In this day and age of monetization, viral growth, and retention strategies, Blizzard Entertainment have decided to do something a little bit different. With the Diablo III: Reaper of Souls Expansion, they’ve decided to do something rather innovative: charge for content and remove a revenue stream.
Diablo III used to feature two auction houses, an in-game Gold-based one and a Real Money auction house. The Real Money variant easily brought in a good bit of money for Blizzard, which seems like a good financial move for them. So why did they remove it?
Well, to be blunt, it sucked the fun out of the game. Why would you spend hours collecting trash items in the hopes of getting something decent when you could just hop into the auction house and pay gold or US greenback for the gear you wanted? Worse was the fact that players who simply wanted to progress through the game would hit “The Gear Wall” where the items they owned simply weren’t good enough to deal with the stronger enemies encountered in later acts.
Good items were simply too rare. Players could go to the auction house, of course, but then they’d run into another issue, they could not afford anything good. It turned out that the system designed to facilitate players getting the items they wanted only worked for those that had more money than sense, or a ridiculous amount of time to farm gold.
Patch 2.0.1 showed us what we were in store for with Reaper of Souls — a system that rewards you for playing on higher difficulties and doesn’t lock all the legendaries away if you just want to spend a few hours a week playing the game. After the patch released, people actually started witnessing Legendary items drop, and seeing that ray of light illuminating the item on the ground is enough to make you want to keep going.
The Reaper of Souls expansion builds on that new system and adds in a considerable amount of content for players just starting the game and those who have been playing for years.
What Is It?
It’s an Expansion Pack that expands on the narrative as well as the gameplay. Back when you had to go to the store to buy PC games, an Expansion Pack was the only way to get new content for the games you loved to play. The advent of digital distribution has made it easier for publishers to release more content for games, but the downside is that it has also encouraged the practice of releasing packs with a minor amount of content at the same price. Fortunately, Reaper of Souls happens to be a fairly substantial one.
Diablo III‘s story hasn’t exactly been the highlight of the package, but there has been an effort made to tie up loose ends with this expansion. Your character’s followers have their own quests that you can take on, fleshing out their backstories somewhat. The main storyline however, well, it essentially ends with a blatant setup for either another expansion or a sequel. It’s not exactly subtle about it either. It’s so abrupt in fact, that I was left thinking “Really? You’re ending it like that?” There was no sense of closure.
Why Should I Care?
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls is a Diablo III where everything is just a little bit better than it was before. The skills are more balanced, the UI is cleaner, the loot is more rewarding. That’s before we get into the new character class or Act V. Everything is cleaned up, smoothed out, and generally better than it has ever been. Even if you choose not to buy the Expansion, you get a lot of the changes as part of the base game now, so you’ll benefit just by going back to it. The content that comes with the Expansion though, is worth the price of admission.
First there is Act V. It picks up right where Diablo III leaves off. Unlike the last act of the original game, which was essentially half as long as the previous acts, Act V is a full length act. There are three boss fights to deal with, a host of sidequests, events, and other areas that you can explore and gain XP from. If you speed through Act V, you can clear it in about an hour, but taking on the side quests will more than double that.
The Expansion also adds several new mechanics to the game. There is now a new Artisan, the Mystic who will allow you to re-roll a specific property on a magical item for a fee. This is excellent, since everyone has picked up something and thought, “This would be awesome if it just had X.” Well, now you can make X happen. The Mystic can also change the appearance of items, so you’re more able to customize how your character looks.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
No proper Blizzard expansion would be complete without a new character class. Joining the fight in Reaper of Souls is the Crusader. This Holy Warrior wields a flail and shield and makes equal use of both to effectively handle individual targets as well as large mobs. The Crusader is one of the more fun classes, and is also arguably the flashiest. He’s definitely a worthy addition to the cast though, and will certainly find some fans.
I mentioned that Reaper of Souls has a lot of content to play through. How can that be when Act V isn’t any longer than the other acts in the game? Well, the campaign portion of Act V is only the start of things. Once you’ve completed that, Adventure mode opens up to you.
In Adventure mode, you’re given free range over the world of Sanctuary. You can freely jump between acts, and go through whichever areas you like. You’ll also be able to take on bounties, for which you’ll be rewarded with loot, and the ability to unlock Nephalem Rifts. These are dungeons where the terrain, enemies, and end bosses are completely randomized. You just never know what you’re going to end up with when going into a Rift. They can be very challenging, but getting through them will yield great items!
Every time I talk about this game, I am compelled to return to a major issue I have with it: it’s still online only. With two console releases now, and both being fully playable offline, there is no legitimate technical reason why the PC version should still have this requirement.
Other than playing with friends and clans, everything in the game can be experienced and completed by one person. Is Blizzard really worried about piracy so much as to continue to completely ignore what has been a constant and still ongoing request SimCity got rid of their online only requirement, so how about it Blizz? Do you really want to be seen as less responsive than EA? Maybe I’m being unfair, and I certainly am not likely to make any friends in Irvine, but it has to be said.
When you take everything as a whole, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls gives players a lot for their money. Whether you want to play for a few hours or a few hundred, the game has systems in place to make sure you’re always working towards something. You’re always striving, always achieving, and it never really feels like a grind, which was Diablo III’s biggest fault.