|Release: March 25, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Violence|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
Diablo III came and went with a whimper. I’ll admit that I was largely unimpressed with Blizzard’s latest Diablo release, and for more reasons than its crappy online DRM scheme and server problems. It just felt like I had been here before was all, like it filled a niche that didn’t need filling anymore. If I wanted old-school top down loot games, there was Torchlight and Torchlight 2, and their modding communities created enough different classes and extra dungeons to absolutely dwarf the content in Diablo III. Similarly, if I wanted a more modern day loot game there was Borderlands 2, and if I wanted a multiplayer RPG there were any number of MMOs out there, including Blizzard’s own World of Warcraft. What I was hoping was going to be the break out RPG hit of the season ended up being nothing more than an OK game that diverted my interest for about 20 hours while simultaneously causing some financial scandal what with its real money auction houses.
Now Diablo III’s expansion pack, Reaper of Souls, has released, and I, along with gamers around the world, am being put into the same position I was when Diablo III first came out. We are all submerged in hype, hoping that Reaper of Souls is going to revolutionize the Diablo experience. However, it once again kind of fills a niche that didn’t need filling anymore. It’s not a whole new game, which is what many of us are expecting when we think “expansion” or “DLC” these days. It’s an old-school style expansion which introduces a couple new system tweaks, classes, items and areas, while still letting the original speak for itself.
As far as story goes, the new act of Reaper of Souls is really more of a side-plot at best. You have killed Diablo (yay!) but now a fallen archangel named Malthael is trying to wipe out all of humanity (boo!) It’s up to you to stop him because… you are basically the only player controller hero I guess.
The story of Reaper of Souls feels dreadfully incomplete. Malthael kind of comes out of left-field and his motivations and actions are really just generic bad guy stuff. His greater important to the Diablo III meta-plot is really only ever glossed over. The conclusion is unsatisfying and feels like it has been intentionally left open for another expansion to come in and finish the tale. If you were looking for an epic finale to the Diablo plot, you won’t find it here.
That being said, the expansion does take you to some interesting new places. The City of Westmarch is appropriately bleak and depressing, burning at one point and crawling with the undead at the next. You’ll trek through plenty of ruins, marshes, and even otherworldly planes of existence, and none of them feel like a retread from the original Diablo III dungeons. As far as presentation goes, it does feel like the team spent a lot of time trying to make Reaper of Souls feel unique.
However, in terms of gameplay, you aren’t going to see much variation here. It’s the same sort of “go to place X, kill thing Y, talk to dude Z” quests that we saw in the original replayed for us all over again. You can speed through the new content in a couple of hours, even less if you have maxed your gear and levels on your first run-through. When you are done with the plot you can take on Adventure Mode, which basically just gives you rapid fire random objectives to keep you traveling the world and murdering to your hearts content. Separate from that, are the Nephalem Rifts, randomized dungeons with an absurd difficulty for anyone looking to truly prove that they are a master of the top down RPG format.
But note that these new additions are really just Skinner Boxes, ways to press more buttons to kill more things, to get more loot. They only hold promise if you are the type of player who enjoys the loot grind in the first place. If you have gotten bored of looking for that next piece of shiny gear which will increase your DPS by just a few more points, then you’ll probably ignore both Adventure Mode and the Nephalem Rifts.