It has been nearly a month since the fated release of Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls. Did Reaper of Souls right all the wrongs prevalent in the vanilla version of the game?
Now a bit of caution here, this is the view of one man who has recently realized he is no longer the hardcore gamer of his college years, so this review will focus heavily on the casual-friendly features. Also, prior to the release of RoS, I stopped playing vanilla Diablo over a year ago so I will talk a bit about the learning curve of jumping back in with all the changes should you be in the same situation and have not yet made the plunge to RoS.
The auction house is gone, players rejoice! Not so much a RoS change, but more of a “I’ve been gone a while” change. Now that the auction house is gone player trading is, well, non-existent. Every legendary item in the game is now Bind on Account with one caveat: you have a limited time to trade the item to a fellow member who was in your party when the item dropped. This is the only option. Presently, you can’t trade it with your friends or even a clan member if they weren’t in the party. Once the timer runs out, it’s yours forever. Of important note, legendary crafting items are automatically bound to your account with no options to trade, as well as crafted legendary items. This means the market for legendary materials is gone and your friends can’t craft you legendary equipment. While I appreciate the changes because I can chase down legendary items in my own game instead of the auction house now that the drop rates have been fixed, the limited trading ability has hollowed out the economy and all but eliminated the need to interact with the community.
That amazing item you have been farming for the last 200 hours finally dropped, but your Barbarian item rolled…intelligence!? In vanilla that may have caused you to unleash your own version of Seismic Slam upon your computer, but fear not friends and stifle your rage as RoS introduces the Mystic. This lovely and mysterious lady will set up camp in each act and assist you with re-rolling one stat on your item for a price. Re-rolling rares are budget friendly, but if you choose to re-roll a legendary be prepared to spend a fair amount of gold and some of your precious legendary materials.
Results are varied; sometimes you will get that coveted socket or increased critical hit chance on the first roll, or sometimes (more often than not) it’ll be 30 rolls and millions of gold later. Using the mystic also presents a new dilemma. When you re-roll a stat, it presents you with two replacement options that can be any stat that could have rolled on the item in that slot, so if you are trying to up the dexterity on a bow, you may get two choices to change that dexterity to two random values of vitality for example, instead of increasing your dexterity like you hoped for. The only saving grace is you can simply close the dialogue box if you don’t like the proposed stat change and roll again to your heart’ s content, or until you run out of materials and gold.
Protip: You can now hold the ALT key and see where your stats fall in the minimum and maximum range. For example, let’s say you have 6% increased attack speed on a bow. By holding ALT when mousing over the bow, it will show you the item can roll 5-10% IAS, which may help in determining whether a stat is worth re-rolling. Unfortunately, if your item is more than one stat away from being “perfect” you are still out of luck. Once you have selected a stat to re-roll, that item is locked and will only allow you to re-roll that one stat over and over.
Where you’ll spend most of your time in RoS.
Introducing Loot 2.0
The Loot 2.0 system promises to increase your chances of getting items that are useful for your character, and more importantly with stats that make sense for the character you are playing. If you are playing solo, Loot 2.0 is pretty solid on delivering. Once the legendary items and solid rares start dropping though, you will realize finding new items that trump your current items becomes few and far between. 90% of my runs end in salvaging every item in my inventory despite them being geared toward my character. In party play, I’ve noticed the items dropping have a higher chance of reflecting all characters in my party.
Now you are probably thinking, why should I play with friends then?! When you play in close proximity with your friends, you now get a Gold Find and Magic Find bonus alleviating the need to have those stats on your gear. So maybe a few more rare 2-handed axes drop while you are playing with a Barbarian friend on your Demon Hunter, but the Loot 2.0 system still delivers solid results for the most part when the legendary items hit he ground.
This aside, the biggest change with loot is drop rates. According to the blues on the Diablo 3 forum, legendary drop rates are now controlled on a timer. This is not to say legendary items can’t drop all the time, but the longer you go without a legendary drop, your individual chance of seeing that glorious orange beam of light after a monster kill increases. While this system actively reduces the downtime between legendary item drops, I have noticed once a few legendary items drop in an evening playing a few more hours usually does not net me more legendary items. This is because every time a legendary drops, your timer for increased drop chance resets back to a normal level based on difficulty and game mode. This is fantastic for casual players, yet infuriating for hardcore players who may go for a more regular marathon session.
