Reviewed on: PC
Also Available on: Mac
Reviewed by: Jonathan Bester
Disclaimer: Please take note that this review contains spoilers for Diablo 3 and it is advisable to not read this before you have played the base game. If you don’t mind spoilers, enjoy!
Having been long-expected for nearly a decade, Diablo 3 was one of the most highly anticipated games of 2012, and rightly so, as many a fan of this top quality Blizzard series were craving answers as to what had transpired after the destruction of the World Stone at the end of Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction. The release was a lukewarm one as it was rife with problems due to its always-online DRM model, resulting in several thousand frustrated gamers being met with the now infamous Error 37. In addition to this, it also suffered from what many fans called a weak story and lacking gameplay elements in various areas, but through it all, it was still a quality Blizzard product, and we even said so. But, with the release of this new Expansion Pack titled Reaper of Souls, were these problems addressed and is the game ultimately the better for it? Let’s find out!
Several new additions have been made to Diablo 3 with the introduction of the new Expansion Pack. A brand new character class called the Crusader, a completely overhauled Loot system, a new vendor, and of course, an entirely new chapter in the story to sink your teeth into. With the Lord of Terror defeated and trapped in the Black Soulstone at the end of Diablo 3, the player character, otherwise known as The Nephilem embarks on a new journey. One in which he must face the former Angel of Wisdom, now turned Angel of Death, Malthael in a timeless battle to save all of mankind from a nefarious scheme.
The story of Reaper of Souls, like Diablo 3’s is not very well presented, but is instead fleshed out with the various audio logs or lore books which provides the Nephilem with further information about certain scenarios he happens to be facing. For a new player to the series this may prove to be tedious and not everyone will think about picking up and listening to the lore. Traversing the new playable areas, including Westmarch, The Blood Marsh, and several other areas, which I won’t spoil for you, the player progresses through the story through means of searching for items, killing key enemies and discovering truths. The villain, Malthael is probably one of the best conceived of villains created by Blizzard to date. Driven mad by the events following the destruction of the World Stone several years before, the Angel of Wisdom became obsessed with death and disappeared several times from the High Heavens with no explanation. His last disappearance raised some concern with the Angeris Council and they dispatched his herald to go in search of him. He too, disappeared, and it is at the close of Diablo’s chapter that Malthael re-emerges as the Angel of Death, with a new purpose.
The world of Sanctuary has always been known as one that has been given all the love and attention to detail that deserves and with Reaper of Souls this is no different. The various new areas introduced, which includes the long talked about Kingdom of Westmarch, has a rich new design, never before seen in a Diablo title. Its burning facade adds to the atmosphere presented and the wails and screams of the doomed citizens sends a chill down your spine as they are devoured by the emissaries of Death and made anew to fight you. Gone are the colourful and whimsical days of the Diablo 3 of old as a new atmosphere of death and dread fills the entirety of Act V. Clearly a call back to the Diablo of old. Something which the fans had been clamouring for all along.
With the release of the pre-expansion Patch 2.0.3, Blizzard, for the first time, introduced PC gamers to the new Loot 2.0 system along with an update to its Paragon system introduced in an earlier Patch. Weighing in at approximately 7 GB, the patch included the majority of the Reaper of Souls Expansion already, as I found out when redeeming my Game Key. This certainly counted in Blizzard’s favour, considering it shaved off a large amount of time that would have otherwise cost would-be Diablo 3 players undesirable waiting times for the Expansion to install. Of course, not everyone benefited from this as many people bought the game for the first time, but it is good practice to download this patch before redeeming your Game Key.
Of course, the reason why I mention the above is because I had prepared for Reaper of Souls by installing this latest patch, which made these great new upgrades available before the actual release of the Expansion. This gave me several weeks to experience and ultimately familiarise myself with the new systems. Loot 2.0 has been fine tuned to provide more accurate drops to players, and when I say accuracy, I of course mean, class specific items. Whereas in the past players had to be content with any class’s items dropping, the chances of your own class items dropping is now much higher. Something else that is new in Reaper of Souls is the addition of Nephilem Glory. If you’re a console Diablo 3 player, then you will already be familiar with this dynamic. Nephilem Glory is of course presented in the form of a glowing goldish-yellow orb, very similar-looking to an health orb. For those of you not familiar with it, essentially what Nephilem Glory does is it boosts your damage, speed and gives you a bit of a health regeneration bonus, and yes they are stackable (up to 3 times). When you have two stacked, they emit yellow electrical bolts that damages enemy mobs, and when 3 are stacked light columns falls from the sky and cracks as they hit the mobs. Very helpful to have when the masses of mobs descend on you.
The main goal of Loot 2.0 has been to circumvent and balance out the game after the Auction House was removed. It saw several tweaks made to character classes, as well as the introduction of a secondary effects section on certain Legendary items, which will ultimately make those much desired Legendary items feel that much more unique. Lastly, Blizzard have added a new type of Pool, which looks similar to those Healing Pools you see strewn around Sanctuary. Only these ones are golden in colour and when clicked it adds Bonus Experience to your run. These Pools of course are called Pools of Reflection and are stackable, although dying removes the benefits they bring. Stack enough of them and see your Experience soar!
Paragon 2.0 takes what Blizzard established with its predecessor and introduces a point-assignment system which will allow players to use those hard earned Paragon-levels to further enhance their characters, using speed upgrades, damage upgrades, magic find, and much much more. It hearkens back to the days where skill points such as Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, etc. was assigned using a similar system and instills a sense of familiarity to Diablo and other RPG-like games.
