Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Review


Malthael
 
Almost two full years after the launch of Diablo III comes the highly anticipated launch of it’s first expansion, Reaper of Souls. Diablo III had a fairly controversial launch, plagued with server errors and not a whole lot of end game replayability. Since day one Blizzard has been focused on perfecting Diablo III so it wouldn’t fall in the shadow of it’s predecessor. They have finally succeeded. Featuring a whole new act, a new class, 10 new levels for each class, new abilities, a revamped loot system, enhancements to the paragon system, an enchanter, and adventure mode to help players on their never ending quest for loot; Reaper of Souls is the best thing to happen to Diablo III since it’s launch.
 

Reaper of Souls box art Diablo III: Reaper of Souls
 
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Platforms: PC(reviewed), PS4, XBOne
Released: 3/25/14
Verdict: No one can stop death!
Score: 9/10

 
One of the biggest complaints about Diablo III, from the vocal minority, was the lightened tone of the series. Diablo III featured a fairly varied palate compared to that of the blacks and greys of previous entries. Instead of everything being dark and desolate, we were treated to occasional vibrant colors and environments. This helped avoid a stale feeling as we progressed from outdoor area to dark tomb and so on. However, since it was a complaint it had to be fixed, and fixed it was. Act V features no bright colors save for swirling energy wisps in the background. All of Westmarch, where the majority of Act V takes place, is covered in darkness. The streets are lined with the bodies of fallen humans. Houses are filled with people fearing for their lives. It’s as if Act III, the Bastions Keep sections anyway, takes place in a city instead of a soldiers stronghold. You get a true sense of desperation as you make your way from t/he streets of Westmarch to the once majestic Pandemonium Fortress. It really feels like the series took a complete 180 in terms of aesthetics and tone.
 
Westmarch
 
The plot also takes a small leap forward, but I really mean small. It doesn’t make much sense that one of the the Archangels, especially since it wasn’t Imperius, succumbs to the dark power held within the Black Soulstone. Sure Malthael is the Archangel of Death, so it’s only natural that he would want to kill everything that threatened his great city in the heavens, but for him to fall to the powers of darkness just doesn’t make sense. Imperius seemed like a much easier target to fall for corruption, but Blizzard went a different route. On the up side, the way the plot is presented far outshines that of Diablo III. The optional logs give deeper insight into the major players in the conflict and help you understand why Malthael is the big baddie this time around. The city itself is rife with optional side quests and events to help you get into the story and the tone. It all sort of mashes together for a fantastic feel that really works on levels far beyond what was possible in Diablo III.
 
World Map
 
Being an expansion we have to expect some new ways to play, not just new places to play in. So as expected we’re treated to class #6, the Crusader. The Crusader has been likened to the Paladin of Diablo II in a few reviews I’ve read. Stating that it fills in the space of support character that was lacking in the current roster. The problem with that statement is that the Monk existed as the support character. I know, it’s a silly argument, but something I felt worth pointing out. There are plenty of similarities between the Diablo II Paladin and the RoS Crusader, but the feel is very very different. The Crusader plays more like a Barbarian with Monk support abilities thrown in. It’s a great class to have in a group, but not exclusively a support class. The Crusader feels slow, hits hard, and has a ton of defense. They can really take a massive beating, and the entire time receiving buffs to damage or defense solely for blocking attacks with their massive shields. The Crusader is a full on power house, a tank, and a great support class all rolled into one.
 
Reaper of Souls - Crusader
 
New characters aren’t the only way to add to the way we play, and Blizzard knows that. They increased the level cap to 70, bumping it by 10 levels. Of course new levels means new skills. Every class is rewarded 1 new skill, 5 runes for that skill, 3 new passive skills, and (best of all) another passive skill slot! The new skills for each class actually feel worthwhile, not like they were just tacked on. The new passives and passive skill slots create a plethora of new options for skill builds. It’s funny, when I think back to playing Diablo III a few months ago, or even last year, I don’t remember changing my skills all that much. I found the abilities I liked and stuck with it. Since playing RoS I have changed my build for my Wizard at least 6 times. It’s barely been a week. One of the biggest factors to prompt build changes are the new Legendary and Set items, but I’ll get to those in a minute. Back to skills it’s important to point out that as of Patch 2.0, which launched about a month before RoS launched, a majority of the skills received massive overhauls. An example would be the addition of the FROZEN ORB rune, on the Arcane Orb skill for the Wizard. That’s right, I said Frozen Orb people! It’s back! These changes are not exclusive to RoS, vanilla Diablo III players can take advantage of these as well. However to reach level 70, and use the rewarded new skills, you will need to upgrade to Reaper of Souls.
 
