It’s been almost two years since the release of Diablo 3’s base game, which was initially praised across the board for being a valiant new entry in the long running and incredibly successful franchise. Unfortunately, time wasn’t as kind. Issues with the game didn’t become apparent until months after release as players quickly tired of its poor loot system, simple character mechanics, silly story, dry level design and the controversial inclusion of the auction house. It’s safe to say that the game just wasn’t much fun, and its player base reflected that as numbers quickly began to dwindle. Fast forward to now, and we’re faced with the release of the game’s first expansion, Reaper of Souls. But, with its release there’s one question on every player’s mind: is the game fixed? The answer is a resounding yes. It’s not one-hundred percent yet seeing as there’s no legitimate trading system and the character options are still a bit too simplified, but after putting in my fair share of time since its release a week and a half ago, I’ve seen a renewed interest across the board, and it’s for a reason.
Loot – It’s Finally Fun to Find!
First thing’s first: the loot system. This is without a doubt the series’ bread and butter, and given the fact that it was so broken in the base game it’s refreshing to see it revamped and expanded upon the way it is now. I’ve played Diablo 3 on both PC and console (PS3), putting my fair share of hours into both, and though the console version did its best to fix issues with the loot system, RoS expands on it so much that it almost feels like an entirely different game. The game’s prized possessions, legendary items, have become relevant again. Gone are the days of grinding for gold, buying items on the auction house, crafting hundreds upon hundreds of useless items hoping for an upgrade, and staring in awe at terrible legendary drops with inadequate stat rolls.
With the auction house gone a new day has come and it has appeared in the form of loot 2.0. The update, which appeared a few weeks ago for the base game, has drastically changed the way items drop by making the game offer up ‘smart’ stats. This essentially dictate the statistics that will appear on found items based on the class you’re currently playing. For instance, if you’re strength based class then strength stats will appear more often, intelligence appears more for intelligence classes, etcetera. The same also goes for class specific items (bows are more common for Demon Hunters, sources are more common for Wizards, etc.). By incorporating this small tweak players are much more likely to find loot upgrades, adding to the overall sense of accomplishment, thereby fueling the addiction and keeping players going for longer.
That being said, the game isn’t easy, so you can do away with the hope that you’ll have your characters fully outfitted in just a couple of days. While legendries are now plentiful, RoS still requires a lot of play time to get items that will carry your character all the way to the hardest difficulties. But, Blizzard has made things a bit easier with the inclusion of a new NPC known as the Mystic. The Mystic is an artisan exclusive to the expansion that offers up two new ways to modify items: Enchant and Transmogrify.
Enchant allows players to modify one stat on any item, requiring a hefty sum of gold and crafting materials in exchange for the opportunity to select a stat and change it randomly to another stat on a pre-fixed list of options. It’s a fantastic addition that allows players to further customize their precious drops in a way that is specifically tailored to your play style. Need more of a critical hit chance? Swap out your strength stats. Need more of added weapon damage? Swap out that useless skill boost. The options and combinations are plenty.
Transmogrify is an entirely cosmetic enhancement, but it’s a fun one nonetheless. Say you find a legendary and really love what it offers to your character but you absolutely hate the way it looks. Worry not! You can change its appearance using transmogrify for a reasonable fee. But, of course there is a catch… You can only make it look like other items that you’ve found within the game world. It’s just another way that Blizzard has added a new level of customization to characters in Diablo.
There lurks one massive disappointment that comes paired with Diablo’s new loot system, and that’s the fact that legendaries, as well as all socketable gems are now account bound. There is one caveat to this though, and that’s the ability to trade with anyone in the game that was partied with you when the item was found. This is a fleeting opportunity though, and is limited time offer that expires after only a few hours. Once the timer dwindles to zero the item is forever bound to your account. I can understand why Blizzard implemented this system, but it takes away a large part of the appeal of continued farming. You can’t share your wealth with your friends, and you can no longer barter with strangers. Part of the appeal to me with other ARPG’s like Path of Exile and Diablo 2 was the ability to become a merchant of sorts. Offering up trades in chat and getting to know new people via an implemented barter system based on a community dictated currency was something I’ll miss immensely and I can definitely see it stripping away a large part of the game’s fun factor in the long run. On the other hand, if that means that I don’t need to get spammed with friend requests from gold farmers then I guess it’s not all bad.
New Character Class
The most prominent addition to the game, aside from the loot itself, is the inclusion of a new class, the Crusader. This new character is one that will definitely resonate with fans of the series, both feeling and controlling similarly to that of the Paladin in Diablo 2. The character focuses on wielding a one handed weapon and shield, has aura’s called Laws that offer up various passive boosts like attack speed and increased defense, and happens to have some seriously awesome other abilities that are thrilling when executed. His passive skills offer him one interesting advantage though, allowing him to wield a two-handed weapon in one hand by sacrificing movement speed.
The Crusader also has items that are only at his disposal. These come in the form of a shield and the flail, with the flail coming in both a one-handed and two-handed version. These items help to give the crusader a unique look that contributes to his dominant appearance on the battlefield. This, coupled with some of his truly awesome abilities, make the Crusader an awe inspiring addition to Diablo 3’s intense and frantic action.
