I have enjoyed Diablo III immensely over the past couple years. I first played it all the way through alone on the PC, and even navigated the somewhat ill-conceived auction house to a little bit of fun and profit. Then when the console version came out, I played it again on the PlayStation 3, joined by friends who came over and helped to stamp out the minions of Hell. Having multiple players on the console really helped to increase the fun factor by quite a bit. But once we had solved it, there really wasn’t a big impetus for me to go back and defeat the game for a third time. Until now, that is.
The Diablo III Reaper of Souls Ultimate Evil Edition has already launched for the PC. It earned an excellent review here on GiN. But having played the PC version before, I decided to hold out until the Reaper came to consoles. I ended up with the PlayStation 3 version of the game, because I wanted to see how much the graphics had improved from the previous PS3 version. I’m impressed to say the least.
In fact, the graphics are easily the first thing that you will notice if you have played any previous version of Diablo III on any platform. Before Reaper of Souls, the graphical layout of the game was kind of realistic-like, with harsh lines that looked neat, but didn’t really have their own style to distinguish it from many other RPG settings. Now things are totally different. The graphics are much more cartoon-like now, in that Blizzard-centric World of Warcraft kind of way. You look at it and you just know it’s a Blizzard game now. The change is so shocking that I had to memorize what all my characters looked like again; they were so different from before. After the initial shock wore off, I found that I really enjoyed it a lot more, especially when I found new legendary items and got to try them on for size just to see how they looked, with many of them being a bit anime-like in an oversized weapon kind of way.
The graphics for damage-dealing spells and powers have also been given quite an upgrade. Now the ground shakes and splinters under your storm of magic in colorful bursts of destruction. It almost gets to the point of visual overload with so much exploding and sparking, body parts flying and spell effects erupting across the screen. Yet, it’s worth noting that at no point did the PS3 ever stutter or have any frame rate issues. It pretty much looks like a PlayStation 4 game running on the older hardware, though there is also a next generation version for the Xbox One or PS4 if you want to jump right into them instead.
Besides just a facelift, the game has really been changed in many fundamental ways, all of them good. No longer do you end up with so much junk that you have to head back to town just to sell it all off. It always annoyed me that I was battling in the high heavens in an epic finale at the end of the game and getting non-magical hatchets and leather shields as a reward for my trouble. The new Loot 2.0 system instead features mostly useful drops including a lot of legendary gear. Some of the new gear is so good it might even encourage you to change your character load-out in order to make better use of it. The new items seem to have a pretty high percent chance of summoning minions now too, which is pretty cool. My favorite was a giant anime-looking axe that my wizard could wield that summoned a creature which looked like it came straight out of The NeverEnding Story to smash things for me.
Most character skills have also been redone, again for the better. There is a huge emphasis on elemental damage now, and skills actually support each other if you build your character out that way. For example, my wizard’s secondary attack now is a lighting bolt orb that I chuck like a grenade. When it lands it not only does splash damage, but also makes enemies in the radius more susceptible to additional lighting damage. Given that my primary attack is chain lighting and I am summoning a lighting-spitting hydra for good measure, it makes the whole area a sea of deadly electricity with all my attacks supporting each other. Throw in another secondary attack that creates a giant orb that slows down time for all monsters inside (but keeps me and allies running at full speed) and it’s even better because the bad guys are slowed trying to get through my impossible lighting field. That even stops chargers and quick combatants from getting too close. And that is just one build of many possible under the new skills system. You can concentrate on almost any type of elemental damage, or secondary powers like slowing or draining your opponents. Friends can even get together and coordinate powers to support each other for a truly powerful force.
There is also a new artisan named Kadala who is a bit of a game changer. She can take your legendary items and change one property on each one. So, say you are a Demon Hunter and you have a really great fire bow but it gives you vitality and you would like dexterity instead, or the item really beefs up a skill that you don’t have loaded. You can give it to Kadala, pay her the gold and crafting items needed, and she will remove the unwanted property. It gets replaced with something random, but you can choose not to accept the change (the gold and crafting items are still lost) and perhaps try again. You can only change one property per item, but how many times have you gotten that near-perfect gear with one useless property attached? Kadala can change that. She also is a cosmetic vendor, allowing you to customize the way you look. Say you had a really cool low level cloak but had to give it up for something with better stats, but that didn’t look nearly as cool? Never fear, Kadala can make things look like other things. So you are never stuck with stupid looking pants if that kind of things bothers you. For some people I play with, it’s really important, so a nice add for them.
The two features that the new pack really promotes however, is a new Act to play through and the new crusader character.
The new story comes after the conclusion of the main game and centers around Malthael, once the Angel of Wisdom, who abandons the High Heavens and takes up a new role as the Angel of Death. He has a brilliant (so he thinks) plan to destroy all demons, which may not seem like a bad thing, except that humans are technically half-demon and half-angel in terms of their souls. So his plan would end all of humanity. Seeing as you are human, you decide to strike out against him and his minions.
The new story brings some new enemies and it’s fun to learn how they fight and how to take them down. There are also several new areas to explore, each with unique graphics that distinguish themselves from other levels in the game.
The new crusader character class is not unlike the templar NPC in that he or she is basically an armored knight. Playing him, you can equip some of the heaviest armors in the game. Most of their powers are designed to be used at short to medium range, so people who play the new character will basically want to wade right into the fray, confident that your armor will keep the teeth and claws of your enemies at bay while you do a little slicing and dicing. Paired with a player character using heavy ranged skills like a demon hunter or a wizard, or a support character like a witch doctor, the crusader makes for a formidable opponent in almost every circumstance. And they can adventure on their own without too much fear of getting swarmed to death thanks to their ability to stand and deliver as much damage as they can absorb.
Finally, the addition of opening up rift shards and collecting bounties extends the game for high level players looking for new content beyond just loot hunting the same ground over and over again. These new post-main game levels are randomly generated and work perfectly with the paragon system, giving it new depth and extending replay value through the roof.
I didn’t think it would be possible to tempt me into running through Diablo III for a third time. But the new supporting powers makes for some great character builds, especially when paired with some of the amazing legendary items that drop on a regular basis now. Kadala will quickly become most people’s favorite NPC crafter since she can improve those legendary items to help make them perfect, or simply make you look much cooler than before. And the new act is exciting and fun to play, extending the main story in a unique way that adds its own flavor, and many more hours of gameplay. Obviously, if you have not played Diablo III, now is the time to check it out, but even if you are a veteran player, it’s more than worth another look with Reaper of Souls installed.
As a multiplayer, lets all pile onto the couch for some awesome gaming type of experience, there is really nothing better than Diablo III on the console now. Reaper of Souls improves on that perfection, and if you don’t think that’s possible, then by all means give it a try. Just don’t wonder where your weekend disappears to if you do. Diablo III with the Reaper of Souls expansion pack and game improvements earns 5 perfect GiN Gems to slot into a weapon or armor of Blizzard’s choice.