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?).

Blizzard experimenting with consoles

Blizzard have always been  (at least to me), a PC/Mac only game development company, though they have released numerous of their older titles for consoles, such as Diablo 1, Warcraft 2, and Starcraft. But is a Diablo III console port a good move on Blizzard’s part?

Blizzard have recently been contemplating a Diablo III console release, which will really broaden their consumer base, though most people seem to always think that Blizzard would never make a console version of a game of theirs, however a bit overshadowed, the first Diablo game was a success as a PlayStation 1 title, and Diablo is (as a friend pointed out to me earlier) like Dragon Age 2, could do very well on consoles, since I for one enjoyed the console version of Dragon Age 2 more than the PC version.

How this would work? I think one of the problems they could face in the interaction of the game, is with the belt system, in Diablo II, we all used to spam buttons 1 through 4 when fighting Hardcore Duriel in hopes that our brave hero can actually drop the beast’s health by even 1%, but how will that be replaced on a controller? It could be like pressing R2 on the PlayStation 3 controller, or the right trigger on the Xbox 360 one, and a wheel would pop out that lets you circle through your belt, but that doesn’t sound so practical, does it?

Another thing is that Diablo has always been a “click fest” of a game, especially when you’re trying so hard to re-arrange your inventory so that you can fit in this one large Charm that you desperately need, yet can’t find the small version of, anywhere, unless Diablo III would have PlayStation Move functionality, for point and click (which is still very tedious, compared to our normal trusty mouse), the console release won’t be very, fluid. Unless the game, would feature mouse and keyboard play even for consoles, just like how Valve have announced Counter Strike: Global Offensive would be.

For now though, Diablo III will release for both PC and Mac, no release date has been confirmed yet, but playing along Blizzard’s teasing, we can say that Diablo III will be released somewhere over the next 5 years.

Next up in here, is a gameplay video of the released Diablo III beta, the guys over at IGN were kind enough to make:

Merging game genres

For so long, gaming has been bound by specific genres, that limit, and sometimes even cripple, the games’ improvements. But as gamers began to explore different genres thoroughly and started wondering, what would it be like, if *insert game name* was played from a different perspective? And thus game companies started exploring the possibilities of developing games in other ways; the first I personally can relate to, on the matter, was Command and Conquer’s Renegade.

Command & Conquer: Renegade, came out early 2002, which was basically a first person version of the original Real Time Strategy game Command & Conquer, and it was very exciting when this game came out, it’s like, we always wanted to know what was going on in the ground level of this base we’re building! And Renegade came to the rescue, a few years later, came out Red Alert: A Path Beyond, which was particularly exciting for me, as Red Alert & Red Alert 2 are my all time favorite games, and a company actually makes a first person version of them? Yes please!

Blizzard then made the same move with World Of Warcraft, Warcraft has always been a real time strategy game, until 2004 when they decided that they can instead, make a massive multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) off of it! Which was a brilliant success for Blizzard, and helped in keeping the legacy and story of the Warcraft series alive.

Later on though, and this is the main point of this post, came Borderlands!

And with Borderlands came the true merging of game genres, developers 2k Interactive decided to merge the role playing game (RPG) elements that make us addicted to RPG games, such as leveling up and looting, to first person shooter (FPS) elements, which made the game even more addictive!

Borderlands was such a breakthrough since no one else had done what it had achieved so perfectly, the insane amount of weaponry you can find throughout the game world, with infinite customizations made Borderlands every step as exciting as when you start the game!

And with Borderlands 2 coming soon, there’s no telling what kinds of new games will spawn off of it! Who knows what genres will merge soon, we might see a sports game turn into an all out fighting game, we can only speculate so much, and in the end, we’re usually left jaw dropped from what we’re seeing!

The Blizzard effect

Now that Blizzard has bought merged with Activision, and is now called (wittingly enough) Activision Blizzard (no shit, Batman!), Blizzard starts to add some of its glare to Activision products, mainly, the world favorite shooter (for some reason that I can not personally grasp):

Balls of booty?

Call Of Duty!!!

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I abhor don’t like the Call of Duty series, it’s just that (as personal preference) I like shooters with a bit more strategy to them, The Battlefield series for instance, or MAG (God, I love MAG, some might say it’s an unusual form of love, it doesn’t shame me.) but back to the point, Activision has introduced a new ripping off method payed system for their newest iteration of the world renowned shooter, Modern Warfare 3, the new service is called: Call of Duty Elite (in other words, you’re a total noob if you don’t sign up for it!), this system allows you to check your stats online, join clans, level up clans, and most importantly, allow access to DLCs/map packs/new modes/a complimentary conscience from Oz, for free! Well, not really, it’s only free if you pay $49.99 a year, collectively, the DLCs will set you back $60 so you’ll be saving $10 (and trading your soul to the devil.) off of them pesky DLCs (weren’t Call of Duty DLCs “map packs”? or is it just me?).

Why I called this the Blizzard Effect (as suggested by a dear friend of mine) is very simple, Blizzard had revolutionized the world of Strategy and RPG gaming long before anyone else, by Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo (anyone else remember Blackthorne and The Lost Vikings? Damn I used to love these two games!), which all started as regular games, you pay once for the game, and get to play it, without extra charges, then came 2004, and with 2004 came World of Warcraft with its monthly payments and leveling ups and the sucking of your very social life, but it was fun! Still is, to some extent, now Blizzard (after the merge) decided to apply the same ideology to MW3, now I’m glad they didn’t make it a Pay-to-Play title, but it’s just a stepping stone, for now.

I hope you don’t get me wrong, Blizzard is absolutely my favorite games development company! I’m a huge fan of the entire Diablo series, as well as Warcrafts II, III, and the frozen throne, it’s just that I feel them taking advantage of gamers, and that’s never nice, in my opinion at least.

And now I shall leave you with the reason why we all loved Warcraft III:

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2MS7HyOfSs%5D