Don’t fear the Reaper
Diablo 3 was a troubled game, launching with significant connection issues, loot made irrelevant by a real-money auction house and some serious balance problems that made certain characters vastly overpowered. There was also an odd lack of content – while players were content to play through the game over and over in years gone by, the appeal of that had worn off and when the whole game can be finished in less than a day, playing through it again was nothing more than a grind. Reaper of Souls and the latest patches have gone a long way to fixing all of these issues and more, turning Diablo III into the game it should always have been.
The big headline additions are a new class, a new Act and adventure mode. For a £30 expansion that might seem a little bit pricey now we’re used to £15 DLC packs, but the adventure mode in particular is a huge addition. Now rather than simply playing through the game over and over once you’ve finished one playthrough, you can start adventure mode and simply pick up ‘bounties’ from all over the world. You can warp to wherever you want and each bounty tends to take less than ten minutes, so you can thrash out a few in a lunch break or do a whole collection in an evening. Once you complete a bounty you get a key to open a Nephalem Rift, a separate plane of existence where you need to kill everything until a boss spawns, kill that and you get tonnes of loot and a heap of blood shards which can be used at a ‘lucky dip’ style merchant for powerful weapons (or pointless blues in our case). The adventure mode takes out everything that was boring about replaying the game and streamlines the whole process. The real-money auction house is long gone so there’s always the possibility of a great drop to keep you going and the rewards are consistently generous. There’s also no longer different playthrough difficulties, instead you can alter the difficulty whenever you like, affecting the level of rewards you get appropriately.
The class, the Crusader seems to almost upset the balance a little. One of the issues with a single new class per expansion is that you suddenly see loads of them, in every game we played as we levelled a Crusader up from start to finish we often joined rooms of 3-4 of the same class. But who can blame people? They have huge amounts of health and healing abilities, some ridiculous AoEs and excellent movement skills. From summoning a charging steed or surrounding yourself in swirling hammers that can spawn more swirling hammers, the Crusader is a joy to play. Aesthetics-wise he’s much more like a traditional warrior knight than the Barbarian, appearing all clad in steel plate and carrying giant solid-looking weapons. One of the other new features is a mystic crafter who allows you to transmogrify weapons, but instead of basing them on a certain other item you’ve picked up, instead you find transmogrification ‘plans’ from picking up oranges or levelling up the crafter, this allows you a great deal of control of the looks of your character, for a fairly hefty fee of course.
The new act is probably the weakest link in the expansion chain. Taking place after the events of the main game, the angel of death has risen to spread peace by killing everyone and it’s your job to fix it by killing him and his army. The act takes you through Westmarch, an appropriately gothic and gloomy city, and then later into some more supernatural places but there’s nothing really ‘new’ in terms of plot development or gameplay, you simply run around from a hub to kill a bunch of things and then return. It’s still Diablo and while a change of scenery is nice, that’s essentially all it really is. The plot is vaguely interesting towards the end as we hear Tyrael’s perspective on the player, but we were particularly disappointed to see there’s not even a proper CGI cut-scene at the end of the Act. Blizzard always took a fantastic job with these and not having one simply felt like a cop-out, we wanted our reward! This is our only major issue with the expansion, the new act should be the centerpiece of the whole package but it feels somewhat tacked-on and not worth the price of admission. It’s a shame but then most Diablo players are just going to burn through the content in an hour or two anyway.
Overall the expansion has achieved what it set out to do, it’s got us back into playing Diablo and we’ll load it up as soon as we finish writing this review. Adventure mode has made it fun again and the Crusader is an absolute blast, so if you’re invested at all in Diablo it’s well worth the money to finally get the game you’ve wanted. If you weren’t a fan of any of the previous Diablo games, this isn’t going to change your mind. It’s highly polished and content-rich, but it’s still very much Diablo, for better and worse.