Well they did it. In a spectacular turn around Blizzard took the inherently broken design functions of the game and gutted them. Expectations were high at the initial release of this game and they were definitely not met. Although it did take a year, the good news is the game in its’ current state is the Diablo game we were hoping for since we cut Baal down in the Worldstone Chamber some twelve years ago. There are tons of new enhancements to the base game and a new expansion just dropped, but even with all the new improvements some previous concerns are still valid: always online is a pain, the story is still mediocre, and there is a pretty hollow single player experience. That being said, there has never been a better time to jump (back) in and start wrecking shop around Sanctuary and here’s why:
Loot 2.0. Remember getting stomped on Inferno difficulty in Act 2 and desperately looking on the Auction House for that one upgrade that would turn the tide against the armies of Hell? Forget that, the Auction house is gone. No need for it anymore, as the game now has a smart loot system that drops items that are less trash and more HULK SMASH! The drops are fewer in quantity, but greater in quality now as item affixes are partially determined by the main stats on your class. The first time you hit the loot piñata act bosses enough times they go down you are even guaranteed a legendary item, two from Diablo himself. You can even reset your quest progress as many times as you like if you’re one of the rinse repeat types.
There were huge changes to Paragon Levels, what you used experience towards after you reached the level cap. The system in place now is much more reminiscent of the previous games. Although you get a fixed set of stats until the level cap, you then decide how to allocate these Paragon Levels to suit your play style. You can even respec at any time if you feel those points are not paying off like they used to. The game no longer has a cap on Paragon Levels and they are shared account wide, meaning there is always an incentive, even if only a little, to all that mindless clicking.
Reaper of Souls just dropped; adding a fifth act, new Crusader class to play as, and ten additional levels that add few more skills and runes for each class. The normal stuff you would expect from an expansion aside, the game adds a completely new mode that really changes the gameplay. No longer are you stuck following the story from beginning to end (or just replaying Act 3 like most of us did) as now you have access to Adventure Mode. Something like a boss rush through a battlefield, it’s a randomized gauntlet of highlights from each act that act as bounties and allow quick travel from one hot spot to another. Feel like taking down the Skeleton King and then straight on to the minions guarding Malthael? Go right ahead, you’ll be rewarded for each bounty you take down. Take enough bounties down and you can jump through a Nephalem Rift, a randomly generated set of dungeons with random monsters inside and one hell of an end boss. Another feature that really clicked with me is the new artisan, the Mystic, who can change the stats on your gear or change its appearance. Ditch that resistance to lightning for increased attack speed on an otherwise perfect item and even make it look like the legendary you found at level 30 if you feel like.
Some may say “too little, too late”, but I for one am enjoying a revitalized loot system and end game. The game is best played with a small group of close friends, but lends itself well to encounters with strangers as typically there is little time for talk in between waves of demons and trips to town for potions. Sharpen that axe, stock up on arrows, and I’ll see you in Sanctuary.