Diablo 3 launched two years ago to mixed response from hardcore fans and newcomers alike. Since that time there has been an array of changes to the game that never really turned it into the ‘new generation of dungeon crawler’ that many were hoping for.
This all changed recently with the expansion Reaper of Souls and the massive rework 2.0 patch that accompanied it.
Most significantly has been the removal of the in game auction houses. These allowed players to sell items to other players for both in game and real world currencies. The inclusion of this feature had forced Blizzard to drastically reduce drop rates on items, in turn providing a much less rewarding experience for players than the previous iterations of the franchise. Replacing this core feature is the concept of account bound items similar to MMO games such as World of Warcraft or Guild Wars 2.
Whilst this again aggravated some sections of the community by placing strong restrictions on trading, the increased drop rate of rare / legendary tier items makes the game immediately more gratifying to the player.
The Loot 2.0 system also specialises loot drops to be more closely targeted to your class, with both item types and the stats that they hold typically being useful to the hero. The player will still find themselves ‘Loot-Blocked’ at harder difficulties, forcing them to grind out better gear in order to proceed, however this is now a more targeted and rewarding experience as you search specific new items that you need, rather than just farming gold to buy the item that someone else found. When the item you are looking for does drop, it’s a rush, a rush that clicking ‘Buy’ just doesn’t provide. No matter what the women in my life tell me.
The Black Soul Stone has fallen from the heavens during the end of the base game and has been stolen. The once-missing Archangel of Wisdom provides the nemesis for the 5th chapter of the Diablo 3 story, ramping up the tension as once again the world’s fate is held in the balance. The plot is fairly standard Diablo fare, nothing you won’t see coming but somehow making you want to see it happen anyway. This is helped significantly by the ghoulish art direction that paints a much bleaker picture than the ‘rainbows and unicorns’ of bright hellish art seen in the base game.
The new Crusader class that was hinted at through lore books in the original campaign provides a surprisingly entertaining new play-style for the game. Wielding a two handed sword in one hand and a shield in the other they are a mobile, melee dps fighter that lacks the durability of the monk or barbarian classes. Instead they enjoy the ability to quickly to burst into the fight and escape out that can result in many hilarious turns of events.
Reaper of Souls also makes some welcome additions to the Diablo 3 core gameplay, adding extra spice as you push to the new level cap of 70. A new crafter that allows you re-roll one of the stats of an item synergises well with the new loot system. This allows you to change that, almost-but-not-quite, Bastard Sword into the Apocalyptic Doom-Bringer that you always knew it could be.
A bounty of new items and Easter eggs will also keep treasure hunters laughing for hours (I’m looking at you “Halcyon’s Ascent.”) Nephilim rifts, accessed by killing special elite enemies called rift wardens, place the heroes into a fully randomised instance that requires them to kill a given number of enemies until the rift guardian spawns. These add some nice variety whilst also providing a higher chance of rare loot drops.
As well as overhauls and new features, minor changes to existing features also provide new life to the game.
Paragon Levels (bonus levels above the level cap) are now shared across all characters on your account, removing some of the more excessive grind from the game so that players can enjoy a variety of characters rather than just focusing on one.
Overhauled difficulty levels mean that no longer are new players forced to play an entire campaign on (too) easy difficulty and are only locked out of the successive Torment tiers of difficulty that are aimed at players over the level cap.
As a friend of mine once told me: “not many great games were that way at launch.” While he was referring to a certain popular Turn Based Strategy franchise, the adage fits quite well to Diablo 3.
Coming from prestigious heritage, the core Diablo 3 game struggled to live up to the legacy.
With Reaper of Souls I feel like the game has finally come of age, although it may have come too late for a disillusioned audience faced with an increasing array of competing titles more closely targeted towards their various niches.