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Reaper of Souls – Much more than just a Diablo III fix

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Diablo III’s expansion – Reaper of Souls not only fixes many of the programming issues users experienced in the original game, but also throws in a lot of content to keep players entertained for many hours, writes MATTHEW FIGUEIRA.

Its finally here, the expansion to the addictive clickiness that Blizzard gave us nearly two years ago. I won’t ignore the fact that some of you likely had your issues with the game, whether it be of the error 37 kind or just simply a hatred for something it did or didn’t do to meet your expectations. You may be wondering why you should now consider paying the price of a full game for an expansion. The simple answer is this: Reaper of Souls takes what you hated about Diablo III, fixes them, then throws in a whole lot of extra content to keep you busy for many, many hours.

I have no doubt that most Diablo III fans are already playing the expansion, but what about the rest of the naysayers? After much research, I have identified the 5 stages of grief a sceptic will more than likely go through and post to their social media feeds:

Denial – It’s too late Blizzard! You can’t fix the pain we have endured! #NeverForgetError37

Anger – This expansion costs R400? REALLY BLIZZARD? YOU WANT ME TO SPEND THAT MUCH JUST SO WE CAN BE FRIENDS AGAIN? #LOLSellingMyKidneyBro

Bargaining – Maybe if I skimp on a few meals this month, I can lose weight AND quest for loot once more? #TwoBirdsOneStone

Depression – I have no friends left. They wasted their money and left me behind. #ForeverAlone

Acceptance – OH FINE SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY! #CardSwiping101

Right, now that you have undergone that process, what can you actually expect from this expansion?

You get access to Act V which is set a few months after the original game. See that guy on the header image? That’s Malthael, the Angel of Death. I’m really not one to pay too much attention to character design, but I honestly loved Malthael and I feared him more than the Prime Evil himself. The story takes you through many new locations and enemies, which I am confident that most players will enjoy. It will only take the average player around 2-4 hours to finish the act (depending on difficulty) but it’s a nice change from all the others.

Then there’s the Crusader, the shiny new class that is designed to be the spiritual successor to the Paladin. The Crusader is meant to be a hybrid of a tank and support, but still possesses the ability to deal all sorts of pain to the thousands of minions standing in your way. There are the usual abilities intended for offence and defence, as well as some passives which will keep you and your party pushing through all kinds of danger. The crusader has quite the variety, from hammer throwing to simple bashing to leaping into the air and crashing down into your foes. This may sound silly, but the reason the Crusader is now one of my favourite classes rests purely on the feeling you get when you dismiss the enemies around you. For lack of a better word, there is a certain “chunkiness” when you smack an enemy into oblivion, and it is ridiculously satisfying.

I often criticise expansions for only including one extra class, because you know, everybody wants to play with the new toy and you will likely end up with a party of Crusaders at some point. Oddly enough, I have yet to encounter such a party. Many people opted to hop straight into the adventure mode which is unlocked only after finishing Act V. I honestly think that this mode makes the expansion entirely worth it. I’ve moaned several times about how I got over Diablo III purely because I got tired of playing the same game over and over again. In my opinion, adventure mode completely fixes that.

In a nutshell, you get access to the world map. Populating this world map are various bounties to complete. These bounties can be anything from performing some minor side quest to defeating a big boss. After performing five bounties, there is a reward of gold, experience, as well as a Horadric cache. Essentially, it’s an item that gets placed in your inventory and right-clicking it yields results similar to opening a big chest. Loot loot loot! The player will also be rewarded with a new currency called blood shards which can be used to buy even more loot.

The expansion also raises the level cap up to 70, bringing in new passives and spells for your existing heroes. What really makes adventure mode awesome though is that you can play through it with your level 70, or even your newly created level 1. Monsters scale to your level, but there is a selection of difficulties which can be used to determine just how much you want to cry. Upping the difficulty has its benefits , as doing so will yield better experience, gold, bounty rewards, and eventually, new legendary items.

Throughout these bounties you will also pick up rift keystone fragments, five of which can be used to open up a Nephalem Rift. These are pretty much loot runs, where a randomly generated dungeon with multiple levels and random enemies are created. Killing a certain amount of enemies will set loose the Rift Guardian, a big boss taken from somewhere in the game. Defeating it rewards you with more loot. That’s not such a bad thing though is it?

Ever feel like your loot just doesn’t look right or could use a new stat re-roll? Visit the new artisan who will transmogrify your stuff for you (for a small fee of course). This can come in handy when you want to modify your loot just to be that teeny bit better or just look cooler.

The new clans and communities feature is not exclusive to the expansion but something that needs a mention because I think it’s freaking useful. Upon joining a clan, a player gets a tab in their friends list showing all the clan members that are online. No longer will a player have to solo to find the best loot, as this opens up countless other games to hop into, and we all know fuller parties means better chances at better loot. Another nice touch is that the text bar will show activity from other clan members, inciting mass jealousy when somebody picks up a rather juicy legendary item. This opened my eyes to the sort of items that I had yet to find, pushing me to keep playing to find better stuff to equip my player with.

My only minor gripe boils down to the persistent online requirement. I realise that this game is best enjoyed when played with friends, but single player should be left to be an offline affair if the player chooses to do so. That being said, I only experienced one evening where myself and players dropped once in a while due to some Battle.net issues.

* Article courtesy of Lazygamer.net. Follow Matthew Figueira on Twitter on @MatthewFig

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Nokia 9 PureView pioneers new camera tech

Nokia packed five camera-lenses into its latest high-end flagship, but does more lenses mean better pictures? BRYAN TURNER took it for a test run.

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Nokia is not new to the high-end mobile photography market. In 2012, it led Mobile World Congress (MWC) with its 41MP Nokia 808 PureView. This year, Nokia returned to MWC with its next PureView handset: the Nokia 9 PureView.

