STAFF REVIEW of Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition (Xbox One)

Friday, August 29, 2014.
by Khari Taylor

Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition Box art Just like the old saying goes: "Good things come to those who wait." The long-awaited release of Diablo 3 on PC in 2012 was initially one marred by controversy; the new Auction House feature intended to both stem and legitimize the frowned-upon practice of auctioning off rare items to other players for personal profit was ultimately a failure, as it tied real-world monetary value to item drops and made valuable items so rare that most players were forced to rely on the game's built-in grey market to even have a hope of finding them. Likewise, the mandatory-and-still-current persistent online connection requirement, just like in every other modern videogame or videogame-related framework that attempts it (e.g. Sim City, Ubisoft's UPlay - enabled PC games) has been perceived as an affront to gamers, preventing many from playing their brand new game purchase however and whenever they want (i.e. online or offline). Now over two long years later, Diablo III finally makes its debut on Xbox One as "The Ultimate Evil Edition", arriving nearly 12 months after its solid appearance on Xbox 360, bringing in tow the previously PC-exclusive Reaper of Souls expansion as well as a host of other additions, including an all-new character class and a much-appreciated visual bump to glorious 1080p at 60 frames-per-second. As in the 360 version, long gone are the controversial Auction House and the mandatory online requirement, a move that has endeared the game much closer with the console crowd, and even encouraged several fans who already own the PC version to play it again on console.

Back in September, we gave the Xbox 360 version of Diablo 3 a well-deserved 90% review score, as the game blew us away with its high-end production values, solid gameplay mechanics and one of the best translations of keyboard and mouse controls to a game controller since Bungie redefined how first-person shooters should be played on consoles with Halo: Combat Evolved for the original Xbox. So aside from the graphics and sound, what’s different?

New to Diablo 3 is the Crusader, whom at first glance will strike most of those familiar with dungeon crawlers as an even cross between a paladin and a cleric, and they would be right, except that in the Diablo franchise's tradition of keeping this simple and fun, the Crusader has been granted literally all of the benefits of those two classes and very few of their weaknesses. Capable of wielding most heavy melee weapons both blunt and sharp, Crusaders are the true tanks of the game, as once players become accustomed to their abilities they can they can wade right into the thick of battle and absorb numerous hits while dealing out immense amounts of damage, while simultaneously gaining health and wrath (the Crusader version of mana) bonuses just for using their special abilities. In addition, once players begin unlocking the corresponding runes to each one of the Crusader's abilities, the Crusader can master new powerful skills that benefit not only him or herself but also the rest of the party, such as buffs that give all party members added protection, or cast area-of-affect healing spells and even holy attacks that can freeze large groups of enemies in place or send them running in fear for a short time. In short, the Crusader can be just as effective in the back of the group as he or she is in the front, providing support for the rest of the party while using ranged and area attacks to do damage, and can easily switch up styles should his or her special brand of brute force suddenly become needed at the point of the spear. Of course, every one of Diablo 3's other character classes (Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Witch Doctor and Wizard) are all designed to be equally versatile, as the game is intended to be playable completely on one's own as well as in a party involving multiple players, but the addition of the Crusader has nonetheless brought a more "traditional" element of D&D that was noticeably absent from the earlier versions of Diablo 3.

Another subtle yet noticeable difference is how the new dynamic difficulty leveling system scales not only with the player's level but also adjusts automatically for differences between players so that all party members can enjoy playing at the same level of difficulty, yet no one is held back. Lower-level players are given temporary stat-boosts so that they are equal in level to the most powerful players in the party, and the enemy AI adjusts accordingly, allowing friends to easily play together regardless of how advanced one or more of the players may be. That said, even in a party, Diablo 3 is no cakewalk. There are five, very lengthy acts to the game, so you might want to take it easy on your first run through if you have any intention of finishing the game in a reasonable amount of time (maybe the larger part of a week if you have a job and a normal life). If you’re a glutton for punishment though, you could always enable Hardcore mode, which gives the player just one life, and when it’s over, it’s really over. Also, keep in mind, if you already have a game-save from the Xbox 360 or PS3 version of Diablo 3, it can be imported to Xbox One (instructions can be found at, allowing you to continue where you left off with your character and not lose all the time you’ve previously invested in him or her.

