Diablo III: Reaper Of Souls (PC) Review

For those of you who know me, you probably know my love for the Diablo series and how I used to play both Diablo and Diablo II religiously when they first came out. Those games opened my eyes and heart to a whole new genre of games… That genre I will call, Loot porn. Now when Diablo III launched I was excited, hell I was awaiting it’s release ever since the first screenshot came out. And when it did launch, it seemed to me as if Blizzard took the Loot Porn genre and did everything in their power to monetize it. Then came Reaper of Souls.

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Reaper of Souls is Diablo III’s first expansion set released in March of 2014, and while the “expansion” only added one act and one class – unlike Diablo II’s Lord Of Destruction which added two classes, an act, and a shit ton of items – it seemed as if the expansion was overpriced for selling at $40 when it packed barely DLC content. Or so it seemed anyway before actually playing Diablo III after a hiatus that lasted months.

The reason I had stopped playing Diablo III was because I honestly am not good at economizing stuff. So I was a level 60 monk with shit gear and barely any gold to buy anything off the auction house. And that seemed to be the first thing Blizzard addressed in their numerous – and might I add, free – game patches they released for Diablo III in preparation for Reaper of Souls. The Auction House and the Real Money Auction House were to be gone, no more can you buy your way to a staggering one million DPS, or get that fabled Horadric Hamburger that – and I shit you not – I witnessed selling for 30 euros. And that was certainly a relieve for someone like me who would count on only the loot they’d get throughout farming the many areas the game offered.

But in farming lied another issue, the loot – again, unlike in Diablo II and Diablo – was next to shit. You would need magic find anywhere between 300% and 400% to have a decent chance at getting decent loot, and some legendaries. So throughout my 120 hour journey with my monk, I accumulated exactly three legendary items through drops. None of which were even okay. And in light of that, Blizzard sought to fix the issue, by bringing forth Loot 2.0 – which is basically fancy for “now you get relevant shit” – and with Loot 2.0 the game dynamic changed 180 degrees. No longer do you need to rely on the auction house for your decent gear, the new loot system has increased legendary drops and items suited to your class. Rarely will you see a wizard only orb while playing as a monk. You’ll always get something relevant, and the drops keep getting better and better the higher the difficulty goes, bringing back how we all loved the notion of the loot porn that is Diablo.

The patches also brought a level cap increase, in both regular levels and Paragon, now you can level up to 70, with some new passive and active skills, along with having the chance to build your character a la Diablo II thanks to the revamped Paragon system. Each paragon level grants you one point to put anywhere you want within a set of 16 choices, some of which include critical chance, life on hit, and elemental resistances. Oh, and the paragon cap has been raised from 100 to 300.

Another game mode also made an appearance, that mode is Adventure mode. Basically it’s what you always did in Diablo, but now it’s acknowledged by Blizzard and you get rewarded for it. Each act within the game has some bounties to get, five to be more specific, distributed among areas Diablo players always frequent anyway to farm. Each bounty gives you an objective or two to accomplish and a boss to defeat, after which you are rewarded with gold, experience and a key fragment. Five key fragments make a rift key that you can use to travel to a weird dimension where it’s a regular Diablo area but with monsters from all over the game. Which opens up the game to a lot more of a varied gameplay, you can get those annoying desert bees that spew out poisonous smaller bees alongside fire spiders. It keeps you on your toes and forces you to keep trying to adapt, which in turn validates Diablo III’s decision in not making skill allocation permanent. In the rift you’ll have to kill every single thing you see until a bar fills up, then a rift boss shows up, after beating said boss, you get rewarded with gold, experience, items aplenty, and blood shards.

Blood Shards are basically a throwback to Diablo II’s gambler, with the blood shards you can purchase items that you don’t know what they’ll be. A one handed weapon costs 15 blood shards for instance, you can get a shit item, or you can get that one legendary that finally gives your character the boost they sorely needed.

The new class, the Crusader, is also a throwback to Diablo II’s Paladin – complete with auras and a hammerdin build -. The Crusader, as a friend described the class, is basically the fun version of the Barbarian. You can dual wield two two handed items, or one two handed item and a shield, you have skills that look so sick – think you riding a carriage chaining enemies and dragging them on the ground as your carriage runs – and you get the awesomeness of playing the character class closest to my personal Diablo II favorite class. Not that that would make much of a difference, but points still.

