Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls (review)

I feel an overwhelming sense of “meh” when it comes to 2014’s releases, save for a few like the new Smash Bros. However, for a select some, I’m very cautious in my excitement. I was ecstatic as all hell when Diablo 3 first released, then I was very disappointed. It’s not a bad game, but it missed a lot of potential. I played the game for a good 3-4 months before shelving it for the eventual expansion pack to come, and sure enough Blizzard came out with the trailer that’s on par with ridiculously polished looking videos:

So you can bet I was excited, but again, cautious. Thankfully, I didn’t need to be because this is exactly the kick in the ass that Diablo 3 sorely needed from the start.

Gameplay

Since I last played the game, EVERYTHING has been changed. Well, not everything, but about a good 80% of what the game was has been redone. Auction House is gone and “Loot 2.0” has been put in its place, meaning the drop rate for really good stuff has been increased dramatically. That’s actually a bit of an understatement because statistically, you can find at least 2 legendaries per act, at least in the playthrough I did with the expansion’s new class, the Crusader, but we’ll get to him in a minute. The “replay” difficulties of Nightmare and Hell are gone and instead a new difficulty system has been thrown in with the tiers Normal, Hard, Expert, Master and Torment, as well as enemies that level up as you do. Torment is also a bit deeper of a difficulty because of a little slider system that lets you adjust it from level 1 to level 6, and it is the easiest way to get a constant headache. To put it simply, you can get instakilled by a fart in Torment. And yes, that did happen during my test run of it.

Another new addition is the Adventure Mode, where you get a basic set of missions in various areas of the game, and they all involve mass slaughter, including a randomized bonus dungeon called the Nephalim Rift, which basically randomizes enemies in random dungeon locales for more chances at Legendary Loot. I happened to enjoy Adventure Mode a lot for 2 reasons: 1) It added a good chunk of replay value and 2) It really harkens back to memories of playing Gauntlent Legends for the N64.

Gauntlet06DL_Screen_Pojo

Nothing is as awesome or hilarious as Pojo dominating the battleground.

It also really emphasizes one of the huge advantages of this expansion pack, a good flow of improving loot, added replayability and of course, the chance to see how well you can plow through wave after wave of tough enemies.

The Paragon system is also an added bonus for replayability. When you reach the games cap of 70, you start gaining “Paragon” levels, letting you add more points into your stats in 4 Categories: Core, Offense, Defense, and Utility. These points are also spread across your other heroes so that way you don’t have to level each of your characters one by one to get the stat points.

The Crusader

The new class really is a spectacle: Tank, Bruiser and all around fun as hell. With obvious nods to the Paladins of Diablo 2 and World of Warcraft, the Crusader is a bulldozer with a shield, crushing enemies with sky lasers, heroic leaps and flying hammers while being able to tank everything being thrown at him. Overpowered? Quite possibly considering that his innate tanking ability coupled with a passive trait called “Wrathful” allows him to regenerate health with each ability use, indefinitely making him “almost” immortal, until you start amping the difficulty and finding out that the enemies can swarm and poke you down faster than you can attack.

These pauldrons are ridiculous but not as much as my Cobra Commander helm.

These pauldrons are ridiculous but not as much as my Cobra Commander helm.

The great thing about this class is his versatility in offensive and defensive tactics within his kit; you can go long range with his “Justice” attack, which more or less is just the Crusader throwing his hammer, and his “Fist of the Heavens” attack, which is pretty much a lightning strike with a gold tint. You can go short range with his “Punish” shield bashing attack and Captain America-style shield throwing that ricochets on contact ability called “Blessed Shield”. One of the few things in his kit that I didn’t enjoy is the “Steed Charge” ability, which basically summons a giant horse for the Crusader to ride through enemies. I’ve found that it doesn’t really do as much damage as you would think a giant etheral horse should do. The “Falling Sword” ability (a.k.a. Heroic Leap) has much better escape utility and damage, not to mention an added ability to summon minions for a few seconds.

Story and Everything Else

The premise, if you haven’t already guessed, is that the archangel Maltheal has deluded himself into thinking that death is the end all answer to everything. He steals the black soulstone from Tyreal just as he’s about to seal it away and starts killing people en masse and it’s up to you to beat him like a red-headed mule. I enjoyed the new area of Westmarch and it was a nice change of pace being able to go through an area besides jungle, desert and Tristram and see what an all scale attack on a city looks like in the Diablo universe.

The new enemies such as the Seraphs and Maidens bring a new challenge, especially in the higher difficulty settings where you can find yourself wailing on a Maiden but then watching your health get drained by the 15+ skeleton archers poking you from behind that she’s summoned, forcing you to backtrack but then suddenly getting killed when she teleports right in front of you and does a spinning attack out of nowhere.

There’s also a new crafting NPC named Myriam, who allows you to change certain stats to your items such as trading cold resist for armor. She also brings Transmorgification into the game, which allows you to change the look of all your items so that you don’t look like you’re wearing a clown suit. What I really liked about this feature is that like with the other crafting professions available, there was NO MICRO DLC for the unlockable looks of items! Meaning you actually have to work to unlock the cosmetic looks you want instead of just paying for them with real money.

unlock thing then and now

How sad is this?

All in all, you definitely get your money’s worth with this expansion pack. Though I do wish there was a little bit more like a movie ending cutscene instead of the “art transition” ending, as well as arena battles, additional areas,  or maybe an additonal class. The best part about this though is that if you don’t have the original Diablo 3, Bilzzard will still allow you to download a “demo” client, letting you try the game. Nowadays it is almost unheard of. Seriously when was the last time you got to try a demo of a game that was released?

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