Last year we were wowed by Diablo III on the Xbox 360; the loot system had been improved from the PC version, the gameplay was great and the transfer to console was smooth and user friendly. Eleven months on, Diable III: Utimate Evil Edition has brought this fan favourite dungeon crawler to the Xbox One, along with the Reaper of Souls expansion and a whole host of updates and improvements to the original title. If you're new to Diablo III, please read our review of the 360 version to get an idea of the basic game mechanics and story, as this article will focus on the Ultimate Evil Edition specifically.
There have been a lot of updates in this release, transforming it into a completely different title to the one released last September. In fact, this edition advertises itself as coming with Diablo III as bonus content, focusing on the Reaper of Souls expansion as the main draw. Although the first four acts will be very familiar to veterans, who will fall straight back into familiar routines with ease, there are some small changes which will fundamentally alter how the game is played. The graphics have seen a big improvement from the 360 version and it seems the Xbox One can handle a whole lot of action on screen at once, without any of the slowdown that could occur in Diablo III.
The level cap has been raised to 70, a small change to allow for the addition of Act V which has been added seamlessly to the story, as if it had always been there. Act V features a new landscape to explore and a new boss enemy, Malthael, who commands an army of reapers and is intent on destroying mankind. With the new environments come new enemies, challenges and dungeons (not forgetting the all important new loot) all of which are a welcome addition to the core Diablo experience. If you played Diablo III on consoles before, you don't even have to start again from the beginning to experience the new content, as Blizzard have provided the ability to port saves from other console versions. Act V also offers a little more insight into some of the backstories of the followers, as well as a whole host of additional lore to tie the expansion into the current story.
The new Crusader class is a joy to play, combining the power of a warrior with healing and holy damage and easily holding its own on the field. Whether you are playing for the first time or you have a maxed out character to import, we recommend giving this powerhouse a go. An enchanting station has been added and players are now able to enchant their items by removing unwanted current enchantments and replacing them with a choice of randomly generated ones. This, combined with the additional crafting recipes on the existing stations and the ability to buy 'mystery items' from a new vendor, gives the player the opportunity to create truly epic weapons which they can - if they wish - send to their friends using the new mailbox system.
The biggest change in Reaper of Souls is the addition of Adventure Mode, which becomes available once the campaign has been completed at least once. Adventure Mode will most likely replace the repeated story runs that used to be Diablo's staple activity, as it allows players to visit each act and complete bite-sized portions in a short amount of time. There are five 'bounties' to complete in each act, which vary from completing a section of a dungeon, to killing a boss or completing some other small task. Each one should take no more than 10-15 minutes to complete and will reward you with masses of experience and gold, as well as a rift keystone fragment which must be collected to open the Nephalem Rift located within the mode. Nephalem Rifts offer another difficulty bump and huge rewards for clearing their randomly generated dungeons and taking down the resident Rift Guardian. They are by far the most challenging part of the game and offer a satisfying conclusion to each Adventure Mode session.
This new bite size approach is a far cry from how Diablo III was previously played, as rare dungeons, once elusive in the story mode, can easily be accessed in Adventure Mode. On the plus side, this means that more people will see more content, but it's a shame that the exploration aspect has been sidestepped. The reduced time commitment and clear objectives of this new mode should lead to more efficient multiplayer runs, with guaranteed rewards from the Nephalem Rifts giving a better XP per hour ratio. A nice touch here is the Apprentice mode, which will boost the stats of low level characters when they are grouped with high level powerhouses, creating an enjoyable experience for all. There have been a few other tweaks to the multiplayer side of things too, the most noticable being the addition of the Nemesis, a monster that, after killing you in your game, will wander off and level up and attack your friends one by one in their games until someone finally takes it down. Allegedly this will reward both players with an item, but we can't verify that yet as the Pure Xbox Nemesis remains unslain at this time...
It is easier than ever to level up in Reaper of Souls, meaning players can reach the new level cap of 70 in just a few days without having to put in too many hours. It looks like this is an intentional move to get players onto the higher difficulty levels, farming high-end loot and earning their paragon bonuses as quickly as possible. There are more difficulties open from the outset as well, so experienced players can jump straight into the fray, facing harder monsters and collecting better equipment. This is a potential point of contention as some prefer the feeling of accomplishment when moving through the difficulties, completing the game repeatedly to reach those higher echelons and others could argue that the end game is where all the action is, so this is an improvement. Whatever your point of view, there is a definite feeling that the progression is somewhat rushed and characters can jump three or four levels in such a short time that the player doesn't get a chance to appreciate their new skills and powers. With adventure mode also being centred around fast levelling and the acquisition of high-end items, it's clear that Blizzard were very keen to get people to the top tier without having to put in too many hours.
Yellow is the new white
Essentially, Diablo III is a game about hitting stuff with swords to collect shiny things which hit the ground and go 'ding!' - anyone who played Diablo II back in 'ye olden days' will reminisce about the sound of a gem hitting the ground, or the excitement of running to pick up a rare item before someone else stole it from under your nose. Luckily, Diablo III offers personalised loot in co-op so you'll not have to fight for your pick ups here, but it also suffers from a problem that will sound ridiculous given the description of the game above - there is too much good loot. Items are ranked in rarity, grey/white is garbage, blue is magical, yellow is pretty special and orange is super rare. Traditionally, people would rarely pick up greys and whites after around level 10 as they use up vital bag space, which could be used for better items. In this edition however, you could find yourself turning your nose up at blues by level 10 and yellows by level 60 or so as there is no end to the rain of rarities. Even on the easiest difficulty, we found ourselves with no less than five 'super rare' Leoric's Crowns to choose from in our inventory on the first playthrough. When nothing is rare, the excitement of seeing that orange drop on the screen is seriously diminished.
Some small tweaks to the system have completely changed how gamers will approach the game, with focus shifted to leveling as fast as possible to experience the end game and the high end loot and collectables being available even in the early difficulties, there seems to be less reason to appreciate Diablo's story. Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition improves on its predecessor in many ways, offering a new class and an entire new act (or 25% more levels, if you prefer.) The structure of the new adventure mode, overly easy leveling and accessibility of overpowered weapons have removed some of the sense of wonder and exploration from the game, but the Ultimate Evil edition is undoubtably an improvement on Diablo III and earns a well deserved bump in score. Highly recommended.