Diablo 3's first expansion is Reaper of Souls

New hero, new act, new endgame, new level cap, new loot.

Blizzard has announced Reaper of Souls, the first expansion for Diablo 3, at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany.

Reaper of Souls introduces a new hero class, the Crusader melee fighter, as well as a new campaign act that pits you against the Angel of Death in the new setting of Westmarch.

The level cap is raised to 70, the game's loot drops have been rebalanced, and the endgame has been extensively revised, with the addition of randomised "Loot Run" dungeons.

There's no release date yet, and no official word on whether we can expect this expansion for the soon-to-be-released console game as well as the PC and Mac version of Diablo 3.

Blizzard did not discuss the PC game's controversial auction house and always-online requirement.

The Crusader is a mid-range melee character similar to the Paladin from Diablo 2. He carries a shield and was shown using a flail as a weapon. Game designer Kevin Martens described him as "a war machine made human" with "a Spartan ethos." Skills include a shield bash, a shield flare which blinds enemies, and fist of the heavens and falling sword, which rain damage from above.

In the story, Diablo remains defeated and imprisoned in the Black Soul Stone, but its power is craved by Malthael, the Angel of Death. This creepy, Lich-like angel wants to destroy all demons but isn't too fond of humans either, and he can turn the dead against their loved ones and drain the souls from his victims. Your pursuit of him takes you to the fallen city of Westmarch, an urban, medieval Gothic location. "This is a darker expansion", said art director Christian Lichtner.

Game director Josh Mosqueira set out how Reaper of Souls aims to answer many of the complaints Diablo fans have had with Diablo 3. With "Loot 2.0", loot drops less frequently, but the drops are better and more meaningful, with a chance to be Smart Drops with stats tweaked to suit the character you're playing. (These changes seem to be brought over from the console version.)

As an example, Mosqueira noted that in Act 3 in the original game, you would typically find 256 common items, 399 blue, 275 yellow and one legendary. In Reaper of Souls it could be 73 white items, 266 blues and 83 yellows items - but there's more chance they'll be smart drops. Plus you could find no less than six "build-changing" legendaries.

Reaper of Souls' raised level cap means new skills and runes for every class, while the "completely rethought" endgame hopes to provide "something for everyone once you're done with the story". Loot Runs are 15-20 minute completely randomised dungeons, while Paragon levels are now account-wide, applied to all your characters, and there is no Pargaon level cap.

New artisans can transmogrify your items, so you don't have to sacrifice your look, and enchant them, allowing you to reroll affixes on rare and legendary items.

Reaper of Souls is playable at Gamescom, and we have interviews scheduled with Mosqueira and the console game team, so look out for more on Diablo 3 from Germany soon.

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