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Diablo III: Reaper of Souls - Ultimate Evil Edition
Score: 90%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 4 (Local and Online)
Genre: Action/ RPG/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
Let's cut right to the chase, shall we? Diablo III: Reaper of Souls - Ultimate Evil Edition is the definitive version of Blizzard's latest role-playing game. If you bought the original release only to fret and swear over the game's more controversial aspects (mainly the auction house and always-online requirement), you can look at this release as the version that Blizzard originally intended to launch. Combine the original game with its stellar expansion, Reaper of Souls, and you've got a package whose use of the word "ultimate" in its title is no less than perfectly apt.

Since my review of Diablo III on console, I've invested in a rather large LED TV, so I might not be the most objective source of information on Diablo III: Reaper of Souls - Ultimate Evil Edition's visuals. I'd thought the jump from 17" to 32" was really something, but playing this game on a 60" screen is something else entirely. On top of that, this release is for next-gen hardware; even though my gaming PC had no trouble with the maximum graphical settings in the first place, this may still be the best-looking version of Diablo III. It never was a particularly taxing piece of software; perhaps more than any other PC-centric company to date, Blizzard knows the importance of being able to reach as many customers as it possibly could. So naturally, they focus on their artistic design, which is (and always has been) superlative. Underneath its vaguely cartoonish facade is an extremely violent game; monsters are torn limb from bloody limb, blood showers everywhere, and bodies (and all their assorted appendages) fly in the general direction of your killing strikes. Character and environment design is diverse and appealing; from the pyrotechnics and special effects erupting in the field of battle to the slick, clean user interface, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls - Ultimate Evil Edition is a fine-looking game. And that's not even taking into account the cutscenes, for which Blizzard is truly famous.

Technically, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls - Ultimate Evil Edition sounds wonderful. The sounds of weapons meeting flesh is a constant, gruesome soundtrack against the backdrop of ambient epic music. It's rather bland, but it gets the job done. Voice acting is passable, but completely incongruous. Much of the cast sounds like it's part of some vague combination of European cultures, yet Leah, one of the game's most important characters, speaks with a flat American accent. It's not unforgivable, but it is noticeable.


Gameplay:
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls - Ultimate Evil Edition combines all the content of Diablo III and Diablo III: Reaper of Souls into one superlative package. Think of it as a "Game of the Year" edition of a game that, while it was good, had no pretensions of even being in the running for game of the year recognition. It is by its definition, a complete release.

That's a roundabout way of saying that the already lengthy Campaign is even longer. So if you're just getting to play the game, you've got five acts to get through; the first four from the original struggle against the likes of Belial, Azmodan, and Diablo himself; and the fifth an all new adventure pitting your Nephalem against the fallen Archangel of Wisdom, Malthael. Your adventures will take your character from a nobody from humble beginnings to a warrior of nearly godlike power. And you can do it all with the help of up to three friends. It's classic hacking, slashing, and looting at its best.

Regardless of how you choose to get your Diablo fix, you'll be doing one thing more than anything else: you'll be killing monsters by the hundreds (and then the thousands) and collecting all the stuff that gets dropped. Some of that stuff will be integral to helping your character grow more powerful, but the grand majority of it will be sold as vendor trash. Earn more gold, and you can invest it in either newer and better equipment or in the multiple crafting systems that assist you in creating the ultimate in weapons and armor. Whatever you choose to do, there's a lot to keep you busy. And that's before you decide to plunge into the reward-heavy challenge of Adventure Mode!


Difficulty:
Not many games I've played are as flexible with difficulty as Diablo III: Reaper of Souls - Ultimate Evil Edition. The default setting is Normal, but there are a whopping 10 difficulty levels included (only two available from the outset). Even if you're new to the series, I highly recommend starting out on Hard. Loot drops and experience gain are boosted by a whopping 75%, and let's face it; on Normal mode, the game is an absolute pushover. On top of that, Diablo has always been a simple game. Abilities are extremely easy to get the hang of, and you'll find yourself settling into a series of attack patterns that always work, regardless of situation. Once you find those patterns, the game is a breeze -- a hugely rewarding breeze.

Diablo has always been about crowd control above everything else. You'll inevitably find yourself surrounded by monsters in the tens (and possibly hundreds). Your challenge is to kill them all off before you're done in by them, using only your weapons and abilities efficiently. Do it well for long enough, and you'll hit the level cap and start doing some serious damage.


Game Mechanics:
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls - Ultimate Evil Edition is one of the most flexible role-playing experiences you can have. The only "point of no return" choice you'll ever make in this game is when you determine the gender and class of your character. Everything else can be tinkered and played around with until you find the right combination of abilities and equipment for you to use. It's this flexibility that puts it at odds with several other role-playing games; most of which either refuse you the option to re-spec your character or allow you to do so -- but only at great cost.

Whether you're adventuring with friends or making a solo go at a few of the franchise's most feared Prime Evils, you never have to be completely alone. Over the course of your journey, you'll come across different characters, each with their own personal vendetta against the Lords of Hell. You'll gain the option to bring one of them at a time along for the ride, and you can even foist off some of your obsolete equipment on them!

Regardless of your opinion of Diablo III's original release, there's no disputing the quality of this final release. There's so much superb content in Diablo III: Reaper of Souls - Ultimate Evil Edition that it should be a no-brainer for hardcore and casual fans alike. It might have been a bumpy takeoff for this installment, but the finished product is smooth as cookie butter.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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