I was more critical than most of Diablo III when it launched on PC in 2012. In short the Auction House laid bare the dark secret at the heart of the franchise -- Diablo is only really fun when you're getting shiny new things. When it's done right it's a min-maxer's dream game, all mental calculations on damage per second vs survivability. When it's done wrong you spend hours grinding gold so you can buy a better item direct from the Auction House (so you can better grind gold so you can buy a better item direct from the Auction House).
The Reaper of Souls expansion (and the patch created to support it) essentially did away with this problem by way of Loot 2.0, which rebalanced loot tables in a way that gave loot-chasing meaning once more. Adventure mode and difficulty changes gave players a new way to experience the game-world and a tangible way to customise their experience to something they were happy with, making Diablo III: ROS what my colleague Kosta called "the definitive version of Diablo III".
Diablo 3 on the PS4 is the best way to play Diablo 3. It's not worth buying a PS4 for, but with the release of the game on the next-gen consoles it feels like Blizzard has finally realised the game's full potential.
Let's start with the basics. You can play the game locally and you will experience zero lag because D3PS4 (and other consoles) is not always online. In fact you and three friends can enjoy this together through local co-op, reminiscent of Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance with a less interesting story.
Yes, the story is still largely ignorable. I've never been a fan of the writing in Diablo games -- I struggle to remember the story from Diablo 2 and I earnt more than three dozen Patriarch, Matriarch and Guardian titles all told. If I had to guess I'd wager it involved killing the eponymous bad guy. The thing is it doesn't matter -- the cinematics are gorgeous but hollow and that's OK
because it's not what Diablo is about.
Diablo 3 is like the polar opposite to games like Dark Souls. In Dark Souls you make measured and calculated moves to kill enemies efficiently, because levels and gear don't mean much at all. Here you want to maintain your momentum, to never stop moving because in Diablo 3 time is XP, and higher levels mean better gear mean better dps/survivability mean better progress. All the cut-scenes and dialogue are skippable, and ultimately you should be skipping them because they're killing your efficiency. The Ultimate Evil Edition comes with Reaper of Souls content, and Act V of Diablo 3 takes you to some interesting locales (and hints at some cool future content), but it's still more efficient for you to blast through it so you can move on to Adventure mode.
Adventure mode is where D3RoSUEE sees its true potential. The game transforms, becoming a mildly more complex Gauntlet game as you and your friends power through bounties to earn rifts. Basically the system is as follows. 1. You revisit the Acts throughout the game-world, hunt down bounties to earn Rift Keystones. Once you have enough Rift Keys you can enter a fully randomised dungeon.
This is the 'end-game' of D3RoS, where you continuously increase the difficulty of the game, the game affixing more and more modifiers onto enemies until you're suddenly fighting a fast teleporting orbing walling jailer with fire chains and extra health and a single fight can last five minutes plus. You find yourself engaging in more of that delicious mental arithmetic as you attempt to work out whether the new difficulty level is killing your 'loot-per-second' efficiency.
D3RosUEE is big on playing with your friends, so there's little surprise to find increased social features in the game. Nemesis challenges you to defeat your destroyer, levelling up a monster you died to and throwing it at you and your friends at a later date. Apprentice mode powers the lowest level player up, allowing them to better compete with their friends for kills, and throughout the game you're able to find and send gifts to your friends -- usually by way of sweet legendary loot drops. When you couple all of this with automatic voice chat with parties, D3RoSUEE actually comes out a bit in front of the PC version, but it comes with some drawbacks.
I couldn't find a reliable way to link loot to people I was playing with, which makes sharing gear with friends a little bit of a pain. The communities tab from the PC version is nowhere to be found, which will be a pain for anyone without a group of friends to run Rifts with. Obviously it would be challenging to implement something similar to communities in the console version, but its absence is missed.
Speaking of the challenges of the console, the controller has forced the console team to do some UI acrobatics. A wheel replaces the paper doll we're accustomed to from Diablo III, allowing players to enter the equipment menu and quickly change items. Thanks to helpful green up and red down arrows you can quickly work out whether an item is an improvement the moment you pick it up, and you can even equip it via the D-pad without even opening the equipment menu. It's a fine option for players who simply chase better stats, though those of us in the know will chase elemental synergy in our equipment over the immediately displayed interpretation of our 'damage'.
The radial menu has a slight flaw in that it can be tough to manage your equipment properly. Each player gets 60 slots, but because the potions, recipes and gems are all buried in a single radial option there were times that I forgot to empty my gems into my stash while making space. Eventually you get into the habit of emptying your gems and recipes, but there will be a few times when you run around with two thirds the storage space you should have.
The move to controller has actually largely been positive for Diablo III though, despite the challenges of the UI. The addition of a roll on the right thumbstick feels more like a distraction than a proper feature, but there are moments when it comes in handy. There's a very subtle aim assist happening in the game which does wonders for playing ranged characters -- instead of missing half your Rapid Fire shots you'll feel like the progeny of an angel and a demon as you blast through every enemy in sight.
This is what Diablo III should have been at launch, a beautifully constructed, tightly honed experience designed to capture players and not let them go until it's 2am and they have work in the morning. With couch co-op, randomised dungeons, randomised enemies and a loot system worth actually using Diablo III: RoS: UEE on PS4 is the best way to play Diablo III.
A word of note -- in the next few weeks patch 2.1 will hit Diablo III on both PC and consoles, and it's going to make some significant changes to the game. Rifts will change, all classes will get (massive) buffs and there will be a host of new features. One thing 2.1 will add to the PC version of Diablo III that won't make the transition to console is a planned set of seasons, where players will by default start from level one and compete to be the highest paragon level by the end of the month. This is the only thing the PC has over the PS4 version of the game.
Joab "Joaby" Gilroy is a huge fan of sports games, racing games, first-person shooters and 4X strategy games. He's awful at fighting and real-time strategy games although he'd love to get better. He thinks the Halo universe is hollow and that Arkham City was the real game of the year in 2011 and that AusGamers' managing editor Stephen Farrelly only gave Skyrim the nod because he is a filthy Marvel fan. His top three games of all time are (in no particular order) Deus Ex, GTA: Vice City and DayZ.
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