The Angel of Death has returned. Put an end to his misguided scheme for peace.
PC Release: March 25, 2014
By Ian Coppock
This jaunt into the Blizzard universe has been fun. If the games that this company has put out have a few flaws, they’re at the least high-quality, and accessible to gamers of all kinds. Diablo III‘s chief stumbling blocks were dealt chiefly to that ideal. Its lack of tutorials makes the game a degree harder for newcomers, and its always-on Internet connection makes the game playable to far fewer people than Blizzard realizes. Let’s see if Reaper of Souls, the direct expansion to Diablo III, addresses these problems.
So, right off the bat, Reaper of Souls is an expansion, not a standalone game. So it doesn’t do jack shit to that ridiculous Internet connection requirement. You’re killing me, Blizzard; why should I need to have an Internet connection if I’m doing single-player or local multiplayer? What the hell purpose does that serve? I don’t snort enough cocaine to think I need system updates that quickly, and I’m not going to decide so rapidly to engage in online multiplayer that I need the Internet right there “just in case”. So, yeah. Still trying to puzzle that one out.
Anyhoo, because Reaper of Souls is an expansion for Diablo III, it continues that game’s isometric “dungeon crawler” style of gameplay, and its putting you against hordes of monsters remains unchanged. The expansion’s narrative picks up right after the climactic end to Diablo III, as Malthael, the Angel of Death, arrives to the human realm of Sanctuary.
As I mentioned in my review of Diablo III, humans in this series are portrayed as the progeny of angels and demons, explaining their wide capacity for virtuous or evil acts. With the demons subdued, Malthael sees humanity as a last vestige of demonic power. By exterminating mankind, Malthael hopes to wipe all traces of the demons from existence and bring about the end of the eternal angel-demon war.
Malthael kicks off his war of genocide by attacking Westmarch, one of the largest kingdoms in Sanctuary that your hero, once again, just happens to be wandering by. Fresh from his/her victory over the demons, our hero races into Westmarch to save its people from an army of angels. I’d picked the crossbow-wielding Demon Hunter class in Diablo III, and was delighted to find that a lot of demon-hunting skills cross over to angel-hunting.
Because Reaper of Souls is an expansion and not a full game, it’s a lot shorter than Diablo III. The bulk of the expansion takes place in Westmarch, as your character fights off the angels and saves innocent lives. Malthael’s lieutenants are running around in the city trying to snare souls, and your tasks are divvied up between creating safe paths for civilians and destroying the soul-harvesting crucibles.
There’s not a lot of plot or character development to be had with Reaper of Souls. Part of this is due to the expansion’s short length, but there’s less exposition than what’s to be had in the main game. Once again, your character spends most of his or her time separated from your companions, out fighting the demons while they hang back at the mission hub doing God knows what.
Westmarch does manage to bring some visual power that the main game didn’t have. Most of Diablo III is set away from heavily populated areas, but here we get a glimpse of city life in the world of Sanctuary. Much like with the Halloween vibe of New Tristram, Westmarch is a gloomy gothic city, with beautiful but shadowy cathedrals and imposing castles. The wide open countrysides of Diablo III give way to constricting streets and alleyways, where most of the fighting is also concentrated. If you’re in the process of playing Diablo III and plan to play the expansion, now would be a great time to round out your character’s close-quarter fighting abilities.
Reaper of Souls also adds a few new gameplay elements, including a new melee-based class called the Crusader. The Mystic, a new type of artisan, allows you to reassign the magical properties on many of your items. After you’ve finished the expansion, you can take on bounty-hunting assignments and hunt down dangerous monsters for coin. They’ve also added new dungeons and challenges, and the updates seem to be quite regular. It’s a good way to keep engaged with the game after you’ve beaten the story, and it gives players an opportunity to explore areas they missed the first time around.
Reaper of Souls also makes a few small but important contrasts with Diablo III, particularly in the art department. Whereas previously much of the world was brightly lit and burning with demonic fire, Reaper of Souls feels cold and spooky. The all-engulfing flames of the demons have been replaced with the disquieting blue light of the beyond. Almost all of the game takes place at night, to further strengthen this atmosphere.
Despite its short length, Reaper of Souls does manage to accomplish a few narrative highs that I found noteworthy. After fighting in Westmarch, your character joins up with the angels to attack Malthael’s stronghold in Pandemonium, a purgatory-like realm. Within, your character stumbles upon the ghost of a figure from his or her past, dependent upon which class you chose, and there’s a heartrending scene between the two that I found more memorable than anything else in either game. After reconciling with this figure and making peace with your friends, you can be sure that your character’s in for one hell of a boss battle.
There’s not a whole lot else about Reaper of Souls that I didn’t mention in Diablo III. Run between dungeons, upgrade and sell your items, and kick ass in a variety of different ways. Blizzard has continued to release new rounds of dungeons for the most avid players, though I confess I haven’t touched any of them yet. Hopefully they managed to sneak some more tutorials about the game’s mechanics in new patches.
Reaper of Souls is a decent expansion. Not super-amazing, but decent. It resolves a few plot threads from Diablo III and rounds out its repertoire of monster-hunting quite nicely. Players of Diablo III will no doubt enjoy this expansion, and the post-release content Blizzard’s continued to put out. Give it a go when you’ve got an afternoon free.
You can buy Diablo III: Reaper of Souls here.
Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.