Diablo 3 Switch Review: Gameplay Impressions, Ganondorf Info, Speedrunning Tips

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistNovember 1, 2018

Blizzard

The best version of Diablo 3 has arrived. 

Originally released six years ago on PC to rave reviews, the dungeon crawler loot-fest was an instant hit and in many ways well ahead of its time on a balancing act between casual and hardcore that would come to define the mobile genre. 

The Nintendo Switch version, late or not, takes the ball and runs with it in a way only it can. 

Late isn't always a bad thing. Every single update that has helped Diablo 3 remain the juggernaut it is in typical Blizzard staying power fashion is here. The expansions are here. The extra character is along for the ride. Seasonal characters made the cut. Sprinkle in some fun Switch functionality and a splash of Ganondorf and the Switch gets one of its best releases to date, while past players get another return trip via the best edition released. 

       

Graphics and Gameplay

Players aren't picking up Diablo 3 for the pretty visuals, yet the game still looks great for the most part. 

On a big screen, Diablo 3 is once again colorful and varied. Playing the game mobile is where some things begin to struggle, especially in darker areas. But we're essentially comparing a mobile game to a PC counterpart at this point, which isn't entirely fair—Diablo 3 is still a looker when played on the handheld, and a pretty one at that. 

Diablo 3's gameplay loop is easy to understand and accessible for newcomers. Players pick from one of a handful of classes featuring close, ranged or magical combat, and then begin the pursuit of loot across a variety of game modes, experimenting with how the classes and different play styles clash or coexist. 

This is Diablo 3 still. The depth necessities like min-maxing of skills and how they combo together with one or more players remains as engrossing as ever. So does the itch to search out the next great piece of loot and grind away against the undead. It's still perfectly balanced with the casual side of it all as well. Those who want to slay and loot and enjoy the basics can let the game auto handle things like equipment and skills.

While this is a PC game at heart, it's hard not to love the flick of a joystick to make a character roll, something first introduced on other console versions. Playing on a Pro Controller is responsive and easy to understand, and despite a lack of buttons, the single Joy-Con experience is much the same after an adjustment period. 

The addicting grind assisted by the smart mapping of controls takes what can be a complicated mouse-and-keyboard affair and presents an accessible, fun time for those who have already dipped into one of the greatest releases of the last decade, as well as newcomers. 

       

Switch Functionality, Ganondorf Info and More 

The best-for-last cliche applies here. 

Nintendo's version of one of the best-selling games of all time gets the ultimate treatment in more ways than one, beginning with a simple caveat longtime players will love—adventure mode is available right from the start.

It seems like a small detail in the grand scheme of things, but the story mode is a one-and-done affair players have ground through for six years now, so being able to jump right into adventure mode, which no other release of the game permits, is great. 

But the bigger point is the uniqueness of Switch gameplay. 

It's a breeze to play the game docked or otherwise, and it's impressive that a local multiplayer session can get going with just one Switch console. Each gamer can play using one single Joy-Con, with the only sacrifice being a shake of the controller is what rolls the character, not a press of a button. 

Then there is Ganondorf. 

Third-party releases on Switch keep getting fun quirks weaving in Nintendo's lovable universes, with the Star Fox crew recently showing up in Starlink: Battle for Atlas. This time, it's Ganondorf from The Legend of Zelda, recreated by an armor set called Legend of Ganondorf. 

The Legend of Ganondorf brilliantly weaves into the Diablo universe and is the perfect pairing for two legendary series. It's available to players upon starting the game, found in the stash as a learnable transmog.

Unlike in the past, Myriam the Mystic is available after completing "Act I – The Legacy of Cain" and will appear in town, so getting suited up as Ganondorf doesn't take long at all as long as the player has enough gold. 

While the functionality itself is impressive, so is the technical performance. Not to say Switch struggles often, but it isn't a powerhouse, either. Diablo 3 can get hectic with an overwhelming amount of enemies on screen, yet not once has the framerate dipped. 

Another nice Switch detail is the ability to play the game offline (that sound was PC owners gasping). This was one of the bigger knocks about the game all those years ago for a few different reasons, but outside of seasonal characters, this version of the game doesn't require an online check-in to continue playing—folks who rack up the air miles or spend a lot of time on the go, rejoice. 

