If you cast your mind back to May 2012, when Diablo III originally released on PC, you’ll be remembering an entirely different title to the one that you can play now. Memories of the infamous ‘Error 37’, many days of server maintenance, a strange difficulty progression system and the auction house – an interesting experiment in the buying and selling of in-game items – will sound familiar to fans of the game.
With the release of Reaper of Souls – Diablo III’s first expansion pack – and the recent 2.0 patch, Blizzard’s reassessed a lot of the game’s core systems, responding to fan feedback; particularly those who weren’t happy with the original version of Diablo III at all. For those fans, this fixes most of their complaints. As someone who really liked the original, vanilla Diablo III, it’s simply making a great game even better.
Reaper of Souls brings with it a number of new features, some more substantial than others, but not necessarily as fun. The two most publicised additions are the new act, Act V, set in Westmarch where the nephalem must take on Malthael, and the addition of the new Crusader class, a shield-bearing class that brings crowd control, party buffs and some decent burst damage to the fray. I spent over 20 hours playing the Crusader, and I loved every bit of it.
Crusaders generally have a hard time generating the Wrath they need to properly do damage, which has led to builds being created to generate Wrath for the more high damaging spells to actually be useable. It’s an imperfect solution to a problem Blizzard needs to solve to bring the class up to standard from a balance standpoint.
Let’s get into the new class first then. The Crusader uses a new resource known as Wrath, which is generally used for its most damaging and repetitive spells. What’s interesting is that most Crusader skills don’t actually cost Wrath to cast. Indeed, on the build I’m using theory-crafted by a friend of mine, only one spell actually costs Wrath to use. It costs around a third of my Wrath pool to use, but it also critical hits for 12 million in a line area, so that’s to be expected.
The trade-off for spells that don’t cost Wrath is generally a high cooldown, and vice versa, although in some cases that’s not necessarily the case, which sort of gives you the feeling that Blizzard maybe didn’t think through the Crusader class fully before release and instead intends to work on it more now that it’s out the door.
That would be a much bigger issue if the Crusaders weren’t a hell of a lot of fun to play, however. Their skills feel incredibly fun to use, with most of them having a high visual impact on fights and great player feedback. Whether you’re vacuuming in 30 enemies, blinding them with a flash of light, or hitting them with Bombardment (a giant area-of-effect (AoE) spell that inflicts catastrophic damage); Crusaders feel big, tanky and powerful. I had a plenty of fun playing my female Crusader, who also happens to look incredible from a design standpoint.
The biggest attraction of Reaper of Souls for many, however, won’t be Act V or the Crusader class. No, it’ll be the host of other gameplay elements that the expansion brings to the game, both from a gameplay and cosmetic standpoint. First thing’s first, Adventure mode. Adventure mode tasks you with doing bounty runs in certain areas of the main game. There’ll be five areas per act, and completing all five bounties in an act will net you a bag of loot for you to open, hopefully getting yourself some nice new legendary items. Bounties could be as simple as killing a certain amount of enemies in an area, cleansing a cursed chest, or defeating a boss in an area. Yes, Diablo and Malthael themselves are bounties.
Then there’s Act V. Following on from the events of Diablo III, the Prime Evil itself was sealed inside the black soulstone. The Angel of Death, Malthael, has taken it upon himself to steal the soulstone and use its power for himself. Not a nice guy, as one could imagine. This act takes place around the city of Westmarch, which looks gorgeous, I must say. The story is pretty throwaway all things considered, but the real attraction is the gameplay. Act V is a fun, long act with new enemy designs and new bosses which are a little bit tougher, particularly if you’re a melee class. Ranged classes will rip through the bosses, especially the mobile ones, while melee classes without dashes (aka Crusaders) will have a bit of a tougher time, and will have to tank through the heavy damage.
Adventure mode is clever in that it auto-skips cutscenes for you, ensuring you’re in the action non-stop. This is purely an end game mode, designed for those who were running areas over and over again before the expansion looking for more loot. They give you a heap of experience, gold and items to help you improve your gear loadout massively. You can set adventure mode to all the same difficulties as the main game (Normal, Hard, Expert, Master and Torment 1-6) with the higher difficulties giving you more experience and gold, and Torment and above having its own exclusive loot.
New additions also come in the form of Rifts, which are extremely high paced area runs, full of elite packs and monsters. There are a random amount of areas you can go through and each has a random tileset (including Whimsyshire), and killing a certain amount of enemies will unlock the Rift boss, upon defeating which you’ll earn a massive amount of gold, experience and loot. This is the most fun aspect of the expansion for me, as getting a group of four friends and running Rifts is immensely fun and will keep me going for hours, all for that sweet loot.
There are still some issues with Reaper of Souls that Blizzard needs to sort out soon enough. There are still some strange bugs with certain weapons/pieces of armour that aren’t providing the stats they list, Crusader playtime and level doesn’t update on your profile, cooldown reduction and resource cost reduction isn’t reflected in ability tooltips, and the Crusader in general needs some fixes/buffs going forward, despite still being really fun.
Overall though, Reaper of Souls is a fantastic expansion pack for Diablo III. It fixes almost everything people had an issue with in vanilla Diablo III, adds an entire new Act, new class and a host of new modes that are immensely fun. If you’re any way curious about Diablo III, then this is the easiest recommendation I could ever give. Buy Reaper of Souls, it’s worth it.