Diablo III has changed quite a bit in the two years since its initial release. Things like “real money auction houses” came and went, the loot system got redesigned, and an expansion was released along with a new adventure mode that gives you a new way to grind through the game without having to see the story beats time and time again. An exciting action-RPG got better and reinvigorated by that work. Now it’s all bundled up into one pack for consoles. This “Ultimate Evil Edition” is a fine version of the game with effective adjustments that make the game just about as playable with a controller as it is with a mouse and keyboard.
The key to all that, of course, is direct character control. As opposed to left-clicking your way around the world, this console version of Diablo III simply lets you walk around using the left analog stick. It’s a big difference, but one that still feels natural, especially if you were raised on console games like Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance. The right stick is used for a exclusive-to-consoles roll move that gives you a bit of mobility, but it never feels especially crucial. Of course, the rest of the controls have also been adapted to fit a controller, so you’ll eventually have like six abilities mapped to different buttons on the controller. You can swap those abilities around however you like, which either means that you’ll be able to find a setup that feels natural for you or you’ll constantly be confused about which button does what, depending on what type of player you are. It all works just fine.
The game’s interface and menus have also had to be rebuilt for controllers and living rooms, meaning there’s a ton of big-ass text in the menus. The equipment and skills sections are built with radial menus, making it fairly easy to get around and check out different item types. The arrows on each item make it easy to see, in a basic sense, if an item is going to help you out or not. And there’s a junk system in place to make it easy to flag the stuff that you want to sell or salvage next time you’re back in town. It took me an hour or two to get used to each system, since each one feels like it’s about one or two button presses too many, but once I became familiar with how Diablo III handles things, it eventually became second nature. Still, having to button deep into menus to dig into the numbers and real stats on an item is kind of a pain, and it’s the one spot where I missed the PC’s relative elegance.
Beyond that, this is Diablo III with the Reaper of Souls expansion included. The story is a little boneheaded but largely stays out of the way, giving you hours and hours of satisfying action-RPG combat and interesting abilities to choose from as you devise numerous ways to blow up skeletons, demons, shambling tree men, evil goat men, devils, fallen angels, zombies, vomiting zombies, barrels, tables, and whatever the hell else happens to be around your character when things start jumping off. The destructible set dressing strewn across Diablo’s dungeons ended up being one of my favorite visuals in the entire game–as you begin combat, anything that isn’t bolted down just seems to get blown up during the ensuing fray.
One thing I’ll say about the way this Ultimate Evil Edition is packaged is that the game doesn’t do a great job of transitioning you from the main campaign into what used to be expansion content. Reaper of Souls exists as a fifth act to the main game, so once you beat the main game’s final boss, rather than get any sense of meaningful closure you’re just thrust into the next area after a couple of cinematics. Without the context that Act V is separate from the rest, the transition feels disjointed and rough. Also, the game has a closing cinematic, but since it’s the closing cinematic for the expansion, it doesn’t really feel like it has enough of a meaningful impact. It goes out with a whimper, not a bang, complete with a dialogue window that pops up after beating the final boss that pretty much says “push X to go to the main menu.” It makes an already ignorable story feel even flimsier.
That’s why it’d be great if you could just hop into adventure mode without beating the game’s story first. Adventure mode lets you skip around the game at will and take on an endless series of bounties set across the same landscapes used in story mode. Most of them are relatively short, so if you have an hour or two, you could complete a set of five bounties and be on your way. It’s a great way to segment the game into smaller, more manageable chunks, if that’s your thing. The endgame mode also allows you to explore various “rifts,” which are separate areas that throw enemies together in new configurations and help ensure that you’ve always got something to do, whether you’re grinding up to level 70 or taking it beyond the maximum level with the game’s paragon system, allowing you to further build up max level characters. There are also 10 different difficulty settings. Do yourself a favor and start on hard, as a minimum, and don’t be afraid to creep up to something higher if you’re getting bored. The difficulties are really misnamed–hard most definitely isn’t “hard.”
The game looks fine on the PS4, roughly in line with what you’d expect out of the PC version at 1080p, though the frame rate would pop and hitch on occasion, usually when large enemies are in the process of blowing up and spitting loot all over the ground. There’s some great music to fit with the action and, overall, it presents quite well.
It’s great with a group and fine if you’re playing alone, but I’d still say that, if you’re able, the PC version is the one to get unless you’re specifically looking for a local co-op mode. Barring that, though, the console versions of Diablo III are well-built and adapted to a controller quite well, so at some point it becomes a matter of preference. If you’re excited about the genre and love to smash enemies to watch a series of numbers go up as you collect better and better gear, this is a good way to fulfill those needs.