Thursday, April 24, 2014

[Review] Diablo III: Reaper of Souls (and mild Diablo III review}

Genre: Action/RPG

System Requirements:

Minimum Specifications:
Windows XP/Windows Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8 w/ Direct X 9.0c
Intel Pentium® D 2.8 GHz or AMD Athlon™ 64 X2 4400+
NVIDIA® GeForce® 7800 GT or ATI Radeon™ X1950 Pro or better
1 GB RAM (XP), 1.5 GB (Windows Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8)
1024X768 minimum display resolution

Recommended Specifications:
Windows® 7/ Windows 8 (latest service pack)
Intel® Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz or AMD Athlon™ 64 X2 5600+ 2.8 GHz
NVIDIA® GeForce® 260 or ATI Radeon™ HD 4870 or better
2 GB RAM
1024X768 minimum display resolution
Diablo III had a rough time starting off, up until Reaper of Souls. D3 was very grindy and loot oriented, and Auction House oriented until recently, as of April first. As of today, Diablo III is running better than ever with the whiners on the forums as there is with any game. There’s a lot to be said about Reaper of Souls and even more about what RoS is building on, but this review is explicitly for RoS, so I’ll attempt to leave it at that.
So first off, the company who designed the game, Blizzard Entertainment. Blizzard has been around since 1994, when they first started producing video games as a whole team. Blizzard is managed by Mike Morhaime, with Frank Pierce as VP and Co-Founder with Allen Adham. Of course there’s so many more people who work at Blizzard and design these games. Lead artists, artists under the leads, story designers, graphic designers, etc etc.

Background of Diablo:

Diablo I was in essence the same as Diablo 3 today. Grind loot and move up to better monsters to get more loot. I can’t honestly say too much about it because I didn’t play it myself, and Diablo II is commonly referred to as Blizzard’s masterpiece for which they are known. Tons of people played Diablo II, and rightly so. Diablo II is something I’m sure Blizzard just wishes they could pull off again. Highly popular around the world, Diablo II sold over 16 million copies topping out at about 17 million, and it’s expansion, Diablo II: Lord of Destruction sold over 16 million copies worldwide again, roughly capping out at 17.5 million, more than the original game. Diablo III has sold over 14 million copies worldwide, probably because there wasn’t too much leakage about various models of gameplay and people were expecting a very cool, quality game from Blizzard Entertainment. Which they got! I mean, Diablo III was a quality game, and still is. The graphics, storyline, textures, detailing, it’s all very good. But I believe to most people with the RMAH (Real Money Auction House) and the normal AH (Auction House), they disliked the game because of that. It was a source of conflict for a lot of people for a long time, pretty much since a week or so after the game’s release. A lot of people even compare Diablo III’s gameplay to Diablo II’s since they enjoyed it so much, and of course they compare the Legendary drops and stuff like that too. Which isn’t too fair, all things considering. Diablo II has had years of tweaking at this point by Blizzard, it was released in 2000, and really it can’t compare to Diablo III because we don’t know if it will stand the test of time like Diablo II has. Diablo II has also been integrated with Blizzard’s Battle.net system (it was in 2000 too) and is definitely all the more better with multiplayer. But that’s neither here nor there at the moment. In essence, a lot of people expected Diablo III to be like Diablo II, but I think they got less than they bargained for in my opinion. Like 5-10% less.
Blizzard’s President At The Moment:
Just a short tidbit about Michael Morhaime, as I’m sure people would like to know a little bit about him. Mike has been heading Blizzard for quite awhile now, and has been seen of course, at multiple Blizzcons throughout the years. Blizzard started Blizzcon in 2002 to get closer to their fans, and I think they’ve done quite the successful job of that. Mike was born in 1966 and surprisingly enough was also featured on DICE’s Celebrity Poker Tournament placing second in 2006 next to Bioware’s Ray Muzyka who placed first.
Now, down to the nitty-gritty of Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls.

