Between new abilities, a new class, new content and a complete overhaul of loot RNG Diablo III Reaper of Souls has a lot of promises it needs to deliver on. Thankfully the beta is out, and with it comes the opportunity to see just how far along Blizzard is on their quest to create the ultimate dungeon crawling experience. The changes are plenty, and there's no guarantee there won't be more leading up to the expansion's release, but here are our impressions of the action so far.
The most obvious change to Diablo is the addition of the Crusader, who plays like a unique blend of the other classes while not marginalizing any of their existing niche. Unlike other melee classes the Crusader is limited to using just a one-hander and shield, but can use a two-handed weapon in their main hand with the use of a passive talent (something most would see as mandatory). Skills are used once enough wrath is built up, and the wrath generating skills give the Crusader a great amount of variety in ranged, single target or AoE situations.
In fact the Crusader is a class that's been incredibly well thought out to the extent that there's little the plate wearer cannot handle. Between high armor, skills that increase block chance and decent range of AoE skills no one should have a hard time pushing through hordes of enemies with the class; which of course fits motif of divine reckoning that the Crusader is meant to be as an experience.
Changes to Diablo III can be broken into two tiers: those that affect the core game and that which comes exclusively in the expansion content. The biggest change to endgame is arguably the removal of the rigid paragon system, which instead has been replaced with points allocation after lv 70. Once players hit max level they'll be able to increase base primary stats (dexterity/vitality/strength/intellect) instead of being capped to paragon levels. Experience for paragon points is shared account wide, and as a result offers a lot more flexibility than the previous system.
But leveling endlessly is pretty worthless without a change to the current dungeon system, and to that effect Blizzard has done a great job in redesigning the original story mode to provide a more unique (and far less predictable) experience via Adventure Mode; which allows players to access any point in the game at any time instead of sitting through the core story. Five trials, or bounties, are tossed into every act and will present a certain challenge for players to overcome followed by a boss immediately on completion. Nephalim Trials also provide randomized dungeons that are filled with unique minibosses and offer the chance for players to obtain blood shards.
Blood shards are part of a new currency designed to reward players for defeating trials, and can be used to purchase new gear once enough have been collected. In addition the Mystic will allow players to not only reforge their items (which provides a chance at loot with different stats) but also lets players transmog their gear, finally giving a purpose to cool looking items with slightly worse stats.
It's important to note that, as of now, many of these features are going live for all players regardless if you have the expansion; which includes Paragon 2.0, Nephalim Trials, and Loot 2.0 which is a much more intelligent system of assigning relevant drops to players instead of stuffing everyone's bags with gear they cannot equip.
Those buying the expansion will be able to use the Crusader, Mystic and of course Act V which takes players into the heart of Westmarch to confront the Reaper of Souls. Once the Angel of Wisdom, Malthael has since decided to wipe out all of demonkind and as a result probably humanity in the process. Though we'll reserve judgement on the act until the final version of the game is released the journey into Westmarch should give players a fair challenge, though the trip may feel pretty short when you compare it to the 'feel' of other acts in the game.
There are a lot of other changes to take note of as well, but until the final word of whether they'll be considered expansion content or deemed as just an upgrade to the existing game (and probably given a 2.0 tag as a result) it's difficult to say what shape Reaper of Souls is taking. On one hand it's absolutely fantastic to see so many adjustments reach players regardless of their purchase, and if the update to monster types/difficulty is also baseline to Diablo III then there will be a lot to rejoice come expansion day. On the same page, pricing will make a big difference in how much value players will get from the Mystic, Westmarch and the Crusader.
If Blizzard keeps the price tag reasonable then Reaper of Souls is shaping to be an expansion you'd be crazy not to get, particularly if you were one of the many who were disenchanted with the game's initial launch. In the meantime we'll keep a close eye on the beta as it progresses, and of course have a full review of the expansion as soon as it becomes available.