Blizzard’s full-priced expansion goes beyond heaven and hell to fix up the original click-heavy action RPG
In a nutshell: It’s an isometric-view action RPG where players choose a class and kill a horde of demons and undead led by the title character, in hopes to get oodles of loot and equipment for self-gratification. The expansion adds a bit more longevity to the formula.
Error 37 connectivity blues. The Real Money Auction House in-game economic ruination. Lackluster rewards for combat efforts during dungeon runs. These were the overlying problems that plagued Diablo III many months after its 2012 release that left a sour impression on a vocal number.
Then, 2014 hit. People flocked slowly onto the Diablo III bandwagon due to the numerous patches and changes prepping up for its upcoming expansion Reaper of Souls. Now that its add-on has come full circle, is this effort enough to absolve Blizzard for its previous lackluster effort? Absolutely!
Continuing the story of Diablo III, players now have to deal with a new threat trying to wipe out humanity in the game’s universe: the angel of death Malthael. With the task given at hand to tell a story that does not get into the action, Blizzard continues on with simple exposition. It’s not exactly Shakespearean literature, it gets its point across with its history logs and character quips that paint a simple picture about the game’s Westmarch and Pandemonium portions.
Then again, playing an action RPG like Diablo for its story is akin to buying a Ford GT for a slow Sunday drive. The only few things that action RPG aficionados need to care about are the acts of demon and fallen angel genocide filled with bright pastel conflagrations, the pursuit of hitting the next ten levels (if you’re a veteran of the original), and the acquisition of maximum level gear and items to bolster your characters with dealing more damage or soaking it up like a champ.
The extra incentive to get to the higher levels are made challenging thanks to new demon types, with highlights like the incapacitating-and-appearing-out-of-nowhere Summoners of the Dead to the grapple-heavy pack of large Westmarch Hounds. The bosses themselves prove magnanimous in design and difficulty: players will have a field day fighting off a rocket-launcher-slash-flamethrower-packing angel, a blood-spurting spider she-devil, and the star of the expansion, especially on the highest Torment difficulty.
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Blizzard tailored the game for the ADD in all of us loot hoarders; the introduction of Adventure Mode (after completing the new act of the expansion) allows you to complete random quests in small doses. Clear out a room full of baddies within an allocated time limit? Get a bunch of experience points. Want to finish a couple of bounties but pressed for time? You can conveniently teleport to any location with a few mouse clicks and carry on maiming for a few minutes.
Long-term players will find solace in the Nephalem Rifts. Get five Rift Keystones from accumulated bounties and activate a portal to go on a randomised demon-killing spree set in various ephemeral locations. Fill up the slaughter quota to summon the rift boss for, you guessed it, better drops and loot. These final fights range from piddly mid-boss encounters to the gargantuas of Act I and Act III. There is a huge sense of satisfaction in getting caught in a neon-lit narrow cavern pathway between the ginormous Butcher and two groups of Elite monsters with arcane sentries and poison blasts, and surviving the encounter with rewards in hand.
The new mode and rifts are a neat addition that brings into mind the good part about that Forrest Gump quote concerning boxed confectionery. The now beefed-up weaponry makes the payoff all the more succulent. They all vary in great ways, from an amulet that summons shadow clones when you stun adversaries to a sword that transforms enemies into living lightning conductors. There’s also the endgame leveling up system, dubbed as Paragon levels, that equals an endless run of self-improvement and self-gratification.
The expansion also introduces another class archetype: a control character who levels out the playing field up-close and lets his/her team members do clean up. The new class called the Crusader, when powered up, can either be a battering ram or a fantasy equivalent of an M1 Abrams, shooting at foes mid-range, while soaking up and reflecting damage.
While not exactly the most original character when mentioning his clichéd backstory out loud, long bouts of play prove that Blizzard’s new addition in the D3 roster is justified for players who want a more defensive and mid-to-long-range approach to the Barbarian. If his “clickety clack” attack and movement sound effects don’t grab your attention, surely his ‘Final Fantasy Dragoon Jump’-esque area attack and ‘Hammer of Dawn’ orbital laser strike will.
Plus, having the Crusader decked out with level 70 gear makes him look like a medieval Transformer, and that alone is a sight for brimstone-riddled eyes.
Worth playing for: The sights and sounds of Act V. From the gothic exteriors of Westmarch to the death-filled ethereal sanctums of the final parts, Blizzard’s element of style remains unrivaled.
Watch out for: That price tag if you’re incredibly fresh in the Diablo III experience. US$39.58 (S$49.99) times 2 equals US$79.16 for the full real-life-productivity-ending shebang.
In closing: Veterans and masses burnt out by the original’s average effort will find a lot more to adore, cherish and return to. This is digital crack in its most devilish form.