Blizzard has always been able to create great expansion packs, going all the way back to the days when added content for a game was released on discs in stores. Reaper of Souls is no different. Blizzard has done a lot to turn around the flaws of the original, bringing back a lot of the gameplay that made Diablo II and its expansion so well-loved.
Reaper of Souls adds a fifth act to the game, continuing shortly following the end of the original campaign. Your character is sought out by the now mortal Tyrael to combat Malthaeus, the Angel of Death. It’s spread over several areas, starting in the city of Westmarch and continuing to large outdoor areas. The major areas seem bigger than most of the environments of the main game, with a lot more side areas to explore, especially in Westmarch. I like that the city isn’t completely linear; though there is still only one path, having multiple routes through it makes it feel more like a city.
The other major addition, as far as content goes, is Adventure Mode. This adds two major elements, designed as end-game activities. Bounties are tasks from the campaign, to be completed for an additional reward. Each act has five, and they are randomly generated, usually involving clearing a side dungeon, defeating a named monster, finishing a random event or defeating a boss. Nephalem Rifts are random levels generated using the same themes as the areas of act five, and involve fighting enemies until a boss emerges. The bosses of these rifts tend to drop better loot than those in the rest of the game. However, you must acquire rift keys from doing bounties to access these areas.
As the endgame content of Diablo III, like the rest of the series, is generally repeating areas to get better loot, these areas make it far easier to do, as enemies are more common (more chances for loot to drop) and cutscenes are removed. While there is more than in Diablo III initially, I feel that adding more to this content would help keep people interested — though Diablo III isn’t really an MMO, many players like to play it long-term.
There’s also a brand-new class: the Crusader. The Crusader is another melee character, though a more defensive one than the Barbarian, fighting with a shield much like the Paladin of Diablo II. The Crusader plays differently enough from the Barbarian to feel like it belongs in the game, though it’s a bit rough having to go through the time to raise one to level 60 when you’ve got an old account with several maxed-out characters on it.
While not technically part of the release and available to all players as a patch, the “Loot 2.0” update a month ago changed everything about the game. The biggest change here is the level at which items drop. Previously, items would drop up to five levels below the character’s level. It was the expectation that the player would sell such items on the auction house, and use the proceeds to purchase suitable upgrades. Now, fewer items show up, but they’re generally stronger and more class-appropriate. Finally, the difficulty modes were reworked to function based on character level, instead of simply requiring the player to replay the game with harder enemies. This allows players to change the difficulty (and rewards) based on their level of equipment compared to their character level, giving them much tighter control over how hard the game is.
After all of the talk about it, I think the itemization and loot changes present in this patch have shown that people didn’t necessarily dislike the existence of the auction house as much as the way players were forced to make use of it to keep their gear updated. My feeling is that players would love to still be able to easily trade crafting materials with each other. Gold is still required for certain things; crafting is more expensive, for example, but it is likely that it will eventually just become inflated and useless as a currency between players much like the previous Diablo titles. The Auction House was an interesting experiment, but integrating it too tightly into how players upgrade and improve their characters caused many to wish for the days of finding their items from repeated dungeon runs, not from farming gold.
Reaper of Souls has done a great deal to improve the gameplay of Diablo III. While some may still shy away from the persistent connection requirement, the rest of the game’s problems have finally been cleared away. It’s a complete shift in direction for the game, and a welcome change to anyone who was discouraged by the original release’s economic focus.
Pros: Better loot mechanics, expansive areas
Cons: Could use more end-game content