"We need to get this right" As Diablo 4 hits Xbox Game Pass, Blizzard outlines a major shake-up and delay to Season 4

 Diablo 4.
Diablo 4.

What you need to know

  • Season 4 will arrive later than scheduled, on May 14, for huge itemization changes and end-game systems to be implemented.

  • Diablo 4 will get its first-ever Player Test Realm to test all of the Season 4 changes on Battle.net. The PTR will be available for PC players to play from April 2 to April 9.

  • Items in the game are being reworked to be much simpler to compare, dropping with fewer affixes and the opportunity for higher power affixes than seen before.

  • New crafting systems are being added to give players control over their items.

  • Reaching end-game content will be faster than ever, so everyone from casual to hardcore players can engage with the new content.

Today's Diablo 4 Campfire Chat has been built up as quite a make-or-break event for Diablo 4. With tough competition from lower-priced games like Last Epoch coming to encroach on its territory, the pressure to bring back players who have tired over a lackluster Season 3 is paramount. We were promised a considerable itemization overhaul to the game coming with Season 4. Will it deliver?

The Campfire chats are an opportunity for the developers to sit down and discuss with the community changes coming before each patch update of the game. Today, it was clear from the start that the Diablo devs want to get this right—kicking off the show with an announcement that the Season 4 start date will be delayed to May 14. The extension will allow them to thoroughly comb through the feedback received from players on the changes announced today and ensure it's released in the best state. Here's everything you need to know about Diablo 4 and the huge shake-up coming to both Eternal and Seasonal Realms in Season 4.

Huge changes to itemization will concentrate on quality not quantity

Joe Piepiora, Associate Game Director, kicked off the itemization portion of the update, stating a clear goal: to concentrate on the quality of items rather than quantity. Many items are found in the game, and you end up sifting through them to find that 99% are junk. This doesn't feel great and can feel like a chore, so the number one goal is to change this. No more flooding players' inventory with junk items.

The second goal of the update is to attach a journey of sorts to getting the best items. Currently, the best and pinnacle items don't really have a progression associated with them. Once you find one, you are done. Diablo 4 will be more engaging if we can still engage with these items and improve them.

Thirdly, the devs wanted to focus on moments of surprise and delight during the item chase. These moments will still be infrequent, but they want us to have them and be excited about drops.  So how will Diablo 4 turn things around and reach their lofty goals of making items exciting?

  • Base item updates
    Items will now have a smaller pool of affixes, more relevant and more potent. It will be much easier to see when scanning an item if it's good for your build or not.

Diablo 4 campfire chat
Diablo 4 campfire chat
  • Trading now allowed on Legendaries and Uniques
    Enchanting and crafting items will make them account-bound. Uber Uniques are excluded from this.

  • Extra ranks of a single core skill.

  • Only sacred items will drop in World Tier 3, only Ancestral in World Tier 4.

  • Affix values are punchier and will be felt.

  • Legendary items dropped from monster level 95+ are always 925 item power.

  • Gems are more straightforward, better, and have a longer crafting tail.

  • Salvage, crafting, and rewards are all re-tuned.

  • Significantly reduced item drop rates, "less time sorting, more time slaying."

  • Item rerolling gold cost capped.

  • Crafting material removal and consolidation.

  • Forgotten Soul will now drop from Whispers and Elites.

  • Uniques will now drop earlier in the game
    Many of them will drop in World Tier 1 and 2, all of them can drop in World Tier 3.

  • Uber Uniques can start dropping from monster levels 55 and above, and will always drop at 925 power.

The Codex of Power just got a whole load more useful

Diablo 4
Diablo 4

During your gearing experience in Diablo 4, you'll no doubt have visited The Occultist many times to painstakingly remove legendary affixes from gear. These affixes then take up space in your stash until they are applied to new gear, and are notoriously difficult to sort throught at pace. Well this system has been completely overhauled. Now The Occultist has been put out of a job. Upon salvaging a piece of legendary gear, the affix in your Codex of Power will automatically update to the highest roll of that affix that you have found. An incredibly time-saving change.

You'll then be able to continuously imprint that roll on your gear, until you of course find a higher roll. The Codex will also highlight in gold when you have found the highest rank of that affix.

Tempering will add more customization to your build

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Diablo 4
Diablo 4

Tempering manuals will give you more customization for your character and skills.

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Diablo 4
Diablo 4

Tempering manuals will give you more customization for your character and skills.

The Tempering system will be coming with Season 4 to both Eternal and Seasonal Realms, and is the first new crafting system being added to the game to give us more control over creating our perfect item. Tempering is a crafting system that allows you to add new affixes to your items. Tempering Manuals will drop from most content in the game and will not require any target farming. You can reroll affixes up to the individual item's 'Tempering Durability.' This will add a bunch of cool new affixes we've not seen before.

