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When Diablo III originally released for PC, it sucked and I thought it was the stupidest purchase I ever made. And that’s because I bought the Collector’s Edition. At that time, I had only played the first two games a handful of times but never beat them. For some reason, I was really interested in getting into the series and hoped Diablo III would be the game to click with me. But it wasn’t happening and it was my fault. I blamed myself. I really didn’t follow the development of the game, I knew the series was about loot and character building and realized early on that Diablo III made some major changes. You don’t pump points into your characters, you don’t get to pick and choose your skills, the loot was awful, the auction house was a terrible idea, and I couldn’t even get past the first Act. I got so bored. It wasn’t until the Loot 2.0 patch was released that I really got into it. I heard many great things about it and I figured since I spent all that money on the Collector’s Edition, I might was well give it another shot. I’m glad I did because I got hooked and beat it within it week. Developed and published by Blizzard, Diablo III was released for PC in May, 2012 and for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in September, 2013. The Reaper of Souls expansion was released for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, and came with the base game which was being released for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One for the first time in August, 2014. And the most recent DLC, Rise of the Necromancer, was released in June, 2017 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. For this review, I played the Diablo III: Eternal Collection for Nintendo Switch which released in November, 2018 and contains all previously released content. Exclusive to this version, specifically, is content based on The Legend of Zelda series and amiibo support. Since the Loot 2.0 patch, I’ve beaten the game two or three times on PC and this was my first time playing a console version.
The story is set in the dark fantasy world of Sanctuary, years after the events of Diablo II. After a mysterious star falls from the sky and strikes the Tristram Cathedral, the Elder, Deckard Cain, disappears. The undead begin to rise and the protagonist known as the Nephalem, which is whatever your character is, arrives to investigate the falling star. The Nephalem accompanies a woman named Leah in order to rescue Cain and they eventually learn about the arrival of two demon lords Belial and Azmodan. I got to say, the story doesn’t really do it for me but the plots in the previous games never did either. I don’t even mind the story but the voice acting and characters are so lackluster, it’s hard for me to care. On the plus side, I do enjoy the atmosphere and tone of the series. The main game plays out in four Acts, with each Act set in different areas of Sanctuary, and the Reaper of Souls expansion adds a fifth act. The story here is set after the events of the main game. The former Archangel of Wisdom known as Malthael steals the Black Soulstone which is an extremely powerful artifact capable of holding many souls including the souls of the Great Evils. Malthael wants to wipe out humanity and put and end to the Eternal Conflict. Obviously, eradicating the human race is not cool and the Nephalem sets out to stop him. If you’re a veteran of the series, you’ll encounter several familiar faces throughout the story and there’s some backstory and lore peppered throughout the game that flesh out characters and events.
There’s three game modes to choose from – Campaign, Adventure, and Challenge Rifts. The Campaign is the story mode where you progress through the Acts. Adventure is a mode unlocked from the get-go and is where you can visit any of the Acts or areas, and complete Bounties and Random Dungeons. This is probably where many players will spend most of their time. You’re not restricted and are technically free to explore the world of Sanctuary at your own pace. You’ll battle enemies and bosses, improve your character, and acquire loot. I remember having to unlock the Adventure Mode by completing the campaign on PC but having it open from the start is probably a very welcome change for veterans of the game. Challenge Rifts is a mode where you enter a rift that is basically a copy of a previously completed Greater Rift except you need to beat the original runner’s completion time. If you beat the time, you’ll be rewarded with special loot.
Before you can jump into any of the game modes, you’ll want to create your character and you can select one of multiple character classes. You can be a Witch Doctor, Barbarian, Wizard, Monk, Demon Hunter, Crusader, or Necromancer. You have the option to create a hardcore character which means permadeath. You die and your character is gone forever. You can also decide to create a season character or season hardcore character. Season characters have the opportunity to earn unique items during the duration of the current season. You choose your character’s gender, give him or her a name, and off you go. You can play as any of your characters in any of the game modes and the difficulty you choose determines the quality of the loot. The higher the difficulty, the better the loot and the higher the percentage of extra gold and experience bonuses you’ll receive. Torment is one of the the hardest difficulty modes and must be unlocked by getting at least one character to level seventy. There’s also numerous Torment difficulty modes to play through. Your character gains experience by slaying monsters and completing quests and after gaining enough experience, your character levels up. After reaching level seventy which is the level cap, you’re character can still improve thanks to the Paragon Level system. There is no cap on Paragon levels and each time a character levels up past level seventy, they earn a Paragon point that can be spent to boost various stats. Paragon levels are shared between the different character types account wide so for example all Normal characters will reap the benefits of the Paragon levels. If you have a Hardcore character earning Paragon points, all Hardcore characters will reap the benefits of those Paragon levels.
