No one Can Stop Death
The prospect of endless replayability has been an insurmountable goal chased by developers since the very inception of gaming. Few however can even hold candle to what Blizzard achieved with the first two iterations of the celebrated Diablo franchise. The addictive nature of the brands perpetual journey for better loot has captured the imaginations of gamers for decades leading to a great deal of anticipation and a profound sense of expectation surrounding the launch of Diablo 3 in May 2012. Although receiving a mostly positive reception the game failed to live up to its name, falling victim to a series of fundamental design flaws. Two years, and many patches later however we find ourselves presented with the titles first expansion in the form of Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls. With a new campaign act, new mode, and new difficulty and looting mechanics, Reaper of Souls sets out to return the highly coveted franchise to its rightful place atop the action RPG throne.
Taking place immediately after the events of the base game and the climatic defeat of Diablo at the hands of the chosen Nephalem, the Angel of Death Malthael has come to claim the accursed Black Soul Stone from the clutches of Tyrael and the Horadrim in order to once again plunge the realm of Sanctuary into chaos. As the champion of humanity and the only Nephalem with the strength and fortitude to conquer death itself, your chosen hero will crusade across a variety of unique and exciting locales, from the grand city of Westmarch, to the Battlefields of Eternity themselves in order to once again restore peace. While serving as an excellent platform to instill a profound sense of desire, exploration and progression in the player, these fresh and invigorating new environments are let down unfortunately by a less than impressive narrative. Although the expansion’s angelic new antagonist is certainly an incredibly well designed and overwhelmingly imposing villain from a purely cosmetic standpoint, he ultimately fails to impact the experience on the same level as previous villains resulting in a rather underwhelming interaction in game. In turn the narrative suffers to instill the same level of emotional impact so elegantly delivered by its predecessors.
Shortcomings in the narrative aside however, what Reaper of Souls lacks in story telling is more than offset by its incredible bounds forward in gameplay. Not only does the expansion boast a slew of new features including a new artisan, the Mystic, allowing players to enchant and transmogrify their shiny new gear for the first time in the franchise, a new and exciting hero class the Crusader, adding even more diversity and depth to player choice, as well as a host of new high end abilities as players embark upon their journey to the new level cap. Most impressive of these welcome new additions however is introduction of Adventure Mode, a new and exciting end game orientated experience. Upon completing the new campaign chapter the entire world of Sanctuary will become your playground as you embark upon randomly generated missions known as bounties scattered throughout the game’s five acts. Not only are these bounties extremely rewarding and dynamic in nature, they also serve as a pre-requisite for entry into what is Adventure Modes true prize, Nephalem Rifts. Colossal in scale and jam packed full of nasties to boot, Nephalem rifts are multi-leveled randomly generated dungeons which offer up some of the games most elusive rewards. With the newly revamped looting system, conveniently named “Loot 2.0”, coupled with the immense amount of new content, it is impossible not to fall victim to the grand sense of satisfaction and progression, evoked by the timeless nature of the title’s gameplay.
“it is impossible not to fall victim to the grand sense of satisfaction and progression”
While never being credited for delivering the most striking visuals in the industry, Diablo has always found its strength in truly breathtaking art design. Whether you are trudging through the rodent infested Blood Marshes, or battling your way through the dark and treacherous streets of Westmarch, it’s easy to become engulfed in the dark and gothic tone that Reaper of Souls so successfully portrays. This results in an unprecedented level of immersion and atmosphere that which not only makes players feel genuinely involved in the brutal and chaotic world of Sanctuary, but due to their random nature makes them an absolute blast to revisit as you are forever discovering new content.
It is abundantly clear from the opening moments that a great deal of effort and determination has been funneled into alleviating the problems of which plagued Diablo 3 and that is exactly what has been achieved here. The removal of the ill fated auction house, along with the much needed restructure of the game’s looting system does such a superb job of instilling that rewarding sense of anticipation that your next piece of awesome loot may just be around the corner. With Adventure Mode proving to be a revolutionary platform for new and exciting end game content and an all new story chapter in the franchise’s incredible journey waiting to be experienced, you’ll be hard pressed to find a title offer up so much content, for such little cost. Happy Hunting.
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment