Can Reaper of Souls Save Diablo 3?
Diablo 3 wasn’t the success Blizzard — or its fans — hoped for. But Diablo 2 didn’t hit its stride until its expansion, Lord of Destruction. Could the same be true for Diablo 3? The first of two planned expansions, Reaper of Souls, was revealed at Gamescom last week. While many former fans of the series have written the third installment off long ago, those who stuck with it over the past year know that Blizzard has been actively working to improve the game. The Diablo 3 of today is a better game than on release day, but if it is to have the longevity of Diablo 2, a lot more work needs to be done.
New Game Director Josh Mosqueira, taking over the role from Jay Wilson, seems to have a keen eye for what’s wrong with Diablo 3. The game has a few critical issues that still plague it; here’s how Reaper of Souls may resolve them.
End-game? What end-game?
In today’s age of MMORPGs, end-game content is key to longevity. While Blizzard has added some content since Diablo 3′s release in an attempt to stop the ship from sinking, it was but a temporary fix. Paragon levels, Hellfire rings… they kept players busy for a time, but ultimately, they were just distractions from the fact that Diablo 3 has no solid end-game.
Coming to Diablo 3 is a new “Loot Run” game mode which sets players on a 15-20 minute crawl through a completely randomized, multi-tiered dungeon, featuring random enemies and a random boss or two.
Other new end-game content includes “Nephalem Trials,” which can be accessed through portals located around the world. Increasingly difficult waves of enemies will spawn — perhaps reminiscent of Diablo 2′s Baal runs — and the reward for surviving the trials will be Resplendent Chests.
Furthermore, the Paragon system is receiving a complete overhaul. Rather than a per-character leveling system, Paragon will become account-wide. Each level will give players the choice of how to allocate Paragon bonuses across their characters, allowing for a degree of stat customization that otherwise doesn’t exist.
The new Paragon system will offer a more meaningful grind, and the Loot Run and Nephalem Trials add a greater variety of end-game activities, which Diablo 3 desperately needs.
Oh, great. Another dumb Legendary drop.
Loot drops in Diablo 3 simply aren’t rewarding. After filling your stash with items on a typical loot run, you return to town, identify them…and end up selling them all to a vendor as junk, or breaking them down into crafting materials. There is hardly any thrill in finding a Legendary or Set item, because in the back of your mind, you know that the odds of it rolling stats that make it worth anything are so remote that you have a greater chance of someone joining your game and giving you a free item upgrade. When the first thing that comes to mind when the most unique and interesting items in a game drop is, “great, more crafting materials,” something is wrong.
Reaper of Soul’s “Loot 2.0″ system promises fewer overall drops, but more Legendary drops. This means sifting through less garbage, which is appreciated, but doesn’t solve the problem in and of itself.
Included in Loot 2.0 is a “smart drop” system which gives each dropped item a chance to roll affixes that are keyed to the class currently being played. This will increase the likelihood of actually finding an upgrade outside of the Auction House.
The expansion will also re-introduce The Mystic, an artisan who was cut from Diablo 3 before release. She will allow players to re-roll their choice of affix on a given Rare or Legendary item, a process that binds the item to the player’s account.
While these changes will make players less dependent on the Auction House, they may not be drastic enough to shake things up. Observing how these changes play out in beta will be telling.