Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition — ‘pulse-pounding adventure’

Jon Mercer
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Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition
PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4,
Xbox 360, Xbox One
(PS4 version reviewed)

Ho, fellow warriors! It’s been nearly 12 months since “Diablo III” (the supposedly unworthy heir to Blizzard’s famous franchise that was in reality a whopping 2,204 pounds of fun) last graced gaming consoles, and more than two years since it debuted on PC.

In that time, the game’s developer, Blizzard, has listened to the fans and critics, and have spent its time sanding away at rough edges, removing unnecessary redundancies, and building on new features — all of which has led to this, what is being marketed as “Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition,” a refined combination of the original game, and PC Expansion “Reaper of Souls,” released for PS4, PS3, Xbox One, and Xbox 360.

So, should gamers consider taking another trip through the bottomless pit, or cast their eyes on loftier pursuits?

“Diablo III: UE” is simply swole with features and polished gameplay, and with unfortunate pitfalls such as the much maligned real money auction house having been cut away by Blizzard, this truly feels (and plays!) like the definitive version of Diablo III.

With the “Reaper of Souls” expansion, the admittedly silly campaign offers up a good 10 to 20 hours of high-octane dungeon diving and demon slaying; which can be extended with side quests and playthroughs with all six available (and intrinsically different) character classes.

And all of that is simply the first option. For once the main campaign is finished, “Diablo III: UE’s” new ‘Adventure Mode’ is unlocked. This opens up all of the game’s waypoints and sends players on a never-ending quest to conquer a hit list of bosses and epic level monsters in search of glory and rare loot.

With the Manowar silliness of the story out of the way, “Diablo III: UE” is free to charm players with its crazy-fun gameplay.

And it works. It really works.

I’ve heard complaints that this mode should have been made available from the moment the game was powered on, but really, not all of us have had the pleasure of completing “Diablo III” yet.

For those of us who have poured a few hours of time into the previous PS3 and Xbox 360 releases of Blizzard’s Gothic beat ’em up, there’s a really cool (and very much appreciated) option to import save files from these earlier versions for use in “Diablo III: UE.”

Sadly, for me at least, this means that I am still roughly 10 hours and 50 levels behind the rest of my friends.

Not that the grind is ever really present. New weapons, armour and all manner of trinkets are made readily available and the climb through the levels is never less than thrilling, especially when a character’s kill streak quickly ascends toward triple digits. In that regard, very little has changed in “Diablo III: UE,” it is still a pulse-pounding adventure with the roots of its DNA firmly planted in the arcades of old.

Another big bonus with the transition to the PS4 and Xbox One is the extra processing muscle that finally puts the console flavours of “Diablo III” on an equal footing with the PC versions.

The framerate manages to stay smooth, and at 60 FPS with no graphical concessions being made, this is a decidedly pretty game.

When magic and explosions rip across the terrain — and everything that isn’t permanently bolted down is blown to splinters and the waves of seemingly non-stop foes continue to pour forward — “Diablo III: UE” becomes a thing of beauty, a marvel of clockwork that simply must be admired.

Blizzard’s gold standard art design and the game’s buttery-smooth animation are a sight to behold.

And hey! The soundtrack is pretty sweet to boot. It’s all very atmospheric and totally epic whenever a large demon arrives to trash a party of heroes.

Pay no heed to the haters who spew venom towards “Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition,” claiming it a poor successor to the legendary point and click dungeon dives of the late 1990’s.

It’s a well-built adventure with plenty of action and re-playability for anyone who enjoys smiting demons and collecting treasure, and in my opinion the definitive way to spend 100 hours grinding for XP.

Just don’t be surprised when you look up at the clock after sitting down after supper for a quick session, and the clock reads 4 a.m.

Platform: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One (PS4 version reviewed)

Developer: Blizzard

Publisher: Activision Blizzard

Release Date: August 19, 2014

Rated: M for Mature.

Walking through the wastes of the digital frontier, Jon Mercer fights a lonely war against the nefarious agents of boredom and mediocrity. If you seek his help, or wish to join his cause, send a communiqué via thejonmercer@gmail.com.

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