Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls / 21st of August 2014
There can simply be no denying that since the original release of Diablo 3 back in 2012, the game has become something of a runaway success for Blizzard, going on to sell more than 20 million copies between the original PC release, console iterations and its Reaper of Souls expansion. Now, finally, that expansion makes its way onto console with the Ultimate Evil Edition, which also marks the series’ first foray onto PS4 and Xbox One. But, now that the original release is more than two years old, is it still a viable purchase?
To put it simply, yes, it most certainly is. You may not fully appreciate the work that has gone into this new version of the game if you have been playing it straight through, but for newcomers, and those returning after a break from playing it, they will find the finely honed gameplay to be nothing short of perfect. Because, there’s more to Reaper of Souls than first meets the eye, and there are certainly many visible differences, but it’s the work that’s gone on behind the scenes that probably marks this release as its finest iteration to date.
However, it would be prudent of me to mention the clear changes that come with Reaper of Souls, such as an entirely new section of the campaign. This takes off directly after the defeat of Diablo, pitting players against an entirely new foe, the fallen angel, Malthael. The original story of Diablo 3 did leave more than a few loose ends, and this expansion seeks to clear some of this up, such as the fates of both the black soulstone (now filled with the essence of all seven of the Lords of Hell), and the witch, Adria. One of the highlights of Act 5, is that the locales that it features are sufficiently different from those in the original game, keeping it fresh for veterans of the original Diablo 3 as they hammer their way through its fairly expansive new content. The main story certainly isn’t the best, failing as it does to tie up the overarching tale of a power struggle between heaven and hell, but then again, if they did, what would they have left for Diablo 4? One of the main additions is the inclusion of loyalty missions for each follower, though these unfortunately don’t really amount up to very much, and really just feel like a bit of a let-down, but still, it’s more content, right?
There is a new character class in the form of the Crusader, a defence centric creation that can attack with both melee and mid-range attacks, but clad as he is in plate mail and wielding a massive shield (of course, how you set him up is up to you), he can soak up enemy attacks, distracting foes from the more nimble character classes who can reign death upon the hordes of Hell. Of course, the Crusader is certainly no slouch in terms of his offensive capabilities either, being primarily designed to wipe up vast swathes of enemies with such impressive abilities as his room clearing Blessed Hammers, which sees the Crusader call down hammers of Holy might that spiral out from him as though caught upon some terrible, yet righteous vortex. He’s certainly fun to play as, has more personality than the game’s one dimensional Templar companion, and is a truly excellent addition to the game.
That’s not all though, the level cap has been raised to 70, a new artisan has been added into the mix (the Mystic) and it also adds a new passive skill slot for those that reach the dizzying heights of the new level cap. The new chapter of the story adds in a fairly substantial chunk of gameplay, probably amounting to around five hours or so additional play time, and yet, when this is invariably over, Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls has yet more to throw at the player.
Adventure Mode is another entirely new addition to the game, this allows players to free roam the world without having to start a new campaign, and giving players what is effectively a story free way to experience its world, jumping from area to area slaughtering enemies and encountering several further additions to the game. In Adventure Mode, players will come across Bounties, these being missions that task the player with finding and killing a specific enemy (or enemies) on the map, clearing out an area or completing a task such as purifying a cursed chest (these are also new). There are also the Nephalem Rifts, completely randomised dungeons that are activated by players who collect enough Keystone fragments from completing Bounties and other such tasks as they explore the world of Diablo 3. Aside from obvious gameplay changes, they also present noticeable difficulty spikes, and for those who have already spent many hours trawling through Sanctuary, these will surely come as a welcome addition.
There are less obvious tweaks too, including changes to the loot system, while defeating large groups of enemies now produces damage modifiers as well as health pickups, these double the amount of damage that the player can produce for a short period of time, ensuring that it becomes somewhat easier to continue with the all-important kill streaks that yield helpful experience boosts. Destroying environmental objects no longer results in the same thing, but instead gives players increased movement speed, which along with the new (for console) 60fps refresh rate, makes the game feel much higher paced, and perfectly balanced.
The PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game both yield a native resolution of 1080p and the super smooth frame rate mentioned above, yet aside from this, there are little differences between them and the efforts of their last-gen siblings. The in-game audio has certainly been improved, but this was to be expected, and in all, there is little reason to pick the game up on either of these formats as opposed to the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions which retail for a substantially lower price than the current-gen offerings. Thankfully, Blizzard has seen fit to allow console gamers to import their existing save files from one format onto another through a relatively painless process, this involves creating a Battlenet account though, so you’ll probably want to get onto that before commencing play. Be warned that importing a file will delete any existing characters, this was a price that my own Crusader was forced to pay in order to see my beloved Barbarian make the transition across. Pity.
In all, Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls is the finest version of an already excellent game that I could easily, and wholeheartedly recommend to both newcomers and veterans alike, with its gameplay tweaks and a whole host of new content, it simply is an essential purchase. However, whilst the new-gen versions don’t quite mark a sufficient improvement, they are still the definitive console iterations of the Diablo experience, but whether or not they are worth their hefty price point is entirely up to you. I, though, have enjoyed being able to while away a few more hours with Diablo, and ultimately, isn’t that what’s really important?