Death, comes to all
Diablo is gone, trapped in the black soulstone for an eternity or more. This leaves the soulstone to fall to Sanctuary and crash down onto the world of Diablo with a bang. Tyrael, the once archangel of Justice rebuilds the Horadrim order to guard it. That's until the Angel of Death, Malthael breaks in, murders them and steals the soulstone. Thus begins the adventure that is Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls, but it's so much more than just a plain old expansion pack!
Patch 2.x is a game changer, and dovetails into RoS beautifully. For ages I wanted to see if the PC version of the game could challenge the console loot system and gameplay upgrades, now I want these upgrades to come to the console versions for all the people I know and love the game. Paragon 2.0, Loot 2.0 and all of it combines to make Reaper of Souls (and by extension Diablo 3) the best version of the game to date - with slews of changes that would take a writer several pages to explain.
Take a read of the previous link and look at how much work, balancing, rebalancing and changing Diablo 3 has been for Blizzard's development team. It's amazing stuff really, to see a game like Diablo 3 become the game that many fans wanted it to be and to get a stellar Act V to cap it all.
Loot 2.0 ensures that characters now get loot that fits their class, a greater variance of items drops based on the new difficulty levels. Gone are Normal, Nightmare, Hell, Inferno modes and they're replaced with Normal, Hard, Expert, Master and Torment (with a slider to control difficulty like Master was).
Starting from Hard, XP and Gold get boosted by 75% up to 200% on Master and so on.
This results in a smoother levelling curve in the game in general. To add to this, the monsters are now based on the character level (which can now go up to 70, with no limit on Paragon 2.0 levels) and feel more of a challenge on Hard. Normal is definitely a walk in the park for many of the battles as long as you take the time to level up and explore every nook and cranny. There are tons more chests to open now, more dead bodies and lootable containers...basically it's a glorious loot fest and this is all patched into Diablo 3 regardless of Reaper.
Each character also gets new abilities when they go past level 60. At 61 the Demon Hunter unlocks the Aspect of Vengeance and that's something I can't wait to see with mine. Level 58 so far and plenty of new loot to discover on a 2nd playthrough mixed in with some Adventure Mode for good measure!
Of course Reaper of Souls is worth it. Because you get a wealth of content when you upgrade - and it's not like they just threw together some levels. The same care and attention that went into Diablo 3 has gone into RoS and the Act V story answers some questions left hanging from the end of Diablo 3. The new act is massive, it's a big one and the new areas are huge with lots of side dungeons to explore and powerful new loot to find. There's also a big emphasis on new boss types with brand new special powers, these are also folded nicely into Diablo 3 so expect some surprises if you run a new character (like I did) through the whole game from Act I to V.
Nice new art, new bad guys, reworked old bad guys and more awaits your character as they battle Malthael and his reapers. There's also a new class to create a character for, the Crusader. This new class has been balanced with the others and treads the line between front-line badass and damage absorbing tank. One of the best passive abilities has been given to this warrior too, the ability to wield a two handed weapon in one hand unlocks once you hit level 10. That was pretty much an instant sell for me and I can't wait to see how powerful this character gets once she hits 70 and starts to benefit from Paragon levels too.
There's a new artisan to level up, the Mystic. She can enchant your items, replacing one power with another (randomly rolled) for a cash donation. This cash donation rises the more you replace your item's ability and once it's done, it's bound to your account. She can also transmogrify your items and change their look. As you level her, and play, you'll unlock new customisation options and this lets you pick your favourite armour looks and keep them. No longer will you be stuck with a helm you hate, or a crappy looking shield, you can choose from a list and preview the look in real time.
There's a lot of challenge in the new act, the final boss is a tough one and the new difficulty levels will keep you coming back in for more and more. You can also reset quests for better rewards when you finish the game, or keep on playing to find more and more secrets. Then there's Adventure Mode which unlocks at the end of Act V. Adventure Mode is the whole of Diablo 3 and Reaper of Souls stripped back to the random maps, with badass new loot and a serious amount of content that's generated randomly each time you undertake a journey into the huge levels.
Adventure Mode lets you explore, battle previous level bosses, new bad guys spawn in familiar areas and the general level of difficulty is balanced for this mode. You can undertake Bounties for mega rewards and open Nephalem Rifts, themed areas that have an uber-boss at the end once you kill enough bad guys through the portal to summon it. Horadric Caches are massive rewards that unlock some nice weapons, armour, and loot in general - these are gained from completing a bounty set in one of the game's huge map areas - divided into Act I through V. A Map packed with waypoints lets you quickly move from one area to another and the whole experience is fresh and interesting, thanks in part to the Loot 2.0 system and the way Blizzard has approached changing up the bad guys for the various areas.
There's also a new trader, one that will let you buy random weapons/equipment for Blood Shards (gained in this mode from bounties and so forth). It's a random chance and reminds us of Torchlight, in a good way!
So with the new maps, the new character, Adventure Mode, all the changes and content for the expansion it's a big game-changer for Diablo 3 in general. It's superbly done and everything works beautifully, making the PC version a truly excellent one and worthy of high praise indeed.
Also, the inclusion of David McCallum. Aka, Ducky from NCIS and for those of us that remember his role as Steel from Sapphire and Steel, is inspired and it's great to hear his dulcet tones as the voice of Rakkis in the game.
It is worth noting that while the Auction House has been shut down, the game still requires you to be Always Online.
All in all, you can't miss this expansion - if you do, then you're missing out on a huge change to Diablo 3 and some of the best expansion pack material we've seen in a LONG time.
Now, my Crusader 'Storm' is off to battle the minions of death and hell in some Adventure Mode!