Before I wrap up this review I would like to point out that Blizzard did one heck of a job rebuilding Diablo III. The fifth act looks grittier than ever, definitely in tune with how Diablo III should have looked like all along. The music is sinister and melancholic to perfectly mirror the ambiance of the new act. And the story, as all Diablo stories before it – and again, personal opinion – is next to crap. Which does neither surprise me, nor turn me off from the expansion. Diablo III Reaper Of Souls was set to rebuild Diablo III and make people want to play it again, and at that it succeeded.

If you’re on the fence about this new expansion, don’t be. While at first glance it may seem like it doesn’t add much, it actually adds a ton of stuff to the game and rejuvenates it (see what I did there?).

Path of Exile (PC) Review

The amount of Diablo clones -for lack of a better term- that has spurred out in the past few years is staggering, there’s Torchlight, Torchlight II, Titan Quest, and a lot more of other games that not just attempted to recreate the Diablo formula that has captivated so many gamers over the years, but have also added their myriad of unique bells and whistles that kept their games fresh. A shining example of such a game would be the recently released into open beta, Path of Exile.

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Path of Exile is Grinding Gear Games’ first entry into their game development catalogue that has seen its open beta release on the 23rd of January in 2013, it is also always online, and free to play with options of micro transactions that are purely cosmetic.

Plot:

Path of Exile starts you off as an exile washed ashore a strange land with a man dying nearby, afterwards he dies and you are introduced to your first challenge, killing a zombie, you progress further and are greeted with your first elite enemy that you have to kill in order to proceed to the first town. a few quests later and you’re introduced to Piety, your main enemy in the game. Piety conducts experiments on the creatures of this world and turns them into horrid abominations. And that’s as far as the story is concerned.

Gameplay:

While it is a traditional point and click ARPG a la Diablo, one shining point of difference is the absolute absence of any form of virtual in-game currency, and this alone adds an entire new depth to the style of the genre, the only form of acquiring new items other from loot, is trading, most players use various orbs that augment the game items in order to purchase other items. Basically you’d have to play the game through in order to get items instead of just using an in-game auction house like Diablo. Another way to acquire legendary items is to participate in the in-game competitions held daily, a schedule of which can be found here, these competitions require the creation of a new character, and you’ll have to abide to a certain time limit, this time limit may vary from 12 minutes to a full months, at the end of which, the highest character of each class is rewarded with points that serve as currency in order to redeem special legendary items.

Another aspect of the game that will definitely seem off to veteran Diablo players, is that virtually every single item is socketed, in some cases you can find a chest armor with six sockets to put gems in. Which brings me to my next point, while the skill tree for Path of Exile is humongous to say the least (will revisit that remark in a bit), it is primarily a passive skill tree, all your active skills are acquired through gems found in the wilderness, or gained as quest rewards. Three primary attributes control the gems, Strength, Intelligence and Dexterity, and gems corresponding to each attribute are colored red, blue, or green respectively, some gems have a white color, those can be placed in any socket, like the town portal gem for instance.  Gems, or your active skills, level up with you, you don’t have to assign points as you level up to active skills, as long as the gems are equipped they level up with you, so one player may equip as many gems as he/she wishes just to level them up and sell them later.

Onto one of the most intriguing aspects of Path of Exile, the skill tree.

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And you thought I was exaggerating!

The skill tree is by all standards, massive, and for good reason, it is shared by all six character classes, technically speaking, you can go from on class to another very easily, or in other words, you can build a tanky witch that uses axes, but that would defy the concept of the witch, though the point here is, that you can. Path of Exile features 1350 passive skills to choose from, every level you gain gives you an extra passive skill point, and some quests grant you extra points to assign, or grant you points to undo certain choices you may have done.

Like Diablo, Torchlight, and all the other nice ARPGs out there, Path of Exile features randomized dungeons, which means you’ll basically never go the same path twice and that offers nice replayability value, also, for those who don’t know, the instances reset every 8-15 minutes of inactivity, so you better bring along a good bulk of portal scrolls, you don’t want to die at a boss then have to fight your way through every single area all over again.

Matchmaking in the game is pretty easy, since the game is technically an MMO, you see a lot of people your level in the town you’re currently in, and every town has a billboard on which you can join parties and go tackling an area together, that’s always good once you finish the normal difficulty as there is a penalty involved with death later on.

