Quality-of-life upgrades galore, plus vampires
Diablo 4 has been on the back-burner amid the chaos of Baldur’s Gate 3 and Starfield’s launches, but much like an arch-demonness putting together the pieces of an inter-planar conspiracy, Blizzard have been doing a lot of work behind the scenes. The action-RPG’s next big round of additions, the Season of Blood, launches on 17th October alongside the Steam edition of the game. It introduces a new season journey and questline, a new season event, and some skulking new enemies of the Nosferatu persuasion.
The new quest sounds quite fun from the promotional materials. It sees you investigating a mysterious outbreak of punctured necks, recruiting a local Van Helsing named Erys, and tracking down a Dark Master, while harnessing 22 juicy new vampiric powers care of some pact armour. The latter range from turning into a cloud of bats, through cursing people, to treating yourself to a spontaneous bloodbath so as to enhance your channeled skills, The trade-off is that you