The time has come for Diablo III to get its first expansion pack to be released late in March. The game has sold over 14 million copies since launch, but due to a lack of updates and endgame playability, the number of players active on a monthly basis is just a fraction of sales. The expansion, Reaper of Souls, aims to address many of players’ concerns, potentially bringing new and old players back to the hack-n-slash fest.
Big changes to the endgame aspect of D3 will be the revamping of the loot system, in conjuction with the departure of the auction house, smarter loot drops, a raised level cap to 70, account-wide paragon levels, a dynamic farming dungeon called Nephalem Runs and an all new class, the Crusader.
If you played through Diablo III, then you managed to defeat the Prime Evil with nothing but your wits and a keyboard to assist you. So, what now? Well, evil is like a weed, if you kill one, another will rise to replace it. In this case, the Archangel of Wisdom, Mathael, appears as the Angel of Death to take back the Black Soulstone. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to stop Malthael's insidious plans using a host of new skills and abilities. Thankfully, with refreshed skills, this journey to destroy Malthael means new lands to explore and new adversairies to overcome.
Potentially the most significant update is the addition of a whole new class, the Crusader. This mid range melee character is akin to the Paladin in D2. Doning heavy armor and using magical prowess, he will bring hard blows to his enemies and a protective shield to his allies. Alas, only those who decide to purchase the expansion pack will have access to this new class and the Act V content. Take solice in the fact that your friends who do not get the expansion will still be able to join your game, up to Act IV.
Players have known for a long time now that Blizzard is doing away with gold and real money auction house systems. Considering the number of less than rare drops and the poor stats on the vast majority of rares, players naturally gravitated to buying the gear and stats they wanted on the AH. For many people, this trivialized the point of getting endgame loot. A minority fought back by playing on an honor system of only equiping items they looted. Given the poor state of the RNG stats on gear, only the most masachistic fanatics would choose to do this. The solution in Reaper of Souls will be a new loot system called Smart Drops where there will be fewer junk items and a better chance the items will be directly beneficial to the looter. Nephalem Runs, a randomized dungeon, will give farmers a new avenue to persue their treasure hunting. The marriage of Nephalem Runs and Smart Drops might just be a match made in heaven.
For those more interested in their characters, rather than the gear that adorns them, they'll be pleased to note that the level cap is raised to 70, unlocking new skills and runes. This alone shakes up the status quo of class builds, at least until the community finds the best new optimized permutations. Paragon levels, on the other hand, have been uncapped. So, rack up as many of those Paragon stats as your heart desires. Completionists will have to grapple with this one.
All things considered, these substatial updates could be just what the game needs to keep it fun and relevant for new and endgame gamers. Time will tell, but I wouldn't bet my two cents against Blizzard.
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(price as of Jul 28, 2016)