If the the three game modes, Paragon levels, and loot system isn’t enough to keep you coming back, maybe Seasons is what you’re looking for. A Season only lasts for a certain time period but there are exclusive rewards you can earn for participating in a season. These include things like pets, portraits, wings, pennants, and more. Now the game does give you some of these items, and you can access them from your bag with any character. I know there’s a Zelda character portrait, you can equip some wings and pennants, choose from a few pets, and any pet you bring with you will collect any gold that’s dropped which is kind of nice. After a season ends, your season character will be moved to the non-seasonal character pool and all items you’ve earned will be made available to your regular characters.
Each character class is different and can utilize different skills. But unlike Diablo and Diablo II, there is no pumping points into stats or skill trees. Only when you reach the Paragon levels can you pump points into stats. When you level up, you get stronger and new skills are automatically unlocked and assigned to buttons. Active skills can be activated manually and passive skills are always active as long as you have them selected. Active skills are separated into categories and your primary skill won’t drain your character’s resource and that resource is unique to each character class. Most active skills will drain that resource but it will regenerate. You can only have a limited number of active and passive skills selected but you can switch between them at any time. If you have “Elective Mode” enabled in the Options menu, you can assign skills from any category to different buttons. Furthermore, your active skills have runes that are unlocked as you level up. These basically act as modifiers that change up how the skills function. When I first played Diablo III on PC way back when, I didn’t like most of this at all. I wanted to actually build my character. Combine this with the terrible loot system at launch and it was truly awful. But Loot 2.0 showed that this system really isn’t that bad because your character build is actually based on your equipment. And your equipment is loot. So the loot system needs to be not shit which it was at launch. You can equip armor and weapons that have magical properties and boost your stats. Plus, with skills being unlocked as you level up, you can switch between them at any time and change your character’s skill set and approach to situations without having to create a brand new character to focus on a different play style. The series has always been about loot and equipment to an extent but now you don’t really need to rely on stat points and skills to be as strong or effective as possible. At least not until the Paragon levels.
Loot is what the game is all about and can be found in chests, it’ll rewarded to you for completing quests, and enemies will drop loot when killed. Loot doesn’t just consist of equipment but also crafting materials, gems, and gold among some other things. Some gear can only be equipped by specific character classes and gear you don’t want can be marked as junk and then sold to vendors for money or converted into crafting materials. Crafting materials or what I call resource items are required to craft new gear, enchant items, or transmogrify items. Crafting, enchanting, and transmogging can be done at vendors like the Blacksmith and Mystic. These vendors can also be trained or leveled up so they can basically create better gear. You can acquire plans to teach the Blacksmith so he can make special gear and you can also acquire new Transmogs for the Mystic. There’s also standard merchants in the towns and in the world where you can buy and sell gear but I rarely bought anything from them. I found the best gear in the world, from monsters, or had it crafted. The Blacksmith will craft new gear for you and the Mystic will let you transmogrify or in other words change the appearance of your equipment and she’ll also enchant items which means you can swap out an item’s current magical property for another. Then there’s the Jeweler. You can bring gems to the Jeweler and he can add sockets to them, remove gems from sockets, or combine gems to make them more powerful. Gems are designed to be inserted into sockets and they grant items extra bonus properties. In the Adventure Mode, you can acquire Blood Shards as a form of loot and these can spent at the Blood Shard Vendor to purchase unidentified items that always contain magical properties.
You can move your character around freely and roll around which is good for evading attacks. When your character takes damage, they lose health. Health can be acquired from health globes dropped by fallen enemies, healing wells found in the world, and depending on your gear or skills, you may be able to leech health from enemies or it may just regenerate. You also carry a health potion with you at all times that can restore your health at the press of a button and to use it again, you have to wait for the cooldown period to end. You never have to worry about finding or buying health potions. You can also open a portal back to town at any time. Each Act contains a town which is like a hub with all the vendors you can interact with and the Book of Cain which can be utilized to identify specific items. Every now and then you’ll acquire an unidentified item that needs to be identified before you can equip or use it. You no longer need to rely on identify scrolls since you can identify items yourself or just use the book in town. Towns also contain your stash chest which is where you can store items. It’s very obvious Blizzard streamlined a lot of things and I have to say, I’m all for the changes. I like how the game places a very big emphasis on monster slaying and loot and now that you’re able to a store a ton of items in your inventory, you can play for a while before having to go back to town to do anything. Your gear does degrade over time so you will want to get it all repaired after a while which does cost money.
