Hands-On: Diablo III: Reaper Of Souls Is Hellishly Revamped
Reaper of Souls will be the upcoming expansion for Diablo III. The expansion brings with it vast improvements that better the main Diablo experience and refine much of the gameplay mechanics. The A new fifth act is added to the main storyline and brings your player character (the Nephalem) once again into raw bloody battle, after a time of peace. The expansion brings to the table a new character class with the Crusader, is set in the city of Westmarch, a new artisan called the Mystic, a new level cap of 70, new loot (Loot 2.0), new skills and runes, new passives (and a new passive slot at level 70) and an altered Paragon system (Paragon 2.0), to name a few changes. These are just some of the improvements. But for the sake of clarity and focus, lets take a look at some of these features and their implementations in the beta.
From the outset, the beta for Reaper of Souls brings to the table a greater degree of refinement than seen before in the main game at launch. Playing with my Monk character, I started the fifth act, added with this new expansion, and I was really struck by how much smoother the game felt. Hack and slash mechanics are greatly improved, and with the pre-expansion patch for Diablo III much of the improvements in Reaper of Souls will be making their way to other gamers on an account wide level. In this patch is the addition of Nephalem Rifts, Nephalem Trials and Bounties, account wide Paragon levels, unlimited Paragon levelling, a new gem type with Diamonds (that is resistance-based) and class specific affix rolls on items (which means improved loot drops relevant to your character class).
The story is pretty much an extension of the first game, per the tradition of previous Diablo expansions. Peace has been ongoing following the defeat of Diablo. Tyrael has recovered the Black Soulstone which imprisons Diablo, which he hides and seals away in Sanctuary with the aid of the newly established Horadrim order. However, Malthael (the former Archangel of Wisdom), now the “Angel of Death” has different plans. Malthael wants to end the conflict between Heaven and Hell, at any cost. Once again, you must face the hordes of monsters and take down Malthael.
Firstly, the new expansion brings with it a new class called the Crusader (who is basically the Paladin from Diablo II), new enemies and new locations for you to fight and explore. The game is set in the city of Westmarch and has you taking on hordes of different types of Reapers created by Malthael, with a range of heavy, medium and small melee units for you to combat. With both great variations in enemy types, which changes with each location, and different environments to explore Reaper of Souls truly steps it up from the main campaign. The Crusader is essentially a Paladin who fulfills the purposes of being both a tank and healer simultaneously. The Crusader can survive nearly any battle situation with flying colours and much like the Paladin from Diablo II is a versatile character class. The Crusader can wield both a shield and two-handed weapons, at the cost of movement speed, meaning you can be a heavy hitter and block at the same time. The Crusader is a character you want to play with a shield as most of his abilities take advantage of this fact, including both his actives and passives.
The new mode, besides the new Act, is Adventure Mode which is one of the best things to come out of Reaper of Souls. Adventure Mode lets you play through various acts of the game with bounty incentives for each area you warp to on the waypoint map. On the waypoint map, you can see all the various bounties from across Sanctuary, picking and choose what piques your interest. What is nice is that you can start Adventure Mode with a level 1 character and it has a pretty much infinite playtime. Each act you play through has a number of bounties which are typically monster hunts that require certain goals, like killing a number of monsters or defeating a certain monster in an area you’ve warped to. After completing a bounty, you are awarded with an increase in experience, currency which is called Blood Shards and a Greater Horadic Cache (which is a randomised bag of loot). Through this process, you can easily be rewarded with some legendary items and fancy crafting materials. Included in this Adventure Mode, are rifts, gateways to randomised dungeons with different monster combinations. In rifts, all you do is kill monsters and defeat a boss called the Rift Guardian. If you come out victorious, you are heavily rewarded for your trouble.
The fifth act is a great deal darker than the original Diablo 3 campaign. There are plenty of optional events and enemy variation to keep things from getting stale and stagnant, and it always feels interesting and exciting to play. The beta has you play much of the fifth act up until the final boss. There is lots of exploration, battles and loot to be had, and loot drops have been much better this time around. Loot 2.0 brings with it the removal of the Auction House, with the system now focusing on better loot drops, targeted class loot drops, and giving players a myriad of ways to customise their items. There is a lot less loot dropped, but this time around it is more specific to your character class needs, and can see you picking up legendary and rare items, as well as improved upgrades that are useful to your character. With a much improved loot system, Diablo III is a better game for it.
In addition to this, Reaper of Souls brings with it a new artisan called the Mystic. The Mystic can replace stats on gear with enchantments and can transmogrify gear to have different appearances. Much like any other artisan the Mystic requires certain crafting materials, which are quite different to other artisans. In turn, you will have to salvage a huge selection of loot to get the items and gear you want. Existing artisans in the game have new levels of training to unlock, plans for legendary, set pieces and special rings. Also there is a new gem type in the form of diamonds introduced in the expansion. Diamonds increase resistance stats and can be used in weapons to increase damage to elite enemies. The Paragon system has received a face-lift too with Paragon 2.0. Originally after a player reaches the level 60 cap (which is now level 70), further experience gained would count towards Paragon levels, of which there are 100. Paragon levels reward players with increases to core stats, with added increases to magic and gold find. With Paragon 2.0, Paragon progression will be account-wide and will allow the player to choose which stats are increased at every level. When you gain a Paragon level, you will get a point to spend as you see fit. The categories in which the point can be spent will depend on your Paragon level. You will be able to re-assign Paragon points at a cost most of the time, which is always a great addition.
With all of these improvements, the character you once had in Diablo III will be totally overhauled after levelling up. The game is far better off with these vast improvements, from the vanilla Diablo III with Reaper of Souls bettering the experience had in the original Diablo III campaign. Everything feels and looks vastly superior in Reaper of Souls. Changes made to the core Diablo III experience should please fans who’ve been asking for such improvements. The beta for Reaper of Souls proved to be a great experience, and with the expansion hitting PC and PS4 in 2014 this is one to be on the look out for.