Blizzard may have turned Diablo 4 around in the last month, but there's still plenty of work to do before the release of its first expansion, Vessel of Hatred. BlizzCon's Diablo 4 Campfire Chat stream had surprisingly little to say about the action RPG's major remaining issues: dull itemization and a barren endgame.
The Diablo 4 team said it wants it to be easier to compare items and find things to do at level 100, but they weren't ready to discuss specifics. The focus for BlizzCon was the new expansion and Season 3, which will introduce leaderboards, weekly challenge dungeons, and a new level 100 seasonal event. Itemization, build and gear presets, and easier target farming for unique items were only briefly mentioned as plans for the future.
Diablo 4 players seem split on the whole thing. Some people want the base experience to improve before anyone starts talking about a new class and continued storyline, while others are desperate to play something new. But with Vessel of Hatred due to launch late next year, Blizzard should have time to fix Diablo 4's most critical issues, or at least start to build a solid foundation for what will be an annual expansion release cycle.
Season 2's massive list of quality of life changes was a great start. Here's what needs to be prioritized next:
A loot filter
Season 2 introduced a storm of loot in every part of the game, but sorting through it all is like doing homework. A full inventory isn't an exciting opportunity to find upgrades anymore—it's work.
There needs to be a better way to quickly pick out upgrades and ignore the rest. A loot filter seems like the only answer when loot drops so often. I want to be able to have the game only highlight items with maximum mana and attack speed for my Sorceress and save the five minutes of squinting at my inventory after a bountiful Helltide or Blood Harvest event.
Diablo 4's item stats sometimes read like a math problem. Certain effects will only work if you do something else first, like activating a barrier or crowd controlling an enemy. It's tough to build your class around a bunch of stats that have requirements before you get the bonus, and Blizzard seems to agree. Season 2 simplified conditional effects on Unique items and in the Paragon Board, but most items in the game still have ridiculously specific stats like doing more damage when injured.
I don't think they should go away entirely—some of them can be fun to build around—but they should show up less and be more distinct. Or, as game director Joe Shely implied during BlizzCon, become the primary reason to alter your items with crafting.
Shely says Diablo 4's endgame is a high priority, and we already know season 3 will help with that. Weekly challenge dungeons, leaderboards, and the Greater Rift-like Abattoir of Zir event should make reaching level 100 significantly less boring. But the issue isn't just with the lack of activities, it's what to do with the rewards.
Diablo 4's loot isn't very versatile. Unless a piece is an upgrade, it's probably getting sold or broken down into materials to fix up your other gear. Item trading with other players is largely pointless and you can't even craft your own stuff. Loot is a dead end and it reduces Diablo 4's endgame into what is essentially a bunch of ways to farm for tiny percentage increases in your gear. For any new activity to feel worthwhile, Blizzard needs to find a way to make their rewards more broadly meaningful, whether it's to your other characters or an economy of crafting and trading.
I forget Diablo 4 has PvP until I pass through the Fields of Hatred on my way to something else. It barely feels like a part of the game. PvP isn't for everyone, but I think Blizzard could do a lot more to nudge people in that direction. World bosses and other world events should spawn in PvP zones and there should be a reason to at least engage with it even if you're not looking to get a bounty on your head.
World of Warcraft regularly encourages PvE-focused players to dabble in PvP to earn currency for new gear or for cool transmogs. Open world PvP, especially with Diablo 4's regularly broken builds, is inherently unfair. If Blizzard could find a way to embrace that in a way that isn't intimidating for people who can't go toe-to-toe with a decked out Barbarian, it might help with its endgame variety problems.