Diablo III: Reaper of Souls review

Diablo III is in better shape than it's ever been thanks to the recent round of updates, and Reaper of Souls is a product of those improvements.
Diablo III is in better shape than it's ever been thanks to the recent round of updates, and Reaper of Souls is a product of those improvements.
Diablo III is in better shape than it's ever been thanks to the recent round of updates, and Reaper of Souls is a product of those improvements.

Highs

  • Adventure Mode is a fresh and fun distillation of Diablo's best bits
  • New campaign act and Crusader class provide plenty of welcome content padding
  • Expansion as a whole really builds on the strengths of recent updates-enhanced

Lows

  • Strongest elements at work here are the product of free updates-enhanced
  • You're forced to play through the new act before you can use Adventure Mode

Diablo III has changed so much from where it started back in 2012 that it’s hard to separate the latest iteration of the game from its new Reaper of Souls add-on. So let’s just make this clear at the outset: the removal of the Auction House and subsequent rebalancing of the game’s loot distribution has a monumental impact on the flow of your dungeon-crawling. Even without Reaper, Diablo III plays better now than it ever has before.

So what’s the deal with the expansion pack then? If you’re looking for for a quick-and-dirty rundown, here it is: a new artisan, the Mystic; Blood Shards currency that you spend to gamble on new gear; a new fifth act for the campaign; a Crusader hero class; challenging randomized dungeons called Nephalem Rifts; a boosted level cap, which brings the total up to 70; and the centerpiece, a grind-worthy slaughterfest called Adventure Mode.

In Adventure Mode, you’re always moving, always going after the next reward.

Up until now, Diablo III’s top-level play has involved revisiting sections of the campaign on higher difficulties, to grind for better loot, to use when taking on even higher difficulties. Reaper of Souls breaks that cycle (to a certain extent) with Adventure Mode. You’re still exploring familiar locations and completing familiar quests, but it all comes together in a radically different way.

Adventure Mode opens up all locations in the campaign’s five acts, allowing players to fast-travel to virtually any Waypoint at any time. The goal in each act is to complete a set of Bounties, which are quick-hit quests drawn from elements of the campaign. You might be asked to defeat a particular boss or Elite-level enemy, or complete some scripted sidequest. Or you might be tasked with taking on a Cursed Chest, which are new timed, wave-based challenges tied to a big loot drop.

The settings and obstacles are all familiar, but most Bounties can be completed in 10-15 minutes. This creates a lot of flexibility for the player to jump between a varied set of challenges, which helps keep the tedium of the unending grind at bay. The Bounties give late-game play a sense of purpose. You can still revisit the campaign and do all of the old farming runs, be it for loot, XP, or whatever else, but in Adventure Mode, you’re always moving, always going after the next reward.

Diablo 3 Reaper of Souls screenshot 13

The continuing freshness is thanks, in large part, to how much content Adventure Mode has to draw from. Any sidequest, any boss, any miniboss even, can be the target of a Bounty. You’ll see some recur more than others, particularly when you’re taking on Bounties in the shorter acts (like Act IV, which is basically just a padded-out boss rush). For the most part though, you’re staring at a fresh set of goals to tackle every time you fire up the game.

It’s more than just the usual loot/gold/XP gains that motivate Adventure Mode. In addition to earning all of that, you also get the opportunity to unlock Nephalem Rifts. These are completely randomized dungeon crawls that play mix-and-match with environments and enemy distribution. You might fight your way through a low-visibility Fields of Misery under the darkness of night, or find yourself in the secret, rainbow-filled realm of Whimsyshire after it’s been overrun by demons.

Whether or not you pick up Reaper of SoulsDiablo III is in the best shape it’s ever been.

This new type of dungeon helps Reaper of Souls establish a freshly satisfying feedback loop for Diablo III: take on quick-hit quests, earn rewards, unlock Nephalem Rift, earn bigger rewards, repeat. In terms of process, it’s not very far removed from the sort of farming runs that players engaged in before the add-on arrived. The difference now comes from the variety, and that counts for a lot.

The rest of what’s new in Reaper of Souls amounts to “more Diablo” in some form or another. The new Crusader class fits right in alongside the other five as a high health/armor bruiser that excels at close-range crowd control and team support. It feels like a complementary addition, building on top of the carefully balanced foundation that the original game shipped with. Along with the Crusader, the boosted level cap also brings new abilities to the rest of the classes, as well as a fourth unlockable Passive skill slot. Prepare to see a whole mess of newly re-written “perfect build” guides for each class.

The campaign’s new fifth act – which you’re forced to complete before you can tackle Adventure Mode – fills out a bit more story while offering up a fresh assortment of environments and enemies. It picks up right after the events of Act IV. Diablo is defeated and Malthael – Sanctuary’s take on Death – wants to use the Black Soulstone to do terrible things. Only you can stop him. No pressure. In addition to all of that, Reaper of Souls also introduces the new Mystic artisan, for enchanting and tweaking the look of your gear, and Blood Shards, a new currency you use to gamble on “mystery box”-style gear purchases.

Ultimately, it’s the recently released (and free) Loot 2.0 update that stands as a fundamental shift to the Diablo III experience. Adventure Mode feels like the natural product of Loot 2.0’s most significant changes, with the rest amounting to (undeniably welcome) trimmings. There’s a little something for everyone. Those that care about the series’ story get some added closure, along with hints of what’s to come next. Min/maxers get an entirely new class to grind with and 10 additional XP levels worth of skills and gear to hunt for. Whether you’re a casual loot grinder or a committed completionist, the real reward in Reaper of Souls is seeing how all of these elements click together in Adventure Mode.

The good news is, whether or not you pick up Reaper of Souls, Diablo III is in the best shape it’s ever been. The better news is that the expansion pack is legitimately excellent. It might have been the campaign add-on that caught your eye, or the promise of a new hero class to play as, or any number of smaller bits that first caught your eye, but the ever-fresh, ever-rewarding Adventure Mode is what really makes Reaper of Souls a complete package.

This add-on was reviewed on a first-gen Alienware X51 gaming PC using a code provided by Activision Blizzard.

Highs

  • Adventure Mode is a fresh and fun distillation of Diablo’s best bits
  • New campaign act and Crusader class provide plenty of welcome content padding
  • Expansion as a whole really builds on the strengths of recent updates-enhanced

Lows

  • Strongest elements at work here are the product of free updates-enhanced
  • You’re forced to play through the new act before you can use Adventure Mode
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