Review: Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition

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By now I’m guessing regular readers of this site would think I’m tired playing Diablo 3, having already reviewed the original PC release and its Reaper of Souls expansion. But I’m not. When I first played it on PC two years ago, I found the game to be a wonderful experience. Roll back to earlier this year when Reaper of Souls came out for PC alongside a huge patch overhauling many elements of the game, and Diablo 3 quickly became yet another addiction that was hard to walk away from. Now Blizzard has released the Ultimate Evil Edition (UEE) for current and last-gen consoles, further refining Reaper of Souls to yet an even better experience.

I didn’t play the initial console port of Diablo 3 when it was released on PS3 and 360 last year, so playing the game with a controller for the first time in the Ultimate Evil Edition was something that took a few minutes to get used to, but has quickly become a preference that I would love to see supported in the PC version (but realize it likely never will). Direct control of your nephalem of choice gives a great sense of movement and connection to the game that mouse and keyboard can’t replicate. Having not played a monk for any great amount of time on the PC, I opted to play one on the PS4 and found getting used to the skills took a little while. Since I don’t have any experience with the monk on PC, having the various attacks unlock and automatically map to the face buttons and triggers kept me from missing a beat. Playing this game with a gamepad controller just feels so good and natural. Adding the ability to roll dodge out of an enemy’s attack with the right analog stick adds a strategic element that is definitely lacking on the PC.

Loot drops from enemies like candy is showered upon attendees of a local parade, often and in great quantities. Managing loot in UEE is streamlined in such a way that worrying about the inventory is a thing of the past. The ability to mark items as junk and then go to either a vendor or Haedrig the blacksmith and choose the option to sell all junk (or salvage all) with the click of one button is pure genius. Similar to the PC version, UEE displays green up arrows or red down arrows to provide a quick glance at whether a piece of gear is better than what is currently equipped, and pressing Square allows for a deeper look at what specific stats are actually being improved or decreased. Like patch 2.0 on the PC, UEE offers gear drops more in tuned with the character being played, so there’s no more worrying about having an item drop that is high in Intelligence while rolling a character that benefits from high Dexterity. (The one downside to this is finding gear useful for the three companions, where gear for Strength or Intelligence rarely drops when playing a Monk.)

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Several other features are brand new to the console-only Ultimate Evil Edition. First up, Blizzard has implemented a mail system where items can be gifted to other gamers on your friend list. What is really neat about this is when a boss or Nemesis battle occurs (more on that in a moment) a chance for legendary items to drop as a gift is pretty high. Once the gift loot is collected, a simple “send now” button from anywhere in the game immediately sends off to a friend. It is pretty awesome to play the game for a while, take a break for a day or two, and then come back to find four or five legendary items appear in the mail.

One of the other additions is the aforementioned Nemesis system, which introduces the chance for a rather nasty-looking beast to invade your game. What makes the Nemesis so much fun is the fact that it is spawned by someone on your friend list who has died in their own game. The Nemesis takes on the attributes of whatever creature killed your friend and epic battles can appear out of nowhere. The subtle buildup of a rumbling controller and a unique musical cue signifies when a Nemesis is about to appear. One time while playing with a group of friends, we had just cleared out a section of desert in Act 2 and we were recovering and looking over our new loot when suddenly we were alerted by the signs of an invading Nemesis and everyone in chat all shouted “Oh shit!” just as the Nemesis spawned.  That’s some good fun right there.

While not exactly new to the console editions of Diablo (but new to me), UEE supports the ability to play two player (or up to four if I had that many DualShock 4 controllers) locally at the same time in couch co-op. This is fantastic fun. On top of that, the capability of having friends online join into a local co-op game seamlessly is pretty awesome. What blows me away is how good the game looks while playing with multiple people locally as well as friends joining from online at the same time. I teased my son a bit while playing one night together because the PS4 version looks so amazing compared to his copy on his little ASUS netbook (which is still an impressive nod to Blizzard for getting the game to run on both high and low end PCs and laptops). My only complaint about playing local co-op is the fact that when one person wants to change up skills or check out their new loot, the game pauses into that player’s menu and the other person has to wait however long it takes to make any adjustments. Fortunately, playing locally (and without online friends joining) the game world pauses and no threat of monsters attacking occurs.

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The final addition (at least to the consoles) is the change of the endgame and the inclusion of the bounty system and the Nephalem rifts. This was a huge boon for the PC version which breathed new life into the endgame experience, as it gave a reason for wanting to keep playing once Diablo and Malthael were defeated. The ability to change difficulty settings “on the fly” also is a nice touch allowing for better gear, more gold, and additional XP to be earned for Paragon points without first having to drop out of the game, which is the only way to do so in the PC version. Additionally, Blizzard has allowed the previous version of Diablo 3’s character progression to be uploaded to their servers so that they can be imported to whichever console of choice you decide to play on. While this is a nice feature, I wish there was just a touch more Battle.Net integration with the UEE so that I can show off my console heroes in the same way I can on PC.

Fans of Diablo 3 should not miss the Ultimate Evil Edition, while newcomers are in for a real action-RPG treat. A nice bump up visually from the previous console versions is one improvement, but the fact that the endgame now includes the bounty system and rifts means there’s more reasons to keep playing. Joining friends online is so simple, but now being able to play local couch co-op is even more of a win.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Direct control is awesome
+ Visually amazing
+ Local and online co-op at the same time
+ Fun Nemesis system
+ Mail system allows items to be sent to friends

Cons:
– Not enough time in the day to keep playing

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS4, also available for PS3, Xbox 360 and Xbox One
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: 8/19/2014
Genre: Action-RPG
ESRB Rating: Mature
Players: 1-4 (local and online)
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.