Malthael, the fallen Archangel of Wisdom, vanished after the events depicted at the end of Diablo II: Lord of Destruction®. In Reaper of Souls, he returns as the Angel of Death and seizes the Black Soulstone, which contains the essence of the Prime Evil. It now falls to the players to track down Malthael and stop him before he unleashes irreversible havoc on the world.
The cinematic trailer sets the stage for the game, and as expected of Blizzard, it looks phenomal. After Diablo’s defeat at the hands of the Nephalem, Tyrael decides to keep the remaining Black Soulstone hidden away. He goes to place it in an inconspicuous and dark underground location with only an escort of four scraggly-looking members of the Horadrim. When transporting the essence of Diablo, one should probably consider having some more security present.
Regardless, Malthael appears to kill three of the Horadrim as Tyrael sends the fourth to find the Nephalem. We learn two critical things about Malthael here: he melts faces and steals souls. The Angel of Death swats Tyrael’s sword aside like a fly and defeats him easily. In typical villain fashion, he decides not to kill him and goes straight for the Black Soulstone. I place the odds on that coming back to bite Malthael in the ass to be 9 Horadric Cubes out of 10. “No one can stop death,” he cryptically declares before claiming his prize and ending the cinematic.
Of course, no matter how well done a cinematic trailer is, it conveys nothing about the expansion’s gameplay. Luckily, a gameplay teaser was released to coincide with the cinematic. The new Crusader class is demonstrated in all its holy glory. Wielding a flail and holy great shield, the Crusader dominates opposition with a variety of crushing light-based strikes and magical attacks. New environments are showcased, revealing a host of dark and gritty zones the likes of which many fans of the previous games clamored the original ‘Diablo III’ should have included.
Other details of note include the level cap being raised to 70 (an increase of 10) and environments being randomly generated, perhaps as opposed to the generally static layouts in the original 'Diablo III.' Two new game modes called Loot Runs and Nephalem Trials also promise to extend the depth of the end-game as well.
Per CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment Mike Morhaime:
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.
Ever since its release in May of 2012, ‘Diablo III’ has received a mixed reception from the hardcore and veteran audience of the series’ previous iterations. This expansion, along with the numerous patches and updates that game has received so far, support the idea that Blizzard is committed to changing ‘Diablo III’ into a more engaging and satisfactory experience.
‘Diablo III: Reaper Souls’ is set for a vague 2014 release date. Meanwhile, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the original ‘Diablo III’ are set in stone for a September 3, 2013 release.