09th Oct2019

‘Diablo 3′ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Chris Thomas

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The PC / video games market is a strange beast. Once a game is released with huge fanfare, it immediately withers on the vine and as the lustre of those shiny treats dims, we can see significant price cuts after only a week or so on the market. There is always something new, something that seems shinier, fresher, more delicious. This is the golden rule and only a few games developers can avoid this inevitability (Nintendo games annoyingly, rarely dip below their retail price as do several Rockstar games for many years after they are released).

Diablo 3 is a game that was released in 2012 on PC, so to continue with my analogy it is no longer fruits / grapes but by now an expensive vintage wine. The asking price on Switch is 60€ (I paid 40€, in a sale). So, to reiterate – I have just forked out 40€ to be able to play a 7-year-old game on my Switch, rather than sit at my PC or laptop. Also, worth mentioning, the Switch version also includes the “Reaper of Souls” expansion… so if you justify spending money on these things, as I do in amount of fun time vs. cost in money, you are getting a huge loot box of fun here, old content or not.

Diablo 3 is a very special game, and yet, like some albums I love (you should listen to “Guided by Voices”). I always start talking about all the things that it does badly The World (“Sanctuary”) is the most utterly generic off-brand Warhammer world I can think of (alongside “Terrinoth”). There is literally nothing interesting or special about it that is not lifted straight off the pages of another Tolkien-based setting. Starcraft too is off-brand 40K but at least it does a few things differently or develops its characters or universe in a semi interesting way. Diablo is, a shatteringly dull fantasy world that’s locations form a check list of everything one would expect from such a setting.

The plot is also hot garbage. The kind of simple “Heaven vs. Hell” story with cookie cutter, archetypal characters that throws painfully predictable “surprisingly curve balls”. I found the plot of the Halo sequels both incredibly simple and inexplicably impenetrably, complicated at the same time and to some extent the same holds true here. Best to skip the “events” and just follow the way pointers. Also, one of the main characters is called “Leah” which seems out of place in this setting. Oh! brave Sir Knight Robin territory.

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Yet, there is some strength in the vanilla flavour of Diablo 3’s world and levels. In its locations and dungeons, we tick off pretty much every fantasy stereotype one might care to think of. There is little more to add and thus the game retains a timeless quality. Aside from “better graphics” (the graphics here, even on the Switch are pretty) what more could Diablo 4 realistically add? We don’t need more content and the crunchy maths sitting underneath a deceivingly simple control system and GUI are as complex and interesting as one could ever need. A better plot? The game only really gets properly interesting once that has finished. More interesting characters? Maybe. But we are here for the loot.

The most important part to Diablo 3 is that the game doesn’t really start until you have finished the (long) campaign. This is a very weird thing to say but really to get to the meat of what gives Diablo 3 such lasting appeal you must develop a strong character and really ratchet up the difficulty levels and then start interacting with some of the weirdos hanging around your home base (avoiding spoilers). If you can do that with a little group of friends, then all the better. Kill monsters, loot, repeat. Kill stronger monsters, get better loot, repeat. Sometimes a gold column of light appears and a bell ring. This shows you a Legendary item has dropped, manner from heaven. Shiny grapes.

It is not since my student days that I have brought my PC to a friend’s house, hunkered down in their basement and played for 12 hours straight, then, on returning home gotten out my laptop and played for another 2 hours. Now the Switch version is out this is far easier to swallow time in monster mashing compulsion.

While not as pretty my PC version the game looks darn good either in docked or handheld mode. Once my Barbarian lady got up a few levels and looted a few bits of golden kit the visceral magic of smashing monsters into bloody chum with a lightning axe was still there after all these years.

I have played it in docked mode (with the Pro Controller) and in handheld mode and both work great. I have not strayed from my WIFI to play it but I understand you can play it multiplayer, local offline but you might have a 7-day restriction plus you might not be able to rank on leader boards, but you can play the full Diablo experience (with a slight graphical downgrade) wherever the heck you like. Perhaps it I am like a glassy eyed, hand wringing friend endlessly pushing late career Radiohead albums on you… of course it seems a bit rubbish at first, but you must listen to it a dozen times before you start to appreciate it… Can’t I just listen to the Spin Doctors? I know I like that already. Keep grinding through those dungeons, keep mulching monsters and keep collecting trash loot for the circular loot economy, all for those shining moments when something wonderful or truly unexpected happens.

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I have a feeling I am not describing a game here, so much as a lifestyle choice (in the way that heroin might be considered a “lifestyle choice”) but just thinking about my thick necked Barbarian lady makes me want to get back to Caldeum and slice up some snake monsters with her new legendary chopper. Dungeon crawler seems like an easy genre to copy but I have tried Warhammer Chaosbane and Victor Vran and neither filled me with the same compulsion or reason to keep coming back for more. 12 years in and I am still drunk on those old grapes.

Diablo 3 is out now on the Nintendo Switch.

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