Blizzard’s mission to get Diablo 3 into as many a gamers hands as possible continues with the PC-only (for now) Diablo 3: Reaper Of Souls; part re-release, part-expansion, does this new entry build upon last years excellent console releases? Read on to find out, brave adventurer…
The road to hell (if you’ll excuse the pun) is paved with good intentions. The Diablo 3 auction house is one such example. Initially conceived to combat the nefarious practices of gold farming and black market item sales; the auction house was to provide a safe forum for legitimate transactions between players. The only issue was that it became nigh on impossible to secure rare and legendary items form defeating in-game monsters.
All the fun of anticipation was drained away from the game, and during my first playthrough only a handful of “yellow” rare drops happened, one from Diablo himself. Whereas the auction house was only a click away with a whole smorgasbord of legendary items available for paltry fees. Why should I grind away for tens of hours on end, when I can secure “Leoric’s Crown” to deck out my barbarian for a paltry 89c? This misstep coupled with a spectacularly botched launch where many players (me included) couldn’t even log into the game to play for the first 48 hours, tarnished the reputation of the series as a whole.
While I enjoyed D3’s campaign, there wasn’t any incentive to return to it once I completed it. As such it remained forlorn and untouched on my hard drive for most of the last year. The Reaper of Souls Expansion, however, rights the above wrongs and then some. Before I describe the expansion proper it’s important to differentiate between the recent “Loot 2.0” patch and RoS itself. Loot 2.0 was released in February and has significantly improved the enjoyment of the game. Firstly the drop rate has decreased but there’s a better chance of those fabled rare or better items (including guaranteed legendary drops on a character’s first kill on each act boss.) Secondly the drop rate for class appropriate items has increased significantly too so there’s less likelihood that you’ll score a Witch doctor’s voodoo doll while playing as a demon hunter.
Last but not least, soon after the patch’s release the maligned auction house has closed for good, the only remaining way to secure items is through playing the game not analysing spreadsheets and prices like an accountant. Suddenly the series’ compulsive “one more dungeon” feedback loop is back in play and it’s easy to look at the clock and realise it’s 2am.
While you don’t necessarily require the “Reaper of Souls” add-on to enjoy the new experience (and indeed if you’re on the fence fire up D3 now; the patch is worth a replay in its own right) the feature set in the new content is worth the price of entry regardless. Shipping with a new Act, character class and some new game modes; Reaper of Souls on paper may seem light on content for what at first glance, is a €40/£32 expansion. However it’s the interplay between these modes and the capacity for replayability which negates any grumbles you may have at the cash register.
Act V follows the directly from the end of D3. Diablo and his demonic brethren are safely ensconced within the Black Soulstone. The newly mortal Archangel Tyrael takes it upon himself to hide the stone away from anyone who would seek to wield it. However former Archangel of Justice is now the living embodiment of death, Malthael; gets the drop upon his angelic brother and steals the stone for his own ends.
The story opens up few couple of new areas and a classic one reimagined from Diablo 2, and it’s the most diverse act in the game so far. Tying up a couple of loose threads and introducing some new enemy types like reapers and hell-hounds. Starting in the besieged city of Westmarch, you’ll travel to a murky swamp, a long abandoned underground city and an ancient battlefield. There are quite a lot more random events in the game too and any discovered cave or house will typically yield a side quest or an elite monster to slay. Your three followers the Templar, Scoundrel and Enchantress all have optional side quests too to round out their personal stories.
The introduction of the Crusader brings a new play style to the mix. The class can operate as a tank in addition to offering strong melee and ranged skills. With a couple of modular changes you can dramatically change his/her role on the fly, plus the ability to summon a horse to sprint out of trouble; will no doubt save many the player from losing a cherished one life hardcore character from tragically perishing from being overwhelmed.
A new artisan has been added to the mix as well; the Mystic. This new vendor allows you to swap out a trait of an item for another characteristic, and enables you to “transmogrify” any armour and weapon in the game; effectively changing the appearance of the item. Have a powerful, yet ugly one-handed mace? No problem you can make it look like a sleek rapier instead. The real value added addition to the game is the introduction of Adventure Mode, which opens up after the conclusion to the campaign.
This is where the real endgame content will live for players. Adventure mode completely opens up the map allowing you to transport to any area in the game. The mode offers bounties for defeating certain bosses and monsters in addition to slaying a set amount of enemies in an area. The prizes for this are to earn Blood Shards which can be used to buy mystery items for a vendor.
The other boon is to earn tokens which open up “Nephalem Rifts”, these rifts are portals to randomized dungeons which mix up the enemy types and game stages. So it’s not unusual to encounter enemies from several different acts mixed wholesale within environments from the start of the game. After killing a set amount of these minions a rift guardian is summoned. These beings are a challenge to defeat, particularly on the higher Torment difficulties. Requiring skilled cohorts and almost forensic knowledge of your chosen class’ strengths and weaknesses; defeat of such a boss not only yields the obligatory rare items, most importantly it awakens the desire to challenge yet another rift.
In essence, Reaper of Souls not only steadies the Diablo ship from its unsteady launch but, more importantly, with strong endgame content and a new and interesting class to play with; the game now finally can stand as an indispensable purchase in its own right.
– Doug McCormack