Diablo III is a game we've played a couple of times before. In fact, we spent the weekend playing the game on our Nintendo Switch, making it the third time we've got stuck into this particular demon-smashing action-RPG. First we played on PC back after it launched in 2012, then we danced with the devil once more when the game was ported to current-gen consoles, and now here we are again, this time clutching the entirety of Blizzard's game between our hands as we experience the game in handheld mode on Nintendo's hybrid console.
Nintendo's machine now boasts a handful of the greatest RPGs of recent memory. Homecooked modern classics like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 are joined by The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Dark Souls: Remastered, and now Diablo III: Eternal Collection. If epic role-playing adventures are your thing - especially if you're a dedicated Nintendo fan who doesn't own a rival console or PC - then you've been well and truly spoilt.
For anyone who hasn't played Diablo III before, it's a simple recommendation to make. We'll take a look at the technical performance in a bit more detail later, but in a nutshell, this is still an experience worth having, even after all these years. Games like Torchlight have come very close to matching Blizzard's demonic ARPG, but nothing has bettered it over the last half-decade, and despite the passing of time, Diablo still feels pretty fresh in 2018 thanks to well-balanced design and years of iteration and refinement.
On the other hand, a lot of you will own a Switch AND another console, and so the proposition changes somewhat. In terms of the pros and cons, they're pretty straightforward. When it comes to overall performance and visual fidelity, Diablo takes a hit as makes the transition to Switch, but on the other hand, you can smash demons in the face while you sit on the bus or killing time while you pick the kids up from their evening class. And, of course, you can always banish evil while sitting atop the porcelain throne.
So let's dive into the performance side of things for a moment. Whether docked or in handheld mode, Diablo III runs at a silky smooth 60 FPS, and while the docked mode is clocked at 960p, in handheld the resolution is taken down a notch to 720p. We spent most of our time in handheld mode (someone was playing Skyrim on the big screen - that's how we roll in our house) and while you can see the visual downgrade, there's enough clarity in terms of the animations and the handpainted backgrounds still look stunning. Most importantly of all, we didn't notice a single sizeable frame-rate drop. We played as the Necromancer, a class which very quickly allowed us to build a sizeable entourage of summoned minions, and with a screen full of skeletons and ghouls charging into large groups of enemy beasties, everything seemed to hold steady.
Our only gripe with the handheld mode (and this may be more specific to those classes that can summon multiple allies) is that it can be hard to keep track of where your character is in the melee. Similarly, on the big screen when playing co-op, the lower-res picture and the chaos on the screen can make it hard to keep tabs of where everyone is. Overall, however, we have to say that we're pretty impressed with the way the game performed, and when considered against the well-documented limitations of Nintendo's console, it's about as good as we expected it could be, and we're happy to take the visual downgrade if it means a smoother experience when all hell is breaking loose on the screen in front of us.
One of the more interesting features is how the Joy-Cons are used. You can play on the go, assigning one Joy-Con per player, and while they are a little on the snug side when held in your hand, it's clear that thought has gone into the implementation of the control scheme, most notably with the way that motion controls are utilised to replace the second analogue stick. Solo players will use the right stick to roll away and hop back out of danger, but on a solitary Joy-Con you simply shake the controller to move out of harm's way. It's a neat touch.
If you've never played Diablo III before, then let us quickly explain why it's worth your time. The story is interesting, but not too invasive; it's built with long-term replayability in mind and there's loads to do; there are some brilliant classes to explore and they come with unique and exciting skills to unlock; and there's more loot to grab than you can shake a pointy stick at. The game is built around the various abilities you unlock as you earn experience, and there's incredible depth in how you can mix and match abilities, finding the perfect blend of ranged and melee attacks, adding different effects to your moveset and tweaking your build over time until you're the perfect demon-killing machine.
We mentioned replayability earlier, and the effort that Blizzard has gone to over the years ensures that those who want to can get their money's worth. Each class offers a distinct experience, there's loads of endgame content on offer, seasonal events keep players coming back for more, and it offers some of the finest couch co-op around (although before starting, agree on the rules on how and when you're going to deal with inventory management - it'll save time and arguments later). While the overarching campaign leans towards linearity, the sandbox levels offer a fair amount of freedom, and there are secrets hidden everywhere just waiting for inquisitive players to find.
Once the standard campaign is done there's a wealth of distractions to engage with. Past expansions Reaper of Souls and Rise of the Necromancer flesh out the basic offering, but then randomised Nephalem Rifts offer a new way to play the game, seasonal challenges incentivise return visits, plus there's new gear, monsters, and all the locations that have been added since launch. Diablo III: Eternal Collection offers an almost dizzying array of activities to busy yourself with, and the whole package is wrapped up with the option to play co-op both at home and on the go. It looks better on other platforms, granted, and the price is a little steep for a game that's been doing the rounds for more than half a decade, but this is still a great experience that makes the transition to Switch with relatively little to complain about. If you've played it to death on a different platform then you'd be wise to question the value proposition before taking the plunge, but newcomers and those looking to return after years away will have a blast clearing its monster-filled dungeons.
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