In normal difficulty, death has absolutely no penalty, though once you beat the game and go to Cruel difficulty and onwards, penalties begin to appear, primarily a penalty in the experience gained and your elemental/chaos resistance, which can be very frustrating if you’re trying to level up a glass cannon witch.

After beating the Merciless difficulty, you’re presented with the end-game content which -from what I understood- is almost exactly like Torchlight II’s, maps, you find maps, you go to their location and you fight enemies with varying challenges.

Graphics:

Visually, Path of Exile is not stunning, but it is not awful either, it may not look as pretty as Diablo III, but that is entirely compensated in the new and refreshing changes it’s made to the genre. The witch’s skills look really cool though. The game at times stutters on my machine, dipping the frame rate to 40 and 30, though doesn’t go lower than that (I’ll post my laptop’s specs at the end of this review).

Audio:

The game’s soundtrack is not one of its strongest suits, although it is mostly okay, almost nothing made me stop and just listen to the music, unlike when I first heard the Tristram theme in the first Diablo, and I said almost because there is one theme in particular that not just made me stop and listen, but gave me goosebumps, it’s the Solaris and Lunaris temple theme. Not only because I love ancient Roman and Greek history to no end, and these two areas played on that weakness pretty good, but also because it is one of the most sinister and beautiful music pieces I have had the pleasure of listening to in a video game.

Replayability:

Path of Exile like all other ARPGs naturally has a lot of replayabilty value due alone to the quest of finding better gear and maximizing your class’s DPS as much as possible, the maps end-game also offer nice replayability.

And with the community growing as much as it is, PVP will definitely play a big role in the game, even though this is only an open beta, I won’t be surprised to see Grinding Gear Games adding even more content to cater to an ever widening audience.

Recap and Final Comments:

Path of Exile is a breath of fresh air in the action role playing genre, it dared to do what Blizzard were too afraid of doing and as far as I’m concerned, succeeded with flying colors, I personally can’t wait till the final official release of the game.

Computer specs:

Lenovo ideapad Y580

Intel i7 3630QM running at 2.3GHz

8GBs of 1600MHz DDR3 rams

Nvidia Geforce GTX660M with 2GBs of GDDR5 memory

1 TB 5400 RPM HDD

The game was running at native resolution of 1366×768 at a frame rate ranging from 40~60 FPS.

What makes video games memorable?

A few days ago, I started wondering, what made all those games I remember from my childhood and teenage years so good and memorable! And taking into the consideration that I have the attention span of  a gold fish, something REALLY impressive must have made a big impression on me back then for me to still remember exactly where the NPC positions were in the first Diablo, how Griswold’s shop was next to Ogden the tavern owner’s, right in front of Cain which was in turn in front of Peppin the Healer’s hut, or how that one extremely frustrating Terran campaign mission made me quit playing Starcraft altogether (it was one with a 30 minute count down timer where you had to defend your base against hordes of Zerg), then I realized, it was all about the music, it’s always been all about the music! And when I gave it some more thought I came to the conclusion that video games have some of the best musical scores you’ll ever listen to, and I’m going to list some of my favourites, and some which some friends recommended.

To the Moon is a game that has not been released for so long, yet is probably one of the most incredible games in terms of story telling and soundtrack, one of the few games that actually made me tear up.

Diablo has always been known for it’s dark, grim music, and here are three fine examples from the three Diablo games spanning a development duration of 16 years! And it’s all still dark now, that’s why I love these games.

Torchlight II may be a Diablo clone, it may have taken an idea here, and idea there, maybe even waited long enough to be released just so Runic wouldn’t make the same mistakes Blizzard did, but that definitely does not make it a lesser game, or have a lesser soundtrack, by all means, this is a fine example of how Torchlight II is reminiscent of Diablo II while keeping it’s own identity.

Bayonetta was one of the fastest, most intense, weird hack n’ slash I’ve had the pleasure of playing, ever. EVER. Ever. Ever. Now that we have that out of the way, let me show you exactly why I loved this game so much.

Assassin’s Creed II was hands down the best of the Assassin’s Creed series so far, ask anyone and I doubt they’ll argue, the story was engaging throughout, the cliffhanger was as irritating as it could get, and it wouldn’t have been that good without the good guys at Ubisoft making an epic soundtrack for it.

