Review: Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls (Computer)

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls: Official GBAtemp Review

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Reviewed by Brandon Boui, posted Mar 11, 2014
Diablo III has definitely had a colorful experience since its launch back in May of 2012. I played the original title back when it launched and it was plagued with errors. I had been keeping up with the game on and off, and I heard really good things about the expansion from those who participated in the beta. I am definitely interested to see how the new expansion made the game better! I also needed the break to rejuvenate my writing flow so this was a really nice change.
Mar 11, 2014
  • Release Date (NA): March 25, 2014
  • Release Date (EU): March 25, 2014
  • Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
  • Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
  • Genres: Action Role-playing, dungeon crawler
  • Also For: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
Reaper of Souls came out on March 25, 2014. The new itemization patch called "Loot 2.0" was released about three weeks prior to the launch of the expansion and it definitely played like a whole new game with much stronger itemization and a revamped difficulty set. The expansion brings an extension to the story in the form of Act V, a new Crusader class, and the highly anticipated loot update. The price of the expansion at launch is currently $39.99.
Brandon Boui

GBAtemp Review of: 

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls

Manufacturer: Blizzard Entertainment

MSRP: $39.99

Release date: March 25, 2014

 

Table of Contents

  • Introduction - Summing Diablo III in a Nutshell
  • Reaper of Souls
  • New Features
  • Improvement? Should I Purchase?
  • Conclusion
Introduction - Summing Up Diablo III and its Launch in a Nutshell

Diablo III was a game that suffered from too much hype. It released back in May of 2012, to strong sales, however the content had been disappointing for most players, including myself, considering that most of us had come in from Diablo II over a decade ago. The game had suffered from game-breaking bugs, had weak itemization, had a weak and repetitive story, and little real direction during its launch. Leadership suffered, and the players suffered, with a number of bad decisions that ended up hurting the gameplay, even to the chagrin of Blizzard themselves. One such decision was the auction house that was implemented into the game, a feature that was since removed as of March 18, 2014. For a game that prides itelf on the loot and the feeling of being special, the auction house did no favors. Combine that with the same story rehashed four times in the vanilla Diablo III experience, and you have a recipe for disaster. The Auction house also had a real money counterpart, called the Real-Money Auction House, that ended up becoming a haven for bots and gold farmers. Insane amounts of gold could have been purchased for only a few USD, legally, without the need to use a shady third party dealer. Inflation started killing prices.

In the initial run of Diablo III, there were four difficulties. They were Normal, Nightmare, Hell, and Inferno mode. Normal was a faceroll that could be beaten without skills, Nightmare could be beaten easily without any skill whatsoever, maybe with minimal skill usage. Hell mode brought a higher difficulty to the table with heavier monster affixes and higher damage, but Inferno mode took the cake at Diablo III's launch for being almost comically difficult, with the difficulty raised to such an artificial level that it was akin to being slapped in the face. The story itself had to repeated several times to even reach that level. There were no changes between modes, which therefore made the game extremely boring to play. What made Inferno worse was that the only way to survive was to basically either get incredibly lucky with an extremely powerful rare item drop, or comb the auction house at just the right moment to snag a one of a kind deal. That is what happened to most players, including myself, that forced us away from the game after only a few months. For most, the story was one of the harder parts to deal with, as it was very weakened and predictable.

Itemization was a huge problem early on. Loot was all over the place. Legendary items (the rarest drops) could be easily outstripped by a passing Rare item that one found moments later. Legendaries often sold for trash prices early on. These valuable items had no real meaning as they were too weak to take advantage of. Stats were almost always all over the place. A Barbarian that relies on strength as a prime stat has no need for an item with intelligence. It was inconceivable at the time. 

The lack of happiness that players had with the launch of the title was very quickly felt by Blizzard. Funny memes began popping up, describing the chaos of the game. Error 37 was one of the always popular topics early in, with players lamenting on being able to connect to the game, criticizing the need for the game's always online infrastructure, despite most of the game being a single-player experience. At that point, there was no real point in continuing the journey, until things had been fixed.

Reaper of Souls

Thankfully, most of the issues mentioned above went away with the release of the new expansion, which came out in two portions. One portion, the first portion, was the new Itemization Patch called "Loot 2.0," which completely revamped the way that items were distributed throughout the game. Items and stats finally felt valuable. Legendaries dropped slightly more frequently, and with stats that made them worthy of being called legendary. This had an immediate effect on the playerbase, and it made the game essentially become something new. Grinding for gear felt fun again. It felt refreshing, to be able to go into the title with a chance to get worthy gear. The previous difficulty system was also completely scrapped, being replaced by a more evenly distributed system that provided higher experience and gold drops at the higher levels. At some of these higher difficulties lay loot that could only be obtained by participating within said difficulty mode. Character builds had been redesigned to allow for more flexibility. 

