DISCLAIMER: A review copy was provided by the publisher.
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: November 2nd, 2018
It’s no secret that judging by our previous reviews for Diablo 3, which includes the base game, the absolutely fantastic reaper of souls expansion, the console port, as well as the addition of the fan favorite class, the Necromancer, we all love Blizzard’s iconic action RPG looter. It helps that Blizzard continuously updates the game outside of paid expansions and DLC, like the Kanai’s Cube which also added a brand new area, new enemies, gear, and of course the Seasonal content that brings new armor sets for all classes. It’s clear Blizzard holds the Diablo franchise near and dear to their hearts, and the latest port of the game for the Nintendo Switch proves that’s still the case today.
If you aren’t exactly caught up to speed on all things Diablo 3, make sure to click through to our earlier reviews that are linked above, as the game, by and large, is identical on the Nintendo Switch. Players will find all the additions and quality of life improvements such as the addition of the Armory, Kanai’s Cube, expanded zones, Set Dungeons, new Treasure Goblins, Greater Rifts, and so much more. Of course the Switch version also includes the Necromancer, so those who have yet to take the manipulator of death for a spin can do so immediately as part of the full package.
So how exactly does it look and run on the Switch, since that’s probably one of the most important aspects for anyone looking to pick it up on Nintendo’s console. I can safely say that this is one of the most impressive ports I’ve seen to date, even if some graphical fidelity needed to be sacrificed.
The game runs at a buttery smoother 60 frames per second without any sort of slowdown, no matter how many skeletons and ghouls I raised with my Necromancer. Granted, Diablo 3 was never really a graphical showcase to begin with, especially considering this is now a 6 year old game. However, I’m still very impressed at just how everything translated so perfectly to the Switch, right down to the performance, which sadly wouldn’t look nearly as good if the frame rate was cut in half. Even more impressive considering last gen ports of the game for the Xbox 360 and PS3 not only had sub 60 frame rates, but also a whole lot of screen tearing. None of which is present in the Switch version.
Playing in handheld mode is where the game certainly looks the best, as you can’t see the lower resolution of some elements since they’re so small. As soon as you play the game in docked mode is when you realize that the game doesn’t really come close to the current gen console counterparts, however, the silver lining is that the game still runs at a smooth 60fps while docked. This sacrifice to graphical quality over performance is a welcome one and I wish more developers would opt to go this route, or at least give players the option to.
Whether this is mandated by Nintendo for all of their games or simply Blizzard’s ingenuity, the fact that the game can be enjoyed by two players immediately using a single joy-con is not only welcome, but works incredibly well, at least after you get used to its control scheme. Skills are still mapped to individual buttons as well as the top two shoulder buttons and the healing potion is now located on the back trigger button. However, since you lose the d-pad which allows for actions such as town portal teleporting, bringing up the seasonal menu, fast equipping items or opening up your map, you now have to click in the thumbstick and press one of the four face buttons in place of the d-pad directions. While this may sound cumbersome, after a few minutes of play, this became a complete non issue for me and found it comfortable to play, despite the tiny size of the joy-con controllers.
The only action that doesn’t translate all too well is the dodge roll which loses an input altogether, and now can only be activated by flicking your joy-con using its motion control capabilities. It’s certainly the most awkward feeling action to pull off and it also looks very silly when you’re flicking your hands in the middle of an intense greater Nephalem rift, but to Blizzard’s credit, it does still work fine.
There’s also a few cool Nintendo additions in the form of extra content, such as a Cucco from The Legend of Zelda that can be summoned as a pet, a triforce portrait frame and the ability to transmogrify any equipment to look like Ganondorf, but none of these are what I would call the selling points of the game.
There isn’t much more to say regarding the Switch port, since like I’ve stated earlier, the game you’re getting here is the same game PC and console players have been grinding for years now. With all of the improvements already added in, seasons which give further incentive for players to start new characters, as well as the addition of the Necromancer class, this is without a doubt the definitive version of Diablo 3. While some might think it’s a shame it doesn’t look nearly as good as it does on other consoles, the fact that it doesn’t compromise performance for visuals is a smart move by Blizzard, and makes the game so much more enjoyable to play.
The only thing I can think of going against the game is its price tag. At $60, it makes this game a tough sell for those who have already invested in it elsewhere, along with its expansions, to simply be able to play it wherever they go. However, considering the amount of content included and the hundreds of hours of gameplay available right from the start, and that’s not even counting the Seasonal content that comes to the game on a regular basis, new players, without a doubt, will get the most bang for their buck, even at that price.