I have such cherished memories of playing Diablo 2 in LAN party fashion, tearing through swathes of hellspawn with friends and feverishly snapping up loot drops as they plinked onto the ground. So it's delightful to see that spirit of local demon-slaying co-op live on in Diablo 3: Eternal Collection on Nintendo Switch, Blizzard's triumphant return to a Nintendo console slated for this fall. After going hands-on with the Gamescom 2018 demo of the Switch port, it's clear that Diablo 3 on Switch successfully packs all the frenetic fun of its PC, PS4, and Xbox One counterparts onto the portable screen.
For Nintendo diehards who haven't yet welcomed the Lord of Terror into their lives, Diablo 3: Eternal Collection offers a staggering amount of content. All the substantial additions and welcome refinements of the Reaper of Souls and Rise of the Necromancer expansions are included here, for a total of seven classes that can be played in wildly different ways thanks to the diverse Skill and Rune builds you can swap between at any time. Diablo 3 might've had a rocky launch way back in 2012, but its current form is a bottomless well of intense, polished action whether you're going solo or in a full party of four. The real-money auction house is a thing of the distant past, and there's always something new to pursue, whether it be rolling a fresh character for the regular themed Seasons or optimizing the perfect build to push your dungeon-clearing limits in the fully randomized Nephalem Rifts.
Bringing Diablo 3 to Nintendo Switch (complete with exclusive Zelda-themed goodies) just made sense, and senior producer Pete Stilwell tells me that making the transition was fairly simple. "We'd already done so much of that challenging work when we had brought it from PC to Xbox and PlayStation," says Stilwell. "The challenges we did encounter were just coming to a new platform and making sure server things were working, making sure that we were running at our target of 60 frames per second and things like that." And Nintendo was happy to assist Blizzard with any hurdles faced in bringing the game to Switch. "Nintendo's actually been really awesome," Stilwell says with a smile. "There's, I think, a bond, because they're also a development-first kind of studio, and they were super excited to have this product, because it offers something that they don't really have in that space yet."
Through pure chance - or a shared attunement with magic - associate producer Matt Cederquist and I both chose to play as max-level Wizards in our speedy run of the Switch demo. And no matter how many explosive spells, lightning lasers, and crashing meteors filled the screen at any given moment, the chaos all ran at a perfectly smooth 60fps on an undocked Switch. In screenshots, the 720p undocked / 960p docked resolution looks a bit blurrier than my memories of the PC version - but in person, the textures and effects all look great, especially on the small screen. You and three other Switch-owning friends can team up via local, Bluetooth-enabled multiplayer, crowd around a single Switch with four controllers connected, or band together via the internet if you're subscribed to the upcoming Nintendo Switch Online service. You can also play offline if you prefer - and whenever your Switch has an online connection, it'll upload your characters as a cloud save, so you can use them if you pop over to a friend's house for some demon-slaying on their Switch.
When it comes to controller options, the Switch has plenty - and you can even cast all your abilities via an individual Joy-Con, provided it doesn't cramp your hands. "It was unique getting it to just onto just the Joy-Con alone, because it's just a different problem, so we had to experiment with that a bit," says Stilwell. "One of the teams we were working with on this is Iron Galaxy, who did the Skyrim port, so we leaned a lot on their knowledge." If you've only played Diablo 3 on PC, you might not be aware of the console-exclusive evade move, which lets you flick the right stick to dodge incoming attacks. Of course, a Joy-Con's only got the one stick - so now you can flick the tiny controller to evade in any direction, which will surely be helpful in particularly frantic sections. Given the chance, I'll still always take the Pro Controller, and the same goes for Stilwell - but it's nice that four heroes can get by on just two sets of Joy-Con.
You won't be able to port over any of your characters from the PC or other console versions, nor is there currently any crossplay between the many platforms. But for veterans who want to raise Hell on the Switch, all the content - most notably the endgame-friendly Adventure Mode - is unlocked from the get-go. With the amount of endlessly replayable action on offer, Diablo 3: Eternal Collection should give Switch owners all the isometric demon-slaying they could hope for, and that fuzzy feeling inherent to running dungeons in rowdy local play. And as for this port setting a precedent for other Blizzard properties coming to Switch - most notably Overwatch, which has thrived the console competition - Stilwell seems hopeful. "I think we've certainly got some valuable teachings from this, and there's always possibilities of other things," he says slyly.
For more Switch games to look forward to, check out all the upcoming Switch games for 2018 (and beyond).