Having somehow missed out on Diablo 2, I have a different relationship with its sequel to most people. This being said, I do recognise a lot of the criticisms and realise that a lot of its changes would make it less appealing than its predecessor. However, this lack of emotional connection to a beloved gem put me in a unique position to appreciate the game for what it was rather than for what it wasn't. This meant that I liked Diablo 3 a hell of a lot.
This doesn't mean Diablo 3 isn't flawed, or that criticising a game for what it it's not rather than what it is doesn't count as valid criticism. After all, I'm the one who criticised Dark Souls 2 for making changes that makes it a lesser game than the original (while also praising it for being excellent in its own right).
The bottom line is, I liked Diablo 3 before it was 'good'. But now it's patched, people like it and I like it more than I did before.
So how is the new expansion then? Patrick reviewed it for the site and clearly liked it a hell of a lot, I also like it a lot. Though, perhaps not as much as he does.
The extra act is a lot of fun. It felt a little one note at the start but manages to go to a variety of places. The enemies weren't the most imaginative of foes, or that different from what you had faced before, but combat remains to be very good and hugely enjoyable. The handful of boss fights was also very welcome, though none were overly impressive. The fights weren't hugely interesting, or that divergent from normal play, but were admittedly fun enough and added variety. It felt good to kill death, even if his fight wasn't as imaginative as it could have been.
On a story level the game is a bit weak. It gets caught up in its own lore and it's rather hard to care about what's going on. The story isn't really the appeal of the series, but a better story could be a great appeal. Also, the main antagonist was just a bit of a let-down. He was so impressive in that opening cutscene, seemingly unstoppable and completely badass. However, you know that at one point you are going to be able to click on him until he dies and the game finds no clever way of making this happen. It seems no weapon can hurt him and that nothing can stop him, then ten minutes before the fight the story suddenly decides you can fight him like any normal enemy. You're special and there was a portal. What else do you want?
So many games have used unkillable bosses to great effect, take God of War 2 for example. At the beginning of that game (spoilers ahoy) you try to kill Zeus, but you just can't. You seem so underpowered and he feels so powerful - the end result being you get stabbed through the chest with a giant sword. This first hurdle makes Zeus really intimidating, you know you don't stand a chance and it makes getting to the stage where you are ready a really big deal. In Reaper of Souls you see how weapons can't hurt the big bad guy, but at no point do you get the feeling he will be any more powerful than you. You know you won't fight him until the end and not until you are ready. If they had mixed this up a bit then he could have been a more interesting and memorable presence. As it stands, occasionally appearing and shouting your name does not make for a good or intimidating character.
There's more to the expansion of course, adventure mode and a whole new class. I've dabbled with the new Crusader class and really enjoyed my time with it. It seems like a solid addition to the game that may make me play it again. Adventure mode is a neat way to incentivise replaying content, but it's not hugely impressive. Go back and fight this boss is a fine objective, but it's not hugely creative. I feel they could have done more interesting things with this concept.
Overall Reaper of Souls is a great expansion. The new act has its flaws, but is ultimately a lot of fun. As an act its well put together, with a lot of side content and some amount of visual variety. I have niggling problems with it though, like how I couldn't care less about the town they want me to save because every single citizen is incredibly irritating. The entire dynamic is that the rich are dislikeable folk who hate the poor, whereas the poor just want to rebel against the rich and fight you... I don't know why these rebels are fighting me, but I guess my snazzy loot and levelled up artisans shows a certain level of wealth.
I had a lot of fun playing through Reaper of Souls, a lot of what I like about it is mentioned in the review. The sound design is incredible and I shouldn't understate the fact that the content was a lot of fun to play through. It didn't set my world on fire, but it's a really good expansion. Worth picking up for sure.