On Wednesday during Gamescom, Activision Blizzard made a surprising move by announcing the first Diablo III expansion pack rather than wait until its own BlizzCon convention this November 8. Called Reaper of Souls, the add-on will increase the level cap to 70, add a fifth Act to the game's storyline, and add a new Crusader class. The game's current classes will also receive new spells and abilities.
"From the beginning, Diablo has always been about the struggle between good and evil, and Reaper of Souls explores the darker notes of that conflict," said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. "This expansion also represents a big milestone in the ongoing evolution of Diablo III, with key enhancements to the core gameplay, along with a new act to experience, a powerful new character class, tons of new loot, and even more end-game options. We think players will love playing Reaper of Souls, and we can’t wait to get it into their hands."
Malthael, the fallen Archangel of Wisdom, returns as the Angel of Death after disappearing following the events taking place at the end of Diablo II's expansion pack, Lord of Destruction. He takes control of the Black Soulstone, the artifact containing the essence of Prime Evil. Last we saw the stone, it trailed behind Diablo after he was defeated and fell from the high Heavens, dissipating into the wind.
Blizzard describes the new Crusader class as a warrior of righteousness who has been hardened by relentless, brutal combat with the evil that lurks eastern Sanctuary. The Crusader wears immensely heavy armor, wields a wide variety of "cruel and punishing" weapons, and uses battle magic to strengthen allies and weaken foes. He's a natural walking tank, driven by a centuries-long quest to cleanse the land.
The expansion pack will take players from the city of Westmarch to the unhallowed halls of the Pandemonium Fortress. That means more randomized environments to explore, new epic quests, and new monsters to defeat. The expansion also provides a substantial update to the loot experience so that players can further customize their character with new and improved multilevel Legendary items, new Blacksmith and Jeweler item-crafting options, and more.
"Diablo III’s Paragon progression system is also being majorly upgraded for the expansion, adding even more end-game character advancement and replayability," the company said. "Two new game modes—Loot Runs and Nephalem Trials—are being added as well, providing fun and rewarding challenges for players to tackle when they’re not busy saving the world."
Reports surfacing after E3 2013 indicated that the expansion pack launch was pushed back into 2014, and that former Titan developers were brought into the Reaper of Souls team to accelerate the expansion's progress. However Blizzard said there has been no delay because there is no official launch date. Now the company is stating that additional details will be revealed this November during BlizzCon "and beyond" as development progresses, meaning there's a good chance players won't see this expansion pack under the Christmas tree this holiday season.