For me, and several other fans of the genre, Diablo 3 was somewhat of a disappointment. Yes, it was fun to run through the new game with friends, and the once again on a higher difficulty to see how bad your gear and character build really was. Past that, it became a terrible slog through obtaining gear that would never drop, and when it did, would have terrible or even non-applicable stats to your class or build in the same areas you have played through a billion times before. If this wasn’t bad enough, there was also the ever present threat of the Auction House, the failed experiment that ruined the very nature playing a Diablo game. With the release of Reaper of Souls, those problems are cast into the flames of hell and replaced by a divine new loot system, interesting new endgame areas to play, an entire new act to the story and a fun new class to see it all with.
Reaper of Souls puts you back destined world saving (probably legendary) armour of the Nephalem. You are, once again, tasked with dealing with Diablo, this time via the Black Soulstone which contains his soul and is now in the possession of Malthael, the Archangel of Death. This all sounds very ominous, but it devolves into the name of the final boss and the fact that they probably had to mention Diablo at some point in this game. Let`s be honest, the story is tertiary to anything else in this game. What you come to Diablo for is the shiniest of loot drops.
Ever since my return to the world of Diablo, and the implementation of the Loot 2.0 system, I have noticed a dramatic change in the wonderful items and character development systems that make ARPGs such a joy to play. This new system makes it so that not only will you find legendary items more frequently, but they are much more likely to be suited to your class, with stats matching your required needs to develop your character. This makes the game incredibly rewarding and enjoyable to play, as you will now see your Nephalem start as a lowly man with nothing to his name, to a god among men, with gold trimmed armour and the biggest sword in the land by his side.
This new system is also aided by the addition of the new artisan (crafter) NPC, the Mystic. She provides you with the ability to transmogrify your items to look those new swanky legendaries you have found, but also, and perhaps more importantly, the ability to re-roll one stat on any given item. Find that perfect ring, but just wish it had crit damage instead of strength? Hit up the mystic, she`ll treat you right. It also means that you can start tailoring gear to your build, with items that seem good on paper but missing one key stat being easily fixed for the cost of some gold and crafting items.
These new systems are presented with the new act, which provides gorgeous and grander new environments to find gear in. These range from a gothic city to an ancient ruin surrounded by ethereal energy. All of this is in stark contrast to Diablo 3`s palette swapped, cramped, hallway-like maps, which got incredibly boring incredibly quickly. Note also has to be mentioned to the music in these new areas. Swelling orchestral in larger areas, like the city, contrast solo violin pieces in the more isolated areas to provide excellent ambiance throughout the entire 5 hour experience.
What better way to see these environments, and re-visit the old ones, than with a new class, the Crusader. At time of writing this review, I have not had enough time to experiment entirely with the holy knight, but I am told by those more experienced with the game mechanics that they appear to be one of the most flexible classes in the game. Most roles appear to be able to be filled by the crusader, with their ability to both be a traditional beefy shield-wielding tank, to a slightly more DPS style with the ability to hold two-handed weapons in one hand, thanks to a passive ability. This gives another excuse to level a brand new character and start again, as if the new systems don’t do that enough already.
If you choose not to start you journey over, there are plenty of new end game tasks to accomplish, namely nephalem rifts and bounties. Rifts provide new maps filled with high level monsters and packs to clear out. Once completed, a rift guardian spawns, a super powered boss which takes real strategy and planning to take down successfully. After a successful fight, you are rewarded with a large XP and gold bonus. Bounties take maps from the campaign, and tasks you with completing a given objective. This can be “kill x number of enemies” to “beat x boss”. 5 bounties per zone means this is a fairly large undertaking, especially on high difficulties, but you are rewarded for your efforts. As before you are given a large gold and experience bonus, but, you are also given a horadric cache, a usable item containing all manner of goodies, and, normally, the materials to open a nephalem rift, just too keep you in the end game content loop that little bit longer.
Reaper of Souls is the game I wanted Diablo 3 to be at launch. A fulfilling experience that is both fun and rewarding to play, with amazing synergy between different class builds and the new loot system providing that endorphic hit that you want from finding that new piece of gear. All this builds into a game that wants you to keep playing, with several new end game options to keep you coming back. I am genuinely surprised at what Blizzard has done with Diablo. What started as a mark on one of the most respected series in PC gaming history, as be altered into something that lives up to the title. Rejoice ARPG fans. The series on which this genre made its name is back, and you’ll not want to leave it for a very long time.