Being brief, Reaper of Souls costs $39.99 and comes packed with a continuation of the story, following the player's adventures and encounters with the Archangel Malthael. The story is extended, a new class is provided (Crusader), new gameplay modes (A sandbox of sorts!), and many other features. This will be discussed in the New Features section of the review, so please be patient in the meantime.

To carry on the story discussion, Malthael was the Archangel of Wisdom who had disappeared from Diablo II's storyline. The story follows the events of the game after killing Diablo, and the recovery of the Black Soulstone. Tyrael, the angel who had been an integral part of the Diablo III storyline, attempts to seal the Black Soulstone within Sanctuary so that it could never be recovered. He does so with the help of six followers. In the attempt to do so he is ambushed, incapacitated, and five of the followers are killed. Malthael, who now considered himself as an Angel of Death, takes the Soulstone and seeks to end the Eternal Conflict between the Heavens and Hell. His solution? Eradicate humanity, which has been seen as a race of nothing more than demon spawn. Tyrael then attempts to seek out the player (the Nephalem) to wipe out Malthael and his minions. The story will answer a lot of the questions that Act IV left behind.

New Features
  • The Crusader class

The Crusader is a new class that is introduced with the expansion. This class is considered a mid-range spellcaster/melee class that utilizes a Sword, Flail, and a shield as part of the weaponry. They can also fire spells with a medium range. To fight, the Crusader utilizes an energy source called Wrath, which by the lore is considered a Divine Magic as they fuel their devotion to the Zakarum. This resource is generated in the Crusader's attacks. The Crusader will also be a part of the story, even retroactively, as he has his own reasons for investigating the events that took place during the game launch.

From my time playing with this class, I have some nitpicks with it. It just doesn't feel right. On one hand, the class is a melee class, but on the other hand, the class is a medium-ranged unit. It's kind of an odd balance and gives the Crusader a schizophrenic feel to it, as if it doesn't quite yet know how to function. I understand it give more options to the player, giving them an opportunity to cater as either a melee or range playstyle, but at the same time, both roles are better fulfilled by either Barbarians or any of the other ranged classes. They're durable in battle, but overall, the class could just have been executed a bit better.

 

  • New Act V storyline

As I mentioned above, the story is a continuation from the events of the vanilla experience. Having just killed Diablo, the Black Soulstone is recovered in the hands of Tyrael. Tyrael, the angel who had been an integral part of the Diablo III storyline, attempts to seal the Black Soulstone within Sanctuary so that it could never be recovered. He does so with the help of six followers. In the attempt to do so he is ambushed, incapacitated, and five of the followers are killed. Malthael, who now considered himself as an Angel of Death, takes the Soulstone and seeks to end the Eternal Conflict between the Heavens and Hell. His solution? Eradicate humanity, which has been seen as a race of nothing more than demon spawn. Tyrael then attempts to seek out the player (the Nephalem) to wipe out Malthael and his minions.

The story is a step up from the regular game, but not by much. It definitely is not something to write home about. It still felt predictable, and was actually rather short. For speed players, the game could be beat in less than two hours. People who have played it say that it could be beaten in about five hours at most. Having started the moment the game launched, I can confirm that the story extension of Act V took about two hours and ten minutes on a rather high difficulty. 

  • New Antagonist

Malthael was the former Archangel of Wisdom of the High Heavens who disappeared in the events of Diablo II, after the events of the Worldstone. He returns in the new expansion calling himself the Angel of Death, callously murdering those who stand in his way, and threatening to eliminate the race of humans, calling them demon spawn. With Malthael, I found him to be a better villain than Diablo, but not by much. While Diablo felt kind of shoehorned into the story at the last moment to give the game its titular name, Malthael had room to expand, and the game definitely does so, but his reasoning to become what he did is just silly. Callous murder just does not feel like a justifiable solution, considering he used to embody the Aspect of Wisdom in the High Heavens. I do like his appearance though, he looks incredible in game, with a great soundtrack to back it up. The final boss encounter with him was... interesting, to say the least, though. I'll leave that for you to play.

  • Raised level cap (70) and higher Paragon Levels

The level cap was increased from the level 60 to a cap of 70, with paragon levels being increased as well. With new levels comes new equipment! This includes new legendary sets built around the new level cap, and according to the developers of the game, the new gear is going to be huge. The developers wanted to make gear focus on certain skills so that the player gets to migrate around builds instead of being restricted to one particular skill build for the duration of the game. With a new level cap, from 60 - 70 it took about 542.2 million experience. Beating Act V did not necessarily fulfill that but it got me rather close to the finished level cap.

