Time heals all wounds, so someone once wrote, and though it may be trite, it’s mostly true. Diablo 3′s original PC-exclusive launch was plagued with technical issues and mostly justifiable consumer anger, while later, controversy over a hideously unpopular real money auction house and a smattering of balancing issues mired the first year of one of the most anticipated games of the last decade.
By the time the console version launched last year, most of those issues had been resolved. The auction house was gone, and a suite of patches had addressed inconsistent loot and various other complaints. The console version, graphics aside, was called superior by many, the more immediate action, tactical roll and redesigned inventory system proving massively popular with the console crowd.
Now, just under a year on, the first major PC expansion, Reaper of Souls, comes to consoles (both new and old gen) and it feels like Diablo 3 has finally, painstakingly, arrived. To call the Ultimate Evil Edition “definitive” undermines the stellar PC version a little, but in truth that’s just what it is. This is Diablo 3 as it was intended to be and, while there are still minor elements that aren’t quite there, it’s the most robust base Blizzard have so far delivered for a game that they clearly aren’t done with yet.
So, the story is unchanged for the first four acts, as you guide your rugged, kleptomaniac-hero from the iconic hamlet of Tristram to the steps of the High Heavens, but a host of tweaks, large and small, polish the experience to a high shine. Improved drop rates for rare and legendary items are a boon, while an overhauled system now governs the Massacre experience bonuses, rewarding you handsomely for chaining kills. Levelling, as a result, is noticeably quicker from level 1 to around level 25, which services the increased cap of 70.
Once you do hit the limit, it has been made easier to track your Paragon level and keep plugging away through the new end-game Adventure Mode, which allows you to replay areas with varied difficulty to farm the best, most impressive loot available. It’s unlocked once you complete the fifth act and take down the Angel of Death, Malthael – which as any Diablo fan knows, is not the end anyway. This is a game designed for re-runs, with new game plus modes as far as the eye can see. Elsewhere, an Apprentice Mode allows lower level characters to run co-op on an even keel with veterans.
At a glance, the Crusader class seems analogous to Diablo 2′s Paladin, but it’s actually something altogether new. Still rocking religious-themed skills like Smite and Law of Justice, the Crusader is closer to a warrior-cleric, less concerned with Auras and more concerned with smashing things to bits with a bloody big hammer. An early passive skill facilitates this by allowing you to wield a two-handed weapon and a shield. Other skills involve group buffs and, well, smiting things in the face.
Like the Crusader, the fifth act is a powerhouse, plunging you neck-deep into the action and adding a new trader in the form of a transmographer, a talented individual who can alter the look of your gear with different plans, taking the impressive customisation even further. A decent length, act five doesn’t really improve on the core game, but rather bolsters and complements it. The new bounties extend the longevity and replayability further, but, as with Adventure Mode, these could benefit from a little more variety in future patches or expansions.
The Nemesis system adds a social element that feels both organic and fun, whereby a special elite may turn up to kill you, before announcing it to your friends list. They can then hunt it down to avenge you, with each kill making it stronger and tougher. Trade between players is now taken care of, too, thanks to a nifty mailbox that allows messages and goods to be sent to your friends.
Finally, if you were among those who found the original crafting system over-complicated and cluttered, you’ll be pleased to know that the process has been refined in Reaper of Souls. The number of reagents you can harvest has been greatly reduced, and they now drop in the field. Also, you need fewer to craft an item – and crafting higher level items makes more sense, as you will often need to provide a base item as a foundation. More plans, more levels for your crafters and a streamlined system make Diablo 3′s crafting much easier to understand and keep a track of.
VERDICT: Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition is the game Diablo fans deserve. Granted, there are still areas to improve – Adventure Mode, for example, still feels a little like an experiment rather than the finished article – but this is as close to perfect as we’ve yet been. Still the undisputed King of the Action RPG lootathon, Diablo 3: RoS adds so many tiny little bonuses alongside the major changes that you can’t help but admire Blizzard’s dedication and perseverance.
INCREDIBLE. This is the pinnacle of our scoring spectrum, reserved for games that truly affect us, that capture our imagination so completely that they affect the standard by which we measure future games. 10/10 is not a declaration of perfection, but an assurance that the game in question is of amazingly high quality and has exceeded our expectations.