Diablo 3’s first expansion, Reaper of Souls, has arrived along with promises of it fixing Diablo 3’s myriad problems. From a lack of customization, a wide variety of failures in the loot system, a shallow end game, as well as awkward writing and bad comic-book villains… Diablo 3 was a game surviving solely on reputation and well designed game mechanics.
Reaper of Souls has, to be blunt, fixed nearly every issue. But before we get into details, I want to get something out of the way. Since this is a review of an expansion, I’m assuming familiarity with the core game and its mechanics, flaws, and story.
I commented in my previous assessment of Diablo 3 that the three primary requirements for a successful loot system in this type of game were Frequency, Variance, and Enjoyability and that Diablo 3 wasn’t meeting any of those goals. But Reaper of Souls is not the same story. Now, loot in general is technically far less frequent than before but it doesn’t feel like it because the loot that drops is all worth picking up, from the lowest tier to the top, for one reason or another. Basic items can be used in crafting, rare items are actually occasionally good… and most importantly, the highest tiers of loot – Legendary and Set pieces – are very diverse, drop quite frequently, and they actually implemented some truly fascinating special abilities. And, finally on the subject of loot, they also implemented a system that causes some items that drop to be optimized for your class; increasing the number of potentially useful items and helping to make loot feel like it is dropping more frequently than it actually is.
This wasn’t technically a part of the expansion, though… this was given away to everyone as part of the ‘Loot 2.0’ patch they did a few weeks prior in preparation for the expansion. At the same time, they also released a wide variety of class changes that have in some cases made certain classes feel completely new. The Wizard, in particular, got a fantastic set of changes that made element-specific builds actually make sense – something that never was possible before. It has revitalized many classes, and brought back a lot of the interest I had lost in the game. As a final minor change, they’ve redone the paragon system – making it shared across your entire account and removing the upper limits so you can level endlessly.
Now, it may sound like you don’t even need the expansion since they’re just giving everything away with the patch, right? Fortunately, that’s not the case. You see, they also added a bunch of actual new content that seeks to tackle many other issues people frequently pointed out.
If I’m to be completely honest here, Act 5 is exactly what the previous acts should have been. It has a ton of little random places to explore, new events around every corner, several interesting smaller stories and a big story that actually kind of makes sense. They also managed to keep Malthael feeling like a real big bad guy. His minions were always one step ahead of you without ever feeling like they were gloating. And his actions actually make sense, given his goal is just to delay you. It’s unfortunate that Diablo 3’s original ending doesn’t make all that much sense in the context of the expansion, but that’s a pretty minor issue since that ending wasn’t all that great to begin with. But the best part… the music. Act 5’s music was utterly amazing from start to finish.
They also added a new game mode, meant to satisfy complaints about a lack of a true ‘end game’, called Adventure Mode in which the story is abandoned and you’re given small tasks to accomplish called bounties. These tasks reward you with gold, experience, Nephalem keystones, and casks of loot. One of the greatest satisfactions is accumulating a dozen or so of these loot casks and opening them all at once, giving a massive circle of loot around you. And the keystones I mentioned? They open the other unique aspect of Adventure Mode – Nephalem Rifts. These are rifts with several levels, completely random monsters, and a randomly selected end boss as well.
And as a nice final addition, they’ve added a new class called the Crusader. Adding a shield-wielder rounds out the lineup and offers a much needed mid-range tanky caster: an archetype that has been sorely missed among Diablo 3’s cast. It’s good to see. I personally don’t enjoy the Crusader’s playstyle, but it is very popular so they’ve clearly done a good job with it.
As to whether all these changes will restore the addictive reward loop that Diablo 3 has been missing… well the fact that this review is only coming out on the 10th of April should tell you something. It’s hard to write a review when you’re too busy playing the game, trust me on this.