Greater Affixes add a new level of rarity to items

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Diablo 4
Diablo 4

Great Affix items can drop with a 1.5x max roll on a singular affix

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Diablo 4
Diablo 4

Great Affix items can drop with a 1.5x max roll on a singular affix

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Diablo 4
Diablo 4

Great Affix items can drop with a 1.5x max roll on a singular affix

Items can drop with not just a legendary affix but a Greater Affix. These are more powerful versions of regular affixes and have a 1.5x multiplier on the affix's max roll. These exciting drops will be immediately apparent from their appearance. Later in the Q&A, the developers were asked if the icons for these drops could be made more obvious, akin to the immediate visual queue of a Primal Ancient dropping in Diablo 3 (this shows up as a pentagram on the map). Piepiora replied that they are currently experimenting with an indicator on the item name, but they will take more feedback from the community during the PTR. It's important to them that players immediately recognize these exciting drops.

Greater Affixes only appear on Ancestral legendary and Unique items. New affixes have been added to enhance the excitement.

Masterworking adds a new end game crafting mechanic

Diablo 4
Diablo 4

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Masterworking will be a brand new end game, late play activity to perfect your items. This will improve the value of current affixes, has 12 upgrade ranks with each rank slightly increasing the value of all affixes on a particular item. Every 4 ranks, one single affix will be massively upgraded. Masterworking will require specific crafting materials, obtainable by a late game activity to be discussed later (The Pit)

All of the above changes should mean you don't need to wade through 70 versions of the same item to get the best version; the concentration here is finding a perfect base item and building your own perfect item from all of the new crafting options. We are being given the power to make our items more complex step by step, and tailored to our build rather than wading through a heap of junk. Piepiora stressed that Enchanting will still exist. You cannot use Enchanting to create Greater Affixes, but you can Enchant out of them.

Class changes

A bunch of class changes will be coming that will be detailed in the full patch notes. A high volume of meaningful class updates to move the needle rather than just damage and health going up and down. Class systems and designs will be fully updated. A few snippets shared ahead of the patch notes were Necromancer getting Book of the Dead upgrades and minions becoming more powerful and exciting, inheriting 100% of their player's stats. This will apply to other minion builds like Druid Wolves, too. Sorceress' Frozen Orb will be getting a lot of love in the class changes.

With the full span of itemization changes, it does mean that some changes will be made to some class skills that could be perceived as nerfs, but these are important for the game's health and are required to keep play balanced.

Flat damage effects will be changed to scale based on a player's Weapon Damage, making flat damage much more viable in builds.

Diablo 4
Diablo 4

Hardcore play just got actually Hardcore

Hardcore play is Diablo 4's permadeath mode; if you die, your character and all the equipment they wear are gone. You have to start again. Some Hardcore players have complained that the mode isn't genuinely pure in the game due to the Elixir of Death evasion. This is being removed from the game; no more cheating death! The Flame Shield enchantment, another cheat death mechanic, is also being redesigned.

End game will both be more obtainable, and have more activities.

Diablo 4
Diablo 4

Endgame as a whole, will be more obtainable for casual players. Diablo 4 want us to get there faster, to experience all this new content. Therefore XP gains in earlier World Tiers will be increased to level you up faster. In addition to this, World Tier 1 and 2 will now be able to take part in Helltides.

The Helltide will have a higher density of threats, with a new threat meter that builds up while killing monsters. When the threat meter is full, the Hellborn appears. Hellborn are adventurers who have fallen to the depravities of Hell, and they will have significant drops as well as materials for taking on Lord Zir on the Boss Ladder.

Summoning materials for the boss ladder will now also drop from other content in the game such as treasure goblins and Whisper Chests. Summoning bosses and moving through the endgame boss ladder is much easier. A rare summoning material can drop during the Helltide to summon a brand new public event boss, The Bloodmaiden.

Finally, we can fight Andariel again

Diablo 4
Diablo 4

Facing Andariel in Diablo 4 was a pinnacle moment in the story for me; she was my nemesis in Diablo 2, which made me rage and quit the game many times before finally besting her. It always felt kind of anti-climatic that I couldn't visit this fight again after completing the story, but now I can. Uber Andariel is being added to the Boss Ladder and will have the same loot table as her brother Duriel. Summoning parts for Andariel will be found from Beast in the Ice and Lord Zir.

New activity - The Pit

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Diablo 4
Diablo 4

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Diablo 4
Diablo 4

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Diablo 4
Diablo 4

The Pit will be an endgame activity similar in playstyle to the Abbatoir of Zir but accessible much earlier and not just for elite end game builds, but you will want to push this to deeper levels to get the materials you need for Masterworking. Stygian Stones will drop in The Pit, which can be used to summon level 200 versions of each Boss Ladder boss.

