‘Too little too late’ is not a phrase developers ever want to hear when releasing a sequel, expansion pack or even a patch that aims to fix inherent problems once rife within the original. To claim that Blizzard had a disaster of a launch for Diablo III would be taking the edge off it somewhat; Diablo III’s launch couldn’t have gone much worse.
In between Error 37 – which kind of proved an always-online single- player game was completely the wrong way to go – and a series of gameplay changes that diehard fans didn’t ask for and certainly didn’t want, Blizzard probably couldn’t have had a more ruinous launch for their biggest game since World Of Warcraft. So the good news is that, if you were one of the many outraged demanding Blizzard to refund your money back, it might not actually be too late with Diablo III: Reaper Of Souls. It may, however, be too little.
The crux of the expansion pack here is Act V, a fully realised whole new campaign section to right-click your way through that picks up shortly after the end of Diablo III (spoiler: Diablo is defeated). As you might expect from such an appendage, the tricky part is for Blizzard to make this brand new fifth Act feel just as compelling and important as the entirety of the original four Acts.
We won’t spoil it, of course, but suffice to say Blizzard has once again maintained that eerie magic it manages so well with the rich worlds it creates. There is danger, there is threat and there is mystery. Whether or not you appreciated Diablo III’s hand-crafted campaign – as opposed to traditionally randomised worlds – it’s impossible to overstate just how well Blizzard has managed to tie in what would be an ‘addition to’ and not ‘completion of’ Diablo III. There’s even a little bit of special closure for those that are drawn into Diablo’s lore.
It helps that brand new environments, locations and enemies are added into the campaign, and even the welcome return of Abd al-Hazir as many of the new beasties are encountered. Diablo III just wouldn’t be the same without his chirpy tones covering the sounds of gruesome battle. Admittedly some of these new creatures are, in essence, reskins of those we’ve seen in the original campaign, but there’s enough fresh to see here that it would be unfair to criticise such a minor fault. In terms of content there’s a good solid few hours here in the fifth Act alone, and that’s if you rush through; take your time to explore, empty every ginnel and complete every event and you’ll perhaps find it’ll take between eight to ten hours to complete. It’s at that point you’ll unlock Adventure Mode, where diehard fans might feel a little more at home.
Rather than take on the five Acts in order again, Adventure Mode instead sends you across the map on random bounties, taking out tricky beasts, exploring wastes and generally adventuring your way to success. It’s kind of in the name, really. It’s a handy addition for those who don’t want to have to fight through the game in a linear fashion once it’s completed, and mixes it up enough that if you are interested in the end-game of grinding for those legendaries you won’t feel that same fatigue set in.
Of course the real benefit is the Nephalem Rifts, which can be created after completing bounties and earning the necessary key. These randomised dungeons might not sound like much, but there are benefits that should appeal to the hardcore Diablo fans.
By piecing together tilesets from across the entire Diablo III palette and pairing it with unexpected – and often challenging – monster types, there’s plenty of randomness to the expansion pack. It is worth mentioning that loot isn’t modified in any particular way within Nephalem Rifts – it falls under the same mechanical rules as the campaign – but all the same it provides that added longevity that you probably wouldn’t have had otherwise. It’s a fantastic option for those methodical looters, and a much needed feature that fans would be clamouring for.
Then there’s the Crusader class, a new melee warrior that utilises the power of the light. Other existing classes get a handful of new passives and the odd new ability, but it’s in the new Crusader where the real development has gone. You’ll need to start from scratch here – which makes Adventure Mode particularly useful – but the new class does make for an enjoyable addition to round off the package.
The abilities don’t mix things up too much, but there are a few interesting – and very powerful – ones in there that will, if nothing else, be fun to experience at least once. Whether or not the class will be of any use to you will rely quite heavily on your love of Diablo’s persistent grind, which is the same as it ever has been.
And really that’s where the value of Diablo III: Reaper Of Souls comes from. To call it the game Diablo III should’ve been is perhaps a little unfair – though yes, the random elements have been a long time coming–butitisa tough expansion pack to gauge. This is a high- price for the content, though objectively there are mechanisms and features that could ensure you get the required longevity out of the expansion pack.
But subjectively it boils down to just how much use you will find yourself getting out of these new additions. The Crusader requires a reroll, bounties reuse locations and the addition of randomised dungeons might genuinely be a case of too little, too late. This is a superlative effort from Blizzard, but is it enough to change your mind if you’ve already decided against the instalment? Sadly, that’s not a question we can answer for you.