The new Paragon levels system was capped originally. That cap was removed with the release of the expansion! Essentially, every Paragon level rewarded a player with core stats such as strength, dexterity, intelligence, and vitality in amounts similar to what they'd gain from a normal level, and 3% magic and gold find. A new frame in the character's portrait was earned every 10 levels to signify their paragon progression. With the removal of the capped levels, it means more grinding, so get to it! 

  • Loot 2.0

​Make it rain! This system revamp alone was huge for the integral success of the expansion. Having arrived several weeks before the expansion came out, it introduced, basically, a whole new way to play the game, with smarter loot systems that would give loot that actually works in the player's favor, rather than be a hodgepodge of stats that cannot be used by anyone. The rarity system was improved upon, with more rares (yellow drops) being found in the field and higher legendary drops. The only downside was that the patch itself was a whopping 8 GB to download. 

In the new expansion legendaries were improved upon with higher stats and affixes, and dropped more frequently. According to the developers, the legendary system currently works on a timed basis that implements a passive buff the longer you play in combat without attaining a legendary drop. The approximate time between legendaries is about ninety minutes. However, it is more than possible to attain more than one legendary within the allotted period. Gear actually felt useful most of the time. With the new expansion, there are new legendaries that can only be found in the highest difficulty, Torment mode, to encourage players to challenge themselves and play the new content. These legendary sets also contain affixes that encourage players to try new builds instead of sticking to cookie cutter builds. 

Having come out several weeks prior to the release of the expansion, I definitely took advantage of it, and have played dozens of hours already, more than most AAA title games altogether. The game just feels so new with this loot system in it. Combining it with the gargantuan patch to download, it really is a whole new beast to sit with.

  • Newer endgame in the form of Nephalem rifts

Nephalem Rifts were a concept formerly called Loot Runs. It's an intense challenge that provides valuable items should the player complete it. The unique thing about these loot runs is that absolutely everything is randomized. Yes, that's right. Monsters, elite pack affixes, terrain are all randomized completely. Some have reported finding a full room of loot goblins. 

To gain access, one must have a Nephalem Key and then go to town for usage. They will not take place within any of the current acts available, but will be utilizing the tile sets of the previous acts. Unique monsters can also be found within these runs. Anyone who is not on the expansion will receive an update at some point to include Nephalem Rifts, but that date is currently unknown. For the users of the expansion set, this will be included at launch.

I love farming special monsters. It's an absolute doozy to be able to find truly randomized content that is unpredictable. The story and maps are generally the same layout with different tilesets, but this actually feels like brand new "content" for players to enjoy. I've found some strange stuff going on in these places that I absolutely loved to explore. 

  • Adventure Mode (Sandbox!) and Bounties

The last major feature of the expansion I'd like to discuss is the new Adventure Mode. The Adventure mode is a glorified sandbox of sorts that takes place with the entire realm of Sanctuary being the batteground. All waypoints and checkpoints have been unlocked, and you can now essentially train anywhere you want. Think of it as the Free Mode from the Dynasty Warriors franchise, but better. There are also bounties that can be obtained, which is done by killing special monsters that appear within these zones for rewards. 

There is no difficulty, scaling instead to the player's level and giving rewards based on that. The system will consist of about five bounties per act, usually dealing with completing objectives and defeating certain monsters. In return, the player will be guaranteed a Rift Keystone to access the Nephalem Rifts should the player complete all the goals in the act. 

I actually love this feature as it really gave more to do and made finding grinding spots a lot easier, as sometimes when I rushed through the story I missed some of the waypoints leading to destinations, so if I wanted to grind heavily in that area I would be stuck back in the middle of nowhere. The added bonuses of killing these special bounty monsters is just an icing on the cake to encourage exploration, for me. 

Improvement? Should I Purchase?

For anyone bitter, like me, about the launch of Diablo III, rest assured the game has actually turned around for the better, mainly to do with the new Loot 2.0 patch and the removal of the Auction House element. The removal of the auction house gives players an incentive to grind out their game and improve their gear, with the improvement of legendary drop rates.

The extension of the story into Act V, which details the Fall of Westmarche, was rather predictable. Story just was not a strong suit in the game, and it looks like the trend continues with the expansion. It is a step up from the stagnance of the original game, though, more so do to the fact that it's actually "new" content to explore. In retrospect, I feel that most gamers will be focusing on the exploration of Nephalem Rifts or Adventure Mode though, rather than sit and ogle at the story details. 

