It’s no secret to anyone who knows me or reads this blog that Diablo II is one of my favorite games of all time.  I was incredibly disappointed when Diablo III came out and wasn’t quite what I had hoped it would be.  But, the announcement of it’s (first?) expansion, Reaper of Souls, had me optimistic.  After playing around with the sweeping changes brought on by the 2.0 patch, Reaper of Souls dropped last week.  I was optimistic that this expansion could lift Diablo III from the dust.  It has — in a huge, huge way.

Leave it to the Angel of Death to revive Diablo III

  • TL;DR: Everything I hoped Diablo III would be and more
  • Platform: PC
  • Score: 9.0
  • Hours Played: 30? 40?  I’ve lost track.
  • What I Played: Act V twice and a lot of adventure mode
  • Recommended: Without a doubt.  If you felt slighted by vanilla Diablo III, it’s time to come back.

The story is never much of a driving factor in Diablo games, and Reaper of Souls is no exception.  Malthael, the former Archangel of Wisdom turned Angel of Death, has taken it upon himself to end the Eternal Conflict once and for all.  His plan is to use the Black Soulstone to wipe out humanity once and for all, and it’s up to the Nephalem to stop him.  A good guy turned bad?  Oh no!!!

Malthael’s attempt at ending the world takes place during Act V in Westmarch, the new area introduced in Reaper of Souls.  There is actually quite a bit of content here.  The story takes about three to four hours to complete, but there are events at almost every turn.  Most of these events boil down to “clear this area”, but they are still fun to come by.  Some of the followers have side quests, too.

Blah blah blah … we want loot!

Once you beat Act V, you’ll unlock adventure mode, a.k.a. The Only Thing You’ll Ever Do In Diablo III Ever Again.  Adventure mode is a completely new way to play the game (Kotaku has a great write-up here).  All waypoints across all acts are open to you with each act having five bounties to complete — clear a dungeon, finish an event, kill a boss, etc.  Finishing these bounties earns XP, gold, rift keys, and blood shards, which are used for gambling at a new NPC, Kadala.  I’ve heard whispers that you can get legendaries from Kadala, but I’ve barely found any rares worth my time.

Completing all five bounties for an act will earn you a Horadric Cache, which explode into the pretty pile of loot pictured above.  These caches can hold any item, and where you earn them matters.  For example, only the Act II cache can drop the gloves that allow shrine effects to last for 10 minutes.  As for rift keys, you can turn in five to open a rift, a randomly generated dungeon that mixes together environments, tile sets, and enemies from all five acts.  It’s super fun to see different packs of monsters mixed together and also horrifying to see some of the combinations that can be produced.  Killing enemies in a rift fills a gauge that, when filled, summons a surprisingly strong rift boss who drops a TON of loot.

Bounties are definitely the way to go as soon as you unlock them.  They keep the game fresh — rather than simply running the same quest/area over and over, the game rewards you for jumping around, completing events and hunting boss monsters.  My most memorable moment so far is the time me and a buddy ran into elite Mallet Lords with Illusionist.  That shit was not fair.

Seriously?
Seriously?

Myriam, the Mystic, is the new artisan introduced in Reaper of Souls.  She serves two purposes: enchanting and transmogrifying.  If you’ve played WoW, you know what a transmog is.  You can give Myriam some gold to make an item look like any other item.  The days of having to choose between effective gear and stylish gear is over!

Enchanting is Myriam’s biggest draw.  It’s so frustrating to find an item with five out of six good properties and wondering what could have been, but Myriam is here to save the day.  Any property can be rerolled on any item.  You’ll be able to see the possibilities before deciding what property to reroll.  Once you decide to go through with it, two of the possibilities will be chosen at random.  You can either pick one of those two or keep the property you alread had.  Doing this will bind the item to your account and lock that property in as the only one on that item you can reroll, but you can reroll it over and over until you get what you are looking for.

Rerolling properties adds a whole new level of depth to Diablo III.  Most importantly, it means that the garbage legendaries you find which, if you’re luck is anything like mine, will be often, can be salvaged and used to try and finally put a socket in your weapon.  It means that items with the the wrong “increase damage of skill X” can be updated to fit your build.  It opens up so many possibilities.

And then, the pala… crusader joins the fight

Reaper of Souls introduces a sixth class to Diablo III in the crusader.  I haven’t made a crusader yet, but they are very clearly inspired/copied from the paladin in Diablo II.  A holy warrior donning heavy armor and big shields with skills that summon circling hammers?  Right.  Honestly, I’ve been enjoying adventure mode too much to make a new character yet, but I am excited to play through with a crusader.

Existing classes have undergone changes, as well.  The level cap has been increased to 70, adding a new active skill, a few passive skills, and a new passive slot.  The fourth passive slot really opens up build possibilities, but sometimes has me wishing for a fifth.  I’ve played my monk, demon hunter, and barbarian so far.  The new skill for the demon hunter, Vengeance, is similar to Archon or Wrath of the Berserker in that it turns you into a walking death cannon with a long cooldown.  The monk’s new skill, Epiphany, can serve a few purposes depending on the rune used, whether it be increased life per hit, reduced damage taken, or increased damage output.  Avalanche, the barbarian’s new skill, does heavy damage at the cost of all fury.  I haven’t tried it since it clashes with my throwing build.

There are plenty of cool easter eggs too, like this Deadmau5-inspired amulet

Reaper of Souls is fantastic.  There is a new act to explore, granted you’ll probably only do it once or twice.  Adventure mode keeps the game fresh at an almost infinite level.  Between caches and rifts, the all-encompassing thirst to find loot will certainly be quenched.  The mystic ramps your gearing abilities to yet another level, allowing you to tailor nearly-perfect items to your needs.  There’s even a new class and new skills for existing classes.  Diablo III was certainly mired with issues in the past and the 2.0 patch last month was a great start at redemption.  Reaper of Souls helps transform Diablo III into a completely different game that is a must-play for any action-RPG fan.

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