Fixes Diablo's flaws and extends the end game ad infinitum - it's everything we liked before, turned up to 11
In a market where DLC and yearly season passes are the commonly accepted way to get new content for your games, it’s refreshing to see Blizzard sticking with the tried and tested expansion pack. Reaper of Souls is the first major addition to last year’s Diablo III, adding an entirely new chapter, a fifth playable character, a higher level cap and, most importantly, a lot more loot to uncover.
Blizzard has been listening closely to gamers, adjusting Diablo 3’s balance, item drop rate and ditching the real-money auction house, which was effectively making it pointless to search for high-end gear when you could simply pay to acquire it from another player. Shuttering the auction house altogether has allowed the developer to go crazy with item drops, so now virtually everything you find from monsters or crates is either blue or yellow – indicating magic or rare items respectively. It’s still rewarding when you uncover an orange legendary item, however.
The new mystic NPC lets you change item enchantments – for a fee, of course
Reaper of Souls is much more than a balance update, though. Each of the four original character classes have received one new active skill, along with a full set of power runes to imbue it with specific abilities, while existing skills and runes have been tweaked slightly for better balance. There’s enough here to warrant grinding your existing characters through ten extra levels now the cap has been raised from 60 to 70, but anyone wanting a new Diablo experience should create an extra character using the new Crusader class.
The new locations are suitably atmospheric and a change of pace from the base game
Similar to the Paladins found in most fantasy MMOs, the Crusader mixes close quarters and mid-range combat with a wide selection of active abilities. Many are designed purely for damage, but there are enough here that he could easily be used as the healing class for a multiplayer session. We particularly liked the shield bash ability, which lets you power through enemies that would usually send you flying in the early game. He isn’t as aggressive, and can’t deal as much damage as the Barbarian and isn’t as down-right bonkers as the Witch Doctor, but still plays differently from the four other classes to make him worth a try.
There’s plenty of new content to run him through, as Reaper of Souls adds an entire fifth chapter to the original game, pitting you against Malthael, the Angel of Death. The already dark tone takes a sharp turn for the gothic, as cities are laid to waste and entire populations are snuffed out by the crazed Angel, but everything has a slightly OTT, self-referencial approach that is typical of Blizzard. The bosses in particular provide a welcome change of pace, adding new mechanics and attacks that must be avoided in order to stay alive, rather than simply soak up and negate with potions or spells.
boss monsters force you to actually think now, rather than just pummel them into oblivion
Even so, Chapter Five can easily be polished off by a level 60 character in under two hours. Our Wizard, who had a full set of high level gear, breezed through on Hard difficulty, and we didn’t actually die once. Thankfully there’s a much greater challenge available if you’re prepared for it. The difficulty level now goes up to Torment, which itself can be increased up to six times to make Elite and Legendary enemies almost unbeatable by a single character, and Adventure Mode throws the whole story out of the window in favour of randomly generated quests, dungeons and rewards.
No longer tied to progressing through Sactuary on a set path, you can jump between locations at any time in order to tackle a particular objective. Every time you log in a new set of quests will be generated, with some earning item bonuses on completion and others rewarding you with Paragon XP – the constantly increasing bonuses earned once you reach level 70 that can turn a strong character into an unstoppable one.
Now you can go where you please, Diablo becomes more about action than story
Bosses, enemies, dungeons and routes are all changed in Adventure mode, so the areas you trudged through in Diablo III feel new and exciting again. As you complete quests, known as Bounties in Reaper of Souls, you earn tokens that then unlock Nephalem Rifts; these are the ultimate dungeon crawls, which shuffle parts from all over the game together and forces you to defeat increasingly large numbers of enemies, before facing a final boss and making off with the loot. You could run into bosses from other parts of the game at any time, too, for another added challenge.
Best of all, the revised Paragon level system means you don’t have to worry about hitting a wall with one character and being forced to move onto another. You continue to gain XP, which can be put towards tiny attribute bonuses that add up over time. This reached a hard limit in Diablo 3, but by effectively removing the endgame Reaper of Souls never has to finish; you could feasibly keep playing, unlocking the very best gear and earning additional Paragon levels forever to create an unstoppable monster of a character.
Nephalem rifts can get incredibly hectic once you raise the difficulty level
If you aren’t a fan of dungeon crawlers, Reaper of Souls isn’t a big enough departure to draw you in, but even casual Diablo 3 players should pick up a copy and see how much the vanilla game has changed. It’s much more chaotic, even more unforgiving and just as addictive as before, with enough new and revised content to justify its expansion pack release.