Diablo 3: reaper of souls review: human shield

The first expansion for the kích hoạt role-player makes the changes players wanted - và a good few more besides.

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With the exception of Firaxis, there"s no-one left that makes expansion packs like Blizzard. In an age of bite-sized downloadable add-ons, their premium price tags raise eyebrows, even with the generous supply of new content - but that content is usually less than half the story. In these expansions, the new ideas và hard graft that have been poured into the renewal, rebalancing & restructuring of the original game usually exceeds what goes into your average blockbuster sequel.

So Blizzard expansions are a big deal, and few have been more crucial than Reaper of Souls. Its headline additions are a new chiến dịch act, a new character class, a raised level cap & a new chơi game mode. But it has bigger fish lớn fry than what"s listed on the back of the box. It has an audience lớn win back và a reputation khổng lồ save. Diablo 3 sold extremely well but left a sour taste for its community, and for once not just among the vocal minority. The always-online requirement was unpopular even before it led khổng lồ a painful launch, when log-in servers crumbled under the immense demand. Soon that was just a bad memory, but another decision taken by Blizzard had a longer-term and arguably more damaging impact.

The game"s auction house was pitched as a way for players lớn trade items in complete security. But its legacy was to lớn angle the all-important acquisition of loot hard - far too hard - toward trading & away from gameplay. Although reviewers didn"t realise it after a week"s play - myself included, regretfully - the result was that Diablo 3"s later stages and endgame became a dour, parsimonious grind, rarely rewarded with useful items và knocked out of shape by brutal balancing. Diablo"s mantra of "kill monsters, get loot" had become "grind monsters ad infinitum, browse fantasy eBay". It didn"t help that by then you would be on your umpteenth run through the overblown campaign. It was built for the long term, but in the long term, it just wasn"t that much fun.

Since then, Diablo 3 has had numerous patches that failed khổng lồ address its core problems; original trò chơi director Jay Wilson left under a cloud; a superb console version, with a vastly more generous tòa tháp game, was released; the console game"s director Josh Mosqueira was elevated khổng lồ director of the whole Diablo 3 enterprise; và finally, two weeks ago, the auction house was turned off, just in time for Reaper of Souls" arrival.

There"s now a wide variety of diversions cropping up randomly in the game, including cursed chests & shrines (effectively miniature horde modes) và side-quests that explore the back-stories of some of your hero"s entourage.

I can"t help but feel that the community made a scapegoat of Wilson, an intensely thoughtful designer who laid brave foundations for a brilliant game, & who was certainly not solely responsible for the corporate-minded decisions that most damaged Diablo 3. But it"s also plain to lớn anyone who"s played the console trò chơi that Mosqueira knows just how khổng lồ tickle players" pleasure centres - and for Diablo, which has always had more to vị with intense Pavlovian gratification than fine sensibilities, his crowd-pleasing instinct is quite the asset.

If you want khổng lồ get a feel for how his Diablo 3 is different, you don"t need lớn buy Reaper of Souls - just log in again. The 2.0.1 patch, released a month ago, includes the new "Loot 2.0" itemisation as well as other vi xử lý core changes và a few extra tidbits of content. Even without Reaper of Souls" new features, the change is radical và energising. The trò chơi is more rewarding to play, especially at high levels; it comes to you - you don"t feel as though you"re wading through a bog to lớn get lớn it.

Since many players" concerns begin và end with loot, let"s start there. In bald terms, Loot 2.0 means that for every hour or so you play the game, some tasty piece of equipment for the character you"re playing is bound to drop. There"s proportionally much more "rare" và "legendary"-grade equipment (though less so than in the absurdly fecund console game), while the "smart drop" system ensures it has a high likelihood of being suitable for your character. The numbers are just bigger, weighting the trò chơi balance more toward items and thus giving them more impact on your character when equipped. Their bộ vi xử lý core stats have also been usefully reclassified (into damage, healing và toughness) lớn give you a better sense of their worth.

