Gamestyle Game of the Year 2014: Steve

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls

This year has been pretty good for games. After the deluge of sheer quality in 2012 and 2013, 2014 was always going to be a bit underwhelming, especially with the slew of HD-Makes *punches self in face* and re-releases but we’ve still seen some ace examples of gaming across all formats.

In fact we’ve seen so much I haven’t got round to playing a lot of it properly. I’ve only just started Shadow of Mordor and Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Alien Isolation is on the way after dropping below the £25 sweet spot. Also on the way is Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, which technically could be a 2014 GOTY seeing as Nintendo have fannied with the release dates. I’ve put barely any time into Hyrule Warriors, or DriveClub or Master Chief Collection (but part of the reason with those two is because they were busted to shit for ages. Some would say MCC still is). But this isn’t about them. It’s about an expansion pack. An expansion pack I can get away with calling my 2014 Game of the Year because it’s also part of a whole game released on the new generation.

“Boo!” some might cry, “Boo and hiss! You can’t have an expansion pack as your game of the year!” I can and I bally well will, so sod you.

I mean, it’s true the glut of changes Blizzard made to the fundamental loot system, talents and the removal of the real money auction house on the PC came without needing Reaper of Souls. It’s also true that some of those changes were in the Xbox 360 and Ps3 versions of standard Diablo III, but with Diablo III – Reaper of Souls: Ultimate Evil Edition (to give it it’s full title) it’s the whole package of changes, tweaks, additions and alterations that make it great.

The most important change was the loot system overhaul. Diablo was always all about the loot. Well, loot and really awful dialogue with knuckle chewing delivery, but it’s the fundamental reason as to why we play Diablo. Hit evil in the face, get the loot, hit more evil in the face, get more loot, rinse and repeat. The promise of shiny, glorious, stat filled gear is the driving force, and in the vanilla game there was no desire to grind for loot, in no small part because of the Auction House. The combat was excellent, but it was only half of the deal. It had to be satisfying to kill hellspawn but there also had to be the possibility of reward other than the satisfaction of punching their bones out of their body.

Loot 2.0 (as the change was called) was supposed to decrease the occurrence of loot but increase its usefulness. To be honest, it still seems like the game vomits loot at a rate of knots, but it’s all infinitely more desirable than before. They also overhauled the crafting, because that was practically pointless AND a pain in the arse.

So technically all this was pre-Reaper of Souls on PC, but it’s all part and parcel of the expansion in my eyes. Diablo III was in desperate need of a shot in the arm, and Blizzard gave it an overdose. It added more incentive to keep punching the demon hordes in the crotch and taking their shinies. No longer was it required to grind through the story missions for loot, instead giving us Adventure Mode to grind individual bounties and Nephalem Rifts to grind repeatedly for no reason other than the promise of upgraded gear. If you did those on higher difficulties it’s not unheard of to have to run back to sell up to make room for it all. There was little else in gaming this year that set the saliva glands off than a screen full of orange and green beams reaching up to the top of the screen. Even when you checked it all and found barely incremental updates, it didn’t matter because you just went back for more, again and again.

There was an extra act, with fantastic new areas with typically fantastic art direction! More hokum story and awful dialogue! A new class! The Crusader, which is an obscene amount of fun. Wanging your shield around like Captain America then leaping up to the sky in a streak of lightning and coming crashing back down to turn the enemies into demon paste is a powertrip, even by Diablo’s already ludicrous standards.

The new merchant allowed me to indulge in my penchant of choosing style over function, because I need to look as fabulous/bad ass as possible when I’m punching demons in the knackers and stealing their treasure. It also helped that she could alter properties of my amazing looking armour to scratch that min/max itch. But mainly it was about looking great.

The changes and additions made a game that’s commanded more of my time this year than any other game, so much so that between me and my better half the UI has bruised the panel of my TV.

Reaper of Souls would have been enough for GOTY on PC, but the console versions controls and same screen co-op (first implemented in the previous gen release) make it difficult to go back to the PC version. I find it too clunky to manage the inventory, to hit the thing I’m trying to hit, to generally have all I need from this glorious game in my hands, sat on my comfy settee in front of the TV instead of sat on my own, upstairs in front of a smaller monitor. It’s fantastic, and all from a game that originally disappointed me massively.

So yeah, it’s a cheat to choose. Yeah, there have been games that probably deserve the accolade of Game of the Year more, if only by dint of actually being a whole game rather than expansion. But none of them are as satisfying or compulsive as the game Reaper of Souls made Diablo III into.