Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls review: finally, the Diablo I’ve been waiting for

When Diablo 3 first came out, I wasn't impressed. I had some fun with it, but my expectations were so high that there was no way it was going to live up to what I expected. Ultimately, I think there's two reasons why Diablo 3 disappointed me: one, Diablo 2 was such a great game that it made any follow-up act very difficult; two, the auction house was a failed idea.

But the auction house is gone now. In its place comes a revamped loot system that helps make this more "Diablo" and less "Auction Simulator." While the improvement to Diablo 3 partially comes from the amazing changes from Loot 2.0 patch, the game's first expansion — Reaper of Souls — fully realizes it and makes Diablo 3 the game I hoped it would be at release.

The first thing you'll notice with Diablo 3 — outside of an amazing CGI opening that Blizzard always seems to do well — is a new playable class: the Crusader. The Crusader fits right in with the other classes, providing a nice mix of offense and defense, buffs and debuffs, and looking great in Diablo 3's armor style. While every class has enough abilities and customization to support whatever playstyle you want to try out, that rings even truer for the Crusader. From slashing aoe attacks to ranged attacks where you throw hammers, from blocking buffs and damage reduction to healing buffs via consecration, there's something for everyone. Oh, and they can wield 2-handed weapons with a shield. F*ck yea.  I'd say that it helps fill the void left by the Paladin in Diablo 2. Taking the Crusader into Torment 1 helps you level the Crusader to 70, the new level cap, fairly quick. That new level cap brings more abilities and runes to each of the other classes — Monk, Wizard, Demon Hunter, Barbarian, and Witch Doctor. Also, at level 70, you unlock another passive slot. As if the lure of max-level loot wasn't enough, the new skills for each of the classes are definitely worth it. 

crusader reaper of souls

On your way to leveling up to 70, you'll play the new Act V. Taking place in the new area called Westmarch, you'll be tracking down Malthael, the Angel of Death. He's as every bit intimidating as that title sounds, and he makes for one hell of a bad guy to go up against. The city of Westmarch is bleak and death is everywhere — perfect for the tone of the act, which is very dark. The architecture of Westmarch and the visual style of all of the areas you'll encounter in Act V are superb. Likewise, the enemies you'll face are all fitted to the style of the areas and the story. That said, the story itself is built up to be much more epic than it actually becomes. It's the only slight disappointment, and I feel it stops right as it really gets going. 

Once you defeat Malthael and beat Act V, it's time for Adventure mode — the mode that Diablo 3 sorely needed. Adventure mode allows the player to create a game with all of the acts and waypoints unlocked, and with the quests and story events turned off. In their place are Bounties and secondary objectives for each area. It's a way for you to freely go around the game and battle what you want to battle.

reaper of souls bounty adventure

A Bounty is essentially a goal to kill a boss or clear an area of enemies, and it rewards you with a large amount of experience and money. They also reward you with crystalline blood shards — a new form of items / currency that can be traded to a specific merchant in town for random rare or legendary items. I haven't gotten anything that's better than the gear I already have on my level 70 Demon Hunter, but the potential is there. It's another way to get more loot without having to quest through the game again. Every time you enter Adventure mode, the bounties will be reset and there will be two acts that offer extra rewards. When you clear an entire act's Bounties, you'll be rewarded with a loot-filled Horadric Cache. Also, when you complete Bounties, you get Rift Keystone Fragments… time for another way to get even more awesome loot. 

With five Keystone Fragments, you can open up a Nephalem Rift. Nephalem Rifts are only in Adventure mode, and they are a randomly generated dungeon / area that contains tons of mobs of monsters, elites and bosses. Not only are you getting really good loot, but when you kill a certain number of monsters, you'll summon a Rift Guardian — the big boss at the end with really powerful abilities and even better loot.

Again, Diablo 3 is all about the loot. So getting rid of the Auction House and replacing it with better, more frequent loot drops, complete with multiple modes to get that loot, makes the game so, so, so much better.

reaper of souls mystic

The last big addition to come with Reaper of Souls is the Mystic. Myriam Jahzia joins Diablo 3 as the game's third artisan, the first two being the blacksmith and jeweler. The Mystic brings the ability to enchant items, replacing an item property with one that you have chosen from a random list of powers. For instance, you're playing a Demon Hunter and a weapon has the property of 8% more damage using elemental arrow, but you don't use elemental arrow. With enchanting, you can pay to get rid of that property and choose from four randomly generated properties. She also brings Transmogrification to the game. You can use the Mystic to change the appearance of your equipment if you don't like how it looks. And when you train the Mystic, you unlock even more transmogrification possibilities. 

A few months after launch, Diablo 3 was a forgettable game. There was no draw to keep playing, and the game didn't drive you to want to get better gear like Diablo 2 did. Reaper of Souls (in combination with the new patch) changes that. With a really good Act V, an awesome new area, new skills for every class, the addition of the Crusader, the Mystic, and entirely new modes to play that changes the way to get loot, Diablo 3 is finally the game we all hoped it would be.

That's enough writing now. Time for me to get back to my Nephalem Rift.

You can follow Senior Editor Lance Liebl on Twitter @Lance_GZ. He likes talking sports, video games, movies, and the stupidity of celebrities. Email at LLiebl@GameZone.com