VR-Zone reviews Diablo III‘s newly released Reaper of Souls expansion, revealing why the content not only provides hours of definitive dungeon-crawling action, but also revitalizes the game itself with a slew of updated features.

Diablo III Reaper of Souls Diablo III: Reaper of Souls review

Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Genre: Action RPG
Platform: PC
Release Date: 3/25/14
MSRP: $39.99

(Don’t) Fear the Reaper

In many ways, Reaper of Souls feels like a new game altogether; lost are those elements that have bogged down Diablo III and made it a near-unplayable experience for many gamers. The Auction House has been nixed, putting an emphasis on interactive player-to-player trading, and Blizzard has put forth a rather earnest effort in re-shaping the game to align it with the elements we’ve come to expect from a Diablo game.

A number of new updates were released in time for Reaper of Souls, making it an unprecedented leap forward from last year’s ARPG; we now have a massive array of changes that empower gamers, giving them incentive to return to the hallowed realm of Sanctuary for more monster-slaying action.

With additional features like a sizable new Act, an alternate and entertaining Adventure Mode, the new Loot 2.0 update (which pretty much ensures you’ll get good gear you can use) and the new Mystic artisan, Blizzard has returned to the hallmark days of Diablo by emphasizing the truly randomized system that makes every monster kill feel like pulling the lever of a slot machine;  sometimes you win big, and sometimes you bust–but now gamers feel the need to keep going.

Blizzard has wizened up and honed their skills to craft an engaging and intimate gaming experience that only gets better the more you play it. The introduction of a brand new Crusader class adds a plethora of theorycrafting and brewing for hardcore dungeon crawlers, giving a considerable amount of replay value with an impressive level of possibilities.

All in all, Reaper of Souls is a huge step forward to the resurrection of the series, and has sparked off a new wave of enjoyability across the gaming sphere.

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The expansion adds in a new gothic style that emphasizes blue fire and a general air of ghostliness, making for a true Diablo-esque environmental feel.

“A Hallowed Angel”: Story and Plot

The story arc for the expansion follows a rather dark-styled and gothic approach, facilitating an interesting plot revolving around a fallen member of the Angiris Council. Malthael, who had served in the High Heavens as the Angel of Wisdom within the Council, had long ago fallen from grace and disappeared. After Diablo–who had culminated into the Prime Evil–was defeated by the Nephalem hero, Malthael makes his triumphant return.

Rather than heralding a return to the graces of the holy realm and embracing the remnants of the Council, Malthael reveals his true nature as the desecrated Angel of Death.

In a struggle with Tyrael, the fallen angel Malthael steals the Black Soulstone, which swirls with the unfathomable malevolence of the Prime Evils. Now it is up to the Nephalem to once again seek vengeance and stop Malthael before his nefarious plans come to fruition; but the hero soon finds untold horrors that lay in Malthael’s wake, with whole cities scourged and townsfolk turned into mindless ghouls.

Can the Nephalem once again save Sanctuary, or is it doomed to suffer the wrath of the terrors of the dark?

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Reaper of Souls introduces a smattering of new baddies, including hordes of skeletons, reapers, and other terrifying bosses that do the bidding of the Angel of Death.

Breaking the Mold: Gameplay Mechanics, Loot and More

Reaper of Souls feels like more than an expansion–in many ways it is a brand new game. It is clear that Blizzard is devoted to re-shaping Diablo III as a whole, and this new release goes lengths in re-invigorating gameplay. RoS adds in a bounty of content that both new and old gamers can appreciate, making for an original and rather engrossing experience across the board.

One of the first things you’ll notice about Reaper of Souls is the new Crusader character class. This class is much like the classic Paladin from Diablo II, featuring many of the same skills like Blessed Hammer and Smite. The Crusader is quite versatile and has a unique skill set that varies, making for a unique character to say the least; players can be both a heavy-hitting melee tank or a spell-casting tank at the same time, and when a whole team of Crusaders hits the board they leave havoc in their wake.

