Blizzard community manager "Lylirra" recently commented on the Diablo III official forums in response to a question on pre-downloading the upcoming 'Reaper of Souls' expansion to let folks know that pre-downloading will likely begin sometime this month:
Not yet! The exact date that the predownload will start is still TBD, but we're targeting this month if all goes well. Note: this download will begin automatically (meaning, you shouldn't need to do anything special).
Similar to what we've done with other games, the pre-expansion patch (2.0.1) will contain all of the expansion data that's on the normal disc. So, for players who don't predownload, they'll basically get everything that's available whenever they patch up to 2.0.1.
Caveat: Expansion-only content like the Crusader, Act V, and Adventure Mode won't be playable until March 25th and only players who purchase Reaper of Souls will have access to them.
If you're at all interested in the Reaper of Souls expansion, you may gloss over this bit of news, but it's actually patch 2.0.1 that will change Diablo III significantly for players. The Crusader, Act V, and Adventure Mode that come with the expansion are all fine things to be excited about, but if you're a Diablo fan who quit the game due to its myriad issues, it's really the under-the-hood changes coming in patch 2.0.1 that should get you to want to give the game another look. You don't need to wait for the official Reaper of Souls release to get excited!
We covered many of these changes in our BlizzCon coverage, but here's a snippet from the 2.0.1 patch notes:
- Players will now occasionally find "smart drops." Smart drops are items that drop with stats tailored to the character who found them.
- Item properties are now separated into two categories: Primary and Secondary. Primary stats are stats that have the greatest impact on a character;s power and/or survivability, while Secondary stats generally offer utility or character power in an indirect way. These stat groups will no longer compete against one another when an item is rolled.
- Stat ranges on items have been narrowed significantly (ex: instead of an item having a stat range of 1-200 Strength, its range might now be something like 140-200). In addition, players can now view the stat ranges on items in their inventory by pressing and holding CTRL while an item's tooltip is open.
- Several new stats have been added to Rares and Legendary items with the goal of supporting and/or encouraging the use of specific builds.
- All Legendary items have been reworked with one or all the above points in mind.
Out of all the things I learned about at BlizzCon with regards to Reaper of Souls, it was really the above changes that I found most significant. Adding new content and a new class is great, but if the underlying game is still a mess, it doesn't really matter.
Patch 2.0.1 effectively sorts out the game's many loot issues: Legendary items will no longer be useless, item stat ranges won't be as crazy (and you'll be able to tell what those ranges are so you can make informed reroll decisions when the Enchanter comes into play with the expansion), and you'll no longer have to make the false choice between using an item that offers more of your primary stat vs. an item with cool utility as these are now separately rolled.
Oh, and finding a bow with +Intelligence on it while playing a Barbarian (annoying!) may be a thing of the past due to the implementation of the 'smart drop' system outlined above.
If you've been thinking about giving the game another go with Reaper of Souls, we'd encourage you to check it out even sooner when patch 2.0.1 drops (hopefully) later this month!