At Gamescon 2013 in Germany, Blizzard Entertainment unveiled the next chapter in Diablo 3, dubbed Diablo III: Reaper of Souls. The expansion picks up where the original game left off, in what should have been a time of peace and prosperity. The Black Soulstone is safe, the Prime Evils and the Lords of Hell are contained for the first time in millenia. Everything should be great -- right?
Well, no, not so much. The game's opening trailer (embedded below) explains that when Tyrael attempted to secure the Soulstone in a secret location, Malthael, the onetime Angel of Wisdom and the current Angel of Death, has decided to seize the Soulstone's power for himself. Tyrael is unable to stop his erstwhile brother, (he always ends up losing these sorts of fights) and therefore it falls to you to do handle the task.
As expansions go, this one looks substantial. Blizzard promises new locales, from the fabled city of Westmarch to the Pandemonium Fortress (last seen in Diablo II). There's a new class to play with, the Crusader, which Blizzard describes as a "natural walking tank." The implication here is that the Crusader will offer something more like the Paladin from Diablo II -- a welcome experience for players who enjoyed the Paladin and were disappointed that none of the classes in D3 were very suitable replacements.
What's perhaps more interesting from a gameplay perspective is news that Blizz is revamping the entire end-game experience and dungeon design. Going forward, dungeons will be more effectively randomized, with new game modes (Loot Runs and Nephalem Trials) and an expanded Paragon system for greater character customization. Loot is apparently being revamped as well, and players will be able to pay an NPC to reroll the stats on a powerful item (again, details aren't currently provided.)
The launch trailer is embedded above. There's a gameplay video as well, but what it shows looks exactly like Diablo 3 -- environments are different, and you get a bit of info on the Crusader, but there's nothing intrinsically "new" being shown off as far as gameplay concepts. That's not necessarily a bad thing; Diablo 3 played remarkably smoothly, but fell down as far as long-term engagement. The Real Money Auction House has been acknowledged by Blizzard as generally diluting the core gameplay that made the product fun, but the company has also said it has only limited ideas for fixing the problem due to the feature's steady popularity. Whether the RMAH will be revamped for this next launch is yet unknown.
What About Leah?
One of the most significant events in D3 was the loss of Leah. The game hinted heavily that her soul might have been preserved; Covetous Shen told the Nephalem (your character) that after the battle in Heaven was won, it might be possible to rescue her. There's no mention of that plot line in this unveil, which means Blizzard may have dropped it as an expansion idea, or may introduce it later as a secondary goal. Hopefully the expansion will address the rescue directly.
Color me optimistic on this. Diablo 3's storyline wasn't as strong as it should have been and launch server performance was debaculous, but the game has improved significantly since then. If the expansion continues what the game has since established and improves the final product further, it'll be a solid win. No word yet on launch date or pricing.