A game with a storied past, Diablo 3 had a very polarizing effect when it first launched. Fans of the game adored it to fanboy levels, while others hated the game with a passion known only in places that either start with H or have 7 suns to talk about the fires of. I myself had fun with it, but I didn’t find anything particularly exceptional besides the volume of polish (as much as I still personally love the Belial fight). So when I finished the game, I reviewed it for FrontTowardsGamer.com and pretty much was done. I don’t tend to play games a second time.
But when the expansion was announced, I pretty much knew I was returning. The idea of fighting the Grim Reaper himself was too much to not want to try. And with friends I knew would be right there with me for the fight, how could I resist? I picked the game up opening week, though I knew it was going to wait a little while due to all the games coming out at the moment that I wanted to play… one after another. So how was it? Actually, it was really good.
Story: You have done it! For Heaven, Earth, and all of creation, you have stopped Diablo’s terrible war on Heaven, ended his his physical form, and imprisoned the immortal personification of evil in his soul stone once again. Creation itself is safe, because of you, at least for the moment.
To keep that moment as long as possible, Tyrael reformed the ancient Horadrim order for the soul purpose of moving the stone to it’s final resting place, but fate would not have the story simply end here. Maltheal, the angel of Death has claimed the stone, defying the forces of Heaven to do so! Evil can literally corrupt anyone.
From this starting point you will find your hero from the original game quickly called in to help save the world from this rouge angel. What he plans to do with the stone will be revealed through the relatively short campaign, but there will nothing in the way of twists and turns to get there. That is not to say the story isn’t entertaining, it is, but it is exceptionally straight forward. You have a declared enemy who is active in the world, and you will finish the game when you stop him. That’s it, plain and simple.
Graphics: [System Specs: AMD Phenom II 6X 1100T (6 core) processor running at 3.3 Ghz, 4GB RAM, Nvidia Geforece 760 GTX with 2GB VRAM, and Windows 7]
If you have played Diablo 3 before the expansion came out, you know about what to expect. If not, the whole game is played form an isometric bird’s-eye-view perspective, revealing the lands as you click your way across them. These lands generally have a fairly dark look about them, choosing a cold-looking blue color scheme for most of the act, although there is one exception in the swamps, which would have fit in the motif of the original game much more then this expansion.
The world you will see while playing this expansion speaks of it’s main theme quiet well between this choice lighting, locations, and the condition of the world: death. The cities looks baren and lifeless, the swamp is festering, and even the final map is literally coming apart as you wander it. Add to this the level of detail Blizzard is known for an you have a world with an absolutely perfect look for what it is.
Nor do the inhabitants prove slouches either. Every creature you face also inherits this theme, from undead skeletons literally rising out of the corpses of fallen allies to the maggots in the swamp and more, everything screams of the master you will face at the end of the expansion. This may be a short expansion (being only one act) but it is exceptionally cohesive!
Sound: Blizzard is known for nothing if not the feel of their games, and this expansion is no exception in any way. Everything about it just screams “Diablo” and will be a delight to fans of the franchise who wanted to get just a little bit more from the game.
The only issue I can give this game in this department is it doesn’t really separate itself at all. The straightforwardness of the story with no subplots of any kind really limits how much more they could add here vs the original game. Since this expansion is not stand-alone, everyone coming in to play it will already know what to expect for having played the main Diablo 3.
Gameplay: If you have played the original game, you already have a good idea of how this game plays since it is just an expansion. However, if you haven’t played Diablo 3 since it’s first few months out, there are some changes that have happened while you are away, warranting a fresh take on the mechanics. Allow me to explain.
Diablo 3 (and it’s expansion) as I said before is an isometric bird’s-eye-view dungeon crawler in which you and up to 3 friends (or random players if you choose to leave a game open) will explore every map you can, kill every monster you see, and collect all the loot you can to upgrade your power, all the while gaining XP for the same actions and leveling up to the same effect. It is a very rinse and repeat affair, and yet the variety of stuff you can pick up as well as the variety in monsters you fight and places you explore make this a very addicting affair at the same time. This has been the formula of the franchise since it started back in 1998 with the original Diablo, and it is very present here as well, albeit a bit streamlined.
