Patch 2.1 of Diablo 3 will bring Greater Rifts to the action RPG. This new kind of Nephalem Rift provides players with a new endgame activity to test their skills.
The first step in tackling Greater Rifts is to get a Keystone of Trials. These items drop from Rift Guardians when you're playing on Torment difficulty with a max-level character. The Keystone allows you to access a Realm of Trials. This Realm acts as a sort of placement test for Greater Rifts.
"Each trial will be timed and consist of increasingly difficult waves of enemies," said Blizzard. "Upon completion of the trial, or it ending due to your hero's death, you will be rewarded with a Greater Rift Keystone. The level of the keystone you receive will be based on your performance during the trial itself. The more waves you destroy, the higher the keystone level. The higher the keystone level, the more challenging the Greater Rift…so aim high!"
After you've received a Greater Rift Keystone, you can return to town and use it in the Nephalem Obelisk. After that, you'll be whisked away to your Greater Rift.
In each Greater Rift, the player has 15 minutes to kill the Rift Guardian. You start off by killing normal monsters to build up a Progress Bar. The health and difficulty of a monster will determine how much progress it grants you. Once the Progress Bar is filled, the Greater Rift Guardian will appear. If you defeat the boss and still have time to spare, you'll get a Keystone that lets you access a higher level Greater Rift. You can even skip multiple levels if you have a huge amount of time remaining.
The amount of levels you complete and the speed that you finish them in will determine you rewards.
"We've made some changes to how loot is distributed in Greater Rifts to help streamline the experience and keep players focused on completing their run. Monsters won't drop loot, chest spawns have been disabled, and destructible objects will be limited. Instead, we've moved a lot of this loot to the Rift Guardian itself. As a result, and in reward for your valiant efforts, players will encounter a veritable "loot-splosion" upon defeating a Greater Rift Guardian!"
One of the rewards you can receive from Greater Rifts are Legendary gems. The gems can be socketed into amulets and rings to grant new abilities. Greater Rifts are the only place to find these new gems.
Legendary Gems can be upgraded by a new NPC called Urshi. Urshi will give you three attempts to boost the power of your Legendary Gems each time you kill a Greater Rift Guardian. Alternately, you can ask him to upgrade your Greater Rift Keystone to a higher level. Only one of Urshi's two services can be used each Greater Rift level.
There's another reason to advance as far as you can in Greater Rifts: Leaderboards. The players with the best progression in Greater Rifts will appear on these boards. The rankings are broken down by several categories, including Hardcore, Normal, Season, Non-Seasonal, and number of players participating in the Rifts. The Leaderboards will appear both in-game and on Diablo3.com.
Patch 2.1 also includes Seasons, a new kind of environment called Cesspools, and a range of balance changes. Diablo 3 players on PC and Mac can currently try out Patch 2.1 via the Public Testing Realm. Xbox One and PS4 owners will have to wait for the official release of the patch.