After a nearly 1.5 year absence, I returned to Diablo 3 last month. I had an itch to play, and within a week I had purchased the expansion Reaper of Souls and have not looked back since. The improvements/additions are countless and the game is even more enjoyable than the first incarnation. For the purposes of this article, the “old/original” version refers to prior to the 2.0 patch released early in 2014, and the present day stuff refers to things after. Anything that specifically requires the expansion would be indicated as such.
So-called “Legendary Items” are unique items, generally with excellent stats and some type of special feature, are pretty scare. In the original incarnation of Diablo 3, they were incredibly scarce. To put it into perspective, 6 months with the original version of the game netted just two legendary items. Two days with the most recent version netted three. Part of the reason for this is that Blizzard has built-in a failsafe that ensures players get one every several hours of playtime if they have gotten one recently. This is a nice touch that encourages all skill levels to play a bunch. The legendaries are also better than in the original version and are almost always better than rare items of the same type/level.
In the original version of the game, there were four levels of difficulty, Normal, Nightmare, Hell and Inferno. Inferno was basically impossible without the most elite gear, and the other modes were unpredictable at times. Now there are five base difficulty levels, Normal, Hard, Expert, Master and Torment. And there are six sub-difficulties that comprise Torment, meaning there are truly 10 difficulty levels available now. More importantly, these difficulties scale somewhat with character level. Meaning that a player who is level 20 on normal mode will face easier monsters than someone who is level 50 on normal mode. The rewards per difficulty level increase, so there is incentive to move up. But until Torment 2 and higher, nothing can be gotten in Torment 1 that can’t be gotten in Normal, just the likelihood of that changes.
Paragon and Level Cap
Paragon levels were added in a patch in the original version of the game, and basically offered a system of continuing to level up a character after the level cap (60) had been hit. Each level of paragon boosted skills just like normal levels did. The new system has been changed. Now this paragon number has an insane max and there is one number per account that is shared across characters. The points earned at each level can be put into a variety of attributes adding a new wrinkle to the game once level cap is reached. The boost from paragon isn’t so extreme that it makes players regular capped out players that much more inferior, but it at least adds to the “end game”.
The level cap itself remains at 60 unless the expansion is purchased. That bumps the cap up to 70 and unlocks one new active skill and a few more passive skills per class, including ability to use four passive skills at once instead of three.
Adventure Mode is probably the coolest addition of the Reaper of Souls expansion. Although a 5th act is also added, unless you are nut for the story/lore of the game, it’s nothing special. Instead Adventure Mode add a totally different concept to the “end game”. Instead of re-running the same levels in story mode like in the original incarnation Adventure Mode puts a new spin on it.
First are bounties. Essentially a bounty is a specific area/location in a particular act with a specific objective. When a new Adventure Mode game is started there are 5 bounties per Act. Basically a player goes to a waypoint and is given a task, kill a certain boss, clear a cave, etc. Upon completing this bounty, gold and XP are provided. If a player completes all five bounties in the same act in one game, they are rewarded a Horadic Cache, which is essentially a bunch of loot, including some cache-only legendaries, as well as more XP and gold. This by itself is a nice addition because it forces players to mix up what places they play and adds a bonus to completing a bunch at a time. But there is more.
Upon completing bounties 2 and beyond in a particular game, and within the cache reward are “rift keystone fragments”. Five of these fragments can be used to open a “rift”. A rift is a randomly generated dungeon with a high monster density, a lot more elite monsters and a goal of hitting a certain percentage of monster hitpoints accumulated. Once that number hits a certain point, a “Rift Guardian” shows up. These big bosses take time to kill and can drop good stuff, including Blood Shards (more on this soon). But more importantly, the randomness of the level and the higher monster density make this a bit more fun than regular runs or even bounties. Again, this is only available in Reaper of Souls.
Blood Shards and Gambling
The aforementioned Blood Shards that are rewarded for rift guardian kills are used for one thing, and one thing alone. Gambling with Kadala. Essentially a certain number of blood shards can be exchanged with Kadala for a random item of a certain type. In other words, a Wizard could trade 5 blood shards for an off-hand magic source. This is a way to quickly “find” a bunch of items and can produce both legendary and set items. Because blood shards cannot be used for anything else, this is a good place to try and land something really special, but just like everywhere else in the game, the chances are slim. It’s a nice touch, but it’s a bit limited.
Re-Rolling Skills and Transmogging
Another Reaper of Souls (I think) addition is the ability to re-roll an individual attribute on an item. In other words, a weapon might have 3 or 4 really good stats, and then one crappy one an no socket. For a certain amount of gold and crafting items a player can try to replace an attribute of an item with another attribute.
This system is very well done. First of all, it will show the player all the possible attributes that can replace the currently selected one, as well as their ranges in points. Once a player selects and attribute and replaces it, they are presented with three options. Keep the current attribute, or replace it with the choice of two that were randomly rolled. This means that a player can try rolling a new attribute but not be forced to keep it if it’s not an improvement.
Of course there has to be a catch (or two). As soon as the new options are generated the materials and gold needed are consumed. This “enhancing” of an item is costly. Second, the biggest catch is that only one attribute slot per item can ever be re-rolled (although it can be re-rolled an infinite number of times). In other words, if an item has increased life and increased attack speed, and I choose to re-roll life and replace it with +all resist, I can only re-roll +all resist in the future, I can never switch and re-rill increased attack speed.
Also part of Reaper of Souls is a new character class called the Crusader, which seems to be heavily based on the Paladin of Diablo 2. I have spent a very small amount of time with the Crusader so far, but it seems like there are a lot of shield-based skills. The reviews around the interweb seem positive though, and I hope to spend more time with it soon.
The 2.0 version of Diablo 3 was a great improvement that had definitely made the “end game” better than it ever was before. The new difficulty modes made it easier to find a sweet spot for a particular character, and legendary drop rates are so much higher that there is always a chance for something awesome right around the corner. Adventure Mode is by far the key piece of the Reaper of Souls expansion and is a must for anyone who wants to play the game long term. Re-rolling of individual attributes means that finding items that were just so close before, is no longer a problem. There is enough of a new feel to the game, and the promises of the 2.1 patch which is due in the next couple of months, are going to make it even better. So far, returning to this game after time away has been amazing.