Diablo III feels like a brand new game. Photo: Supplied
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls
Reviewer's rating: 9/10
Windows PC and Mac
MA15+, $49.95 disc, $44.95 download
Reviewed on: Windows PC
Diablo III's release in May 2013 should have been a triumph for publisher Blizzard. Instead, the launch was dogged by chronic technical issues, controversial design decisions, and a lot of unhappy gamers.
A year on, Blizzard has demonstrated that they have clearly been listening to their fans. The process of fixing all the problems in Diablo III has been an incremental one, but the addition of Reaper of Souls is the crowning glory.
What is most remarkable about this add-on is not what is included in it, but the content that comes alongside it for free to existing owners of Diablo III.
Those who already own the base game can now download a free patch which adds additional playing time after reaching maximum level, a thoroughly redesigned treasure system that gives players more useful and more powerful items far more often, an overhaul of the difficulty system, and much more.
Even better, Australians now have their own local servers, meaning that the game no longer needs to communicate with central servers located overseas. This free upgrade has resulted in much smoother gameplay, and far fewer of those irritating deaths caused by momentary internet hiccups.
All of these free upgrades have transformed the problem-ridden Diablo III into the game it always should have been. It feels like a brand new game.
Reaper of Souls is not a cheap addition, setting players back $50 on top of the price of the base game, but it adds so many excellent new features that it feels unfair to begrudge the price.
First of all, an additional act is appended to the existing story, taking it from four acts to five. In the wake of Diablo's defeat, the long-absent angel Malthael - the Angel of Death - has returned. Seeing that the forces of evil have been weakened, he seizes the opportunity to wipe out the last of the daemons, and those troublesome humans as well.
This new act is quite lengthy, running for substantially longer than any single act in the base game. It takes players to many locations mentioned in previous games and in the tie-in novels, reaching its climax in Pandemonium, the eternal battleground of daemons and angels.
Another major piece of additional content is a new playable class, the Crusader. This holy warrior strides into battle in heavy armour, carrying massive weapons and huge, impenetrable shields. She takes on the role of the tank: soaking up enemy attacks, and dealing out slow but devastating attacks of her own.
At high levels, the Crusader's abilities become absolutely spectacular. She can call down searing beams of holy light from the heavens, smash her enemies with meteor strikes, unleash gigantic explosions from her body, and throw her immense shield like a boomerang, Captain America style.
The most significant addition to the game for hardcore Diablo fans, however, is Adventure Mode. This adds truly endless gameplay: when the main story is complete, the player can wander the world freely, completing randomly-generated quests (called bounties) and collecting pieces of key-stones that unlock challenging one-off levels called rifts.
This new gameplay mode marries perfectly with the revamped paragon system. When the player hits the maximum level (raised from 60 to 70 in Reaper of Souls) they can continue to earn experience and gain paragon levels. Each paragon level gives the player a point to spend on a base attribute, such as attack speed, armour, or health.
Players can keep playing for as long as they are having fun, pushing their character to new paragon levels and collecting more and more powerful gear. They can also join co-operative multiplayer games, which boosts the toughness of the monsters but also greatly improves the quality of the treasure they drop.
Even with all these improvements, this is still not a flawless experience. The core gameplay - click on monsters until they are dead, pick up the treasure they dropped, then find more monsters and repeat - will not appeal to everyone.
Also, while it might seem mean-spirited to complain about extra treasure, the frequency with which it drops thanks to the new loot system means that your hero's inventory will fill with unwanted items very quickly. Nothing spoils the feeling of being alone in a distant world visited only by angels and daemons than having to pop back to town every ten minutes to sell excess gear.
There really is very little to complain about, however. For those who enjoy that classic Diablo experience, the dynamic duo of the Diablo III base game and the Reaper of Souls expansion is an essential purchase. Forget last year's problems; this is action roleplaying polished to a high shine.
Reaper of Souls is currently only available for Windows PC and Mac. PlayStation 4 and Xbox One releases are expected later in the year.