Diablo has always been a comfort food franchise. Sure, there’s demons and plagues and all sorts of unfortunate things in the world ... but it’s a fun world, despite the grimness. Diablo 3 is no exception. The characters are powerful enough to tear their way through hordes of enemies, boss fights are fun and impactful, and the game has been supported consistently since its 2012 launch that there’s always something to do.
With all of that in mind, the Nintendo Switch is the perfect platform for Diablo 3. At FanExpo Toronto, I was treated to a hands-on preview of this action RPG on that platform. Blizzard hasn’t reinvented the wheel, but the portable nature of the Switch and Diablo 3’s surface-level simplicity are a fantastic match.
For the gameplay demo, FanExpo guests were treated to a Rift — a multi-leveled dungeon — of Diablo’s greatest hits. During the story campaign, you start out with a brand new hero who begins with decidedly humble challenges, like taking out the undead within a crypt. For the Rift, we skipped straight to the end game with a fully leveled up character making their way through Diablo’s Greatest Hits. The Butcher, the Skeleton King, and not one but three Diablos showed up throughout our adventure, providing a good taste of boss mechanics and encounters between waves of lower level opponents.
Even as someone very inexperienced with Diablo, I was impressed with how easy it is to pick the game up. The controls are simple and intuitive, but you get to feel powerful. Even on the small screen of the Switch, abilities are properly telegraphed and communicated. Occasionally, the drab lighting and dreary environments worked against me — I’d stumble around, lost, trying to find the next level of the dungeon — but it was never enough to disrupt my fun or knock me out of my loot-chasing, demon-murdering headspace.
The controls map over extremely well; it feels much better to use the joysticks and console buttons than the repetitive clicking and scrolling of a mouse. Maneuvering my Demon Hunter around was simple, and the abilities are very clear. It took me about a minute to figure out what each did and when to use them just from organically playing the game. From there, I was able to enthusiastically throw myself at the challenges of the Rift.
When I first picked up Diablo 3 for the PC in 2012, I was optimistic that I would enjoy the game. I had missed out on Diablo 2, but I found the basic concept to be intriguing. At launch, the game was struggling with server issues, and the Real Money Auction House took the fun out of chasing loot and upgrading gear. Those issues were slowly fixed over the years, and new content was released. Reaper of Souls and Rise of the Necromancer both flesh out the game, adding new content. All of that is included in the Switch release, along with all seven classes, themed seasons (with unique loot and challenges), Adventure mode.
Even as I watched the development of Diablo 3 from afar, the game didn’t manage to pull me back in on PC. In some ways, Diablo 3 is a very social game, and dungeon crawling with a buddy is more fun than doing so alone. That being said, it was easy to feel disconnected from the game; the social features don’t run as deep as a title like World of Warcraft. Putting the title on the Switch is a brilliant move to fix that problem. Four players can join in on one Switch, and I’m genuinely looking forward to playing Diablo with my husband side-by-side on the same Switch or busting the game out with friends for some couch co-op.
Diablo 3 is a game that’s built around picking it up and putting it down, enjoying the content in short sessions. If you’re a Diablo die-hard who’s seen everything the game has to offer on PC, this port is probably not of interest to you, especially considering it’s going for full price on the Switch ... but if you missed out on the original release, or churned out of the game after it’s rocky launch, the Switch is the perfect platform to give this RPG another shot.