Blizzard’s Diablo 3 has been a bit troubled until recently. The auction house and design choices in loot drops, difficulty, and its paragon system led to a game that people quickly dropped after a couple playthroughs unlike its predecessor Diablo 2. A recent patch to the core game prior to the release of Reaper of Souls fixed a majority of these issues by introducing Loot 2.0, a new Paragon system, the closure of the auction house, and a revamp of the difficulties. Reaper of Souls builds on the 2.0.1 patch and makes Diablo 3 the game fans always wanted.
Westmarch and all of Sanctuary is in dire need of a hero in the new Act V. Malthael, a former Angel of Wisdom, has gone a bit nuttso and became the embodiment of death, which is a Grim Reaper-esque character, a.k.a. the Angel of Death. Malthael wants to rid the realm of all demonic essence. Unfortunately, the humans are part angelic and part demonic, so that means death for all.
The act starts in the streets of Westmarch as the player battles back against the forces of Malthael, which include reapers, demons, ghosties and the undead. Thankfully, Blizzard did not phone this game in because all of the enemy models are new with no reskins from the previous four acts when it could have easily gone the other way. The colorfully bright locations are gone as Diablo returns to its roots with its dark and dreary locales, but these locales come in greater variety, mixing it up so players don’t get as bored with the single act.
The level cap in Reaper of Souls has been kicked up from 60 to 70, and with that, each class has a new passive skill slot at 70, a couple new passive skills, and a new damage dealing mastery skill. While that doesn’t sound like a lot of addition to the existing classes, it opens up build potentials exponentially. Just the extra passive skill slot makes a huge difference in allowing a better mix to fine tune builds, and while the level of customization isn’t what it was in Diablo 2, this is a move in the right direction.
The added damage skills are both well-balanced but are also laced with a cool factor. Wizards get the Black Hole ability that is extremely similar to Singularity in Mass Effect; a black hole is created that sucks up enemies and damages them. The Witch Doctor gains the ability to summon a pool of Piranhas as an aoe attack, which is both nutty and super fun. Monks learn Epiphany, which increases spirit regeneration and causes melee attacks to dash towards the target, essentially supercharging the Monk. The Demon Hunter has Vengeance, which is basically the demon version of the Wizard’s Archon, turning them into a killing machine. Last but not least, the Barbarian gains Avalanche, which calls down a massive deluge of rocks in an aoe attack.
Diablo 3 has sorely been missing a paladin-esque class, and thankfully Reaper of Souls has rectified that with the Crusader, who, with shield and flail in hand, is the very definition of complete bad ass. The Crusader is about what can be expected of his/her name, which is a medieval style melee character enhanced by holy-ish magic and the zeal of faith. The feel of the class fits the lore to a tee in a game built around the battles between Heaven and Hell with Sanctuary stuck in between. The Crusader’s shield is both a defensive and offensive weapon, and when mixed with the ability to equip 2 handed weapons as single handed while still being able to use the shield, the Crusader becomes a holy siege tank.
The Crusader is loaded down with a plethora of skills including a fiery steed that will charge through enemies. Some of the skills even pay homage to some of the hammer-hurling fun of Diablo 2’s Paladin. The class feels unique compared to the other classes in the base game, but it’s familiar enough to not feel out of place. The bottomline is that if you enjoyed the Paladin from Diablo 2 or want to feel like a bone crunching beast, the Crusader is the class of choice to play.
A new artisan called the Mystic joins the Blacksmith and Jeweler. She borrows heavily from a couple of popular features found in World of Warcraft called transmogrify and enchanting, which is reforging in WoW. Transmogrify allows players to make equipment look like other equipment and keep a customized look that they enjoy. Enchanting gives the ability to nitpick a stat on a piece of gear into something more agreeable such as changing intelligence into strength or increased gold to more health from health globes. The process set up is a bit inspired with the game giving the player a choice between 2 new stats or sticking with the old one.
The new Adventure mode is what puts a real end game in Diablo by letting players easily do what they have always done, which is boss/loot runs in a very quick in and out process. All five acts are available, and they feature bounties, which are random side quests that have players knocking out quick tasks like targeting a boss or clearing out a small dungeon. If you complete enough bounties, you will earn the right to open the Nephilim Rift, which takes random tilesets and monsters from throughout the game and mix and matches them in extremely challenging ways. If you clear enough enemies, a rift boss appears, which has to be killed to complete the rift. Both the bounties and rifts drop multitudes of loot with the rift bosses, raining Legendary items and giving players just a little more to do after they have reached level 70.