There"s more, và better, to come. Part of the itemisation overhaul - particularly evident in the new cấp độ 70-only legendary items in Reaper of Souls - has been lớn give items affixes that will force you khổng lồ rethink how you build and play your character by adding a very specialised bonus, or by changing the way certain skills work. This is a masterstroke that plays to lớn one of the game"s greatest strengths. Since in Diablo 3 you can change your skills and the skill-altering runes with no penalty & at any time, the new items encourage you to chop and change your build, exploring the full range of the game"s brilliant class design và enjoying the freeform tinkering it allows.

Ultimate evil, ultimate good

All of Reaper of Souls" content and features and more besides will be included in Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition, which will be released for PS4 later this year. (An Xbox One release is unconfirmed at time of writing.) Since we already know how well the game has been rebalanced and adapted for pad controls, và how hugely enjoyable the console-exclusive local co-op mode is, the "Ultimate" in the title seems pretty accurate. You"ll be able lớn play it offline, too. The PC & Mac version can only answer these advantages with its mở cửa channel lớn the wider Diablo community và vestiges of a trading trò chơi - although whether you prefer pad or mouse-and-keyboard control is still a matter of personal taste.

The launch was smooth, và log-in was never an issue, but this is still an online-only trò chơi with all the caveats that implies. I have a good home connection yet still suffer from freak lag spikes which often kill me - making the permadeath Hardcore mode a strict no-go.

One of Jay Wilson"s unsung achievements was to create the framework for a virtually theorycrafting-proof RPG: a trò chơi built khổng lồ resist the homogenisation of character builds by number-crunchers on the internet. By creating synergy between items and skills, Reaper of Souls adds the final piece to lớn this puzzle. Now every drop has a chance not just khổng lồ make your character better, but to change it.

All this has to come at a cost, và that cost is the trading game, which after the closure of the auction house is nothing more than vestigial - presumably because Blizzard isn"t prepared to lớn return khổng lồ the bad old days of Diablo 2"s đen market. Legendary items now bind lớn your tài khoản (although you can trade them with players who were in your buổi tiệc nhỏ when they dropped), so if you want to find an elusive nâng cấp or complete that tasty armour mix for your class, you"re just going khổng lồ have khổng lồ play & pray.

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It"s not at all clear that gambling on mystery items with blood shards (a new reward currency in Reaper of Souls) works as a substitute for trading, while crafting items using the blacksmith still feels somewhat over-developed and under-balanced. So it"s possible players will quickly find themselves all pimped up with nowhere khổng lồ go - the opposite problem to the original game"s tediously slow thành công progression. But if this is the price we pay for the wonderfully toothsome loot & tangible progression of the Reaper era, then the vast majority of players will be very happy lớn pay it.

All of that said, the Diablo community"s obsession with loot (and obsession really is the only word for it) has tended khổng lồ obliterate discussion of what else has changed in Reaper of Souls - và what else hasn"t. The best thing about this expansion is that, while eager to please, it is very far from being reactionary.

There"s a new artisan, the Mystic, whom you can use lớn change the affixes & appearance of items. Though it"s fun to change your build to suit your items, it"s good lớn be able to do the reverse.

The usual Diablo structure, whereby completing the chiến dịch would unlock it on a higher difficulty level for you lớn start again from the beginning, has been binned. Now, game difficulty is in your hands, with ten settings that can be switched at will (ostensibly there are five, but the fifth "Torment" level has six sub-settings). Và thanks lớn Reaper of Souls" new Adventure Mode you never have lớn play the campaign again after you"ve completed the excellent new fifth act.

Adventure Mode turns the entire game into a randomised and remixed playpen. You take on quick-fire bounties picked from hundreds of possibilities & spread across the maps & acts: kill this rejigged boss, clear this dungeon, complete this event, hunt this rare monster. Everything is familiar but different: a little harder, more frantic và strange. That goes double for the Nephalem Rifts, which are entirely randomised dungeons that mash up monsters and tile sets from across the game, offering thick gluts of tough enemies và improbable alternate-world bosses who have escaped their arenas lớn stalk the dungeons" halls, announced by a flash of sickly red lightning.

