Diablo, where have you been all my life?
Prior to playing Reaper of Souls, I had never played Diablo 3 before. In fact, I had never played a Diablo game before at all. By now there are plenty of reviews that you can read penned from the perspective of someone who is more well-versed in the world of Diablo, but I figured that there is value in reading a review from someone who is embracing this series for the very first time, and I certainly embraced Reaper of Souls with open, welcoming arms.
My initial aversion to everything Diablo was a result of its ardent fanbase. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, but much in the same way that I haven’t stepped foot in DOTA, or even Diablo developer Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, it’s off-putting as a prospective newcomer to be faced with a game that already has tons of Wiki pages and forum posts dedicated to it. This, coupled with Diablo 3’s much-discussed teething issues when it launched due to connectivity problems caused by its loathed always-online gameplay put me off jumping into one of 2012’s most popular games. This is a decision that I now regret, and Reaper of Souls has convinced me to delve into the archives of a series that I have stupidly been missing out on.
Initially, I was taken aback by how user-friendly Reaper of Souls’ UI is. Unlike other ARPGs I have played, Reaper of Souls doesn’t punish you for not having researched how to access its various intricacies. Your abilities are neatly placed along the bottom of the screen and your inventory is easily manageable, with easily understandable instructions available to you if you hover your mouse over an item or skill. Diablo veterans will be able to dive instantly into the action, but Blizzard has also put an incredible amount of work in making Reaper of Souls accessible for newcomers too, something which I thoroughly wasn’t expecting.
Reaper of Souls is split into five Acts, based around a new chapter in the narrative which serves as little more than a backdrop to the action. Fortunately, while this story feels like an afterthought and the dialogue more than a little dull, it does provide an array of imposing mythical beasties to fight and a multitude of powerful companions. The enemy design in Reaper of Souls is consistently inventive, with you battling an ever-changing line-up of villains throughout each Act. The boss battles are also a harrowing delight, but even as a newcomer I found the difficulty level to be below my own competency, so I’d recommend kicking it up a notch.
As Diablo fans have so frequently informed me, the combat in Reaper of Souls is almost worryingly addictive, and I often found myself playing for hours and hours at any given time. RoS is long for an expansion, with Act V clocking in at five hours and Act II even longer, and I had to force myself away from my desktop lest I forget to perform basic human functions such as eating, urinating, or, y’know, working. Initially you’re only confronted by a handful of enemies at any given time, but as you gain experience and acquire better weaponry, you’ll find yourself facing hordes upon hordes of creatures and swatting them down in waves. It’s immensely gratifying to turn an army of enemies into one mucky pool of blood and guts, and the combat is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
I played with the Crusader class, the newest addition to Diablo 3’s roster of playable characters. While I have approximately 0% experience with any other class in the series, I found the Crusader to be a joy to use, his combination of powerful melee attacks and shielded defensive capabilities making him a well-balanced character. I played through a couple of Acts with some random online comrades, and despite my lack of knowledge of the series, I found my Crusader being immensely useful to their cause with his mixture of group attacks, such as a nifty ability that stuns all surrounding nearby enemies and his ability to successfully swat enemies at close range.
Each Act comes with its own set of environments, and each one is entirely distinct from the last. Act V provides the best example of this, and I’ve never found myself admiring my surroundings so much in an ARPG as I did in Reaper of Souls. In fact, I would’ve greatly appreciated a zoom option via the mouse wheel to appreciate the level of detail put into these environments, and to zoom in on the frenetic action, but as it stands it’s still a very pretty game that occupies a genre that isn’t too well-known for its visual fidelity.
While each Act provides numerous highlights, it’s Act V which is by far the most entertaining, as you near the end of your search for the evil Angel of Death Malthael. It’s hard not to get lost in Act V, as you’ll find yourself exploring each environment to uncover new secrets and acquire new loot. (The difficulty bar is significantly raised in the final Act, meaning you’ll want to get your hands on all of the best equipment you can). The final encounter with Malthael is a real treat, but a cruel one at that, so you better be packing before you attempt to fell Malthael.
After you’ve completed the main story mode, though, the fun doesn’t end there. Completing the game unlocks Adventure mode, which gives you access to each waypoint in every chapter of the game, allowing you to teleport around the world of Reaper of Souls in search of “Bounties.” Adventure mode doesn’t feature any form of narrative, instead tasking you with completing randomly generated objectives that range from the brutal to the ludicrous. To make note of these objectives would be to spoil the fun of the mode, but rest assured that the thought of unlocking Adventure mode will give players a huge incentive to plow through the story mode as fast as they can to access it. Adventure mode adds a huge amount of replayability to an already lengthy game, and will ensure that fans will be playing Reaper of Souls for months to come.
Reaper of Souls is not only a hugely fun game in its own right, but it has convinced me, as a newcomer to the series, to now dive deeper into Diablo and check out what I’ve been missing all of these years. If you’re a Diablo fan, then this expansion is already on your wishlist, but if you haven’t delved into the series before then I strongly urge that you do so right now.
Copy provided by publisher. Review based on PC version. Also available on Mac.