Diablo III: Reaper of Souls PC Review
Blizzard swallowed down the pride and admitted it’s mistake with the original PC release of Diablo III. It was an amazing hack and slash game from one of the few studios that can be classed as masters of the genre, but some questionable design decisions relating to the auction house and how it felt that the game was keeping meaningful loot away from your character tainted the otherwise fantastic experience. The console release of Diablo III was met with applause, as Blizzard removed the auction house from the game and retuned the loot, tailoring it to drop much more gear related to the class you played as.
Fast forward a few months and patch 2.0 hit the PC bringing that console loot mechanic onto the platform, while also closing down the auction house and letting players go about gathering loot in meaningful and excited ways. Now the first expansion, dubbed Reaper of Souls, has arrived for PC players, offering a new act, a new class, a refreshing adventure mode, retuned difficulty, and much more loot to gather that will make it hard for fans to pull away from the addictive nature of Diablo III.
Reaper of Souls follows after the success of the Nephalem’s destruction of the prime evil, Diablo, at the end of Diablo III. To keep humanity and heaven safe from the chance of another hellish invasion from the demonic spawn, Tyrael takes the black soulstone and hides it deep within the grounds of Sanctuary, under an area known as Westmarch. Unknowing to Tyrael, he was followed by Malthael, the Angel of Death, who wants to take the power of the soulstone and use it for himself to sacrifice all humanity to stop the Eternal Conflict between Heaven and Hell. As Malthael walks away with the black soulstone, a surviving Horadrim manages to escape and is tasked by Tyrael to find the Nephalem and alert them to the troubles that are coming. The beginning of Act 5 starts as the Nelphalem arrives on the outskirts of the reaper infested city of Westmarch and from there must put a stop to Malthael’s grand scheme.
Act 5 comes across very different in mood compared to the original game’s four acts. The journey to Malthael is one full of new enemies, the army of reapers, who are going around the city of Westmarch and sucking out the souls of every living human. To represent this, the setting of act 5 is devoured of any rich colour pallet, using strong tones of grey to give off an aura that life has been sucked out of the city. A lot of the earlier sections of Westmarch are fairly linear, made up of streets and buildings that are mostly straight pathways to the next area.
The locations open up a bit when you’re in the outskirts; offering a wide map in the marshes that requires you to pinpoint the correct entrance, out of four possible options, to continue the journey. It’s nice to see a part of the game that requires the player to explore to progress, needing to find posts that offer clues into which symbol is the correct entrance. You can take a guess and progress through a cave to see if it’s right, but if wrong, you’re met with a teleport stone that returns you back to the marsh to find the remaining entrances. This is an aspect I would love to see expanded in another expansion, making the journey through Diablo III more than a simple point A to point B adventure. The overall length of Act 5 is around three hours, similar to the length of Act 2. It’s an act filled with varied locations, and design wise, is probably the best act in the game, but the amusing thing is that this act isn’t even the best added content in Reaper of Souls. That award goes to ultra-addictive Adventure Mode.
After beating Act 5, Adventure Mode becomes accessible from the main menu. This new content allows a character to freely jump between any of the five acts joined to a randomised set of five bounties per act. Bounties are random tasks, which are different every time you create a new adventure mode, opening endless possibilities for anyone into the Diablo III gameplay. The bounty concept makes Adventure mode a sweet place to hang in if you want to have a quick 15 minutes with the game and make some meaningful progress with your character. Story mode is no longer required to level up the character, and with all of the game’s retuned difficulties – five in total, with the last one, torment, having stages that increase the difficulty even more – available from the get go, this is an area of the expansion that I feel everyone will move to once the story is completed. It’s simply a more open, thrilling and varied mode that can be played on your own or with other people online.
There are also huge experience rewards for finishing off an act’s five bounties when the act is highlighted with “bonus” on the world map. I can’t stress enough how helpful Adventure mode is for levelling up a character and getting shiny new loot for them. Also related to successfully completing bounties is the reward of keystone fragments, which allow the opening of a Nephalem rift to an unknown randomly created dungeon made up of elements taken from the game’s acts. These rifts are nothing more than kill-a-thons, where the player is tasked with butchering enemies until a metre is filled and a rift guardian appears for your blood. Killing the guardian rewards with another large lump of bonus gold, experience and new currency called blood shards, which can be exchanged for randomly generated weapons from a seller in the act’s safe heaven.
Reaper of Souls has changed Diablo III into a game with no end in sight. The level cap for a character is now 70, and this comes with some new skills and additional passive slot for all existing characters, but the biggest change is down to the Paragon system, with Paragon 2.0 removing the level 100 cap from the game, leaving it open to how far you are willing to put time into getting the experience to level up. Paragon levels are also no longer character specific, with the system going global across all your created characters. To make this work, each character has a unique pool of points to spend, with a point unlocked for every paragon level reached. Points can be placed into categories, such as vitality, attack speed, critical hit, bonus armour and so forth. This even works on a level one character, so creating a hardcore character can benefit from another character’s gain of paragon points to make that mode slightly less daunting.
The last new addition of Reaper of Souls is the new Crusader class, a sort of call on the Paladin from Diablo II mixed with elements of the Barbarian. It’s a slow class, following a tanking play style, as the class is based on dealing huge damage, while having high defence to take anything thrown at it, thanks to its use of huge shields and the strength to wield powerful swords. Their skill tree has some amusing abilities, such as casting a horse to rush out from the Crusader or calling down a holy beam of light from the heavens that will track an enemy and deal damage until its duration runs out. I certainly had fun playing the Crusader class from the start, and I feel that there is just enough difference for people who played the Barbarian to enjoy playing another heavy hitting character in the expansion.
After nearly two years on the market, the PC version of Diablo III was crying for an expansion just like Reaper of Souls. Blizzard has rebalanced and fine-tuned small and meaningful parts of the game, similar to a chef crafting their masterful gourmet meal, and released a product with nothing but positive changes to the core gameplay. It’s not enough to bring back people who didn’t like the skill tree implementation, but for fans who grew a little tired of the end game, they will be happy to know that the evolution of Diablo III has moved in the right direction, and with an endless randomly generated mode that will keep fans hooked for hours upon hours until the next expansion hits, Reaper of Souls is a must own for fans of Diablo III.