Thanks to an extended Yuletide vacation that ran from Christmas Eve until the New Year, I was fortunate enough to find myself with a surfeit of gaming time over the festive period. So much so that I exhausted the holiday playlist of contemporary titles that I'd made for myself, and subsequently ended up delving through my games library to see if there were any older games that piqued my interest enough for a revisit.
One of the games that did was Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition on PS4. I hadn't played the game for at least eighteen months, and the moment I saw it, I was keen to see just how well Blizzard's action RPG had withstood the test of time. Kat and I reviewed the game back in August of 2014, and we both waxed long and lyrical about its excellent local and online multiplayer facets, as well as its highly compelling hack and slash action.
I personally loved the game, and ended up investing a fair chunk of time into it in the months following its release, initially taking a Crusader through the game's five Acts, and then leveling up a Witch Doctor, as well as a Demon Hunter. All three were there waiting for me when I booted up the game, although I had to wait for several gigabytes of content updates to download before I could jump into the action proper.
While it's always slightly irritating when you want to play something but are faced with a loading bar, the obvious silver lining is that Blizzard has been continually fettling D3 over the last couple of years. As well as a raft of smaller patches fixing bugs, tweaking the gameplay, and adding loot, the comprehensive 2.4.0 patch that was launched almost twelve months ago brought with it the new zone of Greyhollow Island, expansions to the Leoric's Mansion and Eternal Woods areas, new Set Dungeon challenges, and Empowered Rifts.
Before I tackled any of the new content, however, I ran a few easy Bounties with my Crusader as a way of re-acquainting myself with how to play the game. These post-campaign, Adventure Mode missions are randomly generated across the game's world, and give you an objective to achieve, such as eliminating a certain number of enemies, or tracking down and killing a particular boss character. They're fairly straightforward, and it didn't take long before I was wading into the thick of the action, using everything I have in my arsenal to dispatch D3's hellish hordes.
As I did, I was reminded of why I like D3 so much. It's unabashedly oldschool: The forced perspective viewpoint is straight out of the 90's, and the gameplay remains faithful to the fundamental action RPG formula that has driven the series for the past two decades. It's basically a recipe for pure mayhem as you fight through endless waves of monsters and denizens using a selection of damage, AOE, and crowd control spells and effects to destroy all and sundry. As I noted in my review, the game works perfectly with a controller, and while some PC players may disagree with me, I think D3 is in its element on console – playing it with a D-pad and buttons makes it feel like a really sophisticated dungeon-crawling arcade game.
Another thing I'd forgotten about is how effectively D3 rewards you while playing. The droprate of loot is fairly generous, so that as you work your way through the game's many environments, you're constantly picking up new items that help incrementally upgrade your character. However, truly top tier armor and weapons are still quite rare, resulting in a cause for celebration when you find a particularly choice piece. It's a really nice balance that helps keep the game interesting, without trivializing treasure.
Something that I wasn't expecting is how well D3 holds up graphically. It's not exactly cutting-edge, but the game's rich and colorful, highly atmospheric backdrops are beautifully rendered and lit, and the characters are visually distinctive. The sheer amount of enemies on screen is also very impressive, and when you're in the thick of a battle – especially if you’re playing with other people – the spells and pyrotechnics being fired off by all involved can make the game look quite spectacular.
What also helps keep D3 feeling fresh is simply the fact that it continues to stand tall as a stellar action RPG. While there are plenty of console dungeon-crawlers and roguelikes to choose from, few can compete with D3's scope and scale. Even when you've finished the campaign, D3 offers a variety of different endgame activities to keep you entertained, from farming Rifts for set items to incredibly tough challenges like creating a hardcore character and seeing how far you can travel through the game before getting permanently killed.
Then, of course, there's Blizzard's ongoing support, which is the key to the game's long-term appeal. Indeed, the company just revealed details of the imminent "The Anniversary Patch" (2.4.3) which will feature "The Darkening of Tristam," an homage to the original Diablo in the form of a new 16-level dungeon constructed from the assets of D3. Additionally, there will be another update later this year called "The Rise of the Necromancer" which will introduce the much-requested new character.
It all adds up to help make D3 one of the greats of this generation. I'd pretty much forgotten about it, but rediscovering the game has been a huge amount of fun, and it looks like I've gotten back into it just in time for a really exciting content update. If you haven't yet played D3, I heartily recommend its unique brand of high-octane dungeon-crawling action, especially if you can play it regularly with a partner or friend. As I said in my review - hacking, slashing and casting through heaven, hell and everything in-between is joyously bloody, but is best appreciated with other players. It's simply one of the best couch-co-op games you can buy.