So, I posted a little bit about Diablo III when it first came out, way back when. I enjoyed it for the most part, with my only real issues being in the storytelling department. Unfortunately, at that time I had not played through the game all the way to level 60, I only got to somewhere in the mid-30s. So because of that, I hadn’t experienced any of the endgame, which is often the meat and potatoes of this genre. The endgame content of these types of games is basically just doing runs over and over until you find loot upgrades that allow you to do those runs more efficiently. Repeat until you get bored of it. The issues that people had with Diablo III’s endgame basically boiled down to the itemisation. The loot just wasn’t very interesting, and it took too long to find meaningful upgrades.

This was an almost direct result of the existence of the game’s auction house. Whether it be by using in-game gold or real money, players could buy and sell items that they had found in-game. Because of this, finding decent items was a rare occurrence, otherwise virtually everyone could stick their loot on the auction house and make some money. It also meant that the most efficient way to upgrade your character was not by playing the game, but by simply buying upgrades on the auction house.

Since Diablo III’s release two years ago, there have been a number of updates to help fix this issue, with the two main ones being “loot 2.0” and the now complete removal of the auction houses from the game. Loot 2.0, which overhauls the loot system to a more quality-over-quantity experience means you are now more likely to find more meaningful upgrades more often. Where previously a stat on an item could’ve rolled from anywhere between 1-100, it’s now more like 75-100. Add to that much better legendary item drop rates (you’re now pretty much guaranteed a legendary at least every hour or two, compared to my 3 legendaries in about 100 hours previously) means that the loot progression is much more satisfying and feels like much less of a grind.

This week also brought about the game’s first major content update, in the form of Reaper of Souls. As well as adding a whole new act onto the story, the expansion also brings about a whole host of other cool new features. The biggest of these, Adventure Mode, essentially completely changes the way in which you play the game. Unlocked for all your characters once you’ve played through Act V once, Adventure Mode opens up the entire game and allows you to travel wherever you want, completing bounties. These bounties are usually quick, five minute affairs, where you travel to a specific location and kill a specified enemy, or complete a specific event. Completing these nets you experience and gold awards, as well as bonuses if you finish five bounties in one act.

But that’s not even the coolest part. By completing these bounties, you will occasionally be rewarded with Rift Key Fragments. Spending five of these allows you go back to town and open a Nephalem Rift. These are essentially completely random dungeons (seriously, take every tileset and enemy type in the game, and throw them into an RNG) with a powerful boss at the end for you to kill. The monster density in these rifts also tends to be quite high, so the potential for big XP and loot gains is high.

Crusader is pretty dope.

Crusader is pretty dope.

The expansion also increases the level cap by 10, up to a max of 70. Higher level means better loot. Even some of the basic level 70 gears makes the best level 60 gear look terrible. Each class also has a brand new ability and set of runes to go with it, which first unlocks when you hit 61. The only one I’ve tried, the Wizard’s Black Hole, is cool and seems to work well as a decent crowd control ability. There’s also the brand new class, the Crusader. I haven’t messed too much with it (only level 30 or so) but the class seems to play fairly similar to the Barbarian, with the main difference being a lot of more defensive abilities, which require resource spending to use, rather than being cooldown based. They definitely seem like they have the ability to be super tanky. Oh, and one of their passives allows them to weird a two-handed weapon and a shield at the same time. So that’s pretty rad.

There’s also a third artisan to go alongside the blacksmith and jeweller: the enchantress. She can let you enchant items, essentially completely re-rolling a stat on an item in the hopes for a better one, for a price of course. So if you find an item that is great all-round except for one bum stat, it’s very much possible to fix that. She can also “transmogrify” items, altering their appearance. So if you find a really good upgrade, but think it looks ugly as shit, you can pay her to just make it look like another item of the same type. For someone like me who cares a lot about cosmetic customisation in games, this is a very welcome addition.

