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Diablo 3 Previews: Playing the Crusader at BlizzCon

By Michael Bitton on November 12, 2013

Reaper of Souls, the first expansion for Diablo III, adds a whole bunch of new goodies to the game and fixes a number of longstanding issues, but the addition that stands out most is the new Crusader class. We had an opportunity to take the holy warrior for a spin at this year’s BlizzCon.

The Crusader is a melee fighter, but sets himself apart from the Monk and Barbarian in a couple of ways. For one, he’s a much tougher character and packs a ton of utility that can both aid himself and his allies. He’s also got access to a number of ranged abilities, though I didn’t have them equipped for our short 20 minute demo.

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I decided to combine our Crusader test drive with a sampling of some of the other new features coming with Reaper of Souls, namely the ‘Adventure Mode’ and ‘Nephalem Rifts’.

Adventure Mode reminds me of Marvel Heroes’ Legacy Quests in that this mode gives you a reason to go back through older areas of the game and tackle new missions.  In Adventure Mode, you use the world map to teleport to any area of the campaign and tackle randomized missions. You’re rewarded with a hefty amount of experience and gold for your efforts, too, so it should be a great way of breathing new life into the game’s existing content.


In the interest of time, I did a simple bounty that tasked me with killing a named creature, but there are also bounties that may task you with tackling a dungeon if you’re willing to spend more time for likely greater reward.  As I expected, the bounty was as simple as it let on: teleport here, find named boss and pack of guardians, and kill it. Being new to the Crusader, I did actually die a couple of times. The mobs definitely weren’t pushovers, though it could very well have been the fact I was rusty and new to the class.

Nephalem Rifts appear to be Diablo III’s answer to Path of Exile’s “maps” feature.  Tied into bounties found in Adventure Mode, you’ll sometimes find Rift Keys that grant access to Nephalem Rifts, which are basically formalized loot runs. Everything is randomized in Nephalem Rifts (both exterior and interior layouts, monsters, lighting, weather, etc.) and there are even multiple levels to work your way down.

The Rift I did actually felt quite challenging. The map was fairly brutal in terms of tossing tons of powerful enemies at me at once and I had to really think about how I used my Crusader’s skills in order to crush through it. I didn’t have enough time to get through the whole thing and trigger the boss fight, but I can see Nephalem Rifts being an incredibly popular feature of Reaper of Souls when players get their hands on it.

As far as the Crusader goes, I stuck with whatever abilities Blizzard had loaded out for me and I definitely had some interesting options available. The Crusader’s resource is Wrath, and it seems nothing to write home about. Hit things and gain Wrath, spend that Wrath with other abilities. It’s simple and straightforward. I feel like cooldowns and Wrath costs may have been overtuned for my demo as I was constantly starved of Wrath or waiting on cooldowns, but it may have just been an inefficient hotbar loadout. In any case, my basic combat scenario would play out by casting a ground AOE called Consecration that granted me regeneration while fighting in it and then reciting one of the Crusader’s many “Law” abilities (this one granting me health on hit) before laying out a beatdown. My right click ability, Fist of the Heavens,  called down an AOE lightning bolt on my enemies that then split out into 6 crackling bolts of electricity that radiated outwards from the targeted location. This was my bread and butter AOE ability to deal with a ton of mobs and felt pretty satisfying to use.

My two favorite abilities during the demo were definitely Steed Charge and Falling Sword, though. Steed Charge is a simple mobility skill that has your Crusader mount an ethereal horse and ride quickly across the map for a couple of seconds while also passing through enemies. It looked great and I got a lot of use out of it to get back to my previous location after dying many, many times.

Falling Sword, despite having a somewhat high cooldown, was the most visually satisfying of the kit I had available to me. The Crusader disappears into the sky and comes crashing down at your targeted location as a massive bolt of lightning, dealing an extremely high amount of damage to everything around you. If you’ve played City of Villains, it works exactly like the Electric Melee Lightning Rod ability.

Unfortunately, my adventure through the Rift ended abruptly as the timer ran out on the demo, but I’m definitely looking forward to checking out the expansion once it launches later next year.

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