Gameplay:

I’ll just jump right into gameplay here, because if you haven’t heard of Reaper of Souls…

There’s, in essence, your story, right there. It’s no different from Diablo III’s base game or even Diablo II. You get through the story (and what an awesome story it is), then you grind badass loot out of monsters over days and/or years. And yeah, it does take some people quite that long to get the gear they want. I’m sure people didn’t just roll around in awesome gear upon hitting Diablo II’s bosses in the face one time. And even today I don’t think there’s anyone who’s completely geared out besides perhaps a few select people who have… a lot of time on their hands, in Diablo III. It is all RNG (Random Number Generator) based. What this means is that when you load up a level in Diablo III, all the loot is predetermined and ready to be grabbed by you, for every single monster in that level. The only way to reset it is to clear the level and start over again, or to close the game and start from the beginning of the level again. There may be some other ways but they may or may not be counted as an exploit, but I’m probably forgetting one or two. The game is wholly about loot and that’s it. Killing monsters and looking badass and getting the envy of your friends.

Sublevel of Gameplay: Classes:

I’m only going to speak about the new Crusader class here as the old classes are, well, old news. The Crusader has a variety of skills available, from throwing his shield to the good ol’ hack and slash we all know and love. The Crusader you might think is just based on doing Holy damage to enemies, but that’s untrue. They have Lightning damage available, Fire, and Cold damage, albeit only 2 options for Cold.




The Crusader class has really been well-done, and they also get an exclusive weapon to use: the Flail. I believe the flail is a really nice touch for a Crusader only weapon, however I think as time goes on they’ll probably let other classes use it. Some of the Legendary flails have really, really cool skins.

Sublevel of Gameplay: Interface:

The interface of Diablo III is really thought out, nice and smooth so you know where everything is at any given time. Of course the only real thing you’re going to be looking at is your inventory and possibly your resources to see what level they’re at. Your resources are technically your HP (Hit Points or Health Points) and your resource you use to cast skills. I’m going to use the new class, the Crusader, as the example for this review. The Crusader has the resource of Wrath. Wrath can be filled up to 100 or more depending on your gear and Paragon Levels which I’ll go into more detail later about. Wrath is made by hitting enemies with your primary attack and spending it by using your skills and your other primary right mouse button skill, or related controller button.

The start layout that displays your active hero is very well done also, very smooth. In the top-right there’s the Diablo III logo. Then directly under that there’s the Start Game button, which is colored really nicely and has good font, along with the rest of the text in the game as well. Under the Start Game button you have the Game Settings button. This constitutes the difficulty, what game mode you want to play on, and other details. In the bottom right (or wherever you may choose to put it, I suppose), the chatbox. And in the bottom left corner is various game options windows and your social options. The one I most frequently use of course is my friends list. You have access to your friends through the Battle.net system, and on Diablo III. You also have, in the bottom middle, another Start Game button.

Sublevel of Gameplay: Difficulty Levels:

