Diablo 3 – Reaper of Souls Review | PC | Blizzard Entertainment
Somewhere in the lowest echelons of humanity, nestled in between the child abductors and Michael Gove, there is a special place for the rubberneckers and those who can’t wait to glory in the misery of others. The kind of people who are quite happy to cause a 20 mile tailback in order that they might have a good old stare out of their window at a car accident on the other side of the road.
What is it that these people want to see? Are they looking for a severed arm on the central reservation? Perhaps some brain matter spread across the windscreen of the smashed up vehicle. Personally, I have a grim determination to not look at the aftermath of an accident if there’s nothing I can do to help – I don’t want to see something that I’ll wake up with night sweats dreaming about years later. So, those people who are happy to ruin your day by slowing down to stare, how do they feel when there’s nothing to see?
Probably about the same as all those dullards who have been polishing up their ‘error 37’ jokes ahead of the launch on Monday of the long awaited expansion to Diablo 3, Reaper of Souls. Yes, we rightly gave Blizzard a load of shit about the terrible launch of their online-only title when it dropped in May 2012. Error 37 was the code applied to the failure to connect to a server – and there was a great deal of that at launch.
Indeed, at launch, Diablo 3 was a bit of a fuck up all over the place. It quickly became apparent to players that the loot system in this latest iteration of the well-loved franchise was broken and that the Auction House (which ultimately lead to the real money trading of ingame goods) was less than ideal. Basically, Diablo 3 – despite looking pretty and somehow retaining a bit of a community – was a lame duck with no decent end game.
Fast forward then to 2014, and I’m here to tell you that not only is Diablo 3 now finally an excellent video game but that you should buy it and its expansion, Reaper of Souls. The launch of which was absolutely seamless, I might add – kudos where it’s due, Blizzard. No matter what AAA releases follow this year, if you invest £50 of your hard-earned into this, then you’ll be getting tons of fun and value for money. That’s all we ask, right?
DIABLO 3 – WHAT’S CHANGED
First up then, Diablo 3. For the uninitiated, Diablo is a loot gathering, isometric, action RPG. You play through 4 Acts, leading up to a final encounter with the titular villain. As you do so, your character progresses from fragile, weedy derp to fire, lightning and holy light spewing killing machine by levelling up and acquiring better gear.
Thanks to the Loot 2.0 system that Blizzard put into D3 ahead of the RoS launch, this process of getting new gear is now a lot more fun. The holy grail for players – the legendary items – now drop with greater frequency and do much more interesting things for the player. You are also much more likely to receive loot drops that are usable by your class. The frustration of a run through the game resulting in a mere 2 legendary items, neither of which you can use, has been eliminated. As such, nearly every game session you play is going to result in you getting something that will upgrade your character – which means every game session feels fun and worthwhile.
The story in D3 is nothing to write home about, but the level settings and creature designs are certainly effective enough. Even though the tropes are familiar, the visual sheen applied by Blizzard’s design team makes exploring the world a good experience.
Diablo remains far too easy on ‘normal’ skill levels, but then it is all about pushing on through the difficulties once you have beaten the game and gathered your first decent set of equipment. It’s fair to say that the good times don’t really start to roll until you’ve beaten the game at least once, but it’s designed to be played and replayed – at least until you stump up for the new content.
REAPER OF SOULS – WHAT’S NEW
Epic Spoiler Alert – you kill Diablo at the end of the Diablo game. Shocking, right? So Reaper of Souls needed a new bad guy for us to boo and hiss at – and gets just that in a stunning cinematic that introduces the expansion pack. Malthael is Death – and he’s a bit of a git – something that is established by the fact that he wants to kill all humans. A bit like Futurama’s Bender, but not as cute.
I get the feeling that two distinct teams worked on the design for Reaper of Souls. One team designed things like Pandemonium, with its twisted fortress and shifting portals; perhaps they also designed the City of Westmarch with its winding alleyways and interesting architecture. The other team said, “Meh, let’s just do a sewer level with rats in. Everyone loves that.” So the extra act that RoS adds to the campaign is a bit of a mixed bag visually, but plays just as well as the main game. Loads of great loot to find and an additional helper to get for your area hub.
Joining the weapon crafting Blacksmith and the magic jewel creating Jeweller, we now get a Mystic who enables players to ‘re-roll’ elements of their magic items. This means you can fine tune your favourite weapons to suit your play style as well as customise their appearance to match legendary items you’ve picked up previously – a nice touch that means you don’t have to sacrifice looking like a badass for merely being one.
Aside from the extra act, there is Adventure Mode, which is really where the big impact of Reaper of Souls can be felt on the game play. Instead of grinding through those Acts again and again as you did in vanilla D3, once you’ve beaten the game once you can undertake ‘bounties’. Rather than a delicious coconutty chocolate treat however, these bounties are level-specific challenges which take place across different maps within the acts. Collect enough bounties and (apart from the XP and loot rewards) you will can undertake missions in the Nephalem Rifts, completely randomised loot runs which could drop any crazy combination of enemies and bosses on you for big rewards.
The last major addition is the new character class – the Crusader. A melee and mid range fighter, the Crusader is one of those great characters that starts off looking puny and ineffectual but quickly ends up (to borrow a quote) a mean motherfucking servant of God. With a glowing red, spectral horse – because, why the hell not?
The auction house is gone now – but that just means there are fewer shortcuts to getting a decent character set up. Expanding the level cap to 70 also means that even people with great gear for their level 60 characters who may have grown tired of D3, have a reason to come back and upgrade.
I got into Diablo 3 in January, and for the last two months it has made writing about other games very difficult indeed. Now that the expansion content is here, I can envisage at least another couple of months solid gaming on this title from me. I’m the first to happily admit I have the attention span of a coked-up butterfly when it comes to games and for something to hold my attention for this long is very rare indeed.
Reaper of Souls is the delicious icing on top of an already sumptuously moist gameplay cake. It offers great options for bitesize or lengthy session gaming, with a pretty nice multiplayer community to boot. The chances are that you could easily get hooked by this game and find yourself running the dungeons of hell and pathways of heaven for, literally, years to come.
out now for PC