Developed by Blizzard. Published by Activision Blizzard. Released March 25, 2014. Available on PC (reviewed).
This review was originally posted on GameFront.com.
As we've all heard in the trailers, "No one can escape death." Uttered by Malthael, the expansion's titular big bad guy, it becomes almost a mantra by the time you've finished the Reaper of Souls campaign. I won't spoil the story here, but suffice to say that you'll have no doubts about how Malthael feels about death by the time you're through. Much like all the evil lords of hell in the core game, he can't help but pop up every now and then to remind you that he's evil, and you're doomed. It gets rather tiresome.
In fact, that's the case for all of the Reaper of Souls campaign. Just like in Diablo III, the story isn't well-delivered. Instead, it's told mostly in cutscenes that vary little from character to character, and ignored in most of the actual gameplay, unless you count the flashing yellow arrow on the minimap. While Blizzard's cinematics are as wonderful as ever, their quality can't distract from the generic nature of the story, or from the painfully obvious twist at the end.
But let's face it -- no one is playing Diablo for its grand story and overarching plots. They're playing it for one thing: the epic loot.
Any discussion of loot in Reaper of Souls should really begin with the patch that preceded its launch, and the removal of the much-maligned Real Money Auction House (RMAH). In its place came a new system, dubbed, "Loot 2.0." Basically, this new system adjusted the drop rate of items so that items drop less frequently, but those that do drop are of higher quality. They are also more likely to have higher bonuses and more useful properties attached to them.
But the patch was about more than just loot. It also included a major reworking of the Paragon level system, removing the previous cap and making Paragon levels account-wide. The game's difficulty system was revamped to adjust all monsters to the player's level, and then difficulty settings ramp up the challenge from that point.
Additionally, this patch also introduced events centered around cursed shrines and chests. When you encounter one of these in the world, it kicks off an event that requires you to survive numerous waves of enemies. If you do so, you're rewarded with gold and experience, as well as the ability to open the chest or use the shrine normally. Beat the event before the timer expires, and you'll get a bonus chest as well.
What all these changes boil down to is a revamping of the loot system in the wake of the removal of the RMAH. Weapons are more likely to line up with your character's needs, and your chances of getting the occasional amazing item are much higher now. That's a must since gearing up through the auction house is no longer possible.
Another addition that makes gear much easier to deal with is the Mystic. This NPC pops up during the campaign, and eventually sets up shop in town. While the blacksmith and the jeweler are still there for you to craft with, the Mystic allows you to remove and reassign one stat on a rare or higher quality piece of gear.
This isn't a process that you'll use on every piece of gear (as the process can become quite expensive in terms of materials and gold), but it's nice to be able to swap out the one bonus you don't need for something you really do. The reassigned stat is always random, allowing you to pick between three random choices. While this was probably necessary, it can be downright frustrating at times, especially if you're trying to get a specific stat for your class.