So the difficulty levels have a large role to play in Diablo III. Normal is the easiest difficulty to do in Diablo and when you also get the least loot. T6, which is Torment 6 but a lot of people abbreviate it for obvious reasons, is the hardest. You’ve got the toughest monster and even tougher bosses and elites to deal with. Personally, I’m on T1 myself, and T1 is your goal basically, because that’s when gear can really start dropping for you. And unless you’re absolutely spending less than at least 20 minutes on a Nephelem Rift in my opinion, you shouldn’t be moving on to T2. (XP stands for EXP, or Experience Points)
Here are the bonuses of each difficulty:
Normal: Normal D3 experience, +0% gold and +0% extra XP bonus.
Hard: 75% extra gold bonus, 75% extra XP bonus
Expert: 100% extra gold bonus and 100% extra XP bonus, double blood shards
Master: 200% extra gold bonus, 200% extra XP bonus, bounties award double blood shards and imperial Gems can drop from level 61 and higher monsters (monster in RoS, not normal Diablo levels)
T1: 300% extra gold bonus, 300% extra XP bonus, bounties award double blood shards, imperial gems can drop from level 61 and higher monsters, new Legendary items become available at level 70
T2: 400% extra gold bonus, 400% extra XP bonus, bounties award double blood shards, imperial gems can drop from level 61 and higher monsters, new Legendary items become available at level 70
T3: 550% extra gold bonus, 550% extra XP bonus, bounties award double blood shards, imperial gems can drop from level 61 and higher monsters, new Legendary items become available at level 70
T4: 800% extra gold bonus, 800% extra XP bonus, bounties award double blood shards, imperial gems can drop from level 61 and higher monsters, new Legendary items become available at level 70
T5: 1150% extra gold bonus, 1150% extra XP bonus, bounties award double blood shards, imperial gems can drop from level 61 and higher monsters, new Legendary items become available at level 70
T6: 1600% extra gold bonus, 1600% extra XP bonus, bounties award double blood shards, imperial gems can drop from level 61 and higher monsters, new Legendary items become available at level 70
As you can see, the bonuses really get up there. However, T6 is very, very hard and I do not recommend it for the lighthearted, and for the newbies, as much as you may want to play on it. The highest I can go with my own stats at the moment is T2, however the chances of legendaries are slimmer because you’re not going through as many monsters at one time. On T1 I can roll through like nothing, but T2 gives me trouble. Here’s a chart explaining the drop rates: (What I mean by normal is anything outside of a Nephalem Rift)
T1: +15% normal, +44% in Nephalem Rifts
T2: +32% normal, +65% in Nephalem Rifts
T3: +52% normal, +90% in Nephalem Rifts
T4: +75% normal, +119% in Nephalem Rifts
T5: +101% normal, +151% in Nephalem Rifts
T6: +131% normal, +189% in Nephalem Rifts
As you can see, the bonuses do get really high for those Legendaries. (I am not sure if this is accurate as there have been talks of Legendaries getting bonus drop rates soon, or if they’ve already happened.) It is very dependent on the difficulty, but also it depends on the killing rate of the monsters. If you’re not killing stuff at a rate of probably a monster per second or two, you’re wasting your time. (Besides bosses, obviously.)
Legendary Materials for crafting which are gone into depth later in this article, have their own drop rate table which was recently updated as of April 10th, 2014, or around that time. Definitely before the posting of this article:
Normal Difficulty: 15% drop rate off of what’s called SuperUnique monsters (monsters with purple names)
Hard Difficulty: 18% drop rate off of SuperUnique monsters
Expert Difficulty: 21% drop rate off of SuperUnique monsters
Master Difficulty: 25% drop rate off of SuperUnique monsters
T1: 31% drop rate off of SuperUnique monsters
T2: 37% drop rate off of SuperUnique monsters
T3: 44% drop rate off of SuperUnique monsters
T4: 53% drop rate off of SuperUnique monsters
T5: 64% drop rate off of SuperUnique monsters
T6: 77% drop rate off of SuperUnique monsters
T6 again has the highest drop rate for things, but SuperUniques are very rare to find indeed, so you may be wasting your time unless you really need that material, but you can always farm it quicker on T1 or T2 rather than doing T6. Like I said, unless you’re absolutely obliterating everything, you’re wasting a lot of time.

Sublevel of Gameplay: AI:

The AI in the game is pretty well done TBH. A lot of the elite ‘packs’ are fairly hard to beat if you don’t have the right gear to beat them on the right difficulty. However, all elite fights are fun fights for sure, because each elite or elite pack has affixes on them that makes your experience harder fighting them. I particularly have trouble with the ‘Arcane’ affix as that means they can place small orbs that shoot very, very powerful beams that go in circles about 5 rotations. And if you get a gold elite with that, you’ll have a little more powerful monsters around the gold elite that have more HP than normal monsters, and they usually have some of the same abilities as the gold elite, which means they may or may not have the ability to place arcane orbs too, which leads to some deaths if you’re not careful.
Now the general AI of how it’s used is quite different. The AI does use their skills effectively in the game, along with what seems to be cooldown timers so it’s not a cheat fest. (A cooldown timer is when you use a skill, you can’t use it again for a certain duration of time. Some skills are instantly done cooling down after you use them and some take 15 seconds, 30 seconds, 2 minutes, etc. This is just a general explanation, of the skills in Diablo III I believe the highest cooldown timer is maybe 45 seconds to 2 minutes? Not sure.) This is so you can actually have a chance at beating the monsters outright instead of just running around and trying not to die while attempting to deal damage.
As for friendly units you do have companions that can come along with you for the ride. There’s the Templar, who is sort of like a Crusader but is like a Warrior. The Scoundrel is a ranged attacker and the Enchantress is a magic attacker. They all have 8 skills that you can pick from, but you can only choose 4 for each person.