Some juicy parts were left to the Q and A

The stream finished as usual with a Q and A from the community, and while most questions were about finer details on each of the systems discussed, there were some really insightful questions which I've listed here. Including a bombshell about the new Zoom out function:

Q: What will happen to current items after this rework?
A: Previous items will become 'Legacy items.' They will still be usable, but you will not be able to use the new crafting system with them.

Q: Eternal Realm, whats new?
A: ALL OF THIS STUFF will be Eternal Realm as well as Seasonal.

Q: Is there seasonal stuff too?
A: We haven't talked about Season 4 specific content yet. More info is coming.

Q: Was the camera more zoomed out in the Dev build?

A: Yes, from Season 4, there will be the option to zoom the camera out for your gameplay. (I laughed at the casual bomb drop of this information as it's a hugely contentious issue with the community, the fact the game is much more zoomed in than its predecessors. This change is massive and will be welcomed with open arms.)

Q: Will we be able to have loadouts like an armory?

A: We've heard this feedback, and we know you guys want it; we don't have anything to announce on this just yet but we are discussing it.

Q: General question about the store having better-looking items in the game

A: We are looking at changes so people can earn currency in the battle pass for the store, retroactive changes are coming to the Portal Pass so it won't be class-locked.

Q: Can Uber Uniques get Greater Affixes
and be Masterworked?
A: Yes.

Q: Will the aspect changes also apply to alternate characters?

A: The codex will apply to all characters on a realm (so all on seasonal, or all on hardcore, or all on Eternal)

Diablo 4 Player Test Realm (PTR) starts on April 2

Diablo 4 will finally get its first-ever Public Test Realm to test everything discussed today. A PTR is a test build for the community to test the proposed changes before they are rolled out to the entire game. It will run from April 2 to April 9 and be accessible from PC Battle.net for those wishing to play and provide feedback.

Joe Shely, Game Director, posed the question, "What is Diablo? What distinguishes it from all other action RPGs?" Shely stated that Diablo and its gameplay boil down to the decisions you make before and during combat. The itemization and the crafting are the lifeblood of the game. They have to be deep and exciting. "We're putting the changes on a PTR because we need to get this right."

Instructions will launch well before the PTR start date. Players will start fresh on PTR, but there will be boosting options to enable testers to test everything fully. Such as the ability to instantly boost your character to 100.  You'll also get:

  • 100,000,000 gold and 1000 obols for each character started in the PTR.

  • campaign will be completed.

  • mount, skill points and paragon points will be automatically given.

  • fog of war will be completely clear.

  • alter of lilith points cleared.

  • random set of rare gear awarded.

  • class system mechanics (e.g Book of the Dead) will be completed.

  • paragon glyphs unlocked.

  • legendary drop rates will be doubled.

Forum use is encouraged during the PTR, and there will be a form on the website to gather feedback. For feedback, they are particularly interested in tuning and balance, what changes make the game more fun, what changes don't hit the mark and why, and what we would like to see that didn't make it in.

Next week there will be a blog update on graphical changes too, such as the ray-tracing coming to Diablo 4 as well as how console players can take advantage of the graphical upgrades.

My final thoughts

Reddit threads about Diablo 4
Reddit threads about Diablo 4

Today was a whirlwind of information, but I think regardless of what was announced, the most crucial aspect here is that all of these exciting changes are actually going to be tested by the community. I and many other fans have been asking for this kind of thorough testing ever since Season 1. Absolutely everything mentioned is subject to change and could look completely different come the Season 4 launch. Still, any changes made will be with direct help from the people who spend hundreds of hours in this game, and that fills me with the hope that Season 4 will see a huge return of the player base. It will undoubtedly be boosted by the launch of Diablo 4 on Xbox Game Pass on March 28.

I anticipate that many reading this will wonder if it is worth jumping into Diablo 4 on March 28 as a new player, knowing that all of these new systems are just over the horizon. To that, I answer an unequivocal yes. Absolutely yes! Most of the changes discussed today impact endgame activities, and you can still enjoy the Diablo 4 campaign and play through the story blissfully ignorant of any endgame woes. The base Diablo 4 game is fantastic and still well deserving of the full 5 stars we gave it in our Diablo 4 review.  In fact, doing so will prepare you for your first Season of the game as any Altars of Lilith and Renown points obtained in the game carry over. It's the perfect way to start playing and introduce yourself to the games lower level gearing systems. It's also perfectly fine to just play through the story and never play its live service content; it's still a fantastic experience on its own merit and a huge boon for Xbox Game Pass.

For players well-seasoned in Diablo 4 already, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Are you excited about Season 4?