On paper, launching Diablo 3 on the Switch shouldn’t have worked. Apart from the obvious power limitations, this is a six-year-old game that has a fandom that can only be described as ‘intense’. On paper, Blizzard believing that anyone would pay fifty quid to do it all over again should have resulted in financial failure and hundreds of opinion pieces decrying anti-consumer practices in the industry. But it is a testament to both the original game’s tight quality and the power of being able to play it in the bath that Diablo 3: Ultimate Edition is well worth the re-investment for the millions of players out there.
Saying that, this is still Diablo 3. If you have played it before, you know what you are getting, and it all works wonderfully on the Switch. Of course, the graphics have been downgraded to account for the portability, but there was no visible slow-down or frame skipping in either handheld or docked mode. The curse of tiny-writing that afflicts other PC ports to the switch has been mostly avoided as the user-interface has been completely reshaped to support the handheld 720p display. If you are looking for a way to crunch a few thousand walking corpses on the toilet, Blizzard have done an incredible job of giving us that gift (but wash your hands, Christ). There are a few Switch exclusive cosmetic items included, and dressing up as Ganondorf and being accompanied by your own pet Cucco is delightful, but these token items pale in comparison to the portability as reasons to throw yet more money at Blizzard.
For the people who have never touched a Diablo game, this package is the perfect place to start handing over the keys to your life. Every expansion has been included, making this one of the biggest games on the Switch for sheer content. The issues that plagued the launch have long since been dealt with, the gameplay is now so refined that jumping in as a new player is incredibly slick. The levelling system breaks you into its complexities slowly, but in the higher levels allows for such a level of customisation that the seven included character types could go on to have ten sub-types depending on the skills you use. The replayability cannot be understated: this is a game that you could play for years, and many have.
The main reason that many players have ploughed thousands of hours into Diablo 3 is the sheer joy of the gameplay loop. Crunching hundreds of enemies into dust, picking up the obscene amounts of loot, grinding levels, crafting new items to further elevate your crunching abilities; as a dopamine delivery system, Diablo 3 up there with Doritos, Methamphetamine and Buzzfeed videos. But this pure addictive quality could also be the thing that turns some players away. If you are looking for the narrative depth of a BioWare game or the thematic depth of one of the better walking simulators…this game will leave you disappointed. Whilst the plot of the game, told through predetermined NPC conversations and narrated diary entries, can be interesting, this is a celebration of constant practical rewards through crunching monsters.
But Blizzard knows what they are doing. Whilst this kind of loot-heavy ARPG could have been totally soulless and turned the player into nothing but a virtual gold farmer like many Diablo clones have done in the past, this is the real deal. The constant stream of rewards thrown at the player makes Diablo 3 a joy to play, and whilst the price tag is steep for a game that came out back when the idea of Trump as the President was a cheap Simpsons gag, the amount of content you get along with the portability makes this a worthy investment of your money and time.