As expected, Blizzard used their stage time at Gamescom to announce an expansion to "Diablo III," called "Reaper of Souls." As with previous expansions, "Reaper of Souls" adds more story content and a new character class alongside a range of tweaks, features, and changes big and small.
"Reaper of Souls" tasks your Nephalem of choice (in my case, the Witch Doctor) with squaring off against Malthael, the fallen Angel of Wisdom, who has been missing since the events of "Diablo II: Lord of Destruction."
Without digging too deeply into "Diablo"'s massive lorebooks, Malthael has been mostly ambivalent to humanity's plight against the demons of the Burning Hells. In "Reaper of Souls," he wants to secure the High Heavens' safety forever by destroying the Black Soulstone (naturally) and all of humanity (dang!).
As always, Blizzard's CGI is top notch. Moving on!
New areas include the city of Westmarch and the walls of the Pandemonium Fortress -- an angel-controlled military outpost that sits at the epicenter of creation -- both of which are staffed by new enemy types, such as Seraphs, Summoners of the Dead, Executioners, Brutes, and Death Maidens.
The new Crusader class is a mid-range melee character who uses one-handed weapons and shields and specializes in buffing allies and debuffing enemies. He's not totally unlike "Diablo II"'s Paladin or "Diablo III"'s Templar follower and will probably fulfill traditional tanking duty. You can see him (or her!) in action below:
"Reaper of Souls" is also bringing broad changes that will affect every class: the level cap is being pushed to 70, with all characters getting new spells and runes. Paragon points, introduced almost a year ago, have been uncapped and are now account wide.
Two new end-game modes were also announced: "Loot Runs" and "Nephalem Trials." Loot Runs are 20-minute randomized boss dungeons that can be accessed after you've completed the main game. Details on Nephalem Trials are scarce, but here's hoping they provide an alternative to the (frankly annoying) Infernal Machine endgame.
"Reaper of Souls" doesn't eliminate "Diablo III"'s much-maligned Auction Houses, but it will introduce some changes to the loot system that might mitigate players need to use them.
Blizzard are calling their new system "Loot 2.0," which features "Smart Drops": Legendary items will now have a higher chance of being specifically beneficial to your class. A Wizard's Legendary wand, for example, might have a higher chance of summoning more Hydras than usual.
In addition to improvements to the current crafting system, and new artisan will be introduced in "Reaper of Souls." The Mystic will change the appearance and stats of high-level gear, allowing players to effectively re-roll for better affixes.
According to a post on the "Diablo III" forums, some of the changes in "Reaper of Souls" will be patched in over time, for free. "For now, you'll need to purchase the expansion to play as the Crusader, explore Act V, unlock the Mystic, and level up to 70," writes a Blizzard community manager.
"We want to implement a lot of the new systems and features in a pre-expansion patch for free. That should include Paragon 2.0, Loot 2.0, Loot Runs, and Nephalem Trials," the post reads. "We want some of the core gameplay improvements to be available for everyone."
"Diablo III: Reaper of Souls" will be available on PC and Mac next year. As of now, Blizzard hasn't commented on an expansion for console versions of the game, which will hit Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on September 3.
Joseph Leray is a freelance writer from Nashville. Follow him on Twitter