Diablo III: Reaper of Souls changes the franchise for the better, adding in countless replayability, more loot than you can count, and enough enemies to kill for days and days.
“Hello, I’m Tony Hayward, President and CEO of BP. Our accidental drilling spill again in the Gulf is a tragedy that should have never happened and to all those affected I want to say we are deeply sorry. We’re sorry…we’re sorry! Sorry!”
So goes the clever South Park skit following the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico from BP. Despite polluting the ocean (twice) and summoning Cthullu, BP wants you know to know that they are totally sorry. What does this have anything to do with Diablo III? A lot, actually; in many ways, Reaper of Souls, the game’s first expansion pack, is essentially Blizzard telling fans that they’re so very sorry. Wouldn’t you know it? They actually mean it. Reaper of Souls, as well as its accompanying patch, fixes the main issues many had with the original release.
Truth be told, I enjoyed my time with Diablo III. Pacing issues aside, it was an enjoyable action based dungeon grinder. The thing was, though, that I didn’t really enjoy returning to it with friends. The magic flat out wasn’t there, partially because the game felt like it was about the destination instead of the journey. You were getting loot from bosses in manners that rival, say, World of Warcraft, and if I wanted to play WoW I’d, you know, play WoW.
Part of the reasoning behind a lack of magic was undoubtedly due to the controversial addition of the auction house to Diablo III. Now that it’s since been removed, the drop rate of loot is pretty arbitrary; there’s no market to flood and no marketplace to trivialize. The result is an absolute downpour of usable items that results in a constant return to camp to make inventory room. You wanted loot? You sure as heck got it.
Still, that wasn’t the only problems facing Diablo III. My initial review pointed out pacing issues with the game’s first Acts, something that rears its ugly head as I play through the all-new Crusader class (more on that later). The first three Acts seemed to slug on forever and ever with no end as sight, a stark comparison to the fourth and final Act with breakneck pacing that would make Michael Bay proud.
The all new Act Five stands out so well compared to the originals, featuring excellent pacing, plentiful monsters, and plenty of exploration. Most importantly, though, is the fact that Reaper of Souls finds a way to combine these three into one. You’ll fight as you explore, but the enemies know that you’ll need a time to breathe every now and then.
It’s just a shame that the story doesn’t come close to living up to the gameplay. The dialogue is cornier, the story is cringier, and the characters are trying too damn hard. But why waste time talking about why the narrative doesn’t work? Here’s the problems in a nutshell: when villain Malthael is introduced, he creepily approaches our heroes in an effort to retake the Black Soulstone. The introduction is appropriate until Malthael tilts his head in a manner that resembles a Blood Elf.
Now, I don’t know if you’re familiar with how Blood Elves look, but they certainly don’t look scary. Why Malthael tilts his head is beyond me; I laughed and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the reaction Blizzard was going for. Thankfully his boss encounter is downright spectacular.
Reaper of Souls’ story isn’t anything to write home about, no surprise there. When it comes to the all-new adventure mode, however, we’ll be sure to send our parents plenty of letters after completing objectives. Adventure mode boils down to this: you’ll traverse through familiar locales in the game’s now five acts and complete bounties in each.
You can also take any hero at any level into any area. Are you a low level character? Go right ahead and jump into a later act. Heck, don’t be afraid to bump up the difficulty, either. The game caters to your character and in doing so provides a distraction from reality that may endanger your social life. Loot grinders have a home and we may never see them again.
Sadly, adventure mode is locked until you complete the story of Reaper of Souls. Again, I don’t think Blizzard intended us to ignore the downright shallow narrative and just get into the gameplay. Let’s instead talk about something Blizzard was intending: the ungodly power your character wields.
There’s nothing more exhilarating than the feeling of being able to stop the unstoppable, defeat the undefeatable, and conquer the conquerable. These are all common occurrences in Reaper of Souls, yet they never fall out of favor. Perhaps no other class exemplifies this more than the Crusader, the newest of the bunch. While it may not be as sexy as its companions, Crusaders are still more than capable of getting the job done, balancing power and strength and using both to their advantage. Does it make for a class that isn’t always exciting to play? You bet; I feel like I still greatly prefer my Monk, but the Crusader doesn’t deserve to be shunned away.
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls brings the breath of fresh air the game so desperately needed. Its new act is an absolute blast to play, Adventure Mode does wonders to its replayability, and the new loot solves most of the issues of the original. Does it now hold a candle to Diablo II? That honestly remains to be seen; time will tell and I feel like the issues from the first few Acts will still weigh the game down. It’s a step in the right direction, though, and that’s all that matters in the end.