The excellent multiplayer mode has also seen an enhancement in the form of "gifts", where players will randomly pick up special items and weapons among their loot that are intended for other players in their Friends Lists that are also playing Diablo 3, even if they have never actually played with those players. Players can choose to send or not send these gifts from their inventory menu; if they do, the gift will appear in the designated player's mailbox, which can be found at their base camp. More in-general, the execution of offline and online multiplayer remains just as brilliant as it was with the Xbox 360 version, allowing for offline play, online play and even a mix of the two in fully-customizable 4-player-parties, and there are even PvP Brawl rooms for players who want to duke it out without any serious consequences. The only complaint from this reviewer is that in local co-op, only one player is allowed to manage their inventory or upgrade their skills and weapons at a time, which can make for lengthy periods of time waiting while your friend sorts through all of his or her loot, just so you can spend an equal amount of time when it is your turn. Allowing for split-screen item management for two players at the very least might have streamlined the process. Another way in which copious amounts of precious time could have been saved would have been by merging all inventory from a player's stash (a treasure chest at base camp that can hold extra items) with the inventory on his or her person when visiting the Blacksmith, so that players can salvage, repair or upgrade their inventory without having to make the trip over to the Stash to first gather their items. It's unlikely that these sorts of changes will be applied in an upcoming patch, but they would certainly be welcome. Thankfully, developer Blizzard has already pledged to keep the current-gen console versions of Diablo 3 up-to-date along with future improvements to the PC version, so there is always hope.

While our review of the Xbox 360 version praised Diablo 3's graphics and sound, it's simply not enough to say that the Ultimate Evil Edition improves upon them and leave it at that, despite the high expectations that an Xbox One version brings. In this reviewer's local co-op experience, the 60 frames-per-second action never slowed or stuttered even with dozens of enemies and NPCs on screen, and the crisp 1080p visuals (enabled post-day-one patch) ensured that there was no question which Xbox console I was playing the game on. The lush desolation of the world of Diablo and its denizens literally leaps off the screen, and all the little touches, such as the bodies of fallen warriors occasionally shifting from rigor mortis as you walk over them, the splatter from insects and scorpions when you squash them underfoot, or how building structures, walls and even the sides of cliffs spontaneously collapse, supposedly set off simply by your movement in their vicinity, all accompanied convincingly by spine-tingling audio effects in surround-sound, make the world feel all the more atmospheric and tangible. Finally, when an enemy's battle-horn blares or a boss creature roars, rattling your subwoofer and or headphone speakers, the game's unsung hero, your Xbox One controller, will rumble exquisitely in unison, providing extra impact to every major hit, explosion, and in-game cut-scene, not to mention make all those squashed bugs feel extra squishy. It goes without saying that Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition has been given the full Activision-Blizzard treatment (in the best sense of the phrase), and only the most discerning (read: snobby) of the PC Elite could experience this game and wrongly declare it a lesser version than its PC cousin.

In conclusion: Diablo-fans and Diablo-curious alike, the wait is over. The definitive version of Diablo 3 is now available on Xbox One, and whether you've already played it on PC, a previous generation console, or simply been waiting in the wings to see how the latest installment in the PC-favorite franchise would shake out on the current-gen consoles, you now have your answer. Diablo 3 isn’t just as good as a PC-to-console port can get; in several ways, it's better, simpler and more enjoyable to play. Buy yourself a copy, gather some friends on the couch or online, and prepare to sacrifice several hours, days and weeks of your life to the dark lord that is Diablo.

1) Allow for two or more players to access their inventory simultaneously via split-screen so less time is spent waiting for each player to finish and more time is spent adventuring. 2) Merge the Stash and Character inventories when at the blacksmith so less time is wasted going between the Stash and the blacksmith. 3) Please, less stereotypical accents for the Witch Doctor next time. It's as if Nelson Mandela (rest in peace) was raised from the dead only to phone in performance, in awkward English. As a gamer of African descent, I'm almost embarrassed every time words come out of his mouth. Diablo should be about fantasy, not weak parody.

Overall: 9.6 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 10.0 / 10
Sound: 10.0 / 10


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