Diablo III launched on May 15, 2012 in North America and quickly became the fastest-selling PC game with over 3.5-million copies sold within its first 24 hours of release. It also became the center of all jokes Error 37 at its launch and was often criticized for the inclusion of a Real Money Auction House. For some passionate fans of the Diablo franchise, Diablo III didn’t quite live up to its name, but Blizzard Entertainment is hoping to change those minds with the release of the game’s first expansion, Reaper of Souls.
The staff at Full Cleared was fortunate enough to spend some time in the Reaper of Souls closed beta this past weekend, with two of our staff members (myself included) logging in close to 20 hours of playtime each. Did we come away excited and refreshed about the possibilities of what Reaper of Souls has in store for Diablo III? Read more to find out about what Reaper of Souls is all about, the changes being made to Diablo III and whether or not it will be enough to get you to head back to slaying hordes of demons.
To start it off, we are fans of the original Diablo III release. So much so that I invested over 1,150 hours into my Demon Hunter before burning over 150 hours into a Wizard and a few dozen hours scattered across the other classes. But after mastering MP10 Ubers with our group and realizing that no major patches were coming to the game since the team was hard at work on the expansion, we all decided to take a break from Diablo III to explore other games. So after having not slain demons for several months, I was excited to head into Reaper of Souls with a fresh new look at Diablo III.
Instead of embarking on an entirely new adventure with the Crusader class, I decided to copy over my Demon Hunter to see how it would fare. I set off to Westmarch in Act V to discover the secrets behind Malthael and began the leveling grind from 60 to 70. Reaper of Souls makes an attempt at returning to the dark, cryptic world that the Diablo franchise has built a name from, and the new Act does so in a way that even fans of the original Diablo will find acceptable. While I won’t be spoiling any of the content in Act V, just know that it’s a solid Act and a vast improvement to what we got with Act IV in Diablo III classic.
Leveling from 60 to 70 was a breeze with perfect pacing through the Act’s storyline. I got showered with items featuring huge numbers, watching my damage grow exponentially and my toughness (EHP) hitting numbers that I never thought possible with the Demon Hunter. You’ll feel much more powerful quickly in Reaper of Souls but it’s worth noting that existing classes only receive one new skill. Of course, multiple skills on each class are being reworked as well, so for some it will feel as if you’re playing a whole new character. Some will be disappointed to hear that certain builds aren’t as powerful as before, or don’t work at all such as the CM/WW Wizard. But that content is also available on the PTR as part of Patch 2.0, so you’re able to test that out yourself if you’re interested.
Reaper of Souls introduces an all-new artisan to the game called The Mystic. Myriam is able to Enchant and Transmogrify your gear, allowing you to change and re-roll one stat on your items, and the ability to change its appearance.
Before we jump into Enchanting however, Reaper of Souls introduces new crafting mats to Diablo III making all those you’ve gathered up in classic pretty much worthless if you intend on grabbing the expansion. Arcane Dust can be received from disenchanting blues and is used in combination with Veiled Crystals (gathered from disenchanting rares) to Enchant your rare items. Enchanting Legendaries will require the new Legendary mat called Forgotten Soul, which can be obtained from disenchanting Legendaries. It’s worth noting that the mats also have a chance of dropping off mobs, chests, vases, etc. so you can go back to breaking and opening everything in the game.
As for the Enchanting system, it certainly does open up many new possibilities and build ideas. You can simply select the item you want to change a stat on and you are able to see a preview of the possibilities for each stat you want to re-roll. Now naturally for a Demon Hunter, the first thing I wanted to do was stick in my old Manticore and see what could happen. Certain Legendaries can be re-rolled to the newer, massive main stat/Vit rolls, but certain ones cannot. The Manticore for example, would only see its Int roll become either an Increased Damage Against Elites or a Reduced Level Requirement stat. The Witching Hour on the other hand, saw its Dex roll become +359. The Enchanting system is pretty intuitive to use and can help diversify potential builds.
For example, say you’ve decided that you want to use Entangling Shot on your Demon Hunter and you’re having no problems surviving. You can then re-roll some of the Vit stats on your gear to “Increases Entangling Shot Damage.” Next thing you know, you’ve improved your Entangling Shot damage by 45% thanks to the new property on three pieces of gear. Deciding to step up your difficulty and need that Vit back? Just re-roll your stat until you get the property you want again. Of course, replacing the property multiple time increases its gold costs, so you could end up going for broke trying for that extra 1% Attack Speed Increase on an item.
To keep things balanced, you are only able to re-roll one stat on your gear. Once you re-roll that stat, you can only re-roll that one stat over and over. Each time you get two new options, while a third option will be the original stat, in case you didn’t like what the two outcomes were. So no matter what, you can always fall back on the original stat on the item, but it’ll still cost you your mats and gold.