Instead of pushing megapixels, the mobile device maker chose to focus on intelligent exposure and sharp focus quality. It achieved this with a set of five cameras on the rear of the device – the most ever on the back of a handset. All of the lenses are 12MP f/1.8 lenses, and three of them are monochrome. The five lenses work in tandem to blend the best parts of a captured image. This is achieved through software image blending, which has been trained to know what’s good and bad about the image. 

Why monochrome? 

Lighting is dramatically improved with a monochrome sensor. About 2.9x more light can be captured with a monochrome sensor when compared to a conventional sensor. Huawei showed off the advantages of integrating a monochrome camera with the P9. 

Why three monochrome lenses? 

Detail can be captured at three different lighting settings, one to absorb a lot of light, one to absorb a little less light, and one to absorb very little light. These photos can then be blended into one great photo, without the user having to worry about setting the camera’s exposure manually.

The monochrome mode captures photos in crisp detail, while giving an authentic dramatic monochrome photography feel.

Only five lenses have been mentioned so far but the back of the device sports seven holes. The sixth hole is for the flash and the seventh is for the depth sensor. This sensor captures the depth of an image, so autofocus can be a little sharper and focus depth on bokeh images can be adjusted after the picture is taken. This adjustment feature is especially useful when a subject’s hair has been “bokeh’d out”.

Click here to read about the other features of the Nokia 9 PureView.

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Product Reviews

Bose Portable: quality at a price

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The Bose SoundDock Portable looks great and performs well, but SEAN BACHER finds the price doesn’t justify the better sound quality.

Since its inception in 1964, American-based audio specialist, Bose, has built a name synonymous with quality. Along with that, it has built a reputation of being more expensive than many of its competitors, but not deterring many from making the expensive investment. The mini sound speakers are quite often used in boardrooms, bars and restaurants around the world and offer crystal-clear sound that rivals most speakers twice their size.

Testament to the Bose sound quality is that it is used as the standard audio system in luxury cars like Audi, BMW and Mercedes, and according to Wikipedia, Bose products can be found in many military and NASA applications.

It is therefore not surprising to find Bose accessories compatible with smartphones. One example is the Bose SoundDock Portable. A portable docking station for iPhones and iPods that works off rechargeable batteries.

We put the Bose SoundDock Portable through the Gadget Five Question User.

1. Ease of use (including set-up)

Although the Bose SoundDock Portable, comes with instructions, they are not needed and in most cases, it will be ready to operate the minute it is removed from the box and an iPhone or iPod is plugged into it.

If the batteries on either the phone or docking station are flat though, the charger needs to be plugged into it before it can be used. You don’t need to wait for the batteries to charge fully before using it.

Bose has taken the minimalist approach with the SoundDock as on the right are two touch-sensitive Volume buttons and that’s it. No Power or other controls. The included remote is also very easy to use. It uses standard Play, Pause, Volume and Skip buttons, all well labelled.

The front of the docking station is made up of a silver grill, below which is the retractable iPhone dock. Although the casing around the connector is designed to accommodate an iPhone’s protective skin, it was not big enough to for the bumper I had on my phone, which meant I had to take the phone out of the case every time I wanted to plug it in.

On the plus side though, unlike many other portable docking stations, the Bose will charge a docked phone even if it is just running off battery power.

The Bose SoundDock Portable’s ease of use along with its elegant design cannot be faulted. But its dock connector counts against it.

Score: 18/20

2. General performance

The two front facing speakers offer crisp sounds and when the volume is cranked up all the way the SoundDock does not distort at all and is deafeningly loud.

At the rear is 3.5mm jack, allowing you to connect non-Apple phones, MP3 players and other audio equipment.

According to Bose, the 1 900mAh rechargeable battery pack will offer up to three hours of music at a maximum volume a different approach to rating battery life as most other vendors rate operating times at ‚”typical listening volumes‚”. I have been using the SoundDock on and off and not at full tilt for the past week without having to plug the mains adapter in yet.

This is however a good thing. Although the Bose SoundDock Portable is elegant and well made, Bose didn’t pay to much attention to the adaptor. It is a bit bigger than two cellphone chargers placed next to each other. It monopolises all the other electrical outlets, when plugged into the wall, meaning you need a dedicated plug for when you want to charge the battery.

The Bose SoundDock Portable provides a beautiful sound, its battery life is great, but the giant-sized charger is a complete let down.

Score: 12/20

3. Does it add value to your life?

Unlike many docking stations that are designed for bedside listening, the Bose SoundDock Portable is powerful enough to offer good sound in an average sized dining room or lounge.

Weighing in at just under three kilograms, it is not the lightest of them all, but the rear, recessed-handle makes carrying it fairly easy. (A carry bag is available as an optional extra.) Overall, it is a nice addition for a picnic or where an electrical outlet is not available.

18/20

4. Innovation

Sound docks have been around for years, and although the SoundDock offers superior sound, it offers nothing in the way of innovation. In fact, the lack of Bluetooth or any wireless connectivity for that matter is limiting.

13/20

5. Value for money

Much like the die-hard Apple Mac fans that will spend more on a product that performs much the same as cheaper alternatives, you get the same in the audio/visual world.

This becomes especially clear when reading the various reviews posted on the Internet. Reviewers either dislike the Bose SoundDock Portable due to it price, while others like it, saying the sound quality justifies the price.

But at R5 000 for a docking station I would have to agree with the former reviewers. R5 000 is ridiculously overpriced, even though it offers superior sound.

10/20

Conclusion

There is no faulting the Bose SoundDock Portable in terms of elegance and sound, but its clunky charger and high price are complete turnoffs.

Total score: 71%

* Follow Sean on Twitter on @seanbacher

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