If you think the world of Sanctuary is safe, think again. After battling the forces of evil, you would think nothing would disturb the peace, right? You couldn’t be more wrong. The souls of many are on the line as the Angel of Death makes an appearance in Diablo III’s new expansion, Reaper of Souls. And after battling to save said souls, I am here to give a review of latest expansion to the Diablo universe.
Diablo III is a dark action RPG from Blizzard Entertainment. It encompasses the world, known as Sanctuary, and the battleground it has become for the forces of the High Heavens and the Burning Hells. The heroes that you play as are known as Nephalem, who are children of both Angel and Demon that seek to vanquish the evil that threatens the world. Seems like a fun place to live.
The expansion, Reaper of Souls, follows directly from the events of the original game. The vessel that holds the souls of all the leaders of the Burning Hells is to be sealed away forever, as no way of vanquishing it is known. However, it is forcefully claimed by Mathael, the now Angel of Death, who went missing from the arch angel order in the previous game. Thus, it is up to the hero(es) to battle the forces of death and stop his plans of reaping every soul in the world, in his efforts to destroy the Burning Bells once and for all.
With the release of the expansion, you gain access to Act V, whereby you continue the story and take on the forces of death, unlock the Crusader as a playable class, and are granted cool post-game content to extend the hours you play the game. Also included is the refined loot system that aimed to reward players using “smart drops”.
First of all, let’s talk about the new act. Following on from the previous game, you are guided to the city of Westmarch. This will be the centre stage for the story and provides a foundation where you can explore the besieged city itself, as well as the jungle areas of Bloodmarsh, the ancient Battlefields of Eternity, and the equally ancient Pandemonium Fortress. Each area is beautiful in design and feel, and in every way unique. The music also adds finesse to the grand stage and adds more character to the game. This level of quality has been carried over from the original title and it’s nice to experience.
As you go through the story, there is a lot of character development and back story to indulge in. However, this is not forced upon the player. If you wish to learn more about a certain character and their views as they develop through the game, you can do. You are not punished for ignoring the Paladin follower when he has tales to tell you. However, I have found that if you are a completionist you will have to listen to all of these tales and it can take a lot of time away from the game. However, despite that, the lore and stories obtained from these encounters are largely satisfying.
The new big baddies are, for the most part, hugely impressive. I personally bought the collector’s edition so I saw the design process of some of the characters and enemies before and after being put into the game. There were some spoilers in the art book but it did not take away the appreciation of good character and enemy design, especially Mathael. The main antagonist has traded his ethereal wings of light for ghostly bone wings, which accompanies a gothic, blade and claw attire. It is very fitting and suits the personality the developers have given him.
One thing I did take issue with, however, is the conclusion of the game. No spoilers included, I promise. As seen from official media and advertisement, Mathael is the Angel of Death which means it is nigh impossible to stop him. However, I don’t know how I feel about the game just giving me the means to beat him. It takes away the achievement of the impossible. Yes, you still have to fight for the achievement but it’s like saying, “that guy has an awesome mech… here have a mech”. Also, it seems like they could have done more with the character during the end section of the game in terms of power and abilities. Despite that, the lead up and battle was enjoyable and again, the music was marvellous. It will become more iconic as you battle it through the 10 difficulty levels… yes 10! It does seem very bloated, however, as it is mostly just a boost to experience and item finds.
Joining the roster of classes available to play is the Crusader. The class dons heavy armour and its armaments of choice are a tower shield and flail. At first glance, I thought the crusader would be just like your generic tank type character. Oh no, how wrong was I. I quickly found out when playing through Act I that this class is best described as a juggernaut. With the primary stats being strength and vitality, it ensures that you will hit hard and shrug off hard hits.
To back the stats, the crusader boasts some impressive skills. Ranging from single hitting and arcing melee attacks to utterly devastating bolts of lightning for ranged combat, the holy steamroller can be built for any battle. There are also possibilities of fulfilling any role of the golden trio, which are tank, damage dealer, and part support. In my opinion, this character is the most balanced and allows players with all different play styles to use him.