As an aside, some veteran Diablo 3 players might be turned off by the idea of being unable to transfer characters from their Blizzard account on PC they've invested perhaps thousands of hours into. But the Switch version is balanced differently for playability reasons in the same way games like Overwatch and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 get different balancing passes for console and PC versions, so while that segment of players may be displeased, the lack of this functionality is understandable. 

Besides, Diablo 3 is fun enough to pick up and play from scratch. It's oozing appeal and one of those games that sinks the hooks in and never lets go. That Diablo 3 is now a fully-featured on-the-go game only makes it more appealing. Once those hooks are in, it's difficult to imagine Switch owners will delete it from their consoles for nearly anything. Having a Diablo session in your back pocket at any time is one of gaming's simple pleasures. 

One of the bigger criticisms of the original release at first was difficulty—not here. Want to hardcore grind a character? There are 17 (seventeen) different difficulties, a nice bit of modernization as Blizzard clearly saw how the gaming market has changed since the game's original release. 

       

Speedrunning Tips and Appeal

The Diablo series isn't a stranger to speedrunning, and one doesn't have to look far to see this is a similar story for Diablo 3. 

Interestingly enough, Diablo 2 was a better speed-running game than Diablo 3 due to the latter's always-online component. Not only was servers going down a risk, constant updates reshaped the meta and skewered tried-and-true speedrunning habits. 

But those who read the above know the Switch version might just end up being the best speedrunning version, too. 

This Switch version isn't always-online. After six years worth of patches and updates, most of the stuff Blizzard drops into the game won't hurt speedrunning strategies anymore, as a game this old is mostly in maintenance mode. 

For those looking to speedrun the campaign, the link above shows it was doable on PC in less than two hours. Some general tips for an any-percentage run range from playing on normal difficulty (enemies scale to a player's level) to using a character like Demon Hunter, who has a Vault skill that speeds up traversal.

Area-of-effect attacks are king if the player begins to become overwhelmed by enemies or needs a breather in a pinch, though generally most mobs are skippable and the handy console-only dodge move can pair with something like Vault for getting out of tight spots. 

Really, traversal is the biggest problem for a Diablo 3 speedrun as sometimes RNG map layout will simply ruin a run. Some major locations will generally be on the same side of the map, but the path there isn't always the same.

Unlike the map problem, other general speedrunning tips persist, like powering through dialogue and skipping cutscenes. The more experience a player has while practicing runs, the more they will be able to exploit some time-shaving moves like skipping back to New Tristam for conversations. 

Maybe the biggest hiccup is the console itself in terms of buttons, as a speedrun will always be more effective on mouse and keys. But a nice Switch detail here will help speedruns, as players can turn on an auto-equip option to have the best loot applied to the character as they go, reducing the amount of time spent in menus. 

For what it's worth, several different types of Diablo 3 speedruns exists, including a boss-rush mode and an any-percent co-op affair. Going from Level 1 to 70 is also a popular category, though don't expect to beat it in 65 seconds like this guy unless several max friends want to throw an assist. 

Clearly, there is almost endless speedrunning appeal here. Locally, players could decide to take the speedruns to things like Adventure Mode and Challenge Rifts, rounding out a robust experience in this arena. 

      

Conclusion

Blizzard

There might not be a better game suited for the Nintendo Switch. 

As it was upon release, Diablo 3 is the perfect background game—or foreground, it's hard to say. It is the perfect partner to kick back and relax with while playing a podcast, listening to music or shooting the breeze with friends. 

Ben Kuchera at Polygon called it the "forever game," and not only is it nail-on-head material, it should say quite a bit about the game that players come back to it annually for six years and counting. 

The polish of Diablo 3 makes it instantly accessible for new gamers, and returning veterans will feel like they're slipping back into a comfortable pair of shoes after a break.

That the Switch version is as rock solid as its PC counterparts, but also mobile and free of online shackles—not to mention comes with all the updates and expansions under one umbrella—sets it apart as the version to own. 

Competitive and deep as any RPG on the market, or as relaxed and welcoming as a player desires, Diablo 3 for the Switch is a timeless offering reimagined with superb features and a smooth Nintendo Ganondorf nod for fans. 

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