Blizzard is well known for making games that keep gamers hooked for months, if not years. World of Warcraft has a huge open world to explore, a world that is packed with lore and tons of quests. StarCraft II has the competitive and strategic edge to it, encouraging players to keep getting better and better. For me, what keeps players hooked to the Diablo franchise is the appeal of loot as well as the challenge of besting some of the toughest enemies.
While Diablo III was undoubtedly a great entry into the franchise, it did have its minor flaws and drawbacks. Reaper of Souls aims to rectify that by adding some nice new features and tweaks which will entice gamers back into the world of Sanctuary once more.
The expansion comes with a brand new act as well as a new playable class. The campaign picks up several months after the events of Diablo III where (plot spoiler, if you somehow didn’t see it happening) Diablo is defeated by the Nephalem. There is a new jerk on the block that comes in the form of Malthael, the Archangel of Wisdom as well as the Reaper of Souls. The story kicks off with you, The Nephalem arriving at the town of Westmarch, where all manners of chaos are underway thanks to this angel gone bad. The story brings with it completely new areas to explore as well as enemies to defeat, and it all made for a rather pleasant and refreshing change after having played through the original Diablo III campaign multiple times.
The new class is the Crusader, a spiritual successor to the old Paladin. This class specialises in tanking as well as supporting, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t pack a punch. The Crusader excels with shield in hand, and many skills complement the equipping of one. For example, one ability makes your attack give you an increased block amount by 50% for 5 seconds. One rune in this skill will have your shield exploding with 45% fire damage every time you successfully block. It’s pretty awesome to see in action when your screen fills up with dozens of mobs. The Crusader will soak up all the blows with the shield exploding periodically to provide some extra DPS. This class will be an almost essential necessity to parties looking to take on some of the harder difficulties, as there are some vital passive and support spells available too. At the moment though, the class seems just a teeny tiny bit overpowered with various abilities having runes with ridiculously long stuns or root durations.
One of best features that comes with the expansion is definitely the new adventure mode. If you played the original game, you will know that grinding through the campaign over and over again soon became incredibly tedious and dried up the overall game experience – it did for me at least. Adventure mode remedies this by allowing the player to use any of their characters to track down elite bosses across the world map, killing them for bounties. Fulfilling these bounties rewards you with experience, gold, loot, and blood shards; a new currency used to buy even more loot. There are no limitations, and you can level your character in this mode alone, all the way from level 1 through to 70 (up from the old 60 cap). The new level cap means that there are new skills and passives for your existing characters.
Throughout adventure mode, there is the chance for a rift keystone to drop. These are used to open up Nephalem rifts; randomly generated dungeons that are packed with a variety of different enemies taken from different parts of the game. Simply put, you could be running through a dungeon taken from New Tristam, but facing off against enemies that are taken from Bastion’s Keep (and other areas). These dungeon runs are highly enjoyable, needing you to kill a certain percentage of enemies before a random rift guardian boss is summoned. Defeating this boss will reward the player with more experience and gold, as well as a Horadric Cache; an item that’s drops even more loot.
Difficulty settings have had a bit of an overhaul too. There are now 5 to choose from; normal, hard, expert, master, and torment. The incentive for grinding away on a harder difficulty has certain benefits. Normal provides the baseline experience for the player, but if you ramp it up to master, you then get 200% extra gold and experience, double the reward for bounties, as well as the chance for legendary recipes drops.
The item drops themselves have had an overhaul too with the new Loot 2.0 system. Essentially, good loot won’t drop as frequently, but when it does there is a much better chance that it will be suited to your current character class. For those who are tired of running around in items that don’t match, as well as stats that don’t seem to fit with their chosen hero, Blizzard have thrown in an artisan who can transmogrify or enchant weapons (for a small fee of course). A player can pay to have their items transmogrified to look according to how they want it to look. They can also pay to have some stats of their weapons rerolled, giving the possibility of replacing an unnecessary stat with something more useful. For example, on one of my legendary shields for my crusader, I could choose to replace the stat that gives life regeneration. If I chose to do so, I would have a chance of replacing that particular stat with a better block chance. This allows a player to customise their item set down to the very minor stat details.
My only negative thought after my time with the beta is the ever annoying online requirement. Consoles don’t need it, right? So I can’t for the life of me understand why Blizzard is being so stubborn about the PC version. I often played with a ping that bounced from 350-2000ms, something that was highly infuriating especially when playing alone. Granted, I was having some issues with my line, but that’s my point. I should have the choice to play solo and disconnected if I want to, venturing into multiplayer when I know my line is stable and capable.
All in all, the beta is promising, and fans are really in for a treat when the final product arrives. If you’re a fan of the series, get ready for loot and legendaries, lots and lots and lots.