As you can see you can also equip them with some gear that you find on your travels. 2 rings, a neckpiece, and the appropriate weapon/shield, accordingly. Each companion also has a certain special item they can equip in a special slot that gives them additional stats.
The AI on these companions is fairly decent, they attack like you do and if they have any sort of healing spell they will use it on you when you are at low HP, usually about 50% HP or so, but I’ve had the Templar use his healing spell when I was at 20% loss or so from full which is pretty bad, considering I may have needed that heal farther into the fight, but it usually works out as long as you know what you’re doing.
Keep in mind this is the same screen as Diablo III.

Sublevel of Gameplay: UI: Inventory:

The inventory screen is well done and smooth. The character layout shows your gear and what you have equipped, and then there’s the inventory at the bottom along with some buttons for your paragon points and there’s a button that opens additional details for your character so you know exactly what stats you have. (Magic Find/Gold Find is being removed from the game for the Loot 2.0 system they have in place now.) It’s overall a very smooth interface to work with and you know where everything is. Also, you can tell at a glance what your Toughness, Damage and Healing is, which are the main stats you need to survive in Diablo III, pretty much.

Sublevel of Gameplay: Combat:

Combat can be initiated by clicking on whatever enemy you want to attack with the left mouse button and holding it down or clicking. I prefer holding it down but everyone’s different, most people click. Classes have ranged and melee attacks depending on the class, and every skill has unique graphics so you know what skill you’re using of course, along with skills being assigned to number buttons. I have an MMORPG mouse, so I can just use my thumb to press buttons instead of clicking skills or hitting keyboard buttons. It makes things a lot simpler to do in the game for sure, and I’d recommend you pick one up. There are various MMORPG mouses, but I’d purchase from Logitech or Razer for the best quality. In any case, combat is fluid and smooth as long as you’re using the correct skills, otherwise you may be auto-attacking for some time to gain your resources back or waiting for cooldowns.

Story/Plot of the Game:

So I mentioned way, way above there that basically the game is about beating Maelthael and destroying the Black Soulstone. I’m not going to say what this means but I will repeat this isn’t a spoiler. With how the Diablo games work, you’re always going to kick the guy’s ass on the cover. The real spoilers would be telling you anything about how you get to Maelthael, and that I’m leaving alone, only to say that it’s quite a good and well thought out story. Blizzard did a very good job in this respect, but then again, they usually do. And Diablo has always entailed getting awesome loot to beat bigger monsters etc, so there’s that part of the game too.

Sublevel of Gameplay[Unique]: Drops:

So I want to discuss Diablo III: Reaper of Soul’s loot system for a moment. As I mentioned in the beginning a bit about how vanilla D3 had loot troubles and had the RMAH and AH, and people had trouble getting the correct drops for their class. However in Diablo III: RoS, they implemented a patch that the community calls, Loot 2.0. The patch removed the RMAH and the AH and of course, before that was removed everyone scrambled to make as much gold as they could on it before they had removed it on April 1st, 2014. However at this point in time, Loot 2.0 has made it so you get drops for your class pretty much 99% of the time. The Rare items are always for your class, they don’t seem to have any particular damage enhancers on them unless you reroll them with the Enchanter (To be later discussed). The Legendaries however seem to like I said, 99% of the time roll for your class, however you do have a chance of getting another class’s weapon or rolling a stat for another class, I.E. getting a Legendary sword and identifying it and it happens to have intelligence on it, which would be useful for a Witch Doctor. Also, most of the time Legendaries are what matter at this point in the game and I don’t foresee another additional tier of loot, so if you happened to get a sword like I mentioned there, you’d have to waste a reroll on the Intelligence to Strength, using the Crusader example.
Also, in regular Diablo III there were plans that dropped (you could think of them like schematics) that you could teach your Blacksmith to make you specific pieces of armor. Set pieces, Legendary weapons and armor, Rare weapons and armor, all sorts. With the Loot 2.0 patch (I’m unaware if these were there beforehand besides a few exclusive items that took forever to get and most people were unaware of them) specific monsters drop specific materials for crafting these Set armor pieces/Legendary weapons and armor.