FROZEN ORB
 
Another feature added with Patch 2.0, which can be taken advantage of by everyone, is Loot 2.0. The advantages of Loot 2.0 on RoS vs DIII is the ability to obtain higher level gear, and new gear is available only after level 61 is reached. Otherwise, Loot 2.0 is the same on both versions of the game, but it is highly recommended that you purchase Reaper of Souls to get the best loot possible. But what is Loot 2.0, and why should you care? Well, the simple answer is it’s everything awesome ever. The long answer. . . well, it’s a lot. To start every Legendary and Set Item has a chance to drop at every level, except those only available after level 61 (because then you wouldn’t need Reaper of Souls). This means that that awesome wand that you got a level 15 that gives you the ability to summon multiple Hydra’s at once has a chance to be awesome again when it drops for you at level 70. This opens up a wide variety of new gear. The next change is that all Legendary and Set Items have had their stat caps raised above that of Magic and Rare Items of the same level. This means the Legendary and Set Items are actually worthwhile. Beyond that most Legendary and Set Items have been redesigned and enhanced with new custom appearances and abilities. Some have higher caps on certain stats, others have silly ability to make for amusing play, but most importantly a lot of them increase the usefulness or significantly alter a skill. Like using Energy Twister? Get yourself a Valthek’s Rebuke which ensures that Energy Twister only travels in a straight line. Enjoy the splendor of Seismic Slam? Keep an eye out for Fury of the Vanished Peak which drops the Fury cost of Seismic Slam by 40-50%! The last bit of Loot 2.0 is the key portion of it’s usefulness. The biggest issue that plagued Diablo III before Loot 2.0 was the inability to get useful loot on a frequent basis. Instead many players resorted to surfing the Auction House for the best gear since anytime an item dropped it could roll stats useful for any class, or no class. Loot 2.0 addresses this concern by introducing Smart Drops. Every Item has a chance to be a Smart Drop. There is no way to tell if an item is a Smart Drop or not, it’s all on the backend. But what you will notice is that a large majority of the items dropping will roll with stats that are at least somewhat useful for you. Again not everything will be perfect for you, but you’ll find a lot more +Dex items as a Demon Hunter then you will as a Wizard.
 
Enchanting
 
Patch 2.0 also introduced a redesign of the Paragon System that was introduced back in 1.0.4. The Paragon System was initially an additional 100 levels for your characters to attain. Each level granted a few stat increases (no different than regular levels up) but also added 3% Magic and Gold find. That second part was the big deal. At Paragon 100 your character received a 300% bonus to magic find, which is the hidden stat that is supposed to increase the likelihood of finding higher quality items. I personally never really noticed a difference, but some did. Well, Blizzard saw an opportunity with the Paragon System, and so a redesign was in order. Instead of being character based, the Paragon System is now Account Based. Every character gains Paragon Experience for the account when it reaches level cap (60 for Diablo III, 70 for Reaper of Souls). When a Paragon Level is gained every character on the account is given 1 Paragon Point to spend in one of 4 specific category. Each category has 4 different stats to raise, some with a maximum of 50 points, others with no maximum. You can spend the points differently on each character, and the selections are not permanent. This system is genius! It grants the players a further ability to customize their characters without forcing Blizzard to fully redesign the way the game plays. Some stats seem like insignificant changes, but in the long run you’re looking at nearly 10% increase in attack speed, 10% run speed, 50% crit damage, 5% crit chance and so much more. The only draw back is the inability to raise Magic Find. One of the greatest additions of this system is the ability for new characters to start with higher than normal stats because of the bonus Paragon levels. It really adds a whole new dynamic to the endgame of Diablo III and Reaper of Souls.
 
