It’s never been so fun to see all hell break loose.
Diablo III: Eternal Collection is the latest AAA port to arrive on Switch, and the folks at Iron Galaxy and Blizzard who brought it to Nintendo’s latest console deserve a ton of praise. The dungeon-crawling action RPG runs amazingly smooth, even with dozens of creatures, foe and friend alike, on the screen at one time. The online multiplayer is impressive, basically running without any hiccups or slowdown, with seamless transitions between menus and different areas of the game world. The controls feel perfectly at home mapped to the face and shoulder buttons as well. A few Zelda-themed items and light Amiibo functionality add to the package. Veterans and newcomers to the series will find a lot to love here.
For the uninitiated, Diablo III involves fighting through hordes of minions and monsters as you work to push back the denizens of hell and ultimately defeat Diablo, the Lord of Terror. The third game in the popular series was originally released in 2012 on PC and Mac. The first game, simply titled Diablo, came out on PC 16 years prior, and when I first had a chance to play a demo of it in a computer shop, I was terrified, but also hooked. While Diablo III shares story elements, characters, and genre with its predecessors, it is a much faster, deeper, and more streamlined experience.
From the start menu, your first task will be to create a male or female character from the seven classes available. Melee classes include the Barbarian, Crusader, and Monk, and ranged/caster classes include the Demon Hunter, Witch Doctor, Wizard, and Necromancer, the last of which represents the most recent DLC added to Diablo III. For my playthrough, I chose the Necromancer after developing an affinity with that type of character in Diablo II. The Necromancer summons skeletons, curses enemies, and revives corpses to fight for him or her, and I must admit that there is something comforting about having 40 minions at your side to shield you and distract enemies while you destroy them from a safe distance.
After choosing a class, you also choose one of four character types. Normal is the standard fare with little in the way of post-game content, while Seasonal adds extra challenges, achievements, and leaderboards for after you have finished the main story. Each season lasts about three months, after which your season characters become normal and you must start new ones (we are currently in Season 15). You can also roll with Hardcore variations of either character type, but these become permanently unplayable upon death, and at higher difficulty levels death is a very real possibility. The final decision to make before you start playing is whether to play through the story in Campaign mode or dive into the more action and loot-focused Adventure mode. Completing the five-act campaign first is a good idea for new players as it is a little more straightforward and allows you to experience the full game. Here, you must complete the acts in their set order to progress. In the Switch version of Diablo III: Eternal Collection, Adventure mode is available from the start, and you can choose any act and begin taking on Bounties and entering Nephalem Rifts. Bounties are like side quests that grant gold and experience, and completing the five that are randomly assigned in each act yields a sizable amount of treasure. Nephalem Rifts are randomized dungeons where you need to defeat a certain number of lesser enemies before a Rift Guardian appears, a super-powered foe that drops a wonderful bounty of items upon its death.
As you may have guessed from what I’ve said so far, grinding for loot (and levels) to improve your character’s stats is at the heart of Diablo III. Playing through the story mode, I was constantly leveling up, acquiring new skills and runes to augment them, and unlocking achievements. A profound sense of joy and satisfaction permeates the experience as you are always making progress, and flourishes of light and sound remind you of the fact that you are getting better and stronger. While the post-game generally revolves around completing tasks in Adventure mode to acquire new equipment, crafting recipes, and other items, playing through the five acts in Campaign mode is thoroughly enjoyable. I had the chance to play with friends, but I completed most of the game solo and still had a blast. That said, working towards completing Season achievements and moving up the online leaderboards are tasks that some may find overly repetitive as they mostly center on running Bounties and Rifts over and over again.
Freedom is the name of the game in Diablo III. 17 different difficulty levels are available to choose from, with higher levels giving players more gold, experience, and legendary weapons. You can change the difficulty level at any point, so you aren’t locked into something that may be too challenging. The multiplayer options are also excellent. You can play with four people on one Switch console, in portable or docked mode, and each player can get by with just a single Joy-Con. Playing locally, you cannot access the online features of the game, like season play or leaderboards, unless everyone has a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. Likewise, you cannot partake in online multiplayer with friends or strangers if you don’t have a subscription. However, you can have a single-player season character without needing Nintendo Switch Online. When playing online, it is incredibly easy to join a friend’s game or invite them to your game, and the game scales up the stats of lower-level characters who may be playing with someone much further in the game than they are.
In terms of presentation and narrative, to say that the story isn’t a highlight doesn’t mean it isn’t great or worth discovering; the hack-and-slash gameplay and dungeon crawling are just so thoroughly satisfying that the story takes a backseat. For those that want it, story comes from NPCs in each town with dialogue to explore, regular cinematic cutscenes, and audio log-type items littered throughout each act. Visually, Diablo III is crystal clear and vibrant on the Switch, particularly in docked mode. The text is small and the overall look a little muddier in handheld mode, but neither issue significantly detracts from the experience. It is an adventure that is absolutely worth playing on the go and perfect for short bursts.
Having played Diablo III six years ago when it first launched, I came to this Switch version with fresh eyes but a little skepticism about whether the game would hook me like it did back then. I appreciate that the game has changed a great deal between now and 2012, and I became enraptured by everything that Diablo III does to make you feel good about playing it. While the postgame does become repetitive without the environment variety and sense of story progression, playing through the five campaign acts and leveling from 1 to 70 never felt boring or uninteresting. As it turns out, being inundated with stuff to help you kill bad things faster and level ups that alter your abilities, rendering you a whirling dervish of death and destruction, are at the root of what makes role-playing games fun. You might not want to play more than 20 hours of Diablo III: Eternal Collection, but the time you do put in will be unbelievably entertaining. If you want more of this game, the Seasonal options are there for you, and if you have a few buddies who also pick it up, the more is definitely the merrier. And because I can’t stop thinking it, even though Diablo started out as a computer game, it feels better as a console one.