Sublevel of Gameplay: Vendor NPCs:

So the vendor NPCs in Diablo III were ones that enhanced/made you gear. It was the Jewelcrafter and the Blacksmith. In Reaper of Souls, they have put in the Enchantress, who is able to reroll your gear.
The Blacksmith is able to learn new plans and make you gear. This gear is only really good up to a certain point, until you start getting Legendary plans and Armor set plans. Legendary plans have orange text and Set plans are green. In this fashion, set items are also green and Legendary items are also orange. This is the only real use the Blacksmith has in the end game besides repairing your gear and salvaging items for crafting material. I’m not going to get into the crafting material because it’s really self explanatory. I only ever use it for breaking down gear when I need materials at this point, because I’m stuck farming Legendary materials, which is another thing required by the Blacksmith as I mentioned before, to make Legendary gear.

The Jewelcrafter makes jewels for you to slot into your gear. Currently at the time of this writing a lot of people gripe about how much it costs to make the top jewels and I'm inclined to agree. It takes a lot of gold, many days of farming to be able to make those really nice gems to put in your gear. The Jewelcrafter also makes rings and necklaces, if you can find the required plans. There are currently no Legendary gems to speak of, but I believe the costs to make the top-tier gems are legendary in and of themselves...


The Enchantress is a new vendor in RoS, who is able to change stats on your gear and change your gear's looks so it looks like you have an entire set of gear. First I'll talk about changing stats.
As you can see by the little arrows next to the stat I changed there, it tells you, 'Hey, you've rerolled this stat and you can only reroll this stat from now on.' That's pretty much the trade you make when you reroll a stat, so make sure you read up on what you need to change before you roll it! I know I myself have made a few mistakes, unfortunately.


The other thing the Enchantress has, as I mentioned, is the ability to make items look like other items.

Transmogrification as it's become known throughout gaming land here, is the ability to change items' looks from one skin to another. It's very popular in World of Warcraft and a lot of other games are using it now too. The way it works is you put an item up you want to change the look of, spend a bit of money depending on what you want it to look like, and wham-o! You've got yourself a fancy new-looking weapon! Keep in mind most of the cooler skins are Legendary weapons, however.

Sublevel of Gameplay: Voice Acting/Human Speech/Monster Noises:

So the voice acting in this is really well done. Tyrael's voice is the same as vanilla D3's, and they added a whole slew of new cast members to the game, so there's all new voices to be had. The sound quality of the voicing is excellent, and leaves no room for error in what the characters are saying, along with the subtitles that are there of course. The banter between your character and your sidekick NPC is oftentimes humorous with some seriousness in there, and they always comment on elite fights. Your NPC crafters also are voiced by different people and there's multiple topics to speak with them about, in all areas of the game, including the new Reaper of Souls town area.
The Blood Shard vendor is also a new vendor to Diablo III, and comes again with the Reaper of Souls expansion. The Blood Shard vendor is a vendor, for the Blood Shards you get obviously, from Nephelem Rifts and Bounty rewards. The rewards are random, you purchase armor items besides the rings and neckpieces for 5 BSs each, and the rings are 10 and neckpieces are 20. One-handed weapons are 15 and so are two-handed weapons. These apply for any class, and there are no discounts, ever. This is a good way to get some extra gear, if you're really lucky. I, myself, have only gotten one Legendary from the BS vendor and that's my current helmet, had it for awhile now. You don't spend BSs on anything else so you may as well just try and gamble and see what you get. I usually turn my excess gear I'm not going to use from the vendor into gold by selling it to a merchant vendor, or salvaging items to get materials for later or rerolling my current gear.