While the game certainly helped with players “ninja”-ing loot while others fought the monsters by having drops be player specific from the beginning, the loot in general was a complaint in the original game. People found out the items that would drop were inversely related to how much of it was available to buy at the “real money” auction house embedded into the experience, and I can agree with that. Stunts like that make playing higher levels almost require you to put cash into the game to buy the gear you will need to win. Thankfully, a short while before Reaper of Souls came out, Blizzard resolved this issue by removing the auction house and adding the Loot 2.0 system. Now the relation to gear dropped is much more about what class you are playing and what level you are, making most drops a lot more useful. Granted, there are still many times drops will be relatively useless as you will either have better gear already (if a friend gave you something awesome OR you had a really good drop earlier) or just plain not be the right class for it. But considering those items can be traded among friends, kept for other classes you may want to play, sold for needed gold, or even salvaged for stuff you can use to build your own custom gear, this isn’t too bad in it’s own right.
A nice bonus for building these characters also comes in the form of a change to your Paragon levels. The perks and paragon levels are no longer bound to a single character. Instead they are account-wide, so every character you play will have the paragon you have earned, letting you have a little bit of an edge when you start a new character.
So the question now is if all of this is changed in the base game, what do you get extra with Reaper of Souls? Well, you get a few extras worth noting.
First and foremost, you get a new act to the game. Act 5 is the storyline mentioned earlier in this review, and will now follow up the original end automatically, assuming you don’t start on it with a character you finished Act 4 on previously.
Second, those characters have a bit more leveling to do with the new act, as the level cap has been raised to 70. And with the level cap, there is also a whole new set of abilities for each class. Continuing my adventure with my Demon Hunter, I was able to try out the new ability “Vengeance” which for those of you who have played Devil May Cry in the PS2 days, is basically Devil Trigger. You turn into a demonic version of yourself who shoots incredibly fast with various effects depending on the rune you have equipped. From homing shots, to super-powered ones, to even clones of yourself joining in on the fun. The other classes also have equally impressive new “final” techniques to learn.
And speaking of other classes, the third thing you get with this expansion is a new character to play through the entire game with. In addition to the original cast, there is now a Crusader you can play as. If you are the type who either wants to master a game by playing through all the classes, or just someone who likes the idea of this one, you have one more time through both the main game and the expansion ahead of you.
But the big thing most Diablo fans want is the ability to keep playing after the campaign is over, and this expansion delivers! There is now has an “Adventure Mode” which you can have fun with when you finish the game, allowing you and friends to literally go anywhere in the world and all the acts within it, hunting down bounties at will. The world is now your playground of carnage if you so desire.
Bugs: I couldn’t find any bugs in their own right, but this game is constantly online with the servers pretty much running the game itself and your machine only being a client telling it what your character does. As a result there were a few nights along the way where I noticed an occasional lag spike (and in fact just before I saw it, I saw complaints in the clan chat). It was never major and pretty much resulted in frame-rate dropping on very rare occasion, but overall, this game ran smooth as butter and absolutely perfectly.
Overall: Diablo 3 has seen a lot of improvement since it’s launch, and that’s not including the opening weekend literally bringing the game servers to their knees and stopping almost everyone from playing. The game itself has only gotten better over time, and this expansion adds a nice extra bit of story and world to play in as well. That said, most of the gameplay enhancements are in Diablo 3 itself, so you will get your better loot and account based paragon levels regardless. But as far as content goes, this expansion does it right. For $40, you basically are getting a new character, a higher level cap, new abilities for all your classes, a new act, and a whole new gameplay mode to run around all 5 acts unrestricted to go crazy with.
In short, despite the steep price for merely an expansion, the extra content you get out of it is actually worth your while.