It’s been almost 2 years since Diablo III was released and I must say that the game died slowly but surely mostly because of the auction house that killed the thrill of the looting. But now that’s out of the way and here we are, the first expansion for the title, called Reaper of Souls, aims at revitalizing the game and bring it back to life. And it pretty much succeeds, but for how long?
Reaper of Souls features a fifth act that takes place right after Diablo and the other Lords of Hell are defeated, captured and imprisoned back into the Black Soulstone. Unfortunately, right when the Soulstone was being hidden, Malthael, the Angel of Death (ex-Wisdom), disrupts Tyrael’s plans and steals the Soulstone for himself. So it’s up to you, nephalem, to retrieve it and make Malthael pay. There isn’t a great deal of storytelling, but it provides some aim and motivation for going through to the end. The act itself is long and filled with dark locations and I noticed a higher number of dungeons and loot chests than in the other acts, which provides some level of excitement. So if you like your Diablo dark, you’ll be pleased to find that act five starts that way and stays that way until the end.
The most noticeable addition is the 2.0 loot system that actually came before Reaper of Souls in order to terraform the game and prepare it for the expansion. That, combined with the expansion pack, results in a lot more legendary and rare item drops than before, that actually suit the character you’re playing at that moment. So there’s a low chance of finding Barbarian and Monk items when playing as a Wizard for example. Another thing changed by the 2.0 patch is the difficulty system, so instead of Normal, Nightmare, Hell and Inferno, you now have five options that go up to Torment, which has a sliding scale to pump the difficulty, but also the XP and Legendary items drop. In the new patch you also find a tweaked crafting and gem-combining system that makes it more accessible and plenty of timed-events. All of these breathe life back into the game and keeps the loot wheel turning every run, so you’ll always find yourself looking at golden stars on the map (marks for Legendary items).
Reaper of Souls comes with a brand new play mode called “Adventure Mode” that you can embark on as soon as you finish the final Act. Here you’ll basically collect a number of different quests called bounties, each of them being available on any act and on all active waypoints on the map so you can travel between them quickly. When you finish all the bounties available within an Act, you gain a bonus chest in your inventory that holds rare or Legendary items, crafting materials and plenty of gems. You also get two types of shards that can be used at a new vendor who sells mystery items (just like gambling in the first games in the series) or to open a Nephalem Rift which teleports you into random dungeons filled with Elite Bosses. This provides good fun for those who finished the story and have nothing else to do.
But the first thing you see when you start the game is the addition of a new character – the Crusader. It fills the void between the Monk and the Barbarian nicely and is both ruthless and disciplined. It has numerous crowd-control and support skills that, combined with its shield-dependent skills, provide a very dynamic and unique play style so if you loved the Paladin from Diablo II, then this is the perfect character for you. Besides, it adds value to the shield, a typically undervalued item type and it is lots of fun to play with it until the new level 70 cap (it even has a passive skill that allows you to wield a 2-handed weapon as a 1-handed one!). Speaking of the level cap, with the addition of the 2.0 patch, every character on an account share the Paragon level (which has also been raised to a higher level cap) so you can advance your characters at a much faster rate.
There is also a new vendor that allows you to change the appearance of your items and, most importantly, their stats. So if you a great item with one very bad feature that does not suit your playing style, you may change it to another one. But you must be cautions about this as you may only change one feature per item and it is randomly generated (but you can see a list of available stats before you do it). Good news is that you can change it every time you want, provided that you have the cash and the materials.
One thing I don’t like is that there isn’t a deeper playing style-customization system. Basically, each item provides your character with three major stats – healing, damage and toughness. These are all pretty standard, but instead of making my character a unique one with its very own play style, I find myself doing math when choosing my gear in order to squeeze every drop of damage or toughness from it, the mere choice of sacrificing one statistic for another not being the diversity level I was looking for.
Diablo III may have lost its allure after a few months of play, but Reaper of Souls will just suck you back into it. The new character, vendors, loot system and all of the other additions are welcome which means that the developers are getting an idea of what the game should’ve been in the first place.
Final score: 4.5 out of 5