Published on August 13th, 2014 | by Luis Acosta0
Diablo III – Reaper of Souls
Get our thoughts on Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls, now that we’ve had more than a week to soak up all the new content and explore a few of the Nephalem Rifts that lie at the heart of the Reaper of Souls endgame.
DISCLAIMER: This Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls review was created using a copy of the game that was provided to us, free-of-charge, by a third-party representative for Blizzard Entertainment; however, neither retained any say in the content of this article. Where I can, I’ve tried to avoid publishing spoilers from the Act V of the Reaper of Souls campaign, but those who don’t want to learn anything about the game might just want to skip down to the final score.
Less than a year ago, I’d never played a Diablo game in my life. Now, just over a week removed from the release of Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls, I can barely bring myself to stop chasing new loot and bounties long enough to do anything, much less find the time to write a proper Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls review.
Regardless of what you thought about Diablo 3 at launch, it’s hard to argue that Blizzard has been making some serious in-roads with the community in the last few weeks, and the studio is clearly looking to continue that forward momentum with Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls. The changes have been aggressive, some even clearly designed to bring Diablo more in-line with popular competitors like Path of Exile, and that willingness to adapt has paid dividends for Blizzard in Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls.
Sporting an even more generous loot system, than players enjoyed in the weeks following the release of Diablo 3 v2.0.1, not to mention an all-new Crusader class, a fifth act for the main campaign, and the ability to alter magical items, Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls seemingly has all the ingredients for a proper expansion.
So what are you still doing here? Aren’t you convinced that Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls is awesome, and that you’ve made a mistake by not having purchased it already? Do you hate fun or something?
Ugh, fine. Since having someone you’ve probably never heard of yell “Buy it!” at you clearly hasn’t convinced you that Reaper of Souls is an expansion worth investing in, here are a few more of my thoughts on Blizzard’s first official Diablo 3 expansion.
I cannot fathom a reality where this is actually necessary, given the popularity of the Diablo franchise over the last two decades, but let’s go ahead and get all the boring details out of the way first, just to be safe.
Reaper of Souls is an expansion pack for Diablo 3, the hack-and-slash adventure released roughly two years ago by Blizzard Entertainment, and looks to build on some of the positive momentum that’s followed the studio’s recent overhaul of the base Diablo 3 gameplay experience. Sporting the most generous version of the Diablo 3 loot system to date, Reaper of Souls heaps new gear upon all those willing to come to the aid of Westmarch at what could only be described as the city’s most dire hour.
Where Diablo 3 focused on the threat presented to Sanctuary by a legion of demons, imps and other magical creatures loyal to the Lord of Terror, Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls offers up a threat that many fans may not have expected prior to Blizzard’s big reveal at last year’s gamescom.
Rather than fend off the those loyal to one or more of the Great Evils, as has always been the player’s responsibility in previous Diablo releases, Reaper of Souls instead tasks the Nephalem with hunting down the corrupted angel Malthael. Since abandoning his post, as the former Archangel of Wisdom and first leader of the Angiris Council, Malthael has assumed the role of Angel of Death, and his forces have been massacring the population of Westmarch for hours (if not days) when Reaper of Souls begins.
It seems Malthael blames humanity for the destruction of the Worldstone, and pretty much every other problem since their creation from the sounds of things. As a result, the new Angel of Death has become convinced that destroying mankind is the only way to bring an end to the Eternal War, and what better place to start than one of the only kingdoms virtually untouched by the ongoing struggle between angels and demons?
From the outset, it’s clear Blizzard took criticism of Diablo 3 to heart, and a decidedly darker tone awaits those who make the trek from the Pinnacle of Heaven to the besieged city of Westmarch. The city lies in ruins, with the bodies of those already slain by Malthael’s forces piled up in the streets and in some cases even serving as the only available footpath for the Nephalem. The grisly sights are paired with a fantastic new soundtrack, though at times you’ll find the music punctuated by cries for help and the wailing of those who’ve already been caught by Malthael’s reapers.
If the early reaction is any indication, its exactly the sort of environment that fans were expecting when Diablo 3 hit stores almost two years ago, and a welcome shift from the cookie-cutter environments included in the game’s first four acts. I know I’ve enjoyed the changes, especially thanks to the Loot 2.0 system recently inherited from the console ports of Diablo 3, and the various people I’ve talked to about the expansion seem much more fond of the gameplay in Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls.
A dozen or more new events ensure you’ll quickly get a chance to see each of the added environments too, while keeping the experience and loot raining down upon you in quantities that’ll have just about any Diablo 3 player ready for the Reaper of Souls endgame in no time. To be honest, it’s downright impressive how frequently Blizzard manages to change up the setting for your battles, considering there’s only one time that you’ll ever venture back outside the gates of Westmarch during all of Act V.
The Crusader class might be my favorite addition to the game; offering a hybrid style of gameplay that Blizzard has been referring to as “medium-range melee” during the countdown to the Reaper of Souls release date. Like most classes, Crusaders have a variety of skills and abilities that allow for relatively diverse character builds, many of which require you to keep a Shield equipped in your off-hand. My personal favorite (so far) is definitely , an ability that lets your Crusader hurl his shield at his angelic/demonic opponents like some kind of medieval Captain America.
The Crusader’s take on the standard charge attack, involving what appears to be a magical horse, is also one of the most enjoyable/gratifying skills included in Diablo 3 thus far. As with the Barbarian, Steed will send you crashing through whatever hordes of enemies you’ve managed to gather around you; an admittedly basic technique that typically results in an entertaining shower of fallen demons.
