Diablo III: Reaper of Souls review: Expansion to popular adventure game checks all of the boxes on your wishlist
Diablo III () was a good-but-not-great dungeon crawler that managed to infuriate old fans and failed to satisfy critics clamoring for Blizzard to once again raise the bar. The game demonstrated the well-worn formula of dungeon crawling: you kill dozens of increasingly exotic enemies, find loot, sell it in town, and then repeat. Diablo III disappointed many because it didn’t push the genre in any new directions; it simply kept to its formula but did it very well.
Blizzard’s new expansion pack, called Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, is similarly solid without being spectacular. It checks all of the boxes on your expansion wishlist.
Blizzard doesn’t like to simply add a new chapter to its games, but just as it has with World of Warcraft, a new expansion also signals a revamp of the entire game. So Reaper of Souls isn’t just a new chapter in the Diablo universe, but a patch that addresses several issues with the first.
Gone are the old tiered health potions, the Normal, Nightmare, Hell, and Inferno modes, and the old randomized loot system. In their place we have the same health potions that work for all classes, enemies that scale with the player’s level (higher tiers are more challenging, however) and Loot 2.0, which basically ensures that you’re more likely to get loot that is useful for your class and of better quality, but less of it.
For the most part, these revamps make the game much more streamlined and your inventory less cluttered. I didn’t have to make as many trips to town to sell equipment I was never going to use, and never grew frustrated that the legendary item I had found was for the wrong class. Of course, in the polishing process, classes and powers get nerfed, but the overall Diablo package is undeniably much more well-rounded and shinier.
There’s also a new NPC character, the mystic, who lets you remix some of your weapons’ skills or change the appearance of an item, giving the player more freedom and control of their look and playing style. Now my Demon Huntress has a sleek all white look and doesn’t keep getting saddled with a ridiculous pointy helmet.
Though I’ve yet to meet someone who plays Diablo for the writing or plot, Reaper of Souls expands on and furthers the Diablo story in a predictable but fun way. The Nephalem player character, after defeating Diablo, now must confront the twisted Angel of Wisdom, Malthael, refashioned as the Angel of Death. Spoiler alert: You’ll get to revisit some of the iconic locations of previous Diablo games (in new forms), meet new creatures (grim reapers, ghosts, zombies, monsters, demons), and then kill them. Since this is Blizzard we’re talking about, the expansion had the potential to tell several new and interesting stories (further exploring the revolution in Westmarch, the templar order’s corruption, who replaces the emperor in Caldeum, etc.) but instead settled on one very boring one.
The new act took me a few hours to burn through, and it only took me likely about 5 hours to upgrade my character from level 60 to 70, the new level cap. Some of the new levels have some great set pieces, including a battle in the a town square of Westmarch, a satisfying showdown with an old enemy in the blood marshes, and a final dungeon that is a great throwback to earlier Diablo titles.
There are misses, too. The blood marshes themselves are a generic swamp with some of the more annoying enemies and obstacles the Diablo series has offered, and the new content seems short on imagination and variety.
Reaper of Souls has a new class to play, the Crusader. He/she occupies a tank role similar to the barbarian, but with great crowd control and toughness bonuses—making it a favored class for parties.
The biggest addition, aside from the new chapter in the campaign, is Adventure Mode. Adventure Mode is unlocked after completing the campaign and tasks you with completing certain bounties across the entirety of the Diablo III chapters. You can go kill the Butcher Boss in Act 1 or clear out a specific cave of enemies, for example. These are good short bursts of action, a kind of “best of” tour of Diablo 3, and completed bounties earn you coin and experience. After completing enough bounties, you’ll unlock a Nephalem Rift, which is a randomized dungeon with a hyper-strong enemy at the end. It’s a great way to earn high quality loot.
While these are great fun for high-level players who want to further deck-out their characters, they also only come after you’ve beaten the game. Essentially, they’re incentives for core Diablo players to stick around but there’s no specific end goal or pay-off other than loot. This is fine for some who simply want more ways to play the game and make their character better, but others will likely clamor for an end-game.
Blizzard has been good in the past about patching launch issues, but the version I’ve been playing has a great deal of bugs and issues to address. The game crashes during loading and some of the loot drops are infuriating—craftable items that require hundreds of materials to make and common white items (you’ll likely dispose of) are often bizzarrely not labelled as crafting materials—creating some needless headaches. In other words, the item crafting system has become much more robust, but a lot more unwieldy.
Now that Blizzard killed the auction house, these game issues are much more glaring: you simply can’t just rely on other players (especially with legendary equipment) to help you the same way you could. The auction house had issues (allowing players to use real money would be at the top of my list) but it provided a way for players to sell equipment they weren’t using to players who didn’t want to spend the hours farming to find the randomly dropped items.
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls isn’t likely to attract new players to the Diablo universe, but it has plenty for dungeon crawler fans out there who want another excuse to level grind, loot, and explore. Hate the genre all you want, there’s no denying its addictive qualities.