Before I move on with this preview, I must state that everything in this piece is subject to change as Diablo III: Reaper of Souls is in a state of constant development throughout its lifespan during this beta period. This means that what you read here may not necessarily be implemented into the final release of the expansion pack in 2014.
So here we are with a hands-on look at the upcoming jaunt back into Sanctuary where all hell is breaking loose once again and it’s up to you, the Nephalem, to drive back evil to whatever rock it crawled out from under.
Reaper of Souls brings a myriad of changes and additions to the base Diablo III game, such as totally revamping the loot systems. The gear drops are now itemised better to suit your class, we now have a new item reforger, a brand new adventure mode and of course, the next act in your storyline detailing what happened to Diablo and the black soulstone after it fell from the heavens.
I won’t go into the storyline that you encounter during act five of the game as, to be honest, it’s best you savour the experience for yourself, however; the act will take you to Westmarch, an area that you briefly touch upon during act one of Diablo III. The atmosphere in this area is dark and brooding, a hark back to the older Diablo days, no where is safe in this area so you need to keep your wits about you.
During my time with this beta I have mainly been playing around with the new class Blizzard introduced to us, the Crusader, a knight of justice wielding a flail and shield, he calls upon the light in order to smite his or her foes. Early on the Crusader class actually felt a little weak when attacking, though after a few levels of perseverance, becoming a whirlwind of death and destruction, obliterating everything in my path, the class became extremely fun to play.
Filling the screen with hammers that orbit you whilst damaging all enemies within their range, flinging your shield that bounces between foes Captain America style, leaping upon your targets like the Hulk, you feel like an Avenger. Then when you quickly whip out a horse and start charging through waves of zombies, you feel unstoppable at times and the light show of holy powers and death is such a treat to view.
I also took a peek at the new adventure mode, a completely new addition to the game where you can traverse all the acts and waypoints at will. Each act will also have bounties to complete in certain sections of the map. These range from killing X amount of enemies to defeating a named mob. These bounties will award you with gold, XP and blood shards, a new currency for Diablo. Upon completing all the bounties in an area you’re awarded with a Horadric cache, a bag full of goodies for your efforts in the area.
You may also purchase a greater cache from a vendor for 100 blood shards; these greater caches hold even more valuable goodies, including the chance of legendary items. In addition to buying these bags with your shards, you can also gamble on gear with another vendor; for a handful of shards you can buy a totally unknown weapon or piece of armor which could roll into something spectacular or become vendor fodder, but that’s the risk with gambling.
This new adventure mode definitely addresses some of the tedium that Diablo III suffered in terms of replayability, no longer are you just selectively farming the same act over and over for loot along with XP to increase your paragon level on one character, now you can run the bounties or nephalem rifts.
Nephalem rifts will be something else you encounter in this mode, these are accessed via keystones which can drop off any enemy you encounter in your travels or drop from the caches you earn from your rewards. This will open a portal in any town which you’re tasked with defeating the rift guardian, though you have to defeat a lot of opponents through various levels before the guardian will even consider gracing you with his presence. Overall, adventure mode coupled with the rifts is a fantastic way of gearing your character along with gaining lots of XP quite quickly. it is certainly a lot faster than going through the campaign mode of the game.
The way your paragon levels work have been completely revamped. Now your status is account wide and all of your paragon levels that you have gained currently have been merged into one overall points total. For example, if you have a Demon Hunter at paragon level 90 and a Witch Doctor at 45, you will fire up Reaper of Souls with a total of 135 paragon points to spend in boosting your attributes no matter what character you play. So fancy having a new level one Crusader with 135 paragon then go right ahead though you still need to be max level, now 70, in order to continue building up your paragon level.
I’ve been suitably impressed with what the beta had in store for Diablo III, with a slew of changes the game has become exciting, rewarding and most importantly, fun again. Definitely one to keep watching for how the beta pans out and stay tuned as we’ll be covering more of Diablo III: Reaper of Souls in the future.