After a decade long wait, the release of Diablo 3 in May of 2012 was a mixed bag. Technical glitches and a real money auction house that screamed of a cash grab derailed a lot of the momentum. The loot system was also designed so poorly that it was virtually impossible to effectively play the game without using the auction house. The initial game was still a solid, yet frustrating at times experience.
In preparation for the expansion, Blizzard released the 2.0 patch which was a major upgrade. Gone were both the real money and gold auction houses (pause for cheering), while a new vastly improved loot system was implemented in their place. There was also a complete revamping of the paragon system. Once you reach the max level of 60 (pre-expansion) you could gain what Blizzard refers to as ‘paragon’ levels which provide an incentive to keep playing and provide minor stat boosts. The old paragon system was capped at level 100 and was only reachable by those that were truly hard core, the new system is more accessible to casual and moderate players, while still allowing the hardcore gamers to excel. The difficulty has also been changed with ten different levels, each successively harder, starting with normal, hard and expert. Master difficulty becomes available upon completion of Act IV, while Torment difficulty (which has 6 levels) becomes available at level 60. As difficulty increases so does gold/xp and drops. In other words the 2.0 patch was a major success and created a lot of good will towards the pending expansion.
With the release of Diablo 3′s expansion, Reaper of Souls, there are several new features that have been implemented. The level cap has been increased from 60 to 70 and Act V has been added after the defeat of Diablo at the end of Act IV. A new character class of Crusader is available to play and joins the existing classes; Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Witch Doctor and Wizard. Adventure Mode has also been added to the game. This feature is available upon completion of Act V, and it allows you to complete bounties on specific elites randomly selected in each Act. Instead of having to do a complete play through or farm specific areas you can now complete bounties that give blood shards and allow you to open Nephalem Rifts. Blood shards can be used to purchase gear for specific slots, although the stats are completely random, while Nephalem Rifts are essentially a dungeon run with a high density of mobs. Killing the Rift Guardian typically will reward you with a higher quality of loot than other elites. So far I have had a few legendary items, some nice gem patterns and a ton of blood shards drop from the Rift Guardians. A new artisan, the Mystic has also been added to the game. The Mystic will allow you to transmogrify your gear if you are trying to achieve just the right look. More significantly the Mystic allows you to re-roll a single stat on piece of gear (legacy items do not apply). So if you have an item with four perfect stats but the fifth one is undesirable you can you can re-roll that stat for a chance at a better outcome. Once you have selected a stat to change, no other stat on the item can be modified, and while the results are random, you do see the list of stats that being selected from.
Wait a minute, didn’t we just kill Diablo? So what can we possibly be doing in Act V? As we learn in the intro, Tyrael and the Horadrim have the taken the Black Soulstone to a secret location to hide it forever as it contains the essence of the Prime Evil, Diablo. Well apparently Tyrael didn’t hide his top secret location well enough because his former angel colleague, Malthael shows up and wants the Black Soulstone for his own purposes. As Tyrael is now mortal, he and Horadrim are no match for Malthael. Lorath Nahr is dispatched to summon the Nephalem, and so Act V begins…
I found Act V to be a pleasing experience. It took me roughly 4 hours to complete starting at Torment III. I did have to drop down the difficulty every few levels, and when I defeated Malthael I was level 68 and on Master difficulty. Your mileage will vary based on your gear and difficulty levels. The landscapes range from the city of Westmarch to more exotic locales like the Blood Marsh and Pandemonium Fortress. Some of the new elite affixes were challenging but there were really no new boss mechanics or fights that really stood out, although I did think it was cool how you have to break the door down to get into the Pandemonium fortress. The final battle with Malhael was a little on the anti-climactic side, it’s like a light version of fighting Diablo.
Of course with the defeat of Malthael the Black Soulstone is broken. Guess who gets away? Whether that means an appearance in the next expansion, of if we have to wait until D4, I’m confident we will see the big red guy again.
I have yet to try out the Crusader class, other than an early look at Blizzcon last year, but it is on my to do list. Getting through Act V and eventually hitting 70 was a fun experience that was certainly challenging playing at Torment levels. It may have taken two years, but this is the game that should have been released in 2012. Better late than never I suppose. I didn’t expect to come back to the game after all this time, but they got right and I am enjoying myself. At least until Blizzard gives me a Heroes of the Storm beta invite, I see a lot of Diablo time in the near future. Speaking of the future, Blizzard has promised a PVP ladder and tiered Nephalem rifts in patch 2.1 coming this summer.
If you never played Diablo 3 but you like a hack and slash game it’s definitely worth a try. If you played at launch but were turned off by the Auction house and backwards loot system, this is the time to come back.