If playing on the Normal difficulty mode, the game is extremely easy. You can blast through each Act without any issues. Bosses would be the only real threats and even they aren’t that hard. If you want a real challenge and better loot, you’ll want to ramp up the difficulty. But even on Normal, the game is still fun and you’ll always feel like your character is growing and getting stronger. Plus, you can change the difficulty at any time. On higher difficulties, you’ll want to learn how to balance your equipment so you’re strong enough to take down any tough enemies you come across but can also withstand enemy attacks. The Acts are basically large worlds with waypoints scattered around that act as fast travel points. The Acts contain quests that advance the story, you’ll encounter NPC’s that offer side quests, and you’ll come across random dungeons, some with multiple levels. In typical Diablo fashion, the environments and dungeons are randomized and the one thing I love about the dungeons here is that at the end of them, there’s always an object that will teleport you back to the dungeon’s entrance so you don’t have to trek all the way back yourself. On your quest to slay evil, you’ll encounter specific characters that you can choose to have accompany you. You can equip these followers with some gear and unique items that grant them special properties. Diablo III can be played with other players, of course, and whether you play solo, with friends, or with random internet people, it’s all good fun.
Equipment or items come in different types – common, magic, rare, set, and legendary. Set items are part of an equipment set and when you equip all items in a set, they provide your character additional properties. Legendary items are extremely rare but usually extremely powerful and must be identified before they can be equipped. The gear and their properties are randomized so you’ll want to check on any new gear you acquire and compare it to what you currently have equipped. Some gear can improve your offense, defense, or maybe it offers a resistance to elemental attacks or grants you the ability to inflict elemental damage. Like the loot, monsters come in different types – common, champion, rare, and unique. The champion, rare, and unique monsters can be labeled as Elite monsters which means they’re tougher than the common enemies and have a higher chance of dropping better loot when killed. Most enemies will rush you, some can teleport around, some utilize elemental attacks, and some utilized ranged attacks. Treasure Goblins, Gem Hoarders, and other variants are creatures that will run from you but if you can kill them, they’ll drop a ton of loot or specific items.
The campaign is a pretty linear experience and for your character to reach his or her full potential, you’ll want to explore every nook and cranny and defeat every monster you come across. You can gain experience bonuses by eliminating a multitude of monsters quickly and you can acquire a temporary speed bonus by breaking a ton of objects. Sometimes fallen enemies will drop power globes which grants your character the Nephalem Glory buff. Nephalem Glory will let your character deal double damage for a limited time. If you acquire more the one power globe, you’ll increase your Nephalem Glory level and gain additional temporary bonuses. Throughout the environments are shrines that can be activated that offer temporary bonuses like increased experience, reduced incoming damage, faster attack speed, and other things like that. There’s also Cursed Shrines or events you can activate where you have to slay a specific amount of monsters and completing an event will reward you with loot. The environments are not only filled with enemies and objects but sometimes traps and objects that will drop gear or lore entries. You can also utilize environmental traps to damage or kill enemies.
The Adventure Mode is one of the best things added to Diablo III. You can essentially play this mode forever and just do whatever you want and in any order you want. There’s no real end to it. You don’t have to worry about a story or finding the next waypoint. All areas and dungeons are unlocked from the beginning. Unique to the Adventure Mode are bounties, rifts, and class set dungeons. Bounties are special quests that require you to slay a specific enemy, clear an area of enemies, and/or complete an event. You will, of course, be rewarded with loot and treasure for completing bounties. Completing every bounty in an Act will reward you with Horadric Caches full of loot and riches. You can acquire a specific item known as Kanai’s Cube which a powerful artifact that allows you to transmute existing items into new ones and extract and equip legendary item powers. Nephalem Rifts are basically randomly generated dungeons. In rifts, you can come across and activate Pylons which temporarily boost your abilities. After defeating a certain amount of enemies in a rift, you’ll get the chance to face the Rift Guardian which is basically a boss or just a strong elite monster and they can drop Greater Rift Keys when killed. The keys are used at the Nephalem Obelisk in town to activate the Greater Rifts which come in different ranks. You can unlock more ranks by beating the toughest one available and within a specific time limit. Set Dungeons are hidden around the acts and, from what I’ve read, are basically a way for you to test your set items. I’ll be honest, I haven’t done one yet because to find one, you need to be equipped with all the items in a set and I haven’t acquired a complete set yet. These dungeons are not randomly generated and contain specific objectives. Plus, the monsters don’t drop loot but you’ll still gain experience for slaying them. There are multiple set dungeons per character class. Now I know the other console versions include a Nemesis system which is exclusive to the Adventure Mode. From what I’ve read, through this system, monsters who have killed a player can appear in the games of players on their friends list. I don’t have any friends that play this on Switch so I don’t know if the system is in place here. I don’t know why it wouldn’t be but I really can’t confirm if it is or isn’t.