Reaper of Souls also introduces Myriam Jahzia; a new NPC artisan that can alter the individual properties of your magical items and/or change the appearance of whatever equipment your character is currently wearing. Both are welcome additions to the relatively limited number of crafting options offered in Diablo 3, and can help offset some players’ pain during those runs when it feels as if the RNG Gods have all gathered to conspire against you. The ability to transmogrify your equipment also gives players new incentive to collect all of the legendaries included in the Diablo 3 armory, even those only usable by a class you don’t play, since the collection of each immediately gives players the ability to mimic that item’s appearance.
I’ve also become quite a fan of Diablo 3’s new Adventure Mode, along with the Nephalem Rifts that serve as a sort of bonus round for those who’ve abandoned the Diablo 3 campaign in-favor of more consistent action and rewards. Adventure Mode ditches 99% of the game’s cutscenes and quest/plot-advancing conversations in favor of randomly-generated bounties that ask players to do everything from cleansing cursed chests to killing specific bosses from Diablo 3 and/or Reaper of Souls.
To keep things interesting, Adventure Mode ditches the monster spawn tables typically assigned to each location, allowing any creature in the Diablo 3 bestiary to spawn at any given time. This makes for some unique situations that wouldn’t typically arise in the Diablo 3 campaign, like Malthael’s semi-angelic forces appearing in the Burning Hells or the zombies that plagued New Tristram in Act I flooding the gates of Heaven. If you’re lucky, you might even find a squad of Treasure Goblins; an occasion when “making it rain” takes on an entirely new meaning.
Of course, the abundance of drops are probably necessary, considering the game’s best gear now lies atop two new tiers of Artisan items. Both Haedrig can be taught few new tricks in Reaper of Souls, and there are dozens of new legendary and set-piece blueprints to be looted, but the best of the best typically require the acquisition of rare and legendary crafting materials in quantities and combinations that should keep players busy for weeks (if not longer). That means you’ll be doing quite a bit of salvaging, though you’ll probably want to sell a few items here and there to keep your pockets lined with gold. Gems are not cheap in Reaper of Souls.
Four new jewels have also been added to the top of Covetous Shen’s crafting lists in Reaper of Souls, each of which comes with increasingly expensive gold and reagent requirements that should have kept most Diablo 3 players from socketing any Flawless Royal gems on Day One. Or even Day Nine, for that matter. We’re talking millions of gold of here, assuming you want to cover yourself in diamonds, emeralds and the like. You’ll also need a steady supply of Death’s Breath; a rare drop that you’re likely to encounter more frequently than its classification would lead you to believe, and the very same item needed to finish training each of the game’s three Artisans.
Despite all the ways that Reaper of Souls manages to streamline or improve the base Diablo 3 experience, the one change I’d been hoping Blizzard was somehow keeping secret was the ability to send your companions back to town to buy supplies and/or sell unneeded gear (a la Torchlight). As it stands, there’s relatively little reason to ever interact with your companions in Diablo 3, especially if you regularly have friends to play with and/or don’t mind hopping into a public match from time to time.
Most of my companions stopped getting new gear after I reached level ten or so, and it wasn’t until level 70 — when I encountered the seemingly endless pools of loot that Blizzard calls Nephalem Rifts — that I even bothered to check on my companions’ equipment again. They’ve each received a few upgrades over the last couple of days, but I’ve still likely sold far more than I should’ve, and it’s hard not to think the lack of interaction is at least partially to blame.
Being able to call a Town Portal at-will is nice, and it’s certainly possible that the lack of automated selling is intended to keep players’ coffers from filling up too quickly, but it doesn’t make the regular need to return to town any less tedious. Adventure Mode and Nephalem Rifts already go a long way towards allowing near-uninterrupted gameplay, as does players’ newfound ability to both increase and decrease the game’s difficulty at-will. Let’s finish the job, Blizzard.
Whatever your experiences were with Diablo 3 at launch, there can be little doubt that Blizzard’s made some significant strides in revamping both character progression and Diablo’s endgame content. It’s rare that I can’t think of any major complaints about a game that I’ve played for half as long as I’ve spent on Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls so far, and all I had for you today was a complaint about the convenience of offloading your extra loot.
Sure, it would have been nice to see a bit more of Malthael, given the way he was hyped up prior to the expansion’s release. An extra sighting or two, even if only in a cutscene where he’s making quick work of more Horadrim, certainly would have gone a long way to making the difficulty of the expansion’s final encounter seem a bit more necessary. But that singular lack of character building never really stopped me from enjoying the new content that Reaper of Souls has to offer, and certainly hasn’t stopped me from diving back into the game on a near-nightly basis since Reaper of Souls debuted last week.
With a new class, several hours of new story content, incentive to continue revisiting the game’s various locales, and a loot system that finally seems designed to keep players coming back for more, there’s quite a bit to love about Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls. As a relative newcomer to the series, I still can’t tell you whether or not the Diablo 3 experience could ever compare to the community’s fondest memories of Diablo 2, but I can tell you this: I’ve spent more time on Diablo 3 in the last three weeks than just about any game released during 2013.
Everything about Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls leaves me wanting to more, despite the fact that I’ve already cleared the campaign on multiple occasions, and I wouldn’t be shocked if I’ve got a full roster of level 70 characters by the time the year comes to a close. It’s been a long time since I enjoyed a hack-and-slash title as much as I’m enjoying Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls, and I plan to milk that for all it’s worth. I suggest you do the same.