Blizzard isn't like the others. Where many of the largest developers' and publishers' announcements typically involves a name, a trailer and a little vague info about what else we can expect, Blizzard's revelations are of a completely different caliber. It is information overload to such an extent that afterwards we're struggling, not to elaborate on the information presented and flesh out the text, but to find out what to cut away from it.
The unveiling of Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, the "next expansion" for Diablo III, as game director Josh Mosqueira calls it, is no exception. We get a great CGI video, a gameplay trailer, and a wealth of information about both sources of inspiration, reflection and - most importantly - changes to the game's basic systems.
Diablo is dead, although his essence is still trapped in the soul stone. The former archangel Tyrael honestly doesn't know what he should do about it and doesn't know what will happen if he destroys it, so he decides to hide it far, far away so that humans and angels can enjoy their new alliance and friendship in peace.
Unfortunately, it doesn't take long from the stone being hidden (a few seconds, actually) to Malthael showing up. He is the Angel of Death, who disappeared centuries ago and has not been heard of since. But now he is back and he has a mission - to eliminate all demons and stop the Eternal Conflict. An honorable goal, if it weren't for the fact that Malthael believes that humans and demons are two sides of the same coin, and therefore all must be eradicated.
Reaper of Souls adds a fifth act to Diablo III, which takes place in the city of Westmarch. With the developers' words, it is the largest and most colorful city in the West, or it was at least until Malthael passed. Now it's a dark and gloomy place, filled with Death Constructs; the dead raised by Malthael to fight for themselves, and other kinds of creatures. The style is dark, medieval and gothic, and it has perhaps the strongest visual identity of any part of the Diablo III universe.
Westmarch should have even greater opportunities for random journeys than the old parts of Diablo III, and something new will be indoor and outdoor areas that are seamlessly integrated. We see, among other things, as our hero fights from a marketplace to some sewers, from the castle walls down the narrow streets and residential areas.
And then, as I said, there's a new class: the Crusader. He is partly inspired by the paladins from Diablo II, partly inspired by real-life tanks. Blizzard calls him a righteous warrior with sacred powers, a knight in armor, not shiny but instead marked by past struggles.
The idea of a human tank has, among other things, led to the abilities like Shield Bash, where the armor value of one's shield counts on top of the damage dealt, and Fist of the Heavens, a combination of medium-distance Teleport and artillery, where the Crusader is the grenade.
It looks good, but what will really make Diablo III players happy are changes in both the loot system and paragon system, as well as new opportunities for the end-game.
Blizzard calls their new loot system Loot 2.0, and according to Mosqueira, it should mean fewer, better and more epic items of loot. To play the game must be the most rewarding way to get such items, and if you read between the lines, one can probably catch an admission that the auction house in Diablo III was a little too much.
The equipment that beaten enemies drop on the battlefield should now be more targeted towards your character, with a chance to base some of their stats and abilities to suit your class. Legendary items have also been changed so that they are more useful. "Build changers", Blizzard call them - and they also underline that there will still be the super rare legendaries that players will really want to go hunting for.
To illustrate the changes, Blizzard is giving us a pile of numbers. In short, they have gone through Act 3 in the game with both the old and new loot system with a character that has the Paragon level of 60.
With the old system total the character earned 256 white items, 399 blue, 275 yellow and 1 legendary item. With the new system in Reaper of Souls, there was a total of 73 white items (that can now be disenchanted for useful crafting ingredients). 266 Blue items, which, incidentally, now can be used for transmogrifying, where you change a given item's look so it looks like another, but retains all of its stats. 83 yellow items where the new Smart Drop-system means that an item's stats will be adjusted to one's character. As well as 6 legendary items.
We also get a few examples of these new legendaries. For example, the Puzzle Ring can now drop in versions usable right up to the new level cap of 70, and it can be used to summon a treasure goblin. Collect 40 items with him and one is guaranteed to be a legendary drop. A legendary item for the Wizard has a chance of summoning an ally hydra when you kill an enemy. While there is a Monk item that means you get the Spirit cost refunded if you hit an enemy more than 25 yards away with Dashing Strike.
The aforementioned transmogrifications are performed by a new artisan, called the Mystic, who can also put enchantments on your equipment, giving it better stats. And all the existing character classes, of course, have got new abilities.
And then there's the so-called end-game, where Blizzard has made two essential changes. Firstly, they've added Loot Runs. These are dungeons of 15-20 in minute length, which are entirely randomly-generated, with random environments, enemies, weather and a final boss that must be defeated if one wants to keep all his newfound loot.
Then there is the Paragon system, and this has really been overhauled. Firstly, there is no longer any level cap, so one can become Paragon 61 or 1200, if they play long enough. Secondly, the Paragon level is now associated with one's account rather than the individual character. Finally, each Paragon level earns points, which you can use to change one's core stats, so things like Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and so forth, or even spend them on offensive and defensive stats.
As usual, Blizzard says nothing about when we can expect to see Reaper of Souls, but they have a 20 minute long demo with them at Gamescom for everyone to try out. But the promises of both new content and changes to many of the systems represents the expansion that is exactly what Diablo III needs.