For as PC-centric as the Diablo series may seem on paper, it has always worked surprisingly well on consoles. Even the old PlayStation port of the first Diablo was really fun with its own unique set of controls. Diablo 3’s other ports have also been excellent and especially well suited for couch co-op. Now, it is finally Nintendo’s turn to be graced by his Satanic lordship, and it is something of a match made in heaven. Everything in this port feels like it was adapted, trimmed and tailored to suit the Switch’s strengths.
Diablo’s mix of lightweight RPG mechanics and great character skill sets has always made it a good candidate for casual play. As you run around hacking, slashing, burning and looting, you have ample time to be doing something else, like watching TV, listening to podcasts or commuting on the bus. That’s not to say that the gameplay is boring, it manages to strike this perfect balance of engagement and rote memory. Besides, if you have some friends with you, the characters’ skills start to harmonize with each other and the combat reaches some new depths.
Diablo 3 Eternal Collection plays great on the Switch, in pretty much all of its control schemes. It is basically the same controls that the other ports use: left stick moves you around while the right one has you rolling and dodging; face buttons are used for your different skills. Different from the other versions is that on the Switch, you also have the option of playing with one single Joy-con for local multiplayer. It is by no means the best way to play but it works surprisingly well. Even with my big hams for hands, I managed to have fun playing this way. Although, since you don’t have two sticks, you will have to use the motion controls for dodging, which means you won’t be dodging much at all as that is an exercise in imprecision at best. Apart from that, it is a perfectly fine way to play. This is, of course, also since Diablo doesn’t require a lot of precision and Blizzard has done a good job with their auto targeting. Besides, Diablo has always been a ‘hold down the attack button until it dies’ kind of game.
That said, the way Diablo 3 makes use of its difficulty levels is rather ingenious and makes for a lot of variety. Aside from just increasing enemy health and damage, higher difficulties make good use of special traits and attacks your enemies have. On lower difficulty levels they might have one random special attribute, like making walls around you or having knockback attacks. But for each level of difficulty, they get one more attribute added. This means that on the higher levels you can meet some pretty tough and interesting combinations of getting walled in, poisoned and knocked away by the special monsters. The Eternal Collection comes with a slew of even higher difficulty levels than the base game had and I can hardly imagine the craziness you’d see on the highest level.
The Eternal Collection is the most complete Diablo 3 package to date, as it comes with all the DLC and extra characters that have been added over the years. Both the Necromancer and the Templar are available from the getgo and they might be some of the more interesting characters in the game as a whole. The Templar plays similar to the old Paladin class, it is based around getting stronger as you get hit by attacks or block them with your shield. The Necromancer can summon his own minions to help fight off the demonic hordes and use corpses as weapons instead of fighting everything himself.
This version also comes with the ‘Adventure Mode’ unlocked from the start. This mode revamps the campaign by taking out the story and offering up a series of random dungeons and bosses to beat from all the chapters. Not only does this do away with the pretty lackluster storyline, but it also makes the game more varied and entertaining after all these years. Pair this with a hardcore character, who is deleted upon death, and Diablo is almost a kind of roguelike if you want it to be.
One thing that really shows that Blizzard sat down and thought about what makes the Switch such a great platform is in the way it handles multiplayer. You can play with up to 4 players co-op, both locally and over the internet. It even has a sort of Switch to Switch direct connection that would be a great way to play with friends on the go. It all works well and these are great options to have it has even made me a believer in the usefulness of the Switch’s kickstand. As a parent, I can also see how being able to play multiplayer without the internet could be a pretty great thing to have for kids and parental locks. It is also encouraging to see that Diablo 3 handles connection interruptions in a good way. Gone are the days when a lost connection would kick you out to the main menu. Now, it just notifies you that some features are unavailable until you are connected again and re-establishing a connection is also pretty seamless. For those of us who were there at the PC launch back in the day, this is a relief indeed.
While most things are made exceptionally well done in this port, Diablo 3 is starting to show its age quite a bit. Art direction and design are still really strong but the plain ground textures, a lack of dynamic foilage and grass and the simple models used for characters and monsters are starting to look, well, dated and behind the times. Six years later, this is perhaps to be expected but a little bit of extra flair would have been appreciated. On the other hand, being able to play with 4 players with a stable framerate is preferable any day of the week. The only other negative thing I can say is that in the handheld mode, the UI and text feel a bit small and hard to read. Luckily, you don’t really have to pay much attention to those parts of the game but it is something that could annoy some players.
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Diablo 3 on the Switch is an obvious buy for anyone who likes dungeon crawlers or just wants to enjoy some best in class couch co-op.
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