What We’d Like to See Changed to Enchanting
While the system is pretty simple to use and is certainly helpful, we’d like to see the ability to re-roll one primary stat and one secondary stat. We honestly think that it wouldn’t be a game-breaking feature, but would allow players to enchant some luxury properties to their gear such as gold and pickup radius or to buff a certain resistance. Limiting the enchantment to one stat (either primary or secondary) means that players will hardly want to use that up on a secondary stat, unless the item’s primary stats are already that perfect.
Finally! Diablo III has some customization features beyond just dyes. Players are now able to change the look of their gear through the new Transmogrify feature. Simply place an item in the window, select the look you want, pay some gold and go on your way. If you collect Legendaries, you’ll be granted the ability to Transmogrify your item to that Legendary’s look. It’s also worth mentioning that Legendary pieces can now be dyed. Interestingly enough, Demon Hunters can Transmogrify their quivers to shields… so if you’ve ever wanted that look to your Demon Hunter, have some visual fun.
One of the new end-game additions is Bounties, which are essentially quests in each Act that you can complete for bonus rewards. Each Act features five bounties that range from killing 50 monsters and a named mob to killing Diablo in Act IV. Bounties are a fun way to grind and farm in the game, awarding you Blood Shards and a Horadric Cache at the end of completing the Bounties in the Act. The Horadric Cache will also have a chance to drop a Rift Keystone that allows you to open up a Nephalem Rift. Certain Acts will have twice the Bounty Rewards, enticing you to end up there rather than the others.
What We’d Like to See Changed to Bounties
We’d love to see a bonus or incentive to completing the Bounties in multiple Acts per game. One of the biggest downfalls to Diablo III was the fact that players found the most optimal xp per hour run and ended up grinding that to boredom. After grinding a few Bounties in Reaper of Souls, we discovered that the quickest runs were done in Act IV and that there was no incentive to complete the ones in the other Acts, especially those that have you exploring real large map sets such as Dahlgur Oasis to hunt down a named mob. Ironically, the Act that no one bothered to farm in Diablo III classic is now the most optimal one to grind out Bounties and receive quick loot. Hopefully Blizzard Entertainment will add in a solid reason (bonus Blood Shards, more gold, more experience, etc.) to hop through all five Acts and wiping all the Bounties from the map before starting a new game.
Nephalem Rifts can be opened up with the Rift Keystone obtained from the Horadric Cache after completing Bounties. Nephalem Rifts are basically multi-leveled dungeons that have you grinding mobs and Elite packs until the bar fills to 100 percent. Once that bar hits 100 percent, a random named mob will need to be killed before the Nephalem Rift is completed. That means you can randomly see Ghom or Rakanoth appear in a Nephalem Rift at the end. Players can continue going through the multiple levels of each Rift even once it’s completed and they simply want to just continue the item hunt.
Completing a Nephalem Rift will give you a bag of loot, often filled with gems and rare items. We have gotten Legendaries from the bag as well, so they most certainly do drop as a result of doing Nephalem Rifts. Of course there’s more Blood Shards, experience and gold from completing the Rift as well.
So currently it feels as if the end game will revolve around quickly completing Bounties, opening up Rifts, quickly completing Rifts, and then repeat. Players will be farming item drops while completing bounties and destroying hordes of minions in Rifts and then there’s the reward after completing each of those. Grouping up has an incentive too, since completing the Bounties will reward each person a Horadric Cache, which means a group of four could get up to four Rifts by just completing one set of Bounties.
With just a weekend of playing, we were able to gear our team up to completing Torment I Nephalem Rifts.
If you were a fan of Gambling in Diablo II, you’ll be happy to hear that Blood Shards offer the same mechanic. Players can spend their Blood Shards to obtain a piece of “Mystery” gear that will become a rare once you purchase it. It’s actually a fun way to end your night of farming and putting all those Blood Shards to use.
Oh My Gems
If you’ve been trying to avoid all things Reaper of Souls on the Internet you’ll be surprised to hear that Marquise gems drop like Flawless Squares in the expansion. Essentially, Marquise gems are now the foundation gems for Reaper of Souls with players working their way up from there. All gems above Marquise are Account Bound and upgrading Marquise gems to an Imperial is a major buff in stats. An Imperial Ruby for example, adds +100 Strength or 190 damage to a weapon. If slotted into a helm, it can add 35% Bonus Experience. There is also the addition of a new gem type, the Diamond. When used in a weapon, the Diamond increases damages against Elites while in a Helm it will reduce the cooldown of all skills. Used in any other equipment piece and you’ll get yourself an All Resistance bonus.
A big part of progressing in Reaper of Souls will include farming for gems, upgrading them and outfitting your gear with them. They offer massive bonuses now and once you’ve farmed yourself a nice set of rares, it’s simply looking for Legendaries and upgrading gems.
