There’s a bit of a running joke that the Switch is the go-to place if you want to play old games, given the sheer amount of ports coming to Nintendo’s little hybrid machine. Now, I’m not going to argue with that – the console has seen its fair share of ports from Nintendo’s souped up conversions of Wii U games, to classics that have never graced a Nintendo console before, like Dark Souls and Wolfenstein. Add to this latter list Diablo 3: Eternal Collection, a port of Blizzards 2012 loot-em-up, the third entry in its now 22 year old ARPG series. Diablo 3 was met with controversy upon its initial release; coming out somewhat undercooked with an aggressively integrated “auction house” that let players sell their in game items and an always online requirement, the initial reaction to the title was not positive at all. But, given a few extra years of content, a removal of the auction house and some highly praised console ports, Diablo 3 is now a hugely popular game and it’s this fully featured version that makes its way onto Switch.
For the uninitiated, what exactly is Diablo? Played from an isometric perspective, Diablo 3 casts the player as one of several character types, from bulky barbarians to crafty wizards, as well as oddballs like Demon Hunters and Witch Doctors, each with their own strengths and abilities, and drops them into the world of Sanctuary. Bad things are happening in this world – a comet has fallen from the sky and smashed into the church near the village of New Tristram, dark forces are rising and it’s all brewing into a quest. It’s up to the player to venture forth, tackling the usual mix of main and side quests, crawling dungeons, levelling up and gathering loot.
Playing with different classes and abilities is so much fun
As someone who’s never played a Diablo game past the second release in 2000, the first thing that struck me about Diablo 3 is how accessible the core gameplay loop is. The story is split into five acts which gradually increase in difficulty, allowing newcomers to learn the ropes, and character abilities unlock gradually, allowing you to experiment with different build types on the fly. That’s a big part of Diablo 3 – experimentation. Loot drops fairly frequently, meaning you’ve always got something new to adorn your character with. Do you go for a lighter armour in favour of increased health regeneration? What about weapons? Maybe you want a sword and shield, or a two handed weapon, or even dual wielding? Different builds get access to different gear, some of which can augment their core abilities and – oh my – what fun those are! From tanky barbarian skills to shiny wizard lightning bolts, the kung fu madness of the monk and the downright weirdness of the witch doctor, playing with different classes and abilities is so much fun.
It’s great that this all adds to a responsive and smooth combat experience with moves mapped to different buttons on your controller – you’ll eventually get into a rhythm of deploying standard attacks which recharge your special gauge, firing off said special moves and supplementing them with other abilities, some of which may be on a cooldown. The combat is satisfyingly chunky and only gets moreso as your character levels up, with special moves frequently filling the screen with sparkly particles and splashes of surprising violence as enemies are torn asunder with your more powerful attacks.
Aside from the main story, Diablo 3 can also be played in an Adventure Mode, which unlocks all the locations from the five story chapters and invites players to traverse a number of different challenges, hitting specific goals and dealing with random events to level your character further, beyond the cap and into the “Paragon” levels where you can start tweaking individual stats to fully hone your adventurin’, lootin’, killin’ machine. The more you dig into these modes, the more you see where games such as Destiny get their DNA, and Diablo 3 is a similarly compelling experience. The great thing about Adventure Mode on Switch is that, unlike previous versions, you don’t have to slog through the story to get access to it. This is great for seasoned players looking to level up on the go, as they can just jump straight in and start playing with their builds.
But wait, there’s more! We haven’t talked about seasons, which invite players to roll brand new characters to take part in challenges over the course of a few months to get unique gear, or transmogrification, another feature coming soon to Destiny 2, which allows you to reskin gear and weapons in whatever way takes your fancy while keeping their base stats (the Switch comes with some unique Ganondorf transmog’s too!). We’ve not talked about the multiplayer which is even more flexible on Switch, adding local wireless on multiple units alongside traditional online and couch co-op modes – killing demonic forces with your mates is so, so much fun! The more you keep playing Diablo 3, the more you discover and suddenly oh no it’s five hours later and you need to feed the goldfish and maybe leave the house for a bit. But that Switch is portable so, you know, you can take Diablo 3 with you!
With everything unlocked from the get go … it all feels a little overwhelming
But all this brings me to what is perhaps my only criticism of Diablo 3 on Switch. With everything unlocked from the get go and no real way to ease you in to what game modes you may want to start with, it all feels a little overwhelming. There’s no real pointers on the menu as to what is what and I’ll admit I had to, for the first couple of hours or so, head over to Blizzards forums to find out what, say, seasons were, or whether I should be jumping straight into Adventure Mode and just what the purpose of transmogrification was.
But that’s a minor gripe – Diablo 3 on Switch is arguably the perfect experience. Not only do you have the afforementioned portability, bolstered with jump in/out local multiplayer, key aspects for the console, you also have a game that, for the large part, runs at a silky, solid 60fps, with only the slightest of dips in extreme circumstances. The visuals are bright and crisp with variable resolutions on docked and portable helping keep that frame rate golden but never dipping too low as to be distracting (hello, Xenoblade Chronicles 2!) I’d argue it’s probably one of the best games on Switch overall, up there with such luminaries as Breath of the Wild, Odyssey, Pokemon and Mario & Rabbids – an essential purchase for all owners of the system. Now, if you’ll excuse me there’s a dungeon I need to go and clear out of demonic hordes.