Posted Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 07:31 AM PDT by Bill Braun
Impressions from the PS4 version.
Originally released in May of 2012 for the PC, 'Diablo III' is a title that continues to have legs and one that I've consistently been interested in. However, not owning a PC capable of effectively running the game, it initially seemed as if I would forever be living vicariously through my 'PC master race' friends. Still, a ray of hope appeared when 'Diablo III' was subsequently released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Although I dabbled with the demo when it became available, the announcement that the developers at Blizzard Entertainment were also working on a similar version for the yet-to-be-released PlayStation 4 prompted me to hold out just a little bit longer.
It's true what they say – All good things come to those who wait.
The 'Ultimate Evil Edition' released for the PlayStation 4 on August 19, 2014 and came packed with a number of console-specific enhancements, all of the content and latest updates from the original 'Diablo III', as well as the recently released 'Reaper of Souls' expansion. The developers at Blizzard Entertainment have been touting this edition as the must-have version for console gamers, and for good reason.
To begin with, a new playable class was added to the existing list of options: Witch Doctor, Barbarian, Wizard, Monk, and Demon Hunter. Combining some of the best elements from a variety of these classes, the Crusader was the obvious choice for my beginning play through and proved to be heavily armored and a master of melee combat, while exhibiting an exceptional ranged dynamic. He is the brute you would expect to lead this charge against the evils of the world. But the selected character, regardless of class and abilities, will only ever be as good as the controls that were designed for it.
Re-envisioned for both the console environment and the console controller, the 'Ultimate Evil Edition' delivers a number of interesting and intuitive features and functions specific to the DualShock 4. Using the DS4 touch pad, the player is able to click on either side for a responsive short cut to your character's skills and inventory. Circling the radial dial using your fingers on the touch pad works, but feels more gimmicky than necessary as the analog sticks are simply more natural. Finally, the DS4 light bar is color-coded the same as your in-game character for easy identification should you be playing with a group in couch co-op.
While it's clear that much time and effort was obviously dedicated to these controller-specific features, it's Blizzard's ongoing attention to the social aspects of the game that are the most exciting to me. Apprentice mode accommodates for lower level players to join with those that have much greater experience, delivering a less restrictive game while evening the playing field and balancing the gameplay respectively. Additionally, the Nemesis system presents a gameplay mechanic that is both terrifying in concept and intriguing in delivery. Any creature that defeats you now has the potential to level up, rip open a portal, step through it, and materialize in one of your friend's games. A similar portal re-opens in your friend's game the next time they log on, providing full access for this Nemesis. Like the domino effect, this creature will continue to gain strength and level up. However, once defeated, you and your friends will share in the reward.
After completing all five acts, Adventure mode provides an open world experience that allows you to travel anywhere and slay anything. Bounties can be accepted to unlock Nephalem Rifts that further randomizes nearly every aspect of dungeon exploration – from dungeon layout and monsters, to weather and boss battles; essentially breathing continued life into a game that may have already been completed. There is also no longer a cap to the Paragon level, as Paragon points can be used to further develop your character's statistics, for near endless character development.
Teaming up with Sony, the developers of 'Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition' have also included some exclusive content in the form of a Nephalem Rift inspired by the creatures that inhabited the world of 'The Last of Us', as well as a larger-than-life acquired armor set based specifically on the ever popular 'Shadow of the Colossus'. They are a nice touch, albeit not altogether necessary, and a warranted nod to some of Sony's more beloved games – both new and old.
Finally, as much fun as I'm having playing 'Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition' with my son in couch co-op, it would be unjust not to mention the incredible visual flare the game offers. Much more than a simple port to the current gen console, 'Diablo III' delivers visuals that are quite often jaw dropping. Whether in the expansive outdoors, fighting your way through hordes of creatures while the heavens above rain down upon you, or in the deepest dungeon whose only source of light are sporadic torches and unattended fires, 'Diablo III' is stunningly beautiful. What's even more impressive is the consistently solid frame rate. Locked in at 60 fps, there is nary a hiccup, stutter, or tear, regardless of the number of creatures on screen or intensity of battle. 'Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition' delivers a true next gen experience and is simply the smoothest running game I've had the pleasure in playing.
While the wait to finally get my hands on 'Diablo III' may have felt like an eternity, I could not be happier with my decision to hold out for this truly Ultimate edition. Fans of the franchise that may have already completed the game still have reason to continue playing it on the PlayStation 4. Importing your previous character (and appropriate level) is a seamless option and one that I whole-heartedly suggest. Surprisingly, 'Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition' feels like the first true next gen game that I've experienced. More than just a pretty face, its design, features, and updates are what I have been waiting on since the PlayStation 4 was first released.
Well done, Blizzard Entertainment. Well done.
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