Ultimately with the timer in play and a bit of actual luck, I can kill less and play less and still have comparable loot drops to someone who plays more often. Here’s the hard numbers for my play: In vanilla D3 I played 170 hours on my Demon Hunter and never had a legendary drop. In 48 hours and 25 minutes playing RoS I have had 32 legendary items and three set items drop. Not too shabby.
So you beat Act V, now what?
If you’re coming back for the story, you may be a bit underwhelmed by the time the credits roll. I will leave it at that and keep this review spoiler free. Although, once complete, welcome to the new game type to sink hundreds of hours into: Adventure Mode! Instead of running Acts over and over again and feverishly skipping cut scenes you can now partake in Bounties or Rifts. Bounties are game-led farming runs at their core where you go through different way-points of a given Act to defeat bosses, kill X number of monsters in an area, or complete events. Each individual bounty has its own reward and once you have completed all the bounties in an Act, you return to camp and collect rift key fragments, gold, experience and a horadric cache from Tyrael. Horadic caches take up two inventory slots and burst open with loot ranging from crafting materials to Act-specific legendary items. If you are after a particular legendary that only a certain act will provide, you will do these over and over.
After you have amassed five rift key fragments, you can speak to Orek the spectral lightweight vacuum cleaner and he will be kind enough to open a rift. The development team for RoS rolled out several tweaks for legendary drops in rifts to make playing them significantly more relevant. Rifts are by far the best way to farm legendary items, as they currently have a +100% bonus to legendary drops (read: a 100% bonus to the preset drop rate, not a 100% chance to drop), and if you play on Torment difficulty you gain an additional bonus and have a chance for Torment-only legendary drops. When you run a rift you have to slay monsters until you fill a percentage bar to 100%. Once you slay the appropriate amount of monsters, a Rift Guardian will spawn which is usually a pumped up rare spawn with a different name or a boss from any of the Acts.
Now, when you defeat the Rift guardian there is a heated debate across the community as to whether or not you are done with the rift. There are two schools of thought, some that believe you should close the rift and open a new one, and the other camp that believes you should clear the rift. I’m a member of the latter, as I have killed many Rift Guardians that resulted in no legendary drops only to receive a legendary after continuing to clear. I have not read anywhere that the Rift Guardian has a better drop rate and the 100% legendary drop bonus applies to all monsters in the rift. If you are playing with randoms expect to play with those who will demand to move on or will demand to clear. Hey, either way you are cleansing Sanctuary of evil, right?
Reaper of Souls does right many of the wrongs that were present in vanilla D3, but at the same time creates some new issues. Once the allure of the loot grind wears off, you have to pause and think about what the end goal is. For some, it is getting your unbuffed damage per second to 1 million, and for others it is getting that perfect gear set. As far as what the game provides for end game and a sense of accomplishment, player versus player in the form of brawling is available if you want to beat down members of your party, but with no rewards or purpose other than bragging rights, brawling leaves much to be desired. As your character grows in power the only noticeable benefit is your ability to run through a rift or bounty a bit quicker.
With the legendary timer in play, and the nature of a random number generator that controls Diablo‘s loot, getting through quicker doesn’t necessarily mean more legendary items. Ultimately, it is no different than pulling the arm of a slot machine and the legendary is that elusive 777. How long “pulling that arm” remains entertaining is varied between players. I can tell you for me personally, in my third week of playing now my time spent in RoS has already decreased noticeably (much to the excitement of my wife) as my interest is waning quickly. If growing ever more powerful is enough to keep you going though with or without good loot drops, Paragon levels are now limitless and shared between all characters.
Does RoS bring enough to the table to make it worth coming back to though? I say yes, with reservation. Legendary items raining from the sky (in comparison to vanilla) is thrilling, and unlocking a greater potential for your favorite character beyond the hard ceiling vanilla created is quite fun. However, I caution, that fun may not last as long as you hope.