Aside from the mechanics, the visual style and feel of the class is awesome. Evidently based on real life crusaders but with small in-game differences, the roaming suit of armour steadily becomes more epic as the game goes on. It is very satisfying unleashing a holy bombardment from the sky whilst in radiant armour, wielding a menacing tower shield and blooded flail. One of my favourite upgrades to apply to the class is one that allows you to wield a two-handed weapon in one hand with a shield in the other. Bigger weapon, more damage.
On the topic of unleashing destruction upon your enemies, upon reaching level 61 with your character regardless of what it is, another skill will be unlocked. This skill is the final one you will obtain and is arguably the most powerful. For instance, the monk unlocks Epiphany whereby the resource regeneration is increased, so he can use more abilities in a short space of time, and his melee attacks instantly dash toward his target giving him the edge. These skills are not only mechanically remarkable, but visually impressive too.
Another addition to the game is the Enchanter. This artisan was cut from the original for reasons that are not known to me. But now she is back and I welcome her with open arms. The ability to change the stats and look of your equipment is a joy to use. For too long I have looked at my monk’s fist weapon and thought, “I wish I could re-roll you so you were holy… not poison!”. Now I can, albeit chance based.
You might be thinking, this is all well and good but the expansion only offers one more act compared to the four you begin with. This is true. However, to mitigate this there is quite a lot of post-game content. Upon finishing the main story in Act V, you are given the opportunity to enter Adventure Mode. This mode allows you to roam around the world to do your own thing as well as collecting bounties by completing certain tasks within the map. This might include defeating champions, a certain amount of enemies, or defeating previous Act bosses. And what comes with bounties? Treasure and rewards!
At first, I was a bit sceptical whether this would work. I thought it would be just a challenge mode where you would do speed runs and play in an elitist manner. I was pleasantly surprised. The bounty system is really fun and fresh, and definitely quenches a player’s thirst for loot.
Included in this loot and even rewards are Rift Shards. If you collect five of these, which is fairly easy to do, you can exchange them to open up a Nephalem Rift. These rifts are randomly inter-connected maps from the game that has a gauge for you to fill by defeating as many enemies as you can along the way through the rifts. This is also fun to play through as the enemies are not the usual ones you would find in the area and the environment has a strange tinge to it. If you fill the gauge, a Rift Champion will appear for you to defeat and if you manage to beat it… loot galore! You can repeat these rifts as long as you have rift shards to exchange for them to open.
Aside from new content, there are a few tweaks to the game that are introduced with the expansion. First of all, the paragon system has been changed so there is no cap on how many levels you can gain. Upon reaching level 70 you will start gaining paragon experience. Once you level up you can allocate points to increase various stats on your character. This is now account bound rather than character bound. This is good and bad in my opinion. It is good in the sense that your new characters can be given a boost to finish the story. It is bad in the sense that you lose a little bit of the joy of achievement if you allocate the points straight off. It would seem like it’s an unfair advantage over the game in the early stages. Regardless of this, the revamp seems logical and adds a fun dynamic to characters and the builds.
Another tweak is the loot system, and by god is it a welcome tweak. In the old system, there would be countless times where the loot you receive couldn’t even be used by your character. It was essentially salvage/merchant fodder. Now, the loot is smartly dropped and has an increased chance of being usable. This, for me, makes the game more enjoyable and makes the hours of clearing dungeons more worthwhile. Alongside this update, items have a chance of being a legendary item. These legendary items may have special battle effects or quirky properties. A legendary I picked up had the property that spawned a champion every time I used a shrine which is quite cool… more loot please.
In conclusion, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls is a joy to play. It has some niggling little issues but, it is fun, gripping, and all round a beautiful game. The visuals are expertly executed and the sound aspects meet the mark also. I highly recommend fans of the series to try Reaper of Souls, and the original if they haven’t already. For a closer look at the game, please head on over to the VGU youtube channel to see our Diablo III D20 run of the game. Game well.