Monday, March 31, 2014

Enjoy the Reaper

Reaper of Souls was just released last week and I have to say it’s the Diablo experience that should have been what we received when Diablo 3 first launched. I’ve literally been playing Reaper of Souls non stop for the last week. It significantly improves upon all the small updates that Blizzard has been sprinkling since the launch of the original game. Blizzard should be proud of the expansion they have released and I hope they continue current their current game design philosophy.

One of the biggest changes in Diablo’s latest update was the new and improved loot system. All stats have a much smaller ranged which means randomness isn’t as large of a factor. Blizzard also developed a smart loot system which places a priority on the primary stat of the item depending on the hero you are currently playing. Players no longer need to hope for that perfect drop since the release of the Mystic. The new NPC allows players to reroll one item’s properties to another property or even a higher number of that same property for a cost of disenchanted materials and gold. You can only reroll one property per item and every reroll will cost more gold. It’s a wonderful system that helps players acquire perfect gear to slaughter the denizens of Diablo 3.

Adventure mode is a breath fresh air in Diablo 3. The original game had players just repeat the same quests over and over again doing the same exact areas since anything else would result in less gear or experience. Adventure mode fixes this with two new options, bounties and rifts.

 Bounties provide objectives in each act for the player to complete and reward the player with experience, gold, blood shards and rift keys. Most of them revolve around the idea of going to an area and wiping out most of the mobs plus a specific champion pack. Some bounties require you to kill specific bosses or cleanse a cursed chest/shrine. Cursed chests and shrines are new additions to Diablo 3. They usually require the player to kill a certain amount of mobs in a small time limit in order to receive a bonus chest of loot. Clearing five bounties in an act will net the player additional experience, gold and a Horadric Cache. These caches are filled with rare items, a chance at some specific set of legendaries, more rift keys, blood shards and various gems.

The second option in Adventure mode requires 5 rift keys. When the player acquires 5 rift keys they can open a rift which contains a randomized dungeon. The rifts usually contain multiple levels and each level is the same map layout that you find in the original campaign. However the monsters sets are completely randomized and you may face act 4 monsters while in an act 2 area. Champion and elite packs of enemies are scattered throughout the rifts along with new shrines. The new shrines are incredibly powerful providing players with short buffs such as 400% damage increase, immunity shields, no resource cost, and super fast movement speed. The main objective of the rifts is to kill enough monsters to spawn the rift guardian. Rift guardians are reskinned bosses from the campaign and always drop a significant amount of loot which includes chances at forgotten souls (the legendary disenchant material which is very useful for all sorts of crafting and rerolling), 40+ blood shards, and various other pieces of loot and gems.

Blood shards serve as a form of currency that the player can use to buy randomized pieces of gear from a vendor. So far this is the only use for blood shards but I believe Blizzard has more ideas for ways to use blood shards that they are saving for future patches. The gear that you can buy is usually a rare but once in a blue moon you will receive a legendary. After spending more than 1500 blood shards, I was able to receive a perfect rolled set of legendary gloves. I was in a state of disbelief when I saw the stats that were rolled on the gloves and immediately called my friend to let him know. It was probably one of my happiest moments in Diablo 3 to receive such a huge upgrade especially since I hadn’t received anything worthwhile for quite some time.

One of the biggest changes that I am happy about is the revamped skills for my class. I believe all the classes have had changes in regards to skills but I’m only familiar with Barbarian changes since that’s my class of choice in Diablo 3. When I first played Diablo 3 at launch, there were only a handful of builds that people were following which eventually turned into one builds that almost every barbarian was using. The inclusion of element specific runes for each skill now allows the user to a variety of builds that are all fairly equivalent. I still play my bread and butter build where I use a basic attack with my Hammer of the Ancients but I was able to effectively try different builds that still work efficiently. I had a lot of fun playing a ranged Barbarian which was a very unique build in the early days of Diablo 3 but may make a come back since it deals so much more damage in Reaper of Souls. Overall I expect a lot of build  diversity among the classes and expect a lot of gear drops to influence which skills players take.

My only concern with this expansion is the rate at which I’ll receive upgrades since the only items that improve my gear are legendaries. I receive one legendary about every 90 minutes to every two hours and most of the time its some useless legendary that is only worth the forgotten soul that I get from disenchanting it. Most people will hit this wall where the only upgrades are available from legendaries since rare items are available in abundance. I hit this gear limitation in about the first day that I played since rare items are constantly dropping and are the only use of blood shards. Other players who are playing at a more casual approach may not reach this for a few days to a week. Blizzard has been watching the drop rates of legendaries and has adjusted them fairly recent to drop more frequently.

I’m also wondering how it will be possible to efficiently farm the higher tiers of Torment (the hardest difficulty). Most of the gear that I’ve seen does not seem to have high enough stats to tackle the later Torment difficulties. As far as I know each level of Torment only increases how many items you find and not the possible stat ranges of each item. My concern here is how gear progression will work when it comes to mobs having ridiculously high health and damage output when our gear may not scale as high.

I would highly recommend Reaper of Souls to anyone who wants to feed an addiction to acquiring loot and crushing monsters. Blizzard has redeemed themselves from the failure of Diablo 3’s initial launch and has earned a great deal of respect. I look forward to each and every patch that Blizzard plans on releasing for Diablo in the upcoming months.