Another Ubisoft marvel was Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within, it was my favourite of the trilogy (Yes, I don’t consider the last one part of the franchise, it was THAT awful), and for good reason, it had an amazing score behind it! Being a bassist myself, I especially loved that one track.

Now who in their right mind would make a blog article like this and not post The Elder Scrolls in it? At least Skyrim, I mean, it had one of the most epic soundtracks in a video game!

If you own a Playstation 3, you must have at least played one of the three Uncharted games, if not all of them, and you might have also noticed how the menu theme is persistent in all three games, and for good reason, it’s freaking awesome!

What sets a certain game apart from the pack though is how the development or distributors decide to go about the soundtrack, and thankfully, Valve are saints, proving time and again how Portal 2 might very well be the greatest puzzle based game to be ever made. (P.S.: Science IS fun.)

MAG has taken quite some time from my life, this game has 3 separate soundtracks for each faction, I personally have played both Valor and SVER, never Raven, so I don’t know much about their music, but here you go.

Now for a game that had me practically in awe for how amazing its music was, I would honestly just start Dark Souls, and leave it in the load screen, and listen to the music for hours on end, the load screen music, Gwyn’s music, and Dark Sun Gwyndolin’s music.

I haven’t yet played Killzone 3, for OCD-ish reasons (I absolutely need to play the first two before this one), and I’ve heard all sorts of rants on how bad the story is, but this, this here, more than makes up for it.

Without mentioning how purchasing Gravity Rush justified my Vita purchase (No sarcasm there, it actually did, game is fantastic), or how hot Kat is, the game has one of the jazziest tracks you can here in any video game out there!

Rayman Origins on the other hand, takes another route from anything you’ve ever heard before, the music is actually extremely funny that you find yourself hysterically laughing over it, or just have a wide smile on your face, which made this game an amazing platformer! (Also better played on the Vita than console or PC!)

Continuing on the Blizzard glory, we have Starcraft! That irritating son of a bitch game that kicked my ass so many times over the years, yet I always remembered that Terran theme and how it made me just want to go slaughter more Zerg.

Now for something truly old, the first Mortal Kombat’s soundtrack, who didn’t love that? Seriously?

Duke Nukem. Megadeth. I don’t think I need to say more.

Back in my Playstation 1 years, I loved Megaman X5, absolutely adored this game and it’s main menu music, I loved it so much I actually recorded it on my old (yet extremely cool at the time) Nokia 3650.

My cousin owned a Dreamcast, and Sonic Adventure on it, and before he forsake gaming, he actually had the potential to be a hardcore gamer, anyway, him and I would play Sonic Adventure all day long, and sing along to this track, it was awesome back then, it still is now!

Bastion is one game that took the Diablo formula, and twisted it in its own, marvellously addictive way, it does not have dark gritty music, instead it has some very memorable fight music that will make you really wanting to go back and play it some more.

Last in my recommendations is a game that I have mastered, and wasted SO many years of my life playing, Red Alert 2, I loved that game so much! And it was mostly because of the Hell March track!

Last but definitely not least, some recommendations by my Facebook pals.

ATV Offroad Fury:

Trine 2:

Zone of the Enders 2:

Shadow of the Colossus:

Metal Gear Solid:

Let me know what your favourites over the years were, or if I’ve missed an absolute essential 😉

Diablo III (PC/Mac) Review (Updated)

Hello, dear readers! I have only recently been able to get my hands on Diablo 3, why this late? Because I had finals and I didn’t want to fail them, that’s why! And it’s good that I waited this long because trust me, this game is addictive as all hell! (Pun intended)

I installed this game on my Mac since my PC is not nearly powerful enough to run it, but don’t let this scare you off from buying the game, it doesn’t actually require, say, a Battlefield 3 gaming machine, not even close, my mac is a 2009 Macbook Pro (the one with the 9600M GT and the 2.8 Core 2 Duo processor) sure it runs the game on the lowest widescreen resolution possible, with absolutely no eye candy present, but it runs! At almost 40~50 fps too! Okay, it might need a bit of a powerful PC…

Anyway! Diablo! So I’ve been waiting, heck we’ve all been waiting for this game to release for what, 12 years now? Let me tell you this, it was worth the wait, though I believe it could have been slightly longer, the game is a bit too short, and WAY too easy for a Diablo game, I used to get slaughtered at bosses in Diablo II, Duriel would literally rape my Paladin, what Diablo did to my Necromancer was unspeakable, and that was on the normal difficulty! In Diablo III however, I managed to finish the entire game, solo, on normal in 14 hours with exactly one death, and that death wasn’t at a boos, it was a very stupid death at a moment where I have been playing the game for almost six straight hours and lost comprehension of all human interactions, it happens when you play this game for long periods of time. The game on Nightmare difficulty however, totally different story.

