Set for release later this fall, Blizzard's legendary action-RPG series will be making its Nintendo debut in the form of Diablo III: Eternal Collection. As the most complete version of the long-evolving title, this will mark the first time where players can engage in the series' slash-and-loot gameplay on the go, with the treasure falling in droves and legions of monsters swarming en masse. As the first Blizzard game released on a Nintendo platform in 15 years, the upcoming release of Diablo III is a strong way for the publisher to make its return. Shortly before its reveal, we had the chance to go hands-on with the game and chat with Blizzard about the development of the Switch port.
As a refresher, Diablo III on console is quite different compared to the original PC release. With a totally redesigned control scheme, along with an added dodge move for characters, Diablo III on consoles retains the focus on fast and class-focused action-RPG gameplay while presenting a different take on the series' particular style of combat. While far more accessible compared to its PC counterpart, the console version totally stands side-by-side with the original, making for two unique editions of the Diablo III experience. The Eternal Collection for Switch features all of the game's existing content--which includes the base game with all its revamped content, the Reaper of Souls expansion, the new Necromancer class, and the ongoing Season events.
Speaking with senior producer Pete Stilwell, he detailed the project's beginnings, and what was needed to adapt the game to the new hardware.
"We were essentially sitting around and talking about projects that would be amazing and additive to what the company has, and maybe even trailblaze some new things," said the producer, who previously worked on StarCraft: Remastered. "The Switch was a thing we were all playing, and something we were all interested in. We thought of it as something sweet to bring [Diablo III] onto, and then we started experimenting with the Switch and then got to talking with Nintendo--where we believed that it would be feasible and fun to play on. We wanted to guarantee that it would be smooth and responsive, to ensure that it was everything that you wanted it to be for an [action RPG]."
With the Eternal Collection on Switch, the port takes advantage of the console's functionality and portability, while still retaining the core aspects of the Diablo experience. Running at 60 frames per-second both docked and undocked--rendered at 720p resolution in handheld mode and at 960p when docked--the game runs well on the modest platform, which has managed to prove time and again that it can handle ports of titles from more powerful platforms. While there are some noticeable drops in graphical quality, such as the textures appearing somewhat muddy and less detailed compared to other releases, Diablo III on Switch is a consistent and smooth experience--especially during its hectic, screen-filling battles.
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One of the most interesting features to come with the Eternal Collection is the drop-in co-op play via LAN, without the need for an online connection. Players with their own devices nearby, or playing off a single Switch with Joy-Cons and controllers, can sync up with others and drop into games on the fly. However, if you're not able to find others nearby, online co-op via Battle.net is still an option.
During our session, we got to engage in a game of couch co-op play with three different Switch units. It felt incredibly organic diving into a game with a nearby player, and it will no doubt be one of the Switch version's most defining features. With the expectation that players will be on the move when playing Diablo III, the developers added in offline saves and stat-tracking, which are uploaded to the cloud when players have their Battle.net accounts synced up to their game. The majority of the game can be played offline; however, participating in the ongoing Season event will require online play.
Much like other Switch ports, such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the new release also takes the liberty to add in some Nintendo-themed content. We saw an early look of the new armor sets for the Barbarian and Crusader, which players can acquire by visiting the transmog vendor to turn their gear into items belonging to Ganondorf. The Dark Lord's armor pulls from his Twilight Princess incarnation--which fits well into the Diablo aesthetic. Furthermore, players can also acquire a unique Tri-Force portrait emblem for their character, along with a pet Cuckoo that will follow their character into battle.
Diablo III has continually gotten better with age, and experiencing it in this new format was a fresh way to dive back into the dungeon-crawler. The Eternal Collection doesn't look to reinvent things in a big way, and it's largely what you might expect from a Switch port, but the small changes and additions play well to the console's strengths. Though the exact release date is still unknown at this time, it's reassuring to see that the port is in great shape--which will it yet another in a long line of solid ports for Nintendo's console.
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