However you decide to play Diablo III whether it’s through the campaign or Adventure Mode, you’ll be completing challenges as you progress. Challenges are like achievements. In addition to being able to boast about what challenges you have completed, completing challenges will also unlock more customization options for your banner. The banner will appear in towns and you can change it’s shape, dyes, sigil, accent, and pattern. I’ve read that the Banner is a way for players to transport to another player’s location but since I didn’t get a chance to play with others, I didn’t get to try it.
I would say Diablo III looks good but the visual style isn’t right. The visuals are a departure from the darker and gothic-like appearance of previous games in favor of a more colorful aesthetic. I actually love the style but don’t think it’s appropriate for a Diablo game. Although, the cinematic cut scenes look fantastic. I would say the tone of the series is still here but the grim and dark atmosphere is kind of lacking. The one thing Diablo III has over other isometric action RPG’s is the visual and gore effects. Objects will break and structures will crumble and I find breaking things in this game to be somewhat addictive. I try to break every object I come across. Every attack feels satisfying thanks to blood spewing and monsters splitting or exploding. You’re always going to attacking monsters so it needs to at least look exciting and feel satisfying and Diablo III nails both of these aspects. The visual presentation as a whole in the Switch version doesn’t look as good as the PC version which is expected. It’s not as crisp but it doesn’t look bad. Much of the music is ambient and does a good job at setting the mood and there’s some tracks that ramp up during certain sequences but I can’t say any of the songs really stood out to me as exceptional. The sound effects are extremely loud by default but they sound good and clear. The attacks not only look and feel powerful but they’ll be accompanied by the sounds of monsters screaming, growling, screeching, and moaning in pain and squishy and gushy sounds as they’re decimated. On the technical side, Diablo III runs great on the Switch. I only experienced the frame rate dip on one or two occasions but that’s it. Whether I was playing with the Switch docked or in handheld, I experienced no major issues that would bring this version of the game down in any way. And it doesn’t require you to be online at all times.
Some of you may be wondering why I played the Switch version since I already own the PC version. There’s a few reasons why. 1) I like the idea of playing it on-the-go. 2) I wanted to try a console version. And 3) exclusive Nintendo items. Playing it on-the-go or just when I’m lying around the house is awesome and this is the kind of game that can get you hooked and you can invest hundreds of hours into it. It’s the kind of game you can jump into for a few minutes or a few hours and still have a lot of fun. I know there are people out there that still prefer Diablo II over III but I would be lying if I said III wasn’t my favorite entry in the series. I’ve put more time into this than the other two games and this is what got me into the series. I blame the Auction House for the abysmal loot system before Loot 2.0 but Blizzard has rectified that problem by eliminating it altogether. For those that don’t know, the Auction House was where players could auction off equipment for in-game gold or real money and I believe the developers balanced the loot drops around the Auction House. All I know is that everything that dropped for me was shit. It wasn’t fun and that’s why I gave up on the game before even reaching Act II. Evidently, there was a lot of complaints and Blizzard shut down the Auction House in March, 2014. Blizzard has made a ton of changes to the game and in my opinion, it’s all been pretty good. There’s tons of reasons to replay through Diablo III and it’s various modes and the only real downside to this game is that mods for the PC version are not allowed.
I would absolutely recommend Diablo III to fans of action RPG’s. If you were scared off by what was experienced at launch, you should try it now. A lot of things have changed for the better in my opinion. Hardcore fans of the previous games may not appreciate the changes but just because things were changed or streamlined doesn’t mean they’re necessarily worse. The character building is still here, it’s just more reliant on loot and Paragon levels later on. The Adventure Mode is fantastic and the Seasons always offer something new. Diablo III is accessible, fun, it can be enjoyed solo or with friends, and there’s plenty of content on offer here. Definitely check it out.