Review: Diablo III: Reaper of Souls

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If Breaking Bad has taught me anything, it is that pure, refined addiction comes in many forms. Like regular meth, Diablo III had a pretty strong hook with some serious side effects. Being able to buy items from the auction house took a lot of fun out of doing runs at the end because there was always the option to simply buy what you wanted. With the auction house existing, the idea of replaying the end game over and over again was diminished because items could be fairly readily acquired (as long as you were willing to pay the ridiculous prices). I’m pretty sure Heisenberg was hired by Blizzard, because the typical addictive hook that Diablo III provided has been taken off the streets and replaced with pure blue crystal meth in the form of the expansion, Reaper of Souls.

Patch 2.0.1 was released almost a month before Reaper of Souls became available. What the patch brought to the table was an overall redesign of the loot table drops and the difficulty settings, and prepared the removal of the auction house. I logged back into Diablo III after 2.0.1 was released to see what the fuss was about, and it was like playing a whole new game.

Difficulty settings have been revamped and now include five levels: Normal, Hard, Expert, Master and Torment. For new players jumping in, Master doesn’t unlock until the game has been completed at least once through, and Torment doesn’t unlock until level 60 has been reached by at least one character. Torment then adds further levels of difficulty by offering a slider to set the difficulty from Torment I through VI. Each increased level of difficulty provides tougher enemies that do more damage with their attacks (naturally), as well as provide a greater percentage of gold, XP, and rare and legendary item drops.

Prior to patch 2.0.1, XP earned after 60 added a limited progression in the form of Paragon leveling that at least offered some incentive to continue grinding the endgame. Post patch, XP earned after 60 takes the notion of Paragon levels and includes a meta-boost across all created characters, similar to the Badass Points in Borderlands 2. Each level of Paragon earned allows a point to be applied to four stat sections, including Core, Attack, Defense, and Utility. These core sections then offer more choices to spend the points across stats such as Strength, Intelligence, Percent Chance to Crit, Area Damage, Resistance bonuses, etc. Similar to how skills can be swapped out on the fly for each character, Paragon points can be reset for a character to help rebalance a particular set of attributes. What is really cool in my opinion is how Paragon points earned and spent on one character aren’t diminished or lost on another character. Meaning, my level 70 Barbarian has earned 28 points and when I started a new Crusader, that character had 28 Paragon points to use as well.

Now enter Reaper of Souls, which has introduced a whole new campaign act. As The Prime Evil was defeated in Act IV of the main game, a new evil–none other than Death–heads up the conflict in Act V. Malthael was once one of the high ranking angels of Heaven, but through conniving and selfish acts done to and by Malthael, his soul became dark, twisted, and consumed with wanting to find where the other angels had hidden the Worldstone. Thus the game changes locations once again to a besieged castle town Westmarch, which leads the nephalem hero (in my case my a Barbarian) to stop Malthael. The journey continues from Westmarch through Briarthorn cemetery, the Ruins of Corvus, the Battlefield of Eternity, and concludes in Pandemonium Fortress. Act V is a deep and satisfying extension to the original campaign that provides a fitting denouement for the three followers, as well as Shen (the jewel artisan) and Haedrig (the blacksmith). Act V also introduces Myriam, a new artisan who can modify a stat on any item, and a new playable class, the Crusader. Once Myriam is unlocked for a higher character, she appears in all of the previous acts and offers new lines of dialog and interactions in the first four chapters. The Crusader class also has been retrofitted into the entire game and there are plenty of new books to discover throughout the course of the original campaign.

After playing through Act V with my Barbarian and reaching the new level cap of 70, I decided to give the Crusader a spin. The Crusader can be viewed as a Paladin of sorts as he is a devout follower of Zakarum and his skills are a mix of protection and healing buffs and attacks of righteous judgment with proficiencies in heavy armor and new weapons like flails. Playing a new class from the beginning always felt like a chore prior to Reaper of Souls; the leveling always felt slow and plodding. With the option of increasing difficulty right from the start, XP bonuses apply and thus leveling occurs much quicker and a wider collection of the spells and abilities unlock at an accelerated pace, making the early sections feel much less of a grind.

As of this writing I’ve managed to bring my new Crusader through the first four acts and have had a lot of fun exploring the different skills; however, I have also been torn by where to spend my focus within Reaper of Souls. Adventure Mode is the new endgame feature which unlocks once Malthael has been dispatched. Adventure Mode offers a fast paced set of bounties that are random in each session and provide quick tasks and a bevy of loot. Each act has five random locations on the map that can be instantly teleported to with a variety of tasks required for completion. Some tasks require you to kill a named rare enemy or 50-100 normal enemies in a given location. Once the given bounty is complete, the next area can be immediately teleported to, and the cycle continues. After all five bounties are completed a Horadric cache loaded with loot is offered up as a reward.

During the course of completing these bounties, Nephalem key shards are also collected to be used for entering Nephalem Rifts. These rifts are random and offer a similar incentive of killing a number of enemies until a meter fills up, at which point an elite boss will spawn in. The reward loop for completing bounties and then rifts is the perfect addiction. Each bounty can be fairly quickly completed. Rifts can take as little as 15 minutes, but my experience has put them closer to 40 minutes each. Of course, all the while running through bounties and rifts, XP is being earned to increase the Paragon leveling which provides further boosting across all characters. Between the XP gain, the loot drops (there is a high chance of legendary or set gear dropping), the endgame found in Reaper of Souls is the closest thing a video game can be to Heisenberg’s blue meth.

Blizzard didn’t stop there either. Reaper of Souls also adds an in-game community feature where guilds can be formed to help farm the high difficulty bounties. Joining a friend or guildmate’s game is seamless and easy. When legendary items drop for guildmates the item is announced in guild chat (which is one more incentive to keep playing).

There were many fans of Diablo II that didn’t like what was originally introduced in Diablo III. While it has taken almost two years, Blizzard has pulled out many of the less than fantastic components of Diablo III and added a truly addictive and fun endgame with the recent patch overhaul and the Reaper of Souls expansion. Even without buying Reaper of Souls, Patch 2.0.1 has revamped the core experience enough to make the game worth revisiting. The new content in Act V plus the repeatable, random bounties and rifts only make the decision to expand your experience with Reaper of Souls a no-brainer. Sorry, Heisenberg, Blizzard is the one who knocks this time.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Adventure Mode, bounties and rifts strengthen the endgame addiction
+ New artisan and Crusader class integrate across all acts
+ Act V offers a deep story and new locations to explore
+ Guild support

Cons:
– Loss of sleep due to staying up really late

Game Info:
Platform: PC
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: 3/25/2014
Genre: Action RPG
ESRB Rating: Mature
Players: 1-4
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.