Hack and slash: one of the most action-packed, fast-paced, and addicting game types available. Despite all its potential as a big draw to PC gamers, the genre has been relatively quiet of late. This has happened for a few reasons. For one, the competition is stiff. After the release of maybe the most praised hack and slash ever, Diablo II, it took nearly 10 years for other developers to make an experience that was just as memorable and addictive. And really, the only one to actually threaten its reign was Blizzard’s new title, Diablo III. So Blizzard has the market pretty pinned down… Which brings us to the second reason these games aren’t as popular right now. As much as people critically acclaimed Diablo III (D3), it was all based on pre-launch limited beta testing, and there were a lot of issues with the game. Player retention was kind of a flub. Pay-to-win was instilled in its core with the real-money auction house. Basically, the decisions they made to try and make the game last made many players flee. Combine that with server issues from the get go, and what was surely our next great time sink became a single playthrough (with kind of sad money-grabbing tactics). Heck, if you Google “has D3″ your first 3 suggestions are variations of “has D3 improved”. We’ve heard a lot of things were fixed in Diablo III, like the removal of the real-money auction house and the actual implementation of PvP which was delayed months after its initial release date. The game still has potential to bring back its player base; now, with an expansion arriving, we’re hoping it brings the Lord of Destruction feel back into possibly the only pillar left for hack and slash enthusiasts.
Your knight in shining armor, the Pala – er, Crusader (lets face it, he’s the Paladin - you will likely make this mistake as well) is a great teammate. He can use auras and spells to bring more offense or defense to the battle. He also throws hammers, so there’s that. He may not be the biggest damage-dealer in the game - far from it, actually - but the balance of defensive abilities with things like flying hammers and holy damage makes for a balanced character that can fill many roles in a party just by changing a skill or two and a bit of gear, something some of the other classes have lacked thus far. I’m hoping the next character (or two) brings something entirely new to Diablo; as much as I love my Paladin (Crusader… dammit), having access to all the builds makes characters easier to experience as a whole compared to other titles.
Act 5 is by far the darkest chapter in the Diablo III saga to date. The environment is much closer to what people cried out for when thinking back to the glory days of the much more grim-looking Diablo II. Maybe it’s all in the name of fan service, but it does add a different experience than the last four Acts. Is there really anything better than piles of rotted corpses ready for a blade-slapping? Also joining the game are the new varied enemies found in the new expansion. It would have been easy to change a colour palette here or there and call it a day, but you’re getting a bit more quality here, which is likely to counter the lack of quantity of extra gameplay. Also added in Reaper of Souls are a new adventure mode and random “Bounty Events”, both of which are set to give you new side quests and another reason to play beyond your max level. It’s also a great way for people to keep digging for their precious loot. The more they can keep you concentrated on that, the better it’ll be for keeping people interested in the series. I personally love the adventure mode; it throws you straight into the action and the events are always fun and easy to get to with the new mapping system.
Apart from the new character and the “old” Act 5, you’ll also find a horde of fresh loot. With the new patches, no auction house means drops are going to be better and more frequent (which also increases with your level of desired difficulty). So you can now scale with the game on an incredibly fair playing field, with brand new drops, too. This is my favourite feature by far. The auction house had created a mess of an in-game economy where you were paying way too much money (real or fake) for way too little progression. It also meant a really low drop percentage, and you have to wonder how fun a loot game really is when you can’t even get a legendary after a week of play with a bunch of magic find gear equipped. FIXED! The only thing is that it isn’t just an expansion feature - it also includes a few patch updates. I’ll take it any way I can get it. The changes mean that there are plenty of new drops, and the bounty events are a good way to find it once you’ve hit the new level maximum of 70.
In the spirit of a true multiplayer game, it wouldn’t have been the same without someone to trot along the treacherous paths of demonic mayhem of Reaper of Souls . So here’s an in-review, second opinion from good friend and fellow 3GEM writer Patrick Hamelin:
“It would be incorrect to say that, by itself, the Reaper of Souls storyline is bad - it adds a bit of a twist to the main game’s story, though it’s a twist that’s fairly predictable considering that the expansion is set up as ‘the first of many to come’. But it does extend the story and gives us a new bad guy and a lot of new treats, which is the norm for expansions anyway. The issue isn’t that there’s new stuff, it’s that there isn’t enough of it. The story is very short, and they’ve only offered one new character. It had been said that the lack of customization in Diablo III was an issue even when compared to other older games, especially with the removal of the skill tree (all skills available eventually, no points to distribute). You also have to dig in the options to be able to set up your character with the skills you want, in the slot you want them, which is more work than should be necessary.
Only one new hero!? Seriously? When Diablo II got an expansion, we got two new characters with completely different and new skill sets. Now we get one hero, the Paladin (oohhhh right, the Crusader…). There’s a bit of a lack of imagination – why not just call him the Paladin if you’re going to blatantly state that it’s basically a Paladin. I don’t mind having him there – the problem is that it’s just him. Give us another NEW character and I’d be much happier with the situation.”
The biggest disappointment, and I know it had to be expected, comes with the games price tag. No matter how logical it is that a game should release a bundle of the original game plus expansion for the standard $60, it’ll never happen with Blizzard or any company with this much control over the market. For the amount of quality it brings (and it is a much, much better experience), it’s still just an expansion with about 20% extra gameplay and some add-ons. With that said, expect to pay $45 for D3 and $45 for Reaper of Souls for the next three months or so.
In the end, the game’s fixes came more from patching the game than from making an expansion. Only bringing in one rehashed character and one Act doesn’t add that much diversity to gameplay. It’s not that it’s a bad game - it’s actually quite fun now - but again, how much of that is really coming from the expansion? The answer is not very much.
This review is based on a digital copy of Diablo III: Reaper of the Souls for the PC provided to 3GEM by the publisher.