Graphics:

The graphics for the game are very, very well done, however I'd like to point out some of the textures for the shields and some other things are very... flat. Not raised/embossed or whatever they look like they should be upon zooming in with Z. But otherwise it's a very detailed game, and I can definitely say, filled with rich graphics that won't leave you wanting. That's really all I have to say about the graphics, because if you haven't been looking at the screenshots or video, I suggest you look/watch again.

Sublevel of Graphics: Animation:

The animations in the game are very good. The ragdoll physics on the mobs is just great, you can use a skill and blow corpses off the sides of areas, blow them upwards, sideways, whatever. Also the animations on the living things too are great of course. I do have one gripe though, I think for your own character's death they should still leave a corpse. The game puts a sort of gravestone marker for other players to revive you in your party if they so desire, or can at that point. I'm not saying to get rid of the gravestone but just have a corpse for some comedic effect.
The idling breathing of all the figures in the game are good, and I believe some monsters have idle animations too. Your character/sidekick NPC just have some side conversations sometimes while you're out, nothing while you're really standing there.

Music of RoS:

The music of Reaper of Souls was composed by Derek Duke, and some other music in the game was done by Neal Acree, Joseph Lawrence, Rossel Brower, Glenn Stafford, and Jason Hayes. Reaper of Souls does indeed have an OST (Official SoundTrack) which was released on March 25th, 2014, the same day as the game's release, in a digital release on iTunes and in physical format in the Collector's Edition of the game. I honestly can't comment on the music except for small tidbits of it I heard while playing the game because I was too focused on slaughtering everything, but what I did hear was very, very good.

Sublevel of Music: Sound Effects:

The sound effects for this game as I've mentioned a little bit above are unique to each and every skill and monster type. I say type because not every single monster you're going to run into in the game is going to have a unique sound, that'd be nuts. But there's enough variation and honestly you're not going to notice while you're hacking and slashing through everything. However each skill has it's own unique sound effect on every class, and I'll just say you won't be dissapointed.

Game Utilities:

So let's get into how the game saves your progress and the like. Honestly I don't care that much about the actual mechanics as long as my progress is saved. However, a lot of people are frustrated at Diablo's saving system and I do admit it is a little bit of an inconvenience. The system basically 'saves' your game at different chapters in the story where you progress. So say as an example you have the quest to 'Go kill this dude over here'. If that guy is 2 HP away from dying and your game disconnects... tough noogies kid. You have to restart all the way from the beginning of the quest and go find the guy again, with new monsters randomized again and everything. However as soon you get to the next part of 'Go speak with this person in some town', you're good. You can leave the game and your game will start from that next step.
I want to touch on how this works in the endgame too with Nephalem Rifts and Bounties. Bounties are the same saving scheme in general, and Nephalem Rifts are the same also, except of course it's 'defeat this rift' and then if you don't, you've wasted your Rift Shards and you have to start a new rift. The entire game of Diablo with RoS is approximately 14.8 GB(Gigabytes), on my own system. Diablo III does not have an editor at this time for new items created by the community like Starcraft II or the Warcraft RTS series.

Multiplayer:

The game works swimmingly with multiplayer provided you have a solid internet connection to Blizzard's servers. The game is definitely designed around having a party, as when you have up to 4 people you get a stack of 3 additional magic finding/gold finding buff. You'll usually, usually, usually, maybe, probably, sorta get more Legendaries. The game is also doable on solo as that's how I usually play until my buddies get online and then we play together for a few hours.
I know I've been inputting my opinion here and there but here's a big one: fun factor. I can honestly say the grinding does get a bit repetitive here and there but when you're with friends and blasting through stuff I can say it's really fun, especially when you've had drinks. Everything's always... mostly better with drinks. And I'm not playing down the fun-ness of solo play either though, I do enjoy my solitude of just being able to bash through enemies while not lagging behind the group with my certain builds I use, and to try out new builds I make and trying out other people's builds from the Diablo III forum.
Also the replay-ability of the game is very high. There are many classes to try and oh-so many more builds of skills and passive skills to try and gear to collect to up your damage and run through the game on Torment 6!
So what are you waiting for? Go purchase Diablo III: Reaper of Souls today!
[Just want to mention it does require the base game of Diablo III.]


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