Diablo III: Reaper of Souls
The Good: Lots of engine tweaks. New character type. New single player content.
The Bad: Variable difficulty. Only about 5 hours of new content.
The Ugly: Will likely appeal to mostly hardcore players.
To give you some sense of how little I played Diablo III after I had handed in my review, let me relate to you the following story. A few weeks ago when I had heard that we were going to be getting a review key for Reaper of Souls, I went to log onto my battle.net account just to get a feeling for how Diablo III played before the expansion pack hit, only to find that I could no longer access my account. I recalled dimly an email sent from battle.net I think like 8 months ago that said their user files had been compromised and that I should change my password, which frankly I never got around to, so my account had been stolen. I emailed Blizzard and told them my tale, and I have to give them credit as they immediately gave me back control of the account (though the story of me being a game reviewer and all the games in the account essentially gifted to me by them is a pretty compelling one). When I finally logged on I found that the person who had been playing in my stead was a devoted player – he left a level 60 character in my account loaded down with legendary armor with over 25 million gold pieces. His loss, my gain. Pity then that they closed the auction gallery or I could have made me some real profit.
My point is that if you’re the kind of player who spent all their spare time since Diablo III came out playing every conceivable character type and trying out all the spells, and scouring the dungeons for the best possible armor on every difficulty level in creation, I’m completely the opposite of you. I played Diablo III for the plot, and in some sense for the level scenery, and maybe for some time coop playing with friends, and that’s about it. I tried several characters out for a couple of hours for the sake of the review, but only took one entirely through the game. I was, I will add, like you back when the first Diablo came out – I must have played that game through five or six times – but nowadays Diablo scratches an itch that has been all but obliterated by Torchlight, Dungeon Siege, and the host of other third person isometric randomly-generated dungeon crawls on the market. Blizzard may have essentially created the genre, but they run in a pretty big pack now, and while Diablo III is certainly a competitive offering, it has difficulty really distinguishing itself except perhaps that Blizzard is well known for getting their games to a very high level of polish.
So, at the end of Act IV of Diablo III, you, the Nephalim, had successfully defeated Diablo and imprisoned him inside the soul stone. The people of Westmarch could finally breathe a sigh of relief and live in everlasting peace, provided your definition of everlasting is “as long as it takes for some other archangel to steal the soul stone” which is about fifteen minutes, and before you can say ‘huh, maybe we should have hurled the soul stone into the ocean’ Westmarch is once again crawling with demons and property values are plummeting. Thus begineth Act V.
If you choose to restart from the beginning, there is a new character (the Crusader) who is kind of a brick variant. I played one for about an hour, but then jumped back into the level 30 or so character left over from my Diablo III review to play Act V through. The game now has many more difficulty level shades to try and match your desired game intensity. I found that initially the game was too easy on Normal, so I moved up one level to hard which I found just about right, though then my character gained a couple of levels and I found the game too easy again, but then skipped to Expert I and found that a smidge too hard. Even with all the extra difficulty levels, it’s kind of a tough balance.
The largest tweak had been to the loot engine. Monsters still explode ridiculously like piñatas when they die (What was that sewer rat doing hauling around five weapons, three pieces of armor, a gem fragment, and 57 gold pieces?), but the explosion is more tailored to your character. No longer will you pick up dozens of pieces of armor or weapons that you can’t use because you’re the wrong class only to sell them for gold. Now you’ll pick up dozens of pieces of armor and weapons you could use but won’t because they are worse than what you’re currently using so you sell them for gold. It’s still a scavenger hunt for miniscule adjustments to your buffs, but maybe it’s more fun now? I don’t know. For the most, with some deviations, the game becomes more difficult as your character progresses, so in a sense you can feel like you’re not going anywhere. The monsters that took two hits to kill still take two hits to kill even if your shiny new sword gives you 1.8% more damage. That probably describes why I’m not a Diablo-obsessed guy in a nutshell. For the OCD crowd, there are now like ten levels of gem combining that you can do; I can only imagine the sweats that will give the completest crowd. And I think there are even some new gem types in there to boot.
The game looks great, there’ve done some outstanding level design and artwork, and Diablo remains the addictive clickfest that it has always been. The hardcore guys are going to call this Reaper of Souls more than an expansion pack. For the rest of us, I’m going to declare it to be the very definition of an expansion pack, and a pretty modest one at that. One new character, one new act, and some engine tweaks – that’s what Reaper of Souls brings to the party.
Reviewed By: Phil Soletsky
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
This review is based on a digital copy of Diablo III: Reaper of Souls for the PC provided by Blizzard Entertainment.