Blizzard has brought some interesting back story to the Crusader as well. I don’t want to throw any spoilers in here, but if you manage to stumble across logs about the history of this new character you might find yourself as intrigued as much as I was. It seems to have struck a chord within the community as well, seeing as there are plenty of forum entries discussing the character’s background. The way Blizzard has made the story something to be found offers a great reward for players like me that wanted to explore every nook and cranny.
New Character Mechanics – To Level 70 and Beyond!
Reaper of Souls also increases the level cap to 70. Ten levels may not seem like much, and to be honest you’ll hit max level pretty quickly, but the incorporation of these new levels changes a lot of endgame behavior. Stats and damage are raised immensely, offering up some insanely high numbers, both received and dealt. For gear junkies, like myself, who love to see those damage numbers fly across the screen in games like this one, you should prepare for excitement. The first time my Wizard landed a critical hit above 10 million damage my mouth dropped and I bellowed my excitement at sound levels way higher than should be allowed in an apartment at that time of night.
But hitting 70 is just the beginning. The game’s newly revamped Paragon level system is pure genius. Paragon is a system of levels that begin as soon as you’ve reached the max level of 70 on any character. This is nothing new, seeing as it was added a while back in the base game, but now each level allows you to customize your character even further by rewarding you with a passive stat point that can be placed into a variety of alternating categories. Paragon also stretches across all characters in your account as long as they’re created in the same bracket (so don’t expect your hardcore characters to be on par with the paragon level of your normal ones). In addition, there’s no longer a Paragon level cap. Players can continue to grind to their heart’s content for as long as they like, continually adding points into categories for as long as they see fit. In a genius move by Blizzard, these points can also be reset on the fly, allowing players to change the way their points are laid out as often as they like with no penalty. This allows for constant readjustment of your passive stats to fit whatever fights you may encounter.
In addition, Blizzard has implanted a sort of synergy system and changed the way stats are counted, placing them in three streamlined categories. Items can come paired with new stats that amplify certain types of elemental damage, as well as interesting and incredibly powerful secondary abilities that will encourage the use of certain skills and play styles. This adds to variation, and offers players a very interesting new way to fine tune their characters as new items become available. It’s definitely not the same as being able to place points in a skill tree, but it’s an interesting new mechanic that will certainly help to change things up.
The new character stats are now divided into three main categories: damage, toughness, and healing. Each of these three categories are generated by the game by taking the average of a number of different factors, making it easier for players to analyze their gear and make decisions about its potential as an upgrade. I felt this addition was a bit unneccesary initially, and I sometimes found it frustrating when I couldn’t just inspect individual stats directly on items, but I got used to it as the gameplay went on, and I honestly don’t notice it as much anymore.
Act V and Adventure Mode
Reaper of Souls’ new Act is absolutely outstanding. The world, setting, story, events, and boss fights – especially the boss fights – are incredible. I really appreciated the improved attention to detail, especially when compared to the rest of the game. The dulled down color palate is quite a contrast when compared to the base game’s saturated color scheme, which truly heightens up the epic sense of the battles as the appearance of more colorful abilities splash upon the grey canvas of the world.
Events lay in wait everywhere on the map. As I progressed there were constantly caves to be found, holes to plunder, cellars to raid, and buildings full of people in need of saving. These made everything continue to feel fresh when the grind got to be a bit tedious. The story, while not amazing, was significantly better than the base game, feeling more grounded and dark. Everything felt direr and it really seemed to convey the message that there was a lot more at stake.
It only took me about five hours to complete the new campaign, but that was with me exploring every space I could. If I had played through just the main story missions, ignoring events and discovering new areas, I doubt it would have taken me more than two hours. But, once you’re done with the campaign there’s still more to do with the game’s inclusion of a new Adventure Mode. Upon creating a game in Adventure Mode players will find that they can engage in new quests, called bounties. By adding bounties, players can complete a specified quest, often pitting them again rare monsters, or offering up the task of partaking in a unique event. This new inclusion is a way for players to jump in and out of games easily, dicing up the action, and offering the player the ability to finally hop freely between acts. You can stay in games for as long as you want cruising through bounties and grinding for loot caches, or you can just kill for 10 minutes and still receive rewards in the form of huge boosts in experience and tons of gold. There’s an incentive in place for players who want to finish out all the bounties in an act, though, often siginificantly improving the rewards and adding loot cache’s and blood shards.
Rifts can also be explored. Once players have collected enough keystones, gained by completing bounties in Adventure Mode, these new portals can entered, opening up a playground full of high density areas that are a blast to grind. Monsters are constantly changed, and the areas are randomly generated to offer up a totally different experience each and every time. Once you’ve killed enough enemies inside the rift a random boss fight ensues offering up a fairly high chance for legendaries and gems.
Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls is an outstanding addition to the game, fixing a lot of the problems that plagued the first. It looks and feels different both in scope and style. Mechanics, a new loot system, increased focus on story and setting, and the incorporation of an entirely new class hasn’t just given the game a new coat of paint, it’s totally renovated the experience. Losing the auction house created a ripple effect that has been overwhelmingly positive for players and community. There’s still more to go in order for this title to truly get back to the top, but I think most fans of the series will agree that this is a huge leap forward for the series. With worries tempered by all the brilliant inclusions there’s really one thing left to ask: why wasn’t the game this good the first time around?