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Diablo III

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: Nov. 2, 2018

About Andreas Salmen

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Switch Review - 'Diablo III: Eternal Collection'

by Andreas Salmen on Nov. 5, 2018 @ 2:00 a.m. PST

Diablo III is an action RPG where you create a hero from one of five distinct classes, each equipped with an array of spells and abilities, unraveling an epic storyline and engaging in combat with hordes of monsters and challenging bosses.

Buy Diablo III: Eternal Collection

Before descending into the annual Christmas chaos, Activision Blizzard is releasing hell on the Nintendo Switch in the form of Diablo III: Eternal Collection. The game could easily be dubbed as "just another port," but the good news is that Diablo III is probably in the best state it's ever been in. The bad news is that it's still very much Diablo III, so if you don't like the repetitiveness of the grind (regardless of how well executed it may be), this certainly won't be your cup of tea. How well does Diablo III hold up six years after its initial release, and does it play well on a portable hybrid system?

We should start by acknowledging that Diablo III was a hot mess upon release and left many fans out in the cold. Since then, it has received a multitude of updates, expansions, and general quality of life improvements that have made it a much more sound experience. Eternal Collection obviously inherits all of those changes and gets a few additions that just make sense.

At its core, Diablo III is an action-packed RPG dungeon crawler, with an over-the-top presentation and massive enemy hordes that collapse into chunks of meat and bones while we grind for incrementally better loot drops from their mutilated carcasses. Seven character classes, from close combat specialists like the Barbarian or the Crusader to more ranged and magic protagonists like the Witch Docter and the excellent Necromancer, there is a fair amount of distinction between our character options, making repeat plays more bearable. Even within classes, there is a certain amount of variability, with diverse skills and enhancement runes that can be combined and swapped out on the fly to create a more distinct build.

If anything, it stays with the familiar formula and checks off everything on the list while also making sure it's accessible to newcomers and scales reasonably for veterans. Diablo III nails the feeling of being an overpowered force to be reckoned with, especially on the easiest Normal difficulty, which is anything but normal. Your first playthrough on normal will be painless as you cut through enemies with ease — only to notice that there are 16 more difficulties, and the next two already reach an uncomfortable level. If you fancy a challenge, there's plenty to be had here, but at the same time, the game doesn't balance them too well. It'll lure you in with what seems to be an easy 12-hour campaign, but it's significantly shorter if you breeze through it — until someone sneakily hits you on the head. In the end, that is the Diablo III experience, so be warned.

This doesn't take away from the fact that Diablo III feels incredibly punchy, making you a powerful character to reckon with no matter your level, and the skills look and feel powerful. If nothing else, it's extremely satisfying to grow strong enough to take apart entire groups of enemies at once and reduce massive bosses to a bloodstain in a sandy desert. It has to be satisfying because you are doing lots of it.

There is a serviceable story that's told in five acts. There are some impressive CGI cut scenes and straightforward in-game dialogue and written notes. It doesn't do a great job of conveying the story, so one would benefit from having played previous entries. If one were to jump in fresh, though, the plot is very easy to ignore altogether, which is good since this devilish isometric hell-fest will certainly attract novice players.

The general gameplay loop involves moving through the world, killing everything that moves, and picking up what remains. Loot is at the very core of the Diablo experience, and it's an aspect that was criticized upon launch for low drop rates and a questionable auction house system to buy and sell better gear. In the version we have today, loot drops at a nausea-inducing rate, filling your pockets with more junk than you can comfortably carry. Legendary equipment drops a bit too often. Regardless, you'll be caught in a consistent loop of checking your gear against new items and selling/salvaging what you don't need so the blacksmith can craft new and more advanced weapons and armor. For lack of a better word, it keeps you busy. There's always more and better things to wear, locked behind more enemies and bosses, and that alone drags you through the game.

