Diablo III's first expansion, Reaper of Souls, won't explode forth from the Internet's gleaming loot cavities for another month, but the free patch that includes a healthy chunk of its content is already here right now. Well, if you live in America. It's not out in other regions yet, but it will be soon. It's quite a behemoth, with loot of the 2.0 variety flowing from both its wazoos. Rebalanced classes and a new customizable difficulty system are also in, as are revamped bosses and a fully overhauled Paragon leveling system. Basically, this patch is Reaper of Souls' blanched white backbone. More details below.
Now, don't get the wrong idea: Reaper of Souls isn't a price-tag-slathered husk masquerading as an expansion. If you're considering forking over the requisite cash, you'll get an entire new campaign, a shiny new level cap, Adventure Mode, and a host of other features. Still no offline mode, of course, because (poorly explained) reasons. But patch 2.0.1 packs some fairly substantial highlights. For example:
- All classes have undergone significant revision. Additional details and patch notes will be available in the near future. In the meantime, we encourage you to log in and explore the new changes for yourself!
- The difficulty system has been completely revised
- Nightmare, Hell, and Inferno modes have been removed
- Difficulty is now dynamic and monsters will level up with your characters
- There are now five difficulty settings to choose from: Normal, Hard, Expert, Master, and Torment (1-6)
- Normal, Hard, and Expert are immediately available
- Master unlocks upon completing Act IV
- Torment unlocks upon reaching level 60
- Torment level also includes a difficulty slider, offering an additional six adjustments with increasing rewards and more powerful monsters
- Each level offers new bonuses and rewards, visible in the difficulty selection menu
- You can now lower your difficulty setting in-game
- However, increasing your difficulty still requires exiting your current game
- This option is disabled in Hardcore mode
- To account for these changes, monster density has been adjusted across all Acts
- Itemization has undergone a major overhaul:
- Legendary and Set items are now Bind on Account
- Players in multiplayer games may trade Legendaries and Set Items they find with others who were present for the drop for up to 2 hours after the item is acquired
- The Smart Drop system has been implemented
- All items that drop have a chance to roll as "Smart Loot"
- Smart Loot items roll intelligently based on the character being played (example: A Wizard is more likely to find items with Intelligence or bonuses to Wizard skills than a Barbarian)
- Class specific items will no longer roll stats inappropriate to their class (example: Intelligence will no longer appear on Mighty Weapons or Belts)
- New item affixes have been added to the game
- This include Splash Damage, Cooldown Reduction, Resource Cost Reduction, +% damage to Physical damage skills, and specific Class Skill Bonuses
- Item properties have been separated into two categories: Primary and Secondary
- The Paragon leveling system has been completely revamped
- There is no longer a cap on the number of Paragon levels a player can gain
- Paragon levels are now account-wide and shared across all characters
- Note that Paragon levels are tracked independently between Hardcore and Normal modes
- Players no longer gain static bonuses upon achieving Paragon Levels and bonuses currently earned by players have been removed
- Players now earn Paragon points each level to spend in one of four separate categories: Core, Offense, Defense, and Utility
- Players with existing Paragon levels have been granted the appropriate number of points to distribute amongst these categories
- With these changes in mind, the Paragon leveling curve has been updated
- Note that all Paragon experience earned across all characters prior to this patch has been totaled and recalculated into your new account-wide Paragon level
That's only a small snippet, too. The full patch notes can be seen here.
Now the question of the hour: will this billowing laundry list of changes turn Diablo III into a hack 'n' slash paradise worthy of the series' legendary legacy? On its own, probably not. With Reaper of Souls? I sure hope so, but I'm not getting my hopes up. Diablo III is a thoroughly alright game, and while I admire Blizzard for tirelessly tuning it up, I'm not sure if it's the foundation for something truly great. I'd love to be proven wrong, though. I don't agree with a lot of Blizzard's decisions these days, but a good game is a good game, and the more the merrier, I say.