It"s a totally thrilling, refreshing and fast-paced way lớn play the game. Previously, Diablo 3 felt lượt thích it was fighting its structure và losing, the campaign wearing thinner and sounding hokier with every replay. Now you find yourself pinballing around the world of Sanctuary lượt thích you own the place. You do; having saved everyone"s skins, the world now exists just khổng lồ challenge and delight you. That sense of ownership extends to the difficulty of your game, too, and I strongly recommend that you adjust this early & often khổng lồ suit not just your equipment cấp độ but your mood.

Push yourself, because higher difficulties don"t just tune the numbers to match your character"s snowballing power, but địa chỉ cửa hàng larger crowds of enemies in different compositions & with more combat skills. It"s only when facing these mobs that Diablo 3"s rich và furious combat, so superior to lớn that in Diablo 2 và other games in this genre, is in full song. It"s not just the intoxicating audiovisual oomph of it, which is so overwhelming yet somehow still readable in a four-player Nephalem Rift on a high difficulty setting. It"s also the gorgeous tactical interplay between the skill design, with its focus on utility, spatial management and crowd control, and the surging, swirling tides of boss trash that engulf you.

Lacklustre randomisation of layouts is one thing that sapped Diablo 3"s trả lời value; while this is improved in the new Act 5 maps, it"s the randomised chơi game of Adventure mode which really extends the game"s life.

In contrast lớn the thành tích game, this side of Diablo 3 was so well tuned that it"s been left relatively unmolested. Although all the character classes get a new skill và some tweaks khổng lồ existing skills and runes, they were already far too good to need substantial overhaul. The Witch Doctor needed most work and has received it, but this weird, indirect pet class, which doesn"t so much attack enemies as smother them, is still the joker in the pack. Perhaps that"s how it should be.

Reaper of Souls" new addition is the Crusader, a Paladin-style fighter that has no problem keeping pace with such illustrious company as the Wizard, Barbarian, Demon Hunter & Monk. Like most of them, it"s an archetype with a twist: a tough melee fighter whose reach has been extended with a variety of mid-range, scorched-earth area-of-effect skills. It"s a versatile class with some useful group heals & buffs, making it slightly more multiplayer-focused than the others, và while it doesn"t khuyến mãi insane damage it makes for a highly satisfying boss khủng snow-plow. Paladin types often reek of compromise, but Blizzard excels at giving these holy warriors a unique and potent flavour, and the Crusader is no different.

Reaper of Souls is a huge improvement for Diablo 3; it does what was needed & a whole lot more besides

It"s telling that we come last khổng lồ what would normally be top of the agenda for any expansion pack: the new chiến dịch content. But this is not to lớn suggest that Act 5 should be an afterthought. Pitting you against Malthael, the angel of death, who is laying waste khổng lồ the city of Westmarch, it supposedly has a darker and more Gothic timbre, in keeping with the earlier Diablo games. In truth, it"s the same trashily entertaining & lurid science-fantasy pulp that Blizzard can"t help but turn all its game worlds into - but for mood, intensity và pacing it certainly knocks the four preceding acts into a cocked hat.

The opening sections in Westmarch are especially rich in opulent doom; the backdrops drip with painterly atmosphere và the music is electrifying. Bosses are much improved, with two of the three presenting thrilling scenarios that borrow as readily from bullet-hell shoot-em-ups as from the sophisticated encounters of World of Warcraft or The Legend of Zelda. It"s easy to lớn imagine returning to lớn Act 5 voluntarily after a long enough spell spinning around on Adventure Mode"s glorious roulette of carnage.

Reaper of Souls is a huge improvement for Diablo 3; it does what was needed and a whole lot more besides. It"s overkill - right down khổng lồ the removal of any cap on the endgame Paragon system, which now invites you khổng lồ play forever, taking your characters" stats to infinity and beyond. But I wonder if our expectation that Diablo 3 should be a game that we can play endlessly và that will reward us forever is misplaced. Reaper of Souls gives it a much more welcoming, flexible và gratifying character, but it"s still a game of utter excess, at once deep và mindlessly shallow. Too much of it will leave you feeling dizzy & sick. Turning it from a miserly grind to a jackpot that always pays out doesn"t change that - in fact, it only heightens it.

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