Never played a Diablo because, well, dungeon crawlers? Well done for sticking your nose into this review, but bad luck at the same time: Diablo III has the capacity to turn even the most stubborn gamer into a bleary-eyed adventurer that plays for loot. You are but a few mouse scrolls away from becoming hopelessly addicted and driven into what we've previously called "dazzling, wonderful hamster wheels".
Basically, Ultimate Evil Edition is Diablo III with Reaper of Souls, as well as a few other clever features, seamlessly bolted on. At first it's a strange concept to grasp: a two-year-old isometric RPG dungeon crawler for a next-generation console (and your Xbox 360 if you haven't moved to new hardware). However, lovers of Borderlands will immediately see the appeal of Diablo. Indeed, the former was heavily inspired by the latter. Diablo III is not an overtly technically impressive game but it is very moreish.
If you're continuing to feed your addiction, you can transfer your characters from the vanilla Diablo III into Ultimate Evil Edition - even if you played it on PS3 and want to continue with Xbox One.
The Ultimate Evil Edition sees the level cap upped from 60 to 70, a new fifth act, more monsters, and an end-game reward called Adventure Mode that opens the game world for the opportunity to earn more swag in Rifts. That's all on top of a new character - the Crusader - that can be used right from the start, and a new NPC, the Mystic, who further tweaks the shape and stats of your gear.
The Reaper of Souls expansion has been available on PC since March, but here's the time to be smug: it's only console players that get the new Nemesis Kills and an Apprentice Mode, as well as a refined inventory system that goes some way to avoid bogging you down in menus. As soon as you vacuum up loot, icons instantly give a basic but useful indication of how much better or worse that particular piece of gear is compared to the item you already have equipped. The clever part is you also have the option to equip it, junk it or drop it, all on the fly. Play in local co-op and the gear is automatically distributed to the person who's better suited to it - loot hogs have just been brilliantly de-tusked, and your inventory is no longer clogged with class-specific garbage you can't use. Play online and everyone gets their own gear, anyway.
Newbies and friends who you can thrust a controller at will appreciate Apprentice Mode, which offers lower-level characters a helping leg up when playing with higher-level builds, by buffing their damage and toughness. Meanwhile, Nemesis is a type of 'revenge' system, where hardy types can kill the monster that put their friends in the dirt - not that it takes the form of the creature who offed your mate, instead stomping onto the screen as a classic goat-legged man beast, and appearing at random points in time. Let us know if you manage to kill one and what the rewards are, as it's whacked us silly the few occasions we've seen it burst into existence.
Spank and tank
However, Ultimate Evil's also gone through a few other refinements, and some are for the worse. Disappointingly, it feels too easy when you're starting fresh, even on the hardest difficulty setting available at that time. This is especially true if you're playing with a ranged character, while Monks and Barbarians will need to use the combat roll here and there. Health potions are much cheaper, but create the right build and you'll barely need them. There will also be many times where you won't look at your glorious warrior belting seven shades out of a goblin, but instead at the meters tucked in the corner of the screen that indicate the cooldown for your attacks. Meanwhile, you're jamming your thumb on the A button and mashing the right trigger, your character steadily bearing the barrage of abuse coming from all sides.
Reach the end of Act II and you'd have to be struggling to not be completely decked out in laughably labelled 'rare' items, and probably a couple of legendary bits of kit, too. It's far too generous. Again, as we've pointed out before, keen Diablo III fans will argue that the game doesn't properly start until you're poking Level 70 and opening up the highest difficulty settings, and also building up your Paragon points. By this stage you will have already seen the credits roll once, and have a severe melatonin deficiency.
As we said when we reviewed Diablo III late last year, it's ridiculous to consider that it takes so long for the 'real' game to begin, but getting to this point is startling straightforward, because you will be hooked. Addiction can be a force for amazing progress. The game isn't really the game. Sure, the point is to kill stuff so you can kill more stuff thus earning loot so you can get more loot, but at the core there's a totally different type of game going on here. You're trying your best to max out a character, experimenting with the combinations of attacks you can throw at hordes. That's the hamster wheel. You'll notice we haven't talked about the story, and that's because it's high-fantasy nonsense that wallows in cliché, and shaky voice acting that's borderline satirical.
You're also doing yourself a disservice if you don't play with mates - two of you either in local play or online is roaring fun. It can get a bit hectic with four players on one screen, however, and it's easy to lose who's who in the dazzling array of light effects. We're happy to say the Xbox One version holds up remarkably well, with only one or two frame drops when there's more light effects than at a Pitbull concert.
After a simple test in the office, we figured out it's better just to look for your coloured circle and also the arrow pointing to the enemy that your hero is targeting. That sounds like we're missing the point, but the thrill comes in battling an end of level boss - or stumbling on a loot-spewing treasure pygmy - and laying it to waste in record time, four different classes working in harmony. God, we sound sick. And you will too.
Ultimate Evil Edition is full of great ideas and wonderful refinements: it wants you to want to play it, and it makes itself as open as it can to doing so. For those that have played Diablo III to death and yearn to explore the fifth act, Ultimate Evil Edition is a no brainer. The same unconditional recommendation applies to total newcomers, especially those with friends (or in a pinch, someone who will kindly press and hold the A button on a second controller from time to time). But if you're in the middle, a person with experience who's starting a new class, the early stages will be a cakewalk. Grind and bear it. Ride the hamster wheel. In the end, Diablo can take over your life. You don't even have to have a pre-existing tendency for dungeon crawlers to 'get' its appeal. Crank it up to the toughest setting you can and don't look back.
Technically superior in every way to plain Diablo III and still as ruinous to your everyday life as ever before. The hearty challenge remains beyond the credits, making it definitely worth your time.
- Looks exceptionally pretty on Xbox One
- Ability to copy characters across, even from PS3
- Stupendously addictive
- The story is a nuisance
- The first run is too loot-heavy and easy
- Takes 20-ish hours before the 'real' game begins