Some real nice environments in the new expansion,

Some real nice environments in the new expansion,

As for the actual new act, it’s pretty good. I’ve only played through it once, but it felt to be of decent length. At least, much longer than the mostly disappointing act IV. Most of the new enemy types aren’t particularly interesting, in my opinion, however, the new environment designs are probably among the best in the entire game. Strong art design has always been one of Blizzard’s strengths and it definition shows here.

If you care at all about Diablo III, the expansion is definitely a worthy addition and worth picking up. If you haven’t played the game much since release, you should probably give it another go. Even before the expansion there have been a number of improvements that have made the game vastly more enjoyable and rewarding to play. You don’t need to upgrade to the expansion to experience the benefits of the new loot system. This is the Diablo III that should’ve been there at launch.

Heads up, this post contains some spoilers towards the end. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Diablo III was a game that I was terribly excited for, but by all rights, I shouldn’t have been. My previous Diablo experience consists of approximately one hour of Diablo II. Early this year, I managed to pick up a brand new, sealed copy (in the big box!) for £10. That’s a tenner I’m perfectly happy to have spent, even if I didn’t get much out of the game itself. I like having physical copies of games, and obtaining a nice collection of old, big-boxed PC games is something I want to achieve. So even if Diablo II hadn’t grabbed me quite as much as it’s successor has, it’s no big deal to me, because I still got a perfectly conditioned copy of a classic PC game to add to my collection.

I’m not sure why I couldn’t get into Diablo II. I think it’s because, to me anyway, it feels distinctly dated, from a graphical perspective. Now, from my previous post, you’ll know that 2D art is something I think generally ages pretty well. But Diablo II, in my opinion, falls into that category of 2D art that does age badly: pseudo-3D. Diablo II isn’t a 3D game. But it almost looks like one. It’s not polygonal, but it uses detailed and complex 2D sprites along with the fixed camera perspective to produce an image that looks 3D. And sure, at the time, the game looked pretty amazing, but like all early 3D games, it doesn’t age anywhere near as well as more traditional 2D art. So, this fake 3D look, coupled with the 4:3 ratio and low resolutions typical of a game from 2000, it doesn’t hold up as well 12 years later. In my opinion of course. Diablo II remains to this day an immensely popular title that many swear by. I just never had the pleasure of playing it in it’s prime.

Diablo III however, is a different story. That game just came out. It’s prime is now. Okay, maybe not right now, especially after the… spotty launch that Blizzard suffered through. But this is a game I’m very much able to play and enjoy during it’s most active years. Hopefully, anyway. Whether or not I continue to play a game long after release usually depends on how many of my friends are also currently playing. Saying that however, I’ve had a lot more fun than I was expecting playing the game on my own. The gameplay is sufficiently addicting. The combat is great, and the notion that you might just get a totally sweet new piece of gear after you beat this big enemy does a great job of keeping you playing.

In regards to the gameplay, the major change they’ve made since Diablo II is the way that the skill system works. Previously, you dumped points into your various attributes (strength, dexterity, etc) and you had various abilities that you switched between with hotkeys and could also put points into to strengthen them. Now, the point-dumping is gone, which to me is a good thing. Having to micro-manage and spend points on abilities and attributes is, for me, one of my least favourite things about RPGs. In regards to character abilities, you now have a WoWesque hotbar on which you place abilities, each of which can be casted by consuming your classes’ equivalent of mana and some of them also have a cooldown before you can use them again. The deeper customisation comes in the form of Runes, which are essentially modifiers, which change how your main ability works. As an example, one of the Barbarian’s main attacks is Cleave, where he swings his weapon, hitting everything in front of him. The first Rune you unlock for this ability makes it so that each enemy killed by this attack explodes, dealing even more damage to enemies around it. Couple this with the unfortunately well-hidden Elective Mode, which allows you to pick and place your abilities as you choose, allows for a truly staggering amount of depth in the character customisation. The fears people had about customisation not being as deep as previous games due to the lack of allocating skill points are completely unfounded here.

Let’s talk a little bit about the story though, as it’s in my opinion the weakest area of the game. Granted, I don’t have much experience with previous Diablo games, but even with that in mind, the general storytelling in the game was just pretty weak overall. Also, heads-up: Spoilers.

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