Reaper of Souls is not only an expansion for Diablo III in terms of adding new systems and content, but it also represents an opportunity for Blizzard to deal with a litany of outstanding issues with the game. Still, the new Crusader class is the standout of the expansion, and we were first given an in-depth look at its design and creation.
Obviously, the Crusader finds its roots in Diablo 2’s Paladin. The difference is that the Crusader is quite a bit darker and grittier. This isn’t your bright Warcraft type of Paladin. Instead, the Crusader is a wrathful knight clad in battle-scarred armor. The basic idea of the Crusader is that he is a “war machine made human”. The team also needed to set the Crusader apart from the existing melee classes (Barbarian and Monk) and they did this by giving the class a host of mid-range abilities. Basically, the Crusader can deal out holy justice right up in your grill or even from a good distance away.
Speaking of those skills, the Crusader is always wielding a shield, and though he has a number of other options for his primary weapon, his signature weapon is the flail. One ranged ability we saw was a Captain America-style shield bounce attack between enemies before returning to the Crusader. In another example, we saw Falling Sword, which had the Crusader disappear from the screen and then reappear at the targeted location as a crackling bolt of lightning slamming into the ground. Oh, and for you Paladin fans out there? Blessed Hammer is back and it looks amazing.
While the Crusader may be the star of Reaper of Souls, Diablo III’s Wyatt Cheng let us know that the original five classes were not at all forgotten for the expansion. Tweaks are being made for all classes and each class is even getting a new ability to boot. Let’s break some of the new skills down:
Barbarian: Avalanche is a 30-second cooldown ranged skill that calls down a bunch of rocks and boulders on your enemies. This cooldown is affected by the amount of Fury spent when activating it. The more Fury you spend, the lower the cooldown.
Wizard: Wyatt discussed some of the tweaks coming to Wizards here. Apparently, most Wizards focus on Arcane magic, even though the Wizard class has access to a number of elemental schools. Blizzard will be making tweaks in Reaper of Souls to hopefully give more options to those looking for a bit more diversity. To that end, expect to see a new Rune for Arcane Orb that turns it into the classic Frozen Orb skill and a new rune for Magic Missile that allows it to deal Cold damage, to name a few. As far as new skills go, the Wizard will be able to cast Black Hole, which sucks in monsters and stuns them. As Wyatt noted, this makes it a perfect spell to pair with Meteor.
Monk: I practically crapped bricks here. Monk tweaks include changes to all Runes for Fist of Thunder so that they teleport to your enemy and some additional mobility tweaks for Dashing and Seven-Sided Strike. But what really got me excited was the new Epiphany skill for Monks. In this form, the Monk appears as if he were eclipsing the sun, black with bright orange energy radiating around him. With Epiphany activated, all Monk abilities will teleport you to your target. Yeah, it looked it as cool as it sounds. This skill basically lets you bounce around the screen beating the heck out of everything.
Demon Hunter: Demon Hunters are getting tweaks to their traps to make them more attractive. Specifically, Spike Trap will gain the ability to taunt enemies to it. The Demon Hunter’s new skill is called Vengeance, which sort of turns the Demon Hunter into a walking armory like the Punisher. As the Demon Hunter fires off attacks, tons of other ranged projectiles shoot out and assault enemies. It’s just as over-the-top as it sounds.
Witch Doctor: Wyatt notes that the Witch Doctor is in a pretty good place overall, but the DoT aspect of the Witch Doctor fantasy is incredibly underwhelming. To sort that out, Witch Doctor DoTs are getting buffs across the board (including a passive that makes DoTs last five minutes). Witch Doctors will also be able to summon Piranhas in Reaper of Souls. This will spawn a pool of water beneath your enemies and have piranhas jump out and bite them (they physically latch onto the target to show that the target is under the effect of the spell). You’ll even be able to set up the Piranha pool so that a Bogadile leaps out and attacks your foes.
Items and loot are getting a massive pass in Reaper of Souls, too. The Mystic returns as well, and she will allow you to transmogrify (appearance tab, basically) and reroll item properties using Enchanting.
Loot 2.0 will radically change the quantity and quality of loot with the expansion. While players will see fewer overall items drop, the drops will be much more targeted towards the character you’re playing. You’re not going to get a Quiver with Intelligence on it while playing a Barbarian, for example.
This Smart Drop system will also tighten the stat roll variance as well. Instead of being able to roll 1-100 Strength (for example) on an item, you’ll see the range tightened to something like 75-100. If you hold down the control button, you’ll even be able to see the possible stat ranges for a particular stat on an item, which should help when considering rerolling a property using Enchanting.
Additionally, stats are being separated into Primary and Secondary stats, so that you no longer need to make the false choice of deciding between buffing your primary stat or utilizing cool secondary effects like bonus experience or magic find.
New affixes will give players the ability to put together a host of new build options and finally, the quality of loot will scale in proportion to its rarity. Legendary items will feel legendary, Epic items will feel epic, that sort of thing.
Speaking of Legendary items, the team is really putting the extra effort into making these items viable. Legendary items will now spawn at monster level with the appropriate stats to go with it. All existing Legendary items are getting a pass to make them much more attractive, and, of course, players can look forward to entirely new Legendary items as well.
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls launches in 2014 on the PC, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.
Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB