I never thought I would get back into Diablo 3. My experience may not compare to that of the hardcore who keep the series going on PC, but I've finished the main campaign on every major platform to date. After my most recent run, I figured I had gotten my fill of breaking open demon pinatas for loot, at least until Blizzard got around to announcing a sequel. So it's been with some surprise that I've found myself hooked on Diablo 3: Eternal Collection for Switch, which is set to launch later this week.
Over the past week or so I've been playing Diablo 3 whenever I've had a free moment: while watching Netflix, while riding the bus, on my flight to Seattle. In the span of just a few days, I've managed to push my humble Monk to level 43, and I'm envisioning getting a multiplayer group together to play when it launches later this week. It's thus far proven to be an incredible fit for the Switch—a port I would daresay is essential for anyone with a taste for Blizzard's particular flavor of loot gathering.
While it's just one of dozens of ports for Switch to come out this year, Diablo 3 feels different than the rest. For one, it marks Blizzard's first real foray onto a Nintendo platform since StarCraft on the N64 (unless you want to count the 2003 Rock N Roll Racing port on GBA). Second, it's more than just a port. Along with Fortnite and Warframe, the latter of which is also due in November, it represents the vanguard of so-called service games on the platform. It feels like the beginning of something new and significant on Switch.
Diablo 3 on Switch is the Perfect Podcast Game
The seeds of its successful transition to Switch lie in the comprehensive makeover it received after its rocky launch in 2012. As originally envisioned, Diablo 3 was an always-online multiplayer platform with a real money auction house. When this didn't work, Blizzard went back to the drawing board and totally redesigned the loot, the postgame, and the social features. By the time Reaper of Souls debuted in 2014, it was practically a whole new game. In dropping the online requirements and substantially beefing up Diablo 3's postgame, Blizzard effectively paved the way for it to succeed on a handheld system.
The result is a dungeon crawler that is just a blast to play on Switch. It's the kind of game you can pick up for five to 10 minutes for a quick quest, put down again, and then revisit a few hours later. More often, you'll find yourself getting accidentally sucked in to knocking out quests for hours at a time. In my aforementioned flight, Diablo 3 had me glued to my Switch as I listened to podcasts and crushed hordes of monsters. Did I mention that Diablo 3 is an absolutely incredible podcast game? It's my constant companion whether I'm listening to Hardcore History or (wink) Axe of the Blood God.
It works not just because Diablo 3's dungeons are fun to run on a pick-up-and-play basis, but because Blizzard has put a large premium on framerate. It purrs along at 60fps, almost never dipping below 50fps even in handheld mode. This unfortunately comes at the expense of noticeably blurrier visuals, especially when playing on a television. I eventually got used to the downgrade, but it did jump out almost immediately, especially in comparison with the PS4 version. Likewise, playing on handheld is a little bit of an eye strain at first since Blizzard has to pack a ton of info on to the Switch's little screen, but you eventually get used to it.
In general, I find the outstanding framerate preferable to slightly higher visual fidelity, because it makes it all the easier to lose myself in cutting my way through legions of hell, which is the first and greatest joy of Diablo. Everything is centered around figuring out the right combination of equipment and abilities so that you can melt hordes of opponents as efficiently as possible. You will know when you hit on the perfect build, because your foes will turn to ash in front of you, prompting you to turn up the difficulty so that you can keep tinkering. If you're really confident, you can turn on Hardcore mode and risk permanently losing your progress to an unfortunately placed Carrion Nest.
This addictive formula has carried Diablo for nearly twenty years now, and it translates very well to Switch. It's aided by Blizzard's wise decision to make the postgame Adventure Mode, which features randomized one-shot quests, available straight out of the box. These quests are pulled directly from the main campaign, but they can be played in any order, and beating five from one act will earn you some excellent rewards. Adventure Mode also affords access to Nephalem Rifts, which are special randomized dungeons for top-tier players.
Making Adventure Mode available from the jump removes one of the key barriers to entry with this version: having to play through the entire story yet again. Don't get me wrong, it's a great campaign, and it's certainly worth playing if you haven't experienced it before; but after several successive runthroughs, starting from scratch was a tough ask, at least for me. Diablo 3 on Switch doesn't allow you to import your character profile from other versions, which is unfortunate, but being able to jump into Adventure Mode immediately is a fair compromise.
The Adventure Mode changes are by far the biggest addition in this port, the free inclusion of last year's Necromancer DLC notwithstanding. While it does include some exclusive goodies for Nintendo fans, including the ability to look like Ganon, it mostly focuses on being faithful to the source material. In that regard it's successful, featuring not just all of the content to date, but the option to play in pretty much every combination of couch or online multiplayer (the latter requires a Nintendo Switch Online subscription).
An Interesting Experiment for Nintendo and Blizzard Alike
It should prove an interesting test for both Nintendo and Blizzard. They've done everything possible to make Diablo 3 enticing on Switch, but it remains to be seen whether the now six-year-old still has the power to draw in new fans on console. Nintendo in particular seems to be banking on this partnership being a success, even going so far as to release a dedicated Diablo 3 bundle through GameStop.
I can say that as a lapsed fan of the series, Diablo 3 on Switch has managed to regain my attention. It has the chance to do for co-op what Mario Kart 8 did for party games on the Switch. Even if you can't go adventuring with friends, I see it being an essential purchase just because Adventure Mode is so addictive.
Blizzard has spent several years perfecting Diablo 3's formula, building up the online season mode and putting in tons of little online hooks to keep you playing. Once a disappointment, Diablo 3 has been rebuilt into an intensely replayable RPG designed to have you constantly rolling new characters in the quest to climb the leaderboards. This formula proves to be an especially good fit for Switch, where it finds new life thanks to the platform's portability.
I don't know if I'll ever make it to the Nephalem Rifts, let alone the Greater Rifts that lie at the heart of Diablo 3's endgame. But even if I don't, I've had an amazing time with Diablo 3 on Switch. Whether you plan to play with friends or tackle Diablo and his minions solo, it's certainly worth checking out when it arrives November 2.