Blizzard announced Diablo 3's first expansion today at Gamescom. It's called Reaper of Souls after its new baddie, Maltheal, the fallen angel of wisdom who's launched a late career change and become the angel of death (there he is above). The expansion will add new zones to fight through, a new class called the Crusader and raise the level cap to 70 for all of Diablo 3's current classes, adding dozens of new abilities, runes and passives. What else is new? Find out below.
Blizzard showed a new CGI cinematic to set up the expansion's story. The indestrutible black soulstone that housed Diablo's spirit in Diablo 3 is transported deep underground to hide it from evil gods. THREE SECONDS LATER evil god Maltheal glides in, reaps the souls of Tyreal's honour guard, wounds Tyreal and steals the soulstone. "Fetch the nephalem!" says Tyreal, in the weary tone of a man who really wishes he hadn't given up all his awesome angel powers in the base game.
The tall and sinister Maltheal is still an angel at heart, which means he wants to rid the world of demons. Unfortunately, he considers humanity to be demonspawn, and lays waste to the city of Westmarch to raise an army from the dead. That's where the new expansion will be set. It's dark, gothic, and wreathed in fog. It feels like a conscious move back to the grimmer locales of Diablo 1 and 2. Blizzard promise that its environments and dungeons will feature more randomisation to encourage re-runs, and you can move in and out of its underground sections seamlessly. No more glowing yellow doorways and loading screens.
You can trash Maltheal's army of undead witches with any of Diablo 3's classes, but it makes more sense if you're a Crusader. These Templar-esque warriors served as Palain special forces before the Westmarch incident, and now they're on a mission to retake the town.
Crusaders wield shields and flails, and are described as "mid-range melee" warriors, specialising in shield bashing and smiting. Diablo 2's Fist of the Heavens holy lightning strike returns and Crusaders can follow up with Falling Sword, a teleporting drop attack that turns the Paladin's heavily armoured body into an artillery strike. Paladins were all about support, Crusaders have replaced their benevolent auras with AOE zones that help co-op partners and injure enemies at the same time.
Blizzard are rebalancing loot drops in a big way to try and make more drops relevant to your character. There will be fewer common (white) drops, and they can be melted down into a new crafting reagent to stop them being completely useless past level 10. Rare drops will be reduced but there's a high chance of a "smart drop." These items will feature stats tuned to your character. More legendary items will drop, and they'll come with new interesting new effects. Blizzard's examples included a weapon that spawned an instant treasure goblin when equipped, and a staff that adds a chance to spawn hydras from dead bodies.
They're also adding a new artisan: The Mystic. She can transmogrify items, letting you transfer desirable stats onto items you like the look of, preserving your warrior's sense of style. They can also enchant items, which lets you re-roll one affix for an item you own. Enchant your Barbarian's sword and there's a chance that pointless +100 intelligence stat will flip into a +100 strength stat, for example. It's another system designed to give players a way to make powerful but unusable items relevant.
Blizzard will expand the paragon levels that increase money and magic drop rates to apply to all of your characters. When you hit a paragon level, you'll also get a paragon point that you can apply to buff a stat for any of your characters.
Finally, Reaper of Souls will add a new game mode called Loot Run. This lets you and a few friends run an completely randomised 15-20 minute dungeon. Assets, layout, lighting, weather, monsters, loot and the end boss are all randomised. It's designed to offer a fresh and profitable dose of Diablo 3 in a manageable chunk of time.
I'll be playing Reaper of Souls and talking to Blizzard in the next day or so. Anything you'd like to know? Let me know in the comments, or get me on Twitter at @PCGLudo .
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