Along with our group-selected 2014 Game of the Year Awards, each member of the PC Gamer staff has independently chosen another game to commend as one of the 2014's best.
In my rush to push past Error 37 and get into Diablo 3 on launch day, I accidentally called my barbarian “Leopord”. ‘How long will I have to look at that stupid misspelled name?’ I wondered as I killed the first zombies of my Diablo 3 career. I can only laugh now, hundreds of hours later. Oh dear.
There was a phase when I was getting bored of earning Leopord ever shinier armour. The auction house turned the endgame into a bidding war, and market forces aren’t forces Leopord understands too well. He’s a punching man, and can only do what a punching man can. Thank goodness for this year’s expansion, Reaper of Souls. This concerted attempt to refocus Diablo 3 on combat and co-op saved the game, and Leopord’s prospects. Employment opportunities are scarce for level 60 monster-killers and he’s too punchy to retrain, bless him.
The new act, new villains, new class, new skills and adventure mode were just enough to justify the expansion’s price point. On paper I paid as much as I did for the original game for fewer features, but for a Diablo 3 fan Reaper of Souls has to be considered alongside the enormous (free) Reaper of Souls patch that threw out the auction house, rebalanced the essential item drop system and introduced a new endgame focused on running exciting randomised dungeons. The game changed overnight and recaptured my initial enthusiasm, with bonus interest.
I glossed over the new act and class there. Act V captured the gothic, gloomy atmosphere many associate with old-school Diablo (though people sometimes forget the bright jungle and desert zones of Diablo 2). It was a little too gloomy for me, but I was only too happy to bring the holy light of the Crusader to every grim corner of the Blood Marsh.
I wielded my knight like a teutonic brick of justice, dropping her on enemies from a great height and sending her crashing into mobs with a vanguard of ghostly paladins. I found myself glaring at the edge of the screen hoping for more mobs, all of the mobs - Falling Sword is up, bring on all the hordes of hell and we’ll settle this so hard and quick Deckard Cain’s gonna hear it in heaven.
I had fun levelling a new class and squashing RoS’ many enemies, but I also felt relief. I played the core game so much that I was glad to see that progress rewarded with the systems refresh the audience had been asking for. Persistent online games require a serious time commitment and I’m more likely to show loyalty to games with regular high-quality updates. Reaper of Souls is my personal pick this year not just for the expansion itself, but for all the free updates that have come out since, adding new zones, the treasure goblin realm and more. I have the sense I’m participating in something that’s alive and growing, and it’s almost as much fun to watch the community pick over the latest update as it is to actually enjoy the new stuff.
It’s quite a comeback, but Diablo 3’s trajectory mirror’s Diablo 2’s in many ways. It’s easy to forget how essential the Lord of Destruction expansion was. Without that Diablo 2 lacked the assassin, the druid, hundreds of horadric cube recipes, jewels and a tier of sought-after weapons to make re-running acts worthwhile. Hopefully we’ll see Diablo 3’s ascent continue next year and beyond, perhaps to the arrival of a second expansion: Cain’s Revenge.