Isentropic reviews the first Diablo 3 expansion pack from Blizzard Entertainment, 'Reaper Of Souls'. See why players are celebrating this release and how it solves some of the problems in Diablo 3.
[ written review below ]
Now it is no secret that I prioritise the Diablo Franchise above most things like, work, personal hygiene and relationships so when the Reaper of Souls expansion was announced with a sexy cut scene of betrayal, gore and liquid death I was going out of my mind with excitement.
After 7 months of arse tearing anticipation death has arrived. Malthael the former aspect of wisdom who has been playing 'hooky' from the Angiris Council since before the events of Diablo 3 has returned to claim the black soul stone. The Nephalem has been called to Westmarch to find out what Malthael has planned for Sanctuary.
And the looting is good in this first expansions to Diablo 3. Right from the start of Reaper of Souls everything seems the same, but after digging just a little deeper you find that Blizzard has spent a lot of time improving on the original Diablo 3 formula. The story in the expansion unfolds the same as Diablo 3, quests are given by NPCs through conversations, cut scenes pop up at a good rate and a steady flow of Diablo lore is drip fed to you as you smash your way through dungeon after dungeon of looty goodness. I feel that Blizzard have got this story telling style down pat and at no point did I find myself wondering why I had to kill everything in a 5 mile radius.
However, huge changes have been made to the core Diablo 3 game play with this expansion. The welcome removal of the auction house will see players spending less time sniping in an eBay style auction battle and more time dungeon crawling for the gear to power up their characters.
The difficult systems has been re-imagined with players able to choose between Normal, Hard and Expert from the get go with further Master and Torment difficulties being unlocked after the player completes the game and reaches level 60 respectively. This difficulty structure change is a breath of fresh air and corrects some players issue with the first game being too easy on the first play through.
Players are now free to choose higher difficulties from the start yielding better rewards and a more engaging challenge while still locking off the master and torment settings for the more hardcore fans. I hadn't even realised how much I disliked the previous difficulty system until I jumped into a new game on expert and levelled up at an astonishing rate, while nearly getting my arse handed to me at every turn. Being able to play through the game once, then choose what parts to replay at higher difficulties or not play through for that matter is a much appreciated reprieve from the grinding that occurred in the previous rinse repeat difficulty system.
The loot system has been tweaked as well to ensure that legendaries come more often and are more likely to be better for your character. I remember the first time a legendary dropped from a random chest I felt like I had hit the jackpot and that is what Reaper of Souls does best, addictive gear drops at just the right moment to make you want to kill one more enemy or open one more chest. And the legendaries are actually legendary in this game. Blizzard has whipped out the item steroids and gone berserk, legendary items have more powerful stats than ever before with item affixes that will have you rethinking your whole character build every time you look at some loot.
This revived focus on loot plays in well with the new crafting options in Reaper of Souls. The mystic is introduced to your rag tag group of 'Better Homes and Gardens' style crafters who can turn shit drops into gold. The mystic offers, enchantment, as a means to re-roll item affixes within a set of available affixes, therefore removing your need to re-find legendaries to get the one that works for you. In the previous Diablo 3 patch I would find myself in fits of rage due to unlucky item affix rolls, now I just stroll down to my local mystic, pay an obscene amount of gold and crafting items and bam affixes that work for me.
Transmogrification is also available now letting you look your best no matter what items you use. Higher level jewels and more armour and weapons recipes can be found at every turn and the potential benefits from making these items will have you scavenging every dungeon looking for the last crafting ingredient needed to make something amazing.
In true Diablo style the expansion brings with it a new character class, the Crusader. The Crusader class was chosen by Blizzard as the new character type due to huge support within the games community for a Paladin like fighting style character. The Crusader combines heavy armour with spell casting options. Players can choose between heavy hitting offensive attacks like Shield Bash and Slash, damage dealing spells like Bombardment and Heaven's Fury while balancing that against utility skills like Steed Charge and Phalanx and passive skills called Laws.
The Crusader offers a lot of play style options and using Diablo 3's interchangeable skill and ruin systems players are spoilt for choice with how they want to approach this new damage dealing machine. Even with this large range of very different skills I found the Crusader did not speak to my play style enough and was consistently running out of its secondary resource, "Wrath" slowing the pace of battle substantially. Though I tried to make the Crusader my new favourite as I have with all the available characters I still can’t go past the raw power of a Wizard.
Existing character classes got some welcome tweaks as well many skills considered to be overpowered have been nerfed, tweaked or removed completely from the game and replaced with new skills for the player to experiment with. I was concerned about this change before the expansion was releases as I had grown quite attached to my Wiz build but as soon as I dug deeper I realised that it didn’t just remove overpowered skills it levelled the playing field ensuring that build diversity would flourish once again.
The level cap of 60 has been lifted to 70 for the Reaper of Souls expansion and new powerful passive and active skills have been introduced to the existing characters to entice players back into the game. I found many of the new skills and passives to be well thought out and balanced and you can see that real care has been taken to ensure that the game remains challenging and the players are free to pursue the play style they want to use. The endgame replay ability has also been stepped up a notch with the Paragon system overhauled and the introduction of Adventure mode.
Paragon levels now carry across to all a players characters and each level grants 1 skill point to be allocated into 1 of 4 general character areas. The paragon level skill points are a good addition allowing for the advanced players to tweak character weak spots or offset gear disadvantages as required but by far the best endgame change is Adventure Mode.
Adventure Mode will have you revisiting old Acts completing bounties for Tyrael who is way to mortal to do this heavy lifting himself. Bounties can be finding and killing specific level bosses or in level elites or completing side quests. Bounties offer endgame characters huge experience bonuses and great loot drops which are essential when trying to perfect a character in Diablo 3. While completing bounties players will find Rift Keystones which can be used in town at the Nephalem Obelisk to open up Nephalem Rifts.
Nephlalem Rifts are completely randomised levels where unlikely monster arrangements and environments are combined to give the player an insane challenge for huge rewards. After killing the required amount of enemies in the Nephalem Rift the Nephalem Guardian appears offering a boss fight to be remembered. As players smash their way through Adventure Mode they will also find Blood Shards which can be used to buy randomised items from Kadala. This gambling with blood shards is a huge hat tip to Diablo 2 and had me yelling at my laptop and dancing round the room.
Overall Diablo 3 Reaper of Souls is a great expansions in its own right, with an engaging story, new items and item crafting, and a great new character class but what is more impressive are the advancements it has brought with it for the game as a whole. I remember the disappointment when Diablo 3 was first released and didn't meet my over inflated Diablo 2 expectations, sure it was good, but it wasn't Diablo 2 in 2000 good. But now Blizzard has saved Diablo 3 from the bargain bin depths by removing things that should have never been, while bringing the focus back to fucking monsters up for loot.
Diablo 3 now, once again, stands tall in a flooded market of action RPG dungeon crawlers as a titan of the genre and has easily earned a 10 out of 10 from me.