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Blizzard Entertainment has unveiled an expansion pack for their hit action RPG Diablo III on the first day of Gamescom. Reaper of Souls will add a fifth act to the game and an additional character class plus a host of additional changes to the core gameplay.
The main villain of the expansion will be the Archangel Malthael. Although players met the other members of the angelic Angiris Council during Diablo III, Malthael is said to have gone missing prior to the events of the game. Once the Archangel of Wisdom, he has evidently returned to Sanctuary as the Angel of Death. According to Blizzard, Malthael wants to end the Eternal Conflict by destroying all demons once and for all, and he is not terribly fond of humanity, either. Malthael is said to be a silent, brooding figure. Hopefully, this means players will not have to endure endless hammy taunts from him like they did with Diablo!
The new fifth act will take place in the Kingdom of Westmarch, near the ill-fated city of Tristram. Judging from the screenshots revealed at Gamescom, it looks like a very dark, Gothic sort of place that’s littered with corpses (which seems apt, considering Malthael is the Angel of Death!). It is likely to be a welcome sight to those fans who complained that Diablo III was too colorful.
The new character class will be the Crusader, a strength-based melee fighter. He is apparently related to the Paladin from Diablo II, and he seems to have some of the same skills (e.g. Blessed Hammer and Fist of Heaven). Gamescom attendees will have a chance to try him out in a playable demo.
The level cap for all characters will be raised from 60 to 70, and the Paragon system that was introduced after D3’s release will be tweaked, too. Paragon levels will apparently be shared across the player’s account instead of being character-specific, and there will no longer be a cap on the level of Paragon levels you can achieve. Players can expect to see new skills and new runes for the other five classes, though details have not yet been released.
Blizzard is also trying to spice-up the endgame experience by implementing two new games modes: Loot Runs and Nephalem Trials. Loot Runs will be short randomized dungeons that should take 15-20 minutes to complete (which sounds a bit like the Mapworks from Torchlight II); Blizzard has not yet provided any details about the Nephalem Trials.
Players will also be given new opportunities to customize their gear. Not only will the Blacksmith and the Jeweler receive additional item-crafting options, but the Mystic will finally be included in the game. Those who have been following the Diablo franchise for a while will remember that the Mystic was one of the original artisans in Diablo III, but the developers ended up cutting her from the game before release (though she had a cameo of sorts as a character had to be rescued as part of a quest). Now that she is back, players will be able to enchant (i.e. reroll an affix on a Legendary or Rare item) and transmogrify items. The exact nature of transmogrification is not yet known, but based on official posts on Blizzard’s Battlenet forums, it seems like it will allow players to customize the appearance of their gear, similar to how transmogrification works in World of Warcraft.
Speaking of gear, Blizzard has promised a major overhaul of the loot system. Loot has been a major source of fan gripes since Diablo III first came out, with many people complaining that the weapons are bland and uninspiring. Under the new system, players will see fewer drops overall, but there will be a lot less junk in the mix. There will also be a feature called “Smart Drops” that will tailor drops to your character, so a Wizard would presumably get more items with intelligence modifiers, while a Barbarian would get items that boost her strength. The loot changes will apparently be rolled out separately from Reaper of Souls, so players who choose not to buy the expansion pack will still benefit from them.
It is still early days, but so far Reaper of Souls looks amazing. The darker atmosphere of Act Five will likely please the vocal segment of the fanbase that harped incessantly about Diablo III’s art direction, and the changes to the endgame will help relieve the monotony of endless grinding. Malthael has the potential to be an interesting villain, provided Blizzard resists the temptation to turn him into a scenery-chewing idiot. We can expect more details to be revealed at Blizzcon in November.
Although there is no definitive word on the release date (this is Blizzard, after all!), Reaper of Souls is expected to arrive in stores in 2014.
Image Courtesy of Joshua Livingston