re at the same level as you. To remedy this, you’ll sometimes find special unidentified packages with a friend’s name on it. These items contain gear that will be beneficial to the person receiving it. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you’d like to give it to them.
While we’re on the subject of your being one level and your friend(s) another, that’s where the Apprentice mode comes in. This is a feature that’s unique to the Ultimate Evil Edition, and it gives players who have characters of varying levels the chance to play with each other. It accomplishes this by buffing weaker characters so they can hold their own while playing with a character that’s a higher level.
Let’s say you decide to pay a visit to friend’s house for a Diablo III marathon. All of the characters you have on your home console can be easily transferred to your friend’s console so you can play the game just like you would at home. Once you realize you’re too old for sleepovers — assuming there is an age where that becomes unacceptable — or you remember you have work the next day, all of the progress made at your friend’s place will be saved and updated when you boot up the game at home.
The features Blizzard has introduced aren’t all to benefit you — some will even make the game a bit more challenging. Take the Nemesis system, for example. When you die, the demon that killed you will level up, becoming a Nemesis. That creature will then embark on an adventure that will take it to the world of one of the unsuspecting souls on your friends list so it can rack up even more kills.
If your friend is able to slay the beast before it can score another kill, that player will be given a special reward.
If you own more than one console and are wondering which platform is best, it’s the PS4 version. Ruling out the last-gen versions, because you can obviously do better, both the PS4 and Xbox One versions will run at 1080p. However, the PS3 and PS4 versions come with free bonus content, including a The Last of Us themed dungeon and a rare ‘Guise of the Colossi’ armor set inspired by Shadow of the Colossus.
When the Reaper of Souls expansion arrived earlier this year, it introduced a number of changes and new features that were designed with player feedback in mind. Blizzard noticed a bunch of folks were playing through the same chapters of the campaign, over and over and over again, to farm the areas for specific items, loot or experience.
The Adventure Mode is Blizzard’s way of making that less frustrating and time-consuming. In this mode, every waypoint is unlocked for all players and each of the five acts can be reached at any time. Events are still available, but all of the story and dialogue bits have been taken out, making it easier to farm enemies and bosses without all of the exposition.
The expansion also introduced a new class, the Crusader, which acts like the Paladin from Diablo II. This class excels at medium to close range combat and has an arsenal of holy abilities, many of which help them double as a support class.
The endgame was also expanded upon with a fifth chapter that’s set in Westmarch and follows fallen angel Malthael, the new angel of death. He’s stolen the Soulstone that contains within it the essence of every Prime Evil. For those unfamiliar with the Diablo canon, that’s a very bad thing.
Even if you’ve already played through Diablo III, the Ultimate Evil Edition is worth checking out. Blizzard has even made it possible to transfer your characters across platforms, so if you bought it originally for Xbox 360 but you want to see all of the exclusive content the PS4 has, you can actually transfer your characters to the PS4 version of the game.
The Final Word: This is without a doubt the ultimate version of Diablo III. If it’s gold, gear, glory and a good time you seek, this offers all that and more.
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