Which brings us to the brand new character class introduced in Reaper of Souls – The Crusader. Leading up to the release of Reaper of Souls, several videos, and even in-game lore books could be found which introduced players to this new character class. With a rich and robust history as servants of the Zakarum faith, these warriors of faith embark on perilous journeys which may lead to success or their own death, but they are stalwarts in their faith and will prevail no matter the cost. With several skills and their very own shield-class weapons, they are certainly a force to be reckoned with. I played this class for several hours, levelling up, and I could not help but feel that this character felt powerful. They can be played as either a Tank or DPS or both, depending on your playing style and with their vast array of Area-Of-Effect abilities and close combat abilities, it certainly makes for a great new addition to the game.
Next up on the list of new additions (yes we’re not done yet), is the slew of new types of events throughout the entirety of the game. From Cursed Chests to to various other “Horde-mode”-like instances which sees the player defending a patch of land against respawning enemies, either within a set time limit or at their own leisure. The timed events are tricky as the chests fail to open should the player fail to kill the mobs on time. Kill them on time and you will be rewarded with a dice roll and you may receive some awesome loot.
Then of course there is the introduction to the new vendor. A Mystic called Myriam, which forms part of a nomadic group of gypsies called the Vecin. Her journey was initiated by a vision in which she saw many of the events in Reaper of Souls, including the arrival of the Nephilem and his subsequent deeds. Once established in your camp, she will grant you the ability to Enchant or reroll some of the functions of your gear. In addition to enchantment you may also Transmogrify your equipment. In other words, you can take an already known design/visual appearance of an item and change another item to look like that one. At a price of course.
Speaking of Artisans, each existing Artisan, including the new Mystic, now has an additional two levels (bringing the total up to 12 levels), which you can upgrade to using new crafting materials. Covetus Shen (The Jeweler) can now make bigger and better Gems, and Haedrig can now make even more and better Weapons and Armour for your up-to level 70 character.
Are you a fan of the Companions? If you have avidly followed their journeys by means of their dialogue you will be pleased to know that each of them get fitting conclusions to their stories in the Reaper of Souls Expansion Pack. From Kormac returning to Westmarch to confront the Templar order to find out the truth behind his mysterious past, to Lyndon, finally being able to find out about his imprisoned brother in Kingsport.
I’d like to tell you a bit more about the revamped difficulty system. Gone are the days of Hell, Nightmare and Inferno and welcome to the days of Normal, Hard, Expert, Master and several levels of Torment for the Hardcore Diablo 3 grinders among you. The key differences between the difficulties boils down to enemy health, experience bonus, enemy damage (to the player) as well as magic/gold drop rates. The higher you go, the higher these figures go and each difficulty is rewarding in its own way, provided your character is strong enough and geared well enough to handle the punishment.
Some of the biggest new additions in Reaper of Souls has been the non-campaign modes, which includes Adventure Mode and its sub-modes, such as Bounties, Nephelim Rifts and Blood Shards Bounties allows the player to travel anywhere in the lands of Sanctuary (using the Map) at any time, and complete a number of specifically tailored quests of bounties as they are called. The bounties may include anything from killing a number of enemies (and then a rare monster) to rescuing someone or even taking on a boss, such as Belail or Azmodan. Adventure mode tends to be more rewarding whereas Experience and Gold is concerned, so if you are looking to level your character, just running around Sanctuary, killing mobs can be very rewarding.
Nephilem Rifts is one of the biggest carriers in Reaper of Souls and is accessed by completing bounties and collecting Nephelim Rift Key Stone Fragments. Once you have collected five of them you can open a Nephilem Rift, which is basically a randomly generated instance filled with monsters from practically any act or chapter. You can find undead in a Desert landscape or Reapers in a Cathedral setting. The possibilities are endless. Be prepared though, because the sheer amount of enemies in Nephilem Rifts are massive and they tend to get overwhelming if you don’t keep your wits about you. Once you have killed a sufficient amount of mobs the Rift Guardian will appear and once defeated may drop some pretty cool loot and of course the possibility of more Blood Shards.
Getting back to Blood Shards. Do you remember a vendor from Diablo 2 called Gheed? Yes the one that absolutely no one liked. Well his daughter,Kadala makes her debut in Diablo 3 and she sells unidentified gear to you, which may or may not be good/better than what you currently have. And guess what, she is pretty much as unlikeable as her father. She only takes Blood Shards as currency, so be prepared to farm for these beauties if you want to play with lady luck, and we don’t mean Kadala.
Diablo 3 was known for its absolutely beautiful soundtrack and Reaper of Souls is no different in this department. I found myself stopping my adventure several times just to listen to some of the ambient background songs. Blizzard’s composers have really outdone themselves again. The music in question once again serves to enhance the already established atmosphere of doom and gloom and really adds to the immersiveness of the title.
Diablo 3 has been shaped and moulded by Blizzard over the years into something great. With the addition of several patches and in return several features that accompanied them, it geared up the title for what was to be one of the most well thought out Expansion Packs in Diablo’s storied history. Whereas the story could have been improved upon by a much more detail driven front-end experience, it more than gets made up for in its well thought out gameplay system. With the introduction of Loot 2.0 and Paragon 2.0, the game truly feels fresh and is once again as addictive as it was initially meant to be. The replayability factor has now climbed through the roof as a result. The Expansion is beautiful in its presentation and one can see that in this department especially, Blizzard really sat up and listened to its fans and really gave them something that they could love and enjoy. The audio in this game is simply superb. With an exemplary sound track and audio effects to compliment it, it truly is a joy to listen to this game. Adventure mode is simply a welcome addition and adds so much to an already established title. If you don’t have this game already, go and get it… NOW!
Lasting Appeal: 10/10