I don’t particularly understand why I picked Diablo III back up, but I did.
Up until my re-download of the game, I had forgotten about the rumored game-changing patches and new Reaper of Souls expansion. Mine was a pick-up based on no hype, just a desire to run through some dungeons on a mad three-quarters-perspective loot grab. Such has been the case with Diablo games for me in the past; I just get that craving and there’s nothing that can satisfy like the real name brand.
It was easy to pick up where I last left off, probably more than a year ago. Thanks to the battle.net debacle, I still had my case of characters and a fair amount of gold in my pocket and a clutch of gems, dyes, and items stashed. I took a moment to assess the damage from the closure of the Auction House, realized that I had left about a dozen auctions running (none of which sold) while I was away and spent time scraping up the errant yellows I had put up for grabs.
My thought was that I would start anew with a Demon Hunter and be able to use most of my salvaged stash to kit out a lowbie with some sweet starting gear.
I quickly realized that most of it could simply go out the window because, while I was gone, the Loot 2.0 patch had swept in like a cleansing wind and severely changed the playing field.
Diablo III, even without the Reaper of Souls expansion, plays like a brand new game. You’re not going to get anything but your standard run from Act I through Act IV as far as content goes but things certainly have changed. Like moving out of town for a year and then coming back to visit; the scenery is largely the same but there’s a coffee shop where that Radio Shack used to be and they put in new pumps at the gas station. Also, there’s a new Subway… because there’s always a new Subway.
Going back to DIII now and playing an old character guarantees that, within approximately the first half-hour of gameplay, you will gear up in just about every slot. Loot 2.0’s sweeping changes cause less quantity with item drops, but higher quality and better targeting. If you’re running around as a Wizard, it’s likely you won’t see many quivers or mighty weapons or awesome wands with +ridiculous strength. You’ll see gear dropped, about 90% of the time, which is gear for your character; actual, usable things which will cause less anger at the futility of repetitive runs and more indecision as to which exact yellow helmet out of the seven you have in your inventory is the best investment for your future development. And, oh, by the way, you just found an orange.
When Blizzard blew up the Auction House, all those items were scattered throughout Sanctuary and are sitting there waiting for you to rediscover them.
They’ve also changed the way difficulty works and made the game much better for solo players. Rather than forcing you to continue running through the tiers of difficulty, the enemies and loot now scale to your level even if you leave the game set on Normal for the rest of your career. You can, of course, boost this to give yourself (or your party) more of a challenge, but only if you want to. Normal, Hard, Nightmare, Hell, and Torment are the settings and they advise you on where you should be in your development before you decide to make a change. You can also tweak this on the fly, so, if at any point you find yourself bored or facing down a particularly tough situation, you can seamlessly, mid-game, raise or lower the difficulty level by one step.
This means that the consummate solo player, like myself, does not have to bother themselves with twisting friends arms (or, indeed, having their own arms twisted) in order to make runs to improve their gear. Soloing remains possible indefinitely on the lower difficulty levels and will always produce newer, better items as you continue to rise in experience. This beats the shit out of getting as frustrated as I’d been with some classes around the 30-40 level bridge because they just weren’t cutting it when it came to solo boss battles and actually encourages me that playing every class will be a fun and rewarding experience.
I enjoyed leveling my new Demon Hunter and had just finished my second run (putting me around L55) when payday struck and I decided to buy Reaper of Souls (after having most of its features flaunted temptingly in my face all over the front-end of the game). I jumped right into the new Act V.
The story continues nicely from the end of DIII proper, allowing for some mourning of the dead before charging forward into battle once more. The new Act is rife with side-quests and events and ends on a note which could either allow for an Act VI or could be positioning for Diablo IV. The latest rumors have Blizzard probing the market via selective survey regarding another DIII expansion. If they can do as well as this one, I’m all for it.
Beyond the story and the additional playtime, the game also introduces a new vendor in the Mystic. If you love customization, then all your gold will be spent here. Not only does the Mystic allow you to “re-roll” any one stat on an item but she can also transmogrify your gear to give it a different appearance. Like the new armor you picked up but hate the way it looks because it clashes uncharacteristically with the rest of your set? Transmogs will fix that. You’ll also gain Transmogs for every Unique (orange) item you pick up. Though these cost significantly more gold to swap, I found Blind Faith for my DH and love the look so much that I’m willing to spend the G it takes to retain the badass appearance, if only for my own enjoyment.
Re-rolling stats is rather handy, but has a degree of randomness which may make the expense steep. You are given a long list of possibilities but, in the end, are only allowed to select from the original enchant or two random others from the initial long list. It will not be perfect every time but it can help you get the skill bonuses you want to match your current spec.
After Act V is done, the game presents you with Adventure Mode which is where the whole new world of fun begins. Adventure Mode presents you with a series of five “bounties” per zone (act). These bounties bounce you around the map doing varied quests from killing a specific boss mob or elite to killing x amount of enemies in a given area to doing an event/sidequest. Each completion rewards you with XP and gold. When all five are completed, Tyrael gives you a pack full of crafting materials and items which can include up to orange and set items.
It doesn’t stop there. Throughout the bounty completions, you amass both blood shards – a new currency allowing you to purchase random magical items of any type from a new vendor – and special coins of which five can be redeemed to open a Nephalem Rift. These Rifts are portals to dungeons which combine random tilesets with random lighting effects and random enemy pools to create entirely unique areas populated heavily by blue and gold elites as well as chests and treasure goblins. Kill enough enemies to fill a gauge and it triggers a boss fight where you will see another ton of incredible equipment drop. You’ll have to portal back about halfway through because your inventory will be full of ridiculous yellows and you’ll wind up having nothing much to do with them but sell or scrap.
There’s also the addition of the Crusader class. Haven’t toyed with it yet but I’ll probably start one soon. Reports state that it plays like the Paladin from DII which, if that’s the case, I’ll feel quite at home.
One of the main headlines surrounding Reaper of Souls is: “Can Blizzard Save Diablo III with $40?”
Yes. Yes it can and yes it did.
DIII now feels less like hopeless drudgery and more like an actual game. I feel much more rewarded for the time I’m putting in now that an orange drop isn’t something so incredibly rare that your first thought is “how much can I sell this puppy for on the AH”, rather, it’s an exciting moment where you can be legitimately excited that you’ll probably be replacing something after you identify it. My DH (L61) currently has four oranges and two greens (set items which were crafted from a set of found plans, something I didn’t even know was real before). It looks to get even more badass as my level climbs.
If you played DIII before and lost your taste for it, I recommend picking it back up again for the Loot 2.0 patch at least (it’s free!). If you like what you’re playing at that point, I strongly recommend investing in Reaper of Souls. With these two improvements, Blizzard has taken a game which was the butt of many jokes after release and reworked it into something more akin to the classic Diablo we all know and love. For that, I say good job boys. Looking forward to Act VI.
Bidula’s Last Word – 9/10
Keep fighting the good fight.