With an emphasis on inventory management, the Switch version benefits from the reworked menu that was introduced with previous console releases, making the game fairly easy to navigate. It's not perfect, but it's about as good of a PC-to-console port as can be expected. The Switch benefits greatly from the game's years of additions. The controls are generally well implemented, with a button that can be pressed for continuous attacks, and all special attacks are mapped to the remaining face and shoulder buttons so they can be utilized quickly. We encourage players to activate Elective mode in the settings, so you can map any attack to any button, providing additional control over the kind of build you're pursuing. If needed, collected loot can be equipped without going into the menus, and we never even missed a mouse and keyboard by playing a game that, in its original state, was designed for only that.

Taken together, the campaign is a blast to play, and if you're new to the game, you may take the normal route because once you're done, the real Diablo III experience begins. Once we've completed the campaign and reaching the level cap of 70, we're free to go through it again on a tougher difficulty or jump into Adventure mode, where everything is available to explore and play, including special bounties to complete and so-called Nephalem Rifts, temporary challenges that prompt us to kill a certain number of enemies and a special boss for loot and riches. While previous versions of the game forced players to complete the campaign at least once to reach the adventure mode, Eternal Collection on the Switch has the mode unlocked from the very start in case you're familiar with the game and want to dive in first.

From here, it's all about improving and playing around with the different character classes and loot, creating a powerful character and maximizing damage output to kill greater hordes of enemies in less time, It's not an obsession that everyone will have, but if you enjoy a deep loot system and smashing demons, this will certainly appeal to you. The upside is Diablo III has almost limitless replayability, but the downside is that there is lots of repetition that can be unappealing. Seasons, which are contained periods with special challenges, offer an incentive to start over with new characters and gain special loot and experiment, which is certainly nice to have, and it all works as expected from the other versions. Surprisingly, the Switch iteration is feature-complete, with no concessions on either content or technical prowess.

The Eternal Collection has a few more perks, though they're not nearly as exciting. There's a special Ganondorf outfit, a pet cuckoo, and support for selected Amiibo. As with many other Switch games, the big draw is the nature of the console itself. Diablo III is quite infamous for its always-online policy, even when you're just out and about by yourself. The requirement has been dropped for the Switch to make it easier to game on the go. Even seasonal characters can be played on the go as long as we were logged in and had put the system into sleep mode rather than shutting down the game. Given the incremental improvements and the necessity to grind, it's nice to have the option to play in portable mode. The ability to drop in and out almost without restrictions makes it a very open and easy game to pick up and play whenever there's time.

The same goes for the extensive range of co-op possibilities. The online and local co-op modes offered in previous iterations work as expected, with relatively easy drop-in/drop-out multiplayer (as long as both players have a seasonal or non-seasonal character for compatibility). There's also the option to play locally on separate Switches. We played a fair stretch of the game locally, and lag and latency are low, so communicating and playing together is a blast. Given the massive amount of content, seasonal challenges and ease of popping in and out of other people's games, it may be one of the better co-op experience for up to four players on the system. Even if you're not a fan of grinding and retreading, it becomes a more enjoyable experience when played with a friend.

Technically, the game holds up as well, with a mostly rock-solid 60fps that doesn't seem to be impacted by anything that happens on-screen. Even with four players, a necromancer commanding a sizeable team of minions, hordes of enemies and frequent magic and gore effects on-screen, the game didn't give in to anything while maintaining 720p in portable and a resolution slightly under 1080p in docked mode. The handheld image might be a bit fuzzy at times, but it isn't a deal-breaker if the frame rate is steady.

It's another port, it's full price, and it may not be the greatest game ever made, but it's fun and technically sound. Judging by the staggering amount of ports so far, the Eternal Collection may take the cake due to the amount of content, co-op possibilities, and the surprising amount of care spent on making it run well.

All things considered, if you're into Diablo, Diablo III: Eternal Collection may be one of the better versions due to its flexibility and options. If you're not into Diablo, this may be the best place to start. While it's good for what it is, bear in mind that it can become a frustrating and repetitive loot-escapade that can drag you into hell.

Score: 8.3/10

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