Diablo III: Reaper of Souls - Ultimate Evil Edition returns players to Sanctuary, the dark and grim homeworld of the Diablo franchise. Twenty years have passed since the defeat of the dark lord Diablo and his followers, and all seems well. A falling star lands near the town of New Tristam, bringing with it the scourge of the undead. The player takes the role of a hero sent to investigate the origin of the star. Before long, the hero is embroiled in a battle that stretches from the humble hamlet of Tristam to the gates of Heaven, all to stop the resurrection of Diablo and the doom of mankind.
Unfortunately, the plot is quite weak. The characters are paper thin, the dialogue is awkward, and the setting isn't very interesting. It's all propped up by extremely cool cut scenes, and fortunately, the simple story doesn't get in the way of the game experience. The tale provides some context for why you're going to different locations and punching monsters. The characters aren't memorable, and there are times the plot meanders until it reaches its inevitable destination. There are fun characters here and there, but you don't play Diablo III for the story line. You play the game for that sweet, sweet treasure.
The basic gameplay is as straightforward as it is addictive. You choose from a selection of character classes and take on huge swarms of enemies through a variety of dungeons. There's not a lot of complexity, and most of the time, you'll tear through monsters like butter. The challenge and difficulty is in keeping the monster swarms contained long enough to beat them without getting surrounded and overwhelmed. Defeating monsters earns you experience points, money, and new equipment that can be used to augment your character. Diablo III's stat system is more streamlined than in the previous titles. Rather than assigning stat points, you gain them automatically. You can customize abilities and passive moves, with each class getting its own selection of skills. These skills can be respecced at will, so players can alter their move sets for each situation. High-level players can further customize their characters with the Paragon system, which gives buffs to those who've already hit the level cap.
Diablo III translates surprisingly well to consoles. In some ways, I find playing with a controller preferable to using a mouse and keyboard on the PC. The basic controls feel slightly more action-RPG style than the PC version. You move with the analog stick and attack by holding down the X button and aiming in the direction of an enemy. This works great for melee characters, but it can feel awkward when targeting foes with ranged abilities. A dodge roll move has been added to compensate for some of the controller's shortcomings. It's a natural-feeling addition to the game, and it's difficult to believe it didn't exist in the PC iteration. The roll move lets you avoid enemy swings or quickly reposition yourself, which can be a godsend against certain foes. It's not necessary to use, but it helps compensate for the lack of a point-and-click interface for movement. The radial menus are a noticeable step down from the PC version's interface, but there are enough tweaks that it doesn't detract from the action too much. At worst, I avoided loot-checking until I was back in town or in a safe location.
Loot is the name of the game in Diablo III, more so now that ever. PC players remember the original version's unsatisfying loot system, which has long since been replaced by Loot 2.0. There's no trace of that system in the console version of Diablo III. The loot system is prone to giving you high-end items at a staggering rate. I was getting rare drops at an accelerated rate and even found Legendary items before I did in the PC version. Ultimate Evil Edition really seems interested in keeping player stocked with interesting gear. There was enough good loot that I didn't feel like I was wasting my time.
New to the Ultimate Evil Edition is the expansion pack, Reaper of Souls, which adds a chunk of new content. The Crusader, an additional character class, fills the gap left by the missing Paladin from Diablo II. A new act, complete with a new antagonist, adds to the story mode. Perhaps most important is the addition of Adventure mode, which is a semi-randomized mode that's unlocked when you finish the game. It lets you take on bounty quests and revisit older locations with new challenges, including special Rifts that create randomized mini-dungeons to explore. PlayStation 4 players can visit a special The Last of Us-themed Rift while exploring this area. It isn't the most exciting exclusive content, since most of the enemies are vaguely reskinned versions of existing foes, but it's still a nice touch. Skills and abilities have also been tweaked to add new options for existing classes.
Ultimate Evil Edition comes very close to being the definitive version of the game, even when compared to the PC version. For one thing, it's more accessible. Multiplayer can be done online and with couch co-op. The couch co-op options are more limited due to players needing to remain roughly in the same area, but it does a good enough job of providing fast and fun action for all players. Online is even more accessible than in the PC version due to a new system that raises your level (if not your abilities) to match higher-level players, allowing you to hop in a game with super-powered friends without the frustration of being too much of a burden. This is in addition to the nice features that are already present in Diablo III's other versions, such as a very flexible system that lets you join a friend and continue the story from any point, and a wide selection of difficulty modes. You can even mail items to a friend to help.
One of the coolest new features is the Nemesis system. When a player is killed by a monster in-game, that monster gets a promotion to a Nemesis and appears in other players' games. This Nemesis continues to grow in power with every player it defeats until it is taken down, at which point it drops rare loot. It's a really cool concept that adds some much-needed spice to the game. Due to their nature, Nemesis enemies seem to show up in the deadliest areas and bring some much-needed additional challenge. They're fun to fight, and it's pretty satisfying to take one down. Regular enemies also benefit from the killstreak system, where killing multiple enemies in a row boosts your eventual experience gains. It's a system that makes the game feel more like Dynasty Warriors than usual — in a good way. Tearing through hundreds of foes and earning four times the experience points is a rush that's similar to finding a really good piece of loot.
With that said, Diablo III is still an experience that suffers from single-player gameplay. The three beginning difficulty levels are all too low to offer an interesting challenge, but you're obligated to run through one of them to unlock Adventure mode and the more interesting difficulty levels. The Nemesis system provides some challenge, but Diablo's lower levels are just more fun when taken on with friends. Things improve once you've finished the main story mode and can fool around in Adventure mode and the higher difficulties. You can transfer your save data if you had the previous console version, but it would be nice if there was a meatier Hard mode available from the start.
Ultimate Evil Edition is a big step up from the previous console versions and far more in line with the PC version. There are a number of minor effects and environmental features that were either not there or present in a lesser form in the PS3 version. The game runs at 60FPS, although I noticed some frame drops here and there. However, at the end of the day, it's still Diablo III. It looks good and has some extremely nice environmental design, making the various areas fun to explore. The voice acting is cheesy but charming enough to hold its own, although most players will likely skip through to get to the loot-grabbing as soon as possible.
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls - Ultimate Evil Edition isn't going to redefine your Diablo experience. It's bigger, shinier and has some nice new content, but in the end, it's the same game. It's a fun mix of killing monsters and collecting loot that has stood the test of time, despite some initial missteps. Ultimate Evil Edition is a strong contender for the best version of the game, with any losses from the PC version bolstered by the console-exclusive features and the enjoyable gamepad-based control scheme. Those who have already played the PS3 version might want to wait for a price drop, but PS4 newcomers will find Diablo III to be well worth the wait.
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