I played a Monk, a level 37 Monk now on my Nightmare run, the story of Diablo III stacks up to that of Diablo II’s and I’s in terms of consistency, you’ll feel like you’ve seen this all happen before, you know what will happen next, there’s no awe-inspiring epic moments, heaven is still as beautiful as it looked in Diablo II (or what we’ve seen of it anyway), hell is still the same as Diablo II’s, come to think of it, the game areas are a LOT like Diablo II’s, which brings me to my next point, basically the first act, in terms of environment is exactly like the Rogue Encampent, second act, Lut Gholein, third act, well, not like Diablo II’s third act (Man, I hated that act) but still a lot similar to Lut Gholein, and that is a positive thing in my opinion, you get to see these areas re-imagined in Diablo III, sure they’re not the same towns, but it makes sense that the environments should be similar, they’re near each other, Caldeum is a bit to the east of Lut Gholein, which means, almost similar monsters, and Blizzard doesn’t disappoint the Diablo fan at this point, you do get similar monsters, and in hell, you get monsters from the first Diablo! Which reminds me, the butcher is back, from the first Diablo, I’m sure you all remember the “AAAAHHH, FRESH MEAT.” except this time, he skips the “AAAHHH” and cuts to the chase. As to how the Butcher is there, I’ll leave that to you to discover.

Anyway, back to the story line, you arrive at this town, New Tristram, where the guards are fending off a wave of zombies, you help them, and you go in the town where you meet Leah! Leah is Deckard Cain’s niece and she was with Cain when the “Falling Star” hit the chapel at the old Tristram’s location where Cain has fallen in the debris of the chapel, and you, brave warrior, will help Leah find her uncle! After rescuing Cain, you discover that the falling star was a man and that his sword was shattered, and he lost his memory, you bring the sword pieces together and the man gets his memory back, I won’t say who he is, it’s a nice surprise, anyway, you find out that the evils are trying to take over the world again, and generic Diablo story.

I can’t really comment on the graphics since I was running the game on the lowest setting possible, but it looks like it might have nice graphics!

The soundtrack though, is as what you can expect from a Diablo game, wonderful! The new Tristram theme is really amazing, and the music throughout the game is really nice as well, so is the voice acting in the game!

Now that we’re through with this stuff, let me get more in game specifics.

Diablo III is not offline… Yep, it sucks, but you’ll adapt, with that out of the way, the game has five playable classes, with both male and female, there’s the barbarian, the demon hunter, the monk, the witch doctor, and the wizard, I have only played the monk so far. Each character has a nice set of skills, two of which are assignable to your left and right mouse buttons, four to your number keys, and three passives. As you level up, you unlock a new skill/rune, basically, with each level, you get something new so you’ll never feel bored, and you’re never stuck with your build forever, you can always change your skills, which is really nice, especially for someone like me, since I’ve never been into very specific builds, I usually like to go with the flow of the game.

The last thing I’ll talk about here is the auction house. Now I thought at first that the auction house was a really good addition, but after actually having purchased something from it, I’m inclined not to think so, or I think that it should be accessible by people who have beaten the normal difficulty, I bought a legendary weapon off the auction house, at a ridiculously low price, mind you, and it had made me extremely over powered, beating Diablo was a walk in the park with my gear. So it can be a little game breaking. Anyway, there are actually two auction houses, a gold based one, and a real money based one, and I’ve actually seen something being sold at 120 British pounds! Not sure if anyone actually bought it or not, but it was there. Anyway, the auction house is a nice addition, if you won’t use it in your normal game run, trust me, it can be game breaking, or I’m not sure if the game was just THAT easy.

Well, let me know what you folks think of the game, did you like it? Did it stack up to your expectations?

 

*UPDATE: The game actually runs beautifully on the aforementioned setup! I tried maxing out everything, just to see how my laptop would hold up, and I’m getting what I’m assuming is 25~30 fps! With absolutely everything maxed out! And the game looks terrific by the way!