Paragon
 
Before I get into Adventure Mode and how it has really changed the way I play Diablo III I want to bring up the Mystic. The Mystic is the fabled 3rd crafting artisan teased way back before Diablo III was released. The Mystic was pulled out because it didn’t make sense to allow a character to enchant an item when you could just add a gem to it. As of Reaper of Souls, it makes so much sense! The Mystic is introduced during the events of Act V, and when she finally sets up shop you’re open to a ton of new options. First is the ability to Transmogrify any item. Transmogrify is a fancy way to say “change the appearance of”. If you find a really powerful new weapon, but don’t like the way it looks, you can Transmogrify it to look like a different weapon of the same type that you like better. I have noticed that some items can’t be Transmogrified, and others fall into some very specific categories, but in general it’s a really cool feature. You can finally control they way you look beyond changing the color of your clothes. The other purpose served by the Mystic is Enchanting. Enchanting is handled so well here, and it’s absolutely fantastic. You can’t add stats to items. So don’t think you can find a new white weapon and add a bunch of stats you like until it’s perfect. Nope. Instead you can re-roll any 1 stat on any item as many times as you want, for a cost. Let’s say, as a Wizard, you find a legendary weapon with +Int, +Vit, +Crit Chance, +Damage to Arcane Torrent, +Monster XP, and a Legendary Only Stat. I’m sure you’d consider it, but your weapon is near identical save for the Legendary Stat that just sounds so cool, on top of that you HATE Arcane Torrent. What do you do? Well, you don’t have to compromise now. You can bring this weapon to the Mystic, and re-roll the stat you least like. In this case it’s Arcane Torrent, but realistically it could be anything except that Legendary stat. You can get an idea of what possible stats you will receive when re-rolling with the click of a ? to the right of the stat. After rolling you’re granted the choice to stick with the same stat, or choose from 1 of two new stats. There’s so much possibility here, it’s nuts! Just yesterday I raised my DPS by over 50% simply by re-rolling a stat on a weapon and getting a socket. We wanted more control over our characters, now we have it!
 
Transmogrify
 
Ok, I feel like I’ve been going on forever here, but there’s just one more (albeit awesome) feature to touch on: Adventure Mode. Previously, to grind for items in Diablo III you had to find an area you liked, run it, quit the game and start again. On top of that, if the area you liked happens to be part of the story you may end up replaying all of the silly cutscenes which can be an interruption in play. Lastly, if you liked Act II but decided to jump into Act IV you had to quit the game, change your quest, and jump into Act IV. It wasn’t intuitive. It wasn’t fun. It was exhausting. Adventure Mode makes things fun. First, it opens up the entirety of the game to travel through waypoints. You aren’t restricted to a specific act now, you can go where you want and pursue the enemies you want when you want. The freedom is great, but it also removes all story elements from the game. No need to mash the ESC key when you wander into the Skeleton Kings crypt. Just run in and wreck him! The next addition is Bounties. There are 5 bounties, randomly generated at the time of game creation, added to each act. Bounties can show up in the form of completing an event, clearing a dungeon, killing a specific monster, or activating a cursed chest/shrine. Completing a bounty rewards bonus XP and Gold, which is always good. You can also receive Blood Stones or Rift Keystone Fragments. Completing all of the Bounties in an Act rewards the player with a Horadric Cache. The Horadric Cache is just an extra chance to get some bonus items. Gems, crafting items, random loot, and Legendary Items are all possible to obtain from a cache. On top of all the rewards received for completing bounties and opening the caches we have Blood Stones and Rift Fragments. Blood Stones can be traded to Kadala, a new vendor found in every Act hub. She will trade you a random item for a certain number of Blood Stones, usually 5. It’s like the Gambling feature in Diablo II, but you get to specifically target the type of item you want. Wizard Sources are only 5 Shards, so I’ve been spending a ton of Shards on those. Rift Keystone Fragments allow you to open an Nephalem Portal through the Nephalem Obelisk found at every Act hub. A Nephalem Portal is a portal to a randomly generated dungeon. Each dungeon can be from 1 to 10 floors and features a random location, lighting effect, and monsters. An Act V location could be haunted by Act I ghosts and skeletons and the stairs at the end could lead to an act II location with Act V enemies. It’s really cool not knowing who or what you’re going to face at any time. In each Rift you’re tasked with killing enemies to fill in a bar. Once the bar is full the Rift Guardian is unleashed to rain hell upon you and your allies. Killing a rift guardian is like killing an Act boss for the first time. It’s like a rain of loot showers form his their corpse! The downside, I’ve ever gotten anything good from one. No Legendary, no Set, just Blood Shards, more Rift stones and some random loot. Despite my luck, I have had a ton of fun with the rifts. Adventure Mode is the only way to play Diablo after completing the main story. It reminds me of jumping into Diablo II after completing the story, only with added benefit of bonus never ending replayability!
 
Kadala and the Obelisk
 
Ok, I’m going to keep the end short. Diablo III: Reaper of Souls is, as I stated, the absolute best thing to happen to Diablo III since launch. A ton of new content, a new class, and a never ending quest for loot is all we could have ever asked for. I have no complaints, and I really don’t see any reason to look for any. If you played Diablo III and gave up, give Reaper of Souls a chance. I think you’ll enjoy it.

is not a boss.

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