As far as the new features, they were a long time coming but very well worth it. The encouragement for players to play the game with the new loot system revitalized what many players had been asking for since the original launch. Things feel useful again! With the removal of the auction house, the game gives incentives to play the content instead of watching with birds' eyes on the auction house. Letting players have opportunities to gamble on stat rolls is a lot of fun that essentially adds a new gold sink into the game. I can foresee myself spending many hours playing and going for the new Rift system to get higher loot. 

The one thing I would recommend is a price change. Having waited almost two years for this expansion fix to the original game, the price tag at $39.99 is a bit steep, considering that not a ton of "content" was added. The thing that keeps games like Diablo thriving is replayability, but the new content can be beaten extremely quickly and with the addition of one new class, the price tag is considered steep. Do I think the game is worth it? For me, I absolutely love games in which there is a sense of progression, so yes, I was happy to pay that price tag. I clocked many hours into the previous game and in Diablo II, so this seems like a hands-down purchase to pick up. 

Actually, I change my mind. There's a second point I'd like to see fixed or modified, and that's the trade system. Trading is an essential part of Diablo, spawning huge communities of markets such as D2JSP or even the forums. With the new expansion, almost everything is bind on account, which is no good for a game that requires a lot of gear progression. What does this mean? If you find a useless piece of gear, but know that a friend absolutely wants it, you cannot trade to that friend unless said friend is present in the party when you obtained the drop. You also only have a two hour waiting window. Want to give your friend a startup to play the game? Can't do that anymore. Want to give gems or crafting materials to players? Can't do that anymore either. The fact that Blizzard has chosen to essentially nuke the trading system makes Reaper of Souls feel more like a solo player with benefits game, rather than a game that is a multiplayer experience.

In general though, if you are just coming back from the launch of Diablo III, it is a whole new game that deserves a retry. There is just so much to do and the game itself just feels so fresh now that it got me back into the game quickly. And this was a guy that had been hit in the face with Inferno Mode, Act II. I shudder at those days, but I can now clear that act with ease on the highest difficulty modes with the enhanced loot system.

Conclusion 

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls is definitely a worthy expansion to the game that was desperately needed. The revitalization of the game through the new loot system, the addition of a new class, the extension of the story, and the newer incentives of endgame content should keep fans of the game happy, especially if they boarded the original launch train. The orginal launch, a disaster from the start, should hopefully be rectified and bugs hopefully ironed out. I am pleased to report that the launch of the game actually went incredibly smoothly, in comparison to the launch of the vanilla Diablo III package. There were no disconnects; having been logged in ahead of time before launch, the game popped an onscreen message that declared the expansion had gone live, and I was able to jump into the content right away with no problems, save for some very minor lag in high-density locations. The game, though it has a slightly steep price tag, shouldn't be measured quantitatively in terms of how much content is added, but in terms of replayability, and that is priceless here as there is just so much more for the player to be able to do. From a passionate Diablo II/III player I found that this expansion was well worth my dollars spent, having spent more time with the new loot system than I have on most recent AAA games released on bigger consoles, as I found most of them a disappointment that just did not last. Diablo III: Reaper of Souls DOES last a long time, and I think that was Blizzard's intent: to create a game that players could flock to and spend their hard earned hours and flourish with the rewards. 

This review was written for GBAtemp.net only, with research conducted via playing of the beta on the Pubic Test Realm, the closed beta, through playing of the actual retail product at launch time, and by searching on the Diablo III Wikia for more accurate information. If you see this review on another location, please send me a private message! Thank you! 

Verdict
Pros
+ Revitalized loot system
+ New class addd
+ More endgame incentives
+ No more auction house
Cons
- Price high for "minimal content"
- Story is still predictable
- No more Auction House means actual playing for gear and rewards
- The Bind on Account of almost all loot needs to be fixed
8 Presentation
Blizzard has always presented games well, for the most part. Their titles run on the majority of most modern systems, and their new content is often going to add many hours of fun to the title. Reaper of Souls is no exception, with some great special effects and animations.
9 Gameplay
There is just a lot of things to do now. Get gearing up, play the new class, try all the new endgame content! The game is yours to command, essentially. The new class, though strange for me, might actually work out well for you.
9 Lasting Appeal
Nephalem Rifts and Adventure mode are sure to keep players extremely busy in their quest to hit the best tiers of progression. These two modes alone make up for the high price tag and provide many hours of enjoyable play.
8.3
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
This expansion was what the game needed, and it did so quite well. Congratulations to Blizzard on that! If you come back, hope to see you there in the game!
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