Other changes include raising the level cap to 70, as well as Act V, the new act. Act V is set in Westmarch and ultimately culminates in a battle in the elusive Pandemonium Fortress. D2 players will remember taking down Diablo in Act IV, and Reaper of Souls does a great job in bringing shades of the classic game into the new release.

Westmarch is a massive city, and it’s a place we haven’t been before; but the stylish flair is something quite new and brings a distinctive dark, gothic feel to the game that fits right in line with the ghastly overtones.

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Running for loot in a Nephalem Rift is a great way to bolster your stash of goodies, outfit your characters, and to generally have a blast with end-game content.

Updates to the loot system (thanks to the Loot 2.0 update) are quite noticeable, especially if you’re starting from scratch. Players will see many more legendary drops, with a number of item drops that are specifically tailored to your character class. Sure there will be randomized junk here and there, but many times you’ll find that boss kills will lead to rather useful items rather than just a bunch of vendor drops.

Stats have also been increased and altered in many drops, especially with the new Mystic artisan. Players can transmorgrify items to re-shape them, possibly adding in that perfect stat in the perfect numbers, and as you play, you’ll see other gamers linking in their fresh creations into the chat–some of which have mind-boggling stats.

The absence of the Auction House and the Real Money Auction House may seem daunting at first, especially if you’re one of the many gamers who made a quick buck here and there with items. The AH, in many ways, depreciated the overall gameplay experience and many felt that it ruined the game. Without these hindrances, players are free to trade and find their gear the old-fashioned way.

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Completing Bounties in Adventure Mode can lead to some fantastic rewards, including legendary items and the always-versatile gold.

Other new additions include Nephalem Rifts, which is basically a portal to a wholly randomized alternate dimension with tons of enemies and even more chances at loot. The Rifts are a great way for stronger characters to rack up powerful items as well as keep entertained after beating the quests, and offers a challenging way to test out your ultimate builds.

Adventure Mode is also quite interesting, and it’s quite layered as it involves Nephalem Rifts as well as Bounties to boot. After beating Act V, the mode is unlocked for all your characters, regardless of level or difficulty. That is to say that higher difficulties in Adventure Mode will be more challenging and offer greater rewards, but basically the mode unlocks the entirety of Sanctuary for all characters (within the mode, of course).

At the start of Adventure Mode, you’re given a set goal, such as “kill this boss”, or “clear this dungeon”. After completing your goal, you return to a waypoint and port to your new goal, reaping the rewards as you move forward. Throughout your conquests you’ll receive Rift Keystones, which unlock Nephalem Rifts–another way to earn goodies with your beefed-out characters.

As you can see, Blizzard has implemented a varied and quite expansion wave of late- and end-game content for players to enjoy, ensuring there is never a dull moment.

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Nephalem Rifts are gateways to randomized areas with challenging enemies and the possibility to earn fabulous loot.

A New Beginning

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls is Blizzard’s first step in the right direction for the series, and is a leap forward in terms of content and replayability. The expansion represents a positive effort put forth by the company to resurrect the stagnation that surrounded the game, and quite honestly they’ve done a hell of a job so far.

Reaper of Souls not only captivates on a personal level with its immersive plot-arc and character development, but the slew of new features tacks on a massive level of content for players to enjoy time and time again. The visuals and the new monsters are quite compelling, bringing players into a brand new Act with its own style and focus, with a smattering of new terrifying bosses to slay along the way.

Overall the newest expansion proves that Blizzard cares about the series, and if they continue along this path, Diablo should return to its former glory as the definitive dungeon-crawling ARPG.

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        Pros:

  • Adventure Mode
  • New Mystic artisan
  •  Act V’s stylish flair
  • Versatile Crusader class
  •  Outstanding musical score
  • Compelling story
  • Loot 2.0 update
  • Huge array of late-game content

Cons:

  • Minor bugs
  • Crusader can be overpowered