Itemization and Loot 2.0
And of course, there’s the most important topic of itemization and Loot 2.0 and whether or not it does enough to make Reaper of Souls a true Diablo game. First off, the Smart Loot system works. You’ll see more often than not your main stat being rolled on gear, so no longer will those awesome +Int quivers drop. But certain changes to the items might not sit completely well with Diablo III classic players.
It appears that gear will roll at most, four Primary attributes and two Secondary attributes, which means you’ll no longer be seeing trifecta gloves with main stat and Vit. Reaper of Souls and Loot 2.0 also removes the possibility of two stats rolling on one affix (i.e. a Str/Dex roll) which means in a way that rare items got a lot more… boring. The problem is, at the end of the day, Diablo III is about getting a ton of damage and a ton of survivability. Granted, certain Legendaries will open up builds that are game changing, while allowing players to change what they look for on their items – but until you get those Legendaries, you’ll be staring at an endless wave of rare items that will either have a green or red bonus to damage, toughness and healing. Sure, rare items can now roll increased damage for skills and reduced cooldowns and other fun stuff like Life on Hit on gloves, but players will mostly look out for either more damage or more toughness.
We get that Blizzard wants to steer away from those trifecta pieces being the only “acceptable” pieces of gear. But the problem is, it already exists for classic players… and some of them are better than level 70 item drops. Jewelry might need to see the biggest changes, since your crafted amulet might only be trumped by a new Legendary one. I crafted and gambled for a lot of rings and amulets, none of which ever came close to the jewelry I held from Diablo III classic. Simply put, the buff in main stat value doesn’t trump more increased attack speed, crit chance or crit damage. Even more interesting is that it appears that attack speed has been nerfed furthermore, with it rolling only 4 to 5 percent on gloves and rings.
While it’s certainly a lot better now seeing loot that you can almost always use, a few days of grinding even for a casual player and you’ll be seeing big numbers on your stat sheet. The problem is, you’ll stop caring about the rares that are dropping and once again, it’s all about grinding for Legendaries and Set pieces.
As for Legendary pieces, they are currently Bind on Account and can only be traded to players that were in the game when it dropped. Players also have a two-hour time limit to trade it. Is that a good thing? To be honest, we’re not sure… just yet. It certainly feels like a constraint and a good compromise would be allowing Legendaries to be traded if the person was on their friends list at the time that it dropped. This limits selling/trading on third-party websites, but doesn’t penalize a friend or clanmate if they just didn’t happen to be in the same game when the item dropped.
The new crafting recipes should also be tradable, even if it’s the same policy as the Legendary items. If a recipe drops that we’ve already gotten, it wouldn’t hurt to be able to drop it back off to a clanmate that hasn’t had as good luck with obtaining it.
What We’d Like to See with Itemization
Expand the group of affixes that can roll on an item. For example, with only four Primary Stats available to boots, most players will look for main stat, Vit, All Resists and Movement Speed. But what if boots could also roll Crit Chance, Crit Damage and Attack Speed? To us, it feels like each piece of gear is currently constrained to stats that you’re going to want to look for in order to progress, especially given that only four Primary Stats can roll. Every rare would be exciting if the pool opened up so that every available stat could roll on each piece of gear. If players want to sacrifice a large main stat roll for 6% Increased Attack Speed on a rare chest piece, we feel like it would make the item hunt much more exciting as well as opening up endless possibility for builds. If players end up wanting to find trifecta pieces on every piece of their gear while sacrificing survivability or more main stat numbers, why not?
Of course we haven’t seen all the new Legendary items yet, and this could be a moot point if there are multiple game-breaking Legendaries. But why not make rare items part of the item hunt? Give us the possibility that rare items can not only benefit the character, but be exciting to mouse over as well.
So… What Do We Think?
There’s a lot to like about Reaper of Souls and even the changes every Diablo III player gets with Patch 2.0. The new Paragon System is fun and being able to easily reset your points and switch on the fly is convenient. From what we’ve seen of the Legendary items so far, interesting builds are on the horizon. But most importantly is the removal of the Auction House. No longer will players be able to simply head to a website to see someone’s item set and build, drop some gold on the Auction House and copy what they have. With that removed from the game entirely, players will essentially be playing self-found and ultimately have a much more rewarding experience. But there are minor tweaks that needs to be done for Reaper of Souls to hold people’s interests beyond a month or two. But of course, we’re in closed beta and that’s the point of it all – for Blizzard to receive feedback, make changes, and roll out a polished product to the masses.
Given that we only spent a weekend playing the closed beta of Reaper of Souls (even though we really binged) it’s hard to reach a conclusion on whether or not all the changes “fix” the gripes that the majority of Diablo III players have. So, expect more content in the coming weeks including an in depth look at the new Crusader class (with plenty of videos) as well as a closer inspection at the new difficulty levels as we continue to progress our gear and get into setups for Torment VI.