Diablo III: Reaper of Souls Expansion
This is not a complete review of the game, as I haven't finished all of it yet, but this article is targeted toward serious computer nerds who enjoy the world of third-person monster-bashing and fantasy universes.
- About your Writer
I don't typically review games for the Tar Valon Times so before I get to my exploration of Reaper of Souls hopefully I may provide you with an idea of where I'm coming from as a gamer and a player. My serious interest in gaming started on the Playstation 1 with RPGs like Final Fantasy 7. While I certainly played platformers and fighting games on earlier consoles, this is when I started to figure out my specific tastes. I branched out to all consoles of the second generation and also developed a strong addiction for tabletop Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 and eventually Pathfinder. Halo 2 and Smash Brothers Melee are huge fixtures in my gaming history.
Nowadays I play MOBAs as an almost exclusive computer gamer. In a lot of ways, trying Reaper of Souls is a return to more of the RPG elements I've left behind while still having echoes of MMOs and MOBAs that are now my constant companions. I tell you all this because my exploration of this game (or at least as much as I can describe to you in this article) is extremely biased. This is my shiny new game I'm really enjoying. Please take what you read for exactly as much worth as it deserves, and come to your own conclusions about the game.
- On to the Exploration
That said, Game Informer magazine gave this game a 9.25 out of 10 with an average game rating of 7 to all games. People who review games for a living greatly enjoy this expansion and recommend it—and that's saying something.
My experience with previous Diablo games are a brief stint with One where I didn't like the overhead view of the third-person character. Too many ceilings and walls got in the camera's way, and the loot you picked up on the ground was difficult to see. I know Diablo II was big in terms of popularity, and I remember watching a friend of mine run from rabid cows in the joke level while frantically casting ice aoe spells. My impression at the time was it looked fun.
As far as my impression on Diablo III before purchasing the expansion and experiencing the game for myself, I actually perceived an overall negative opinion from the gaming community and reviewers. The Diablo series is a loot-based gaming system. The goal, and a lot of your enjoyment of the game, comes from finding shiny item. The different levels of loot drop, from common to rare and legendary, have a percentage chance to drop from any chest, barrel, enemy, or box at any given time.
In loot-based games, there are 2 features I can identify that turn off gamers not already fans of the subgenre: (1) Your in-game combat is spamming a smaller set of abilities repeatedly and quickly. Have you played Gauntlet Legends? It's slightly more advanced than that. Unlike fighting games such as Street Fighter, you aren't rewarded for coming up with hard-to-hit combinations. Combat is also in real-time, but not as visually pleasing as a game like Kingdom Hearts. In Diablo, your character is much smaller on the screen, and your abilities are repetitive and less likely to blow enemies away. You will spend at least 90% of the game doing this kind of interaction. (2) Recycled content. As with a lot of MMOs, you will run the same content over and over again. In loot-based games and similar, you will likely make more than one character, running the same storyline over and over again, swapping in to different parts with friends or by yourself, but even when you beat the game, typically you take the same character and start a new game plus, experiencing the same story from the beginning ad naseum. Both of these things are true in Diablo III, but I was pleasantly surprised how the expansion enhanced and improved these common obstacles.
Game Informer said that “Diablo III's Reaper of Souls expansion is one of the most significant turn arounds in gaming. Out of the ashes of a boring, auction house-centric grind comes a dynamic and addictive system that encourages grouping and rewards players with continual upgrades and challenges. Almost every facet that players rightly attacked in the original game has been refined and revamped, transforming the title into an enjoyable action/RPG experience” (page 94, issue 253). Honestly I've found this to be true.
The most basic improvement of the expansion is that it gives access to a new class, the crusader. I personally am a voice-acting junkie. The cannon character is female, (though you can play both genders,) and her acting has both personality and fits well within the already-established universe and plot. She is a joy to play and contributes completely new lines to the script instead of the same stock responses from all the previous characters, adding a fresh new flavor to an already-recycled plot. The crusader is also flashier. You get more of that mouse-gripping, goofy-grinning glee when you explode a whole mob of enemies with a single shield bash. In short, due to the visuals, she is more satisfying to play. The crusader can be well-exaggerated toward damage and still be intensely effective in solo and group combat but also equipped to a more defensive role as a tank to claim aggro for damage dealer teammates. I've found that pushing in either direction is much more viable when compared to the versatility of other meleers like the barbarian or monk. I honestly don't know if the lore surrounding who crusaders are and why they have been added to the universe is standard in the original Diablo III game, but there is a lot of story surrounding the crusaders and history of why they fit—also fun to learn at the same time as exploring the game.
So the expansion spiced up combat with a new playable character. How has it addressed the quality of life related to recycled content? Most of the improvements have been made to the end game. I am a new player to Diablo III, as I've shared, and have yet to experience everything available. However, I am super excited about one of the new features, called a Nephalim Rift. Basically it's an instance with a ton of enemies in a relatively small dungeon (based on party size) topped with a boss. With a new patch released this month, they also modified drops to relate more to your current player. So more crossbows drop for your demon hunter, and far more items have enhancements to your main traits, like dexterity for said demon hunter. Rifts are the main place to farm for legendary items, and quite possibly the best thing about them is that you can trade a dropped legendary to a teammate who participated in the rift with you. Get a sexy shield your wizard doesn't want? You can trade it to your crusader friend—who I'm sure will be very happy to get a free legendary. This is completely unique to this expansion.
Why else are rifts so amazing? Something likely specific to me, they create a very friendly end-game place to spend time with your casual clan or pull in your real life friends to socialize, much like raids or instances in MMOs. To get the best benefit, you really need a party of 3-4. This encourages the social aspect, and due to the rewards, players are much more likely to hop into another's game because there's benefit all around. This is especially good to address the recycled-content issue because those exposed to the most repeated plot are loyal players who already have at least one level 70 character. Rifts provide more modes and content for the ones who have the highest concentration of monotony. I believe the expansion is also responsible for paragon levels—basically you can earn (as far as I know) an infinite number of levels providing 1 point per level that you can spend in a variety of categories to enhance any and all characters you make in the game for the rest of time. That way, if you create a brand new character, you get an added buff for participating in post-game content immediately. There are also other modes and tasks Reaper of Souls brings to the original game, but I have yet to learn all of them. I know bounties exist and there are recipes for legendary equipment for which you must hunt down or craft ingredients. There is also the elusive my-little-pony-themed level, which I have yet to enter.
All in all, I find that Reaper of Souls revitalizes the once-bland Diablo III game and makes a great play for anyone looking for a break from a MOBA or someone who wants a casual foray into a game with a bit of a throwback to MMOs in a loot-based system. As I hope I've convinced you, it addresses a lot of the common downfalls of this kind of game through feedback from its players. As always, please free to comment with any further information you might have about the game that I don't know—in addition to fixing any errors I may have made. They are helpful to other gamers reading this, and they're helpful to me too!
For more Diablo III: Reaper of Souls discussion, you may visit this thread.