For people who are new, a brief history of the story so far (those who aren’t new can skip ahead):
Diablo – Many heroes travel to Tristram, hearing rumors of evil to be smited, riches to be claimed, and arcane magic to behold. These would-be heroes were assisted by one Deckard Cain, the last of the Horadrim.
The “canon” story says it was Prince Aidan (the warrior from the first game and son of King Leoric) who vanquished Diablo, the titular antagonist. In a moment of either weakness, stupidity, or stubborn pride, Aidan forced Diablo’s soul stone into his own forehead. His victory was celebrated, but the man himself was left forever changed and scarred. Aidan departed Tristram and travelled to the east.
Aidan “convinces” a man named Marius to follow him on his travels. He empties the Rogue Monastery of the Sisters of the Sightless Eye, and instructs Andariel to block the path from anyone who might try to follow him. In Lut Gholein, the Wanderer finds the Tomb of Tal Rasha as well as the Archangel Tyrael.
Baal notices Marius and tricks him into removing the soulstone from Tal Rasha’s chest, which frees Baal. Together, “The Wanderer” and Baal imprison Tyrael in the tomb and summon Duriel to prevent the Archangel from pursuing. Tyrael then commands Marius to take Baal’s soulstone to the Eastern Kingdom of Kurast, and from there through Hell’s Gate to destroy the soulstone at the Hellforge.
The Wanderer and Baal continue east to Kurast to free Mephisto, the eldest brother. Once freed, the Dark Wanderer takes a new form as Diablo, and the three open a portal to Hell. Marius witnesses this, but never makes it to Hell himself and instead finds safety in a mental asylum.
The canon story never specifies who in the second game rights the wrongs, only “a group of heroes” is mentioned. The brothers must aware of this group of heroes by this time for Mephisto stays behind to deal with them, but fails to stop their pursuit.
The heroes venture on to Hell, destroy Mephisto’s soulstone in the Hellforge and finally on to slay Diablo himself. Some time after Diablo’s defeat, Baal finds Marius in the asylum. Disguised as Tyrael, Baal tricks Marius into giving him the soulstone, after which he slays Marius and burns down the asylum.
Baal assaults Mt. Arreat, home of the Worldstone. The heroes follow Baal into Mt. Arreat, passing many trials to finally be allowed into the Worldstone Keep. Within, Baal is found and killed, but not before tainting the Worldstone itself. Tyrael grants safe passage for the heroes to return to Harrogath, and then deals with the tainted Worldstone issue by shattering it with his flaming sword.
— End of history —
Diablo III kicks off 20 years after the Worldstone was destroyed. Throughout the first three acts, the heroes are getting the black stone and locking the souls of the remaining lesser evils into it. The end of the third act shows Adria betraying the group and using her daughter Leah as the vessel in which Diablo can return again. Then the heroes put Diablo down as the last boss fought of the base game. After the black soulstone is taken to a secure location, Malthael the angel of death comes to claim it as his own.
Fans of Diablo III will find this expansion to be more of the same exciting grind and loot fest that has long been a hallmark of the franchise. The expansion took what worked in the main game and improves upon it in many ways.
The land of Westmarch is as beautiful an environment as any created by Blizzard. They really have top-notch artists and designers on the payroll. The little details really bring the environs to life, whether it’s rodents or other critters crawling across the ground (which you can squish by running over them, often times with a satisfying crunch!) or weather effects. Lightning flashes, the drops of rain landing in puddles and so on. A lot of detail went into the background for the base Diablo III game; that level of attention continues in the expansion.
The new features include:
New class: The Crusader. Like the Paladin from Diablo II, the Crusader is a strength-based melee holy warrior. I created one but haven’t spent too much time on him yet, focusing mostly on the monk and the new content available.
New Act: Fifth chapter in the Diablo III storyline, taking place in Westmarch. FINALLY you get to kill that witch that betrayed you back in Act III.
Raised Level Cap and unlimited Paragon Levels:
This one I have to talk about a little bit. The previous level cap was 60, which has been raised to 70. Paragon levels being unlimited is a big deal, if you want to grind them out, anyways. Paragon levels used to be just a way to progress your character’s stats past the level cap, with some extra magic/gold find (3% per level). And of course, with raised level cap of course comes new skills for each of the classes.
Now, they can be used to increase lots of things. Even though there’s no paragon level cap anymore, there’s little point to going past 800. That’s when all but one of the stats you can put levels into gets maxed out.
Loot 2.0 is worth talking about, too. The number of drops is lessened, but the ones you do get will more likely be usable by your class. There was a pre-expansion event where all experience gains were doubled. Within a few hours of playing, I was able to see this in action. I had received two legendary items, both usable for by my monk. Only one of them was an actual upgrade though.
Also, before I get too far ahead, ALL items are necessary to loot, even the white and gray items. Everything can be salvaged, and anything salvaged from white/gray items is used to craft new stuff with the blacksmith.
Followers get more backstory and sidequests (which can be interesting and more chances for loot of course). Character developments accompany each of the followers in their side quests as well. You won’t want to mindlessly skip through all the text.
Once you beat the expansion, you unlock “adventure mode”, which opens the world up as your playground to run around in and kill stuff. Each act will have bounties that you can kill for extra rewards (gold, experience, shards for entering Nephalem Rifts)
The only downside I saw from everything being added was the removal of Normal, Nightmare, Hell, and Inferno difficulties. Those had been a staple of the franchise for as long as it had existed. Instead, it’s been replaced with Normal, Hard, Expert, Master, and Torment, which basically seem to be little more than alternate names for the same thing.
Ultimately, if you enjoyed Diablo III, or the franchise as a whole, this would be a good pickup to further your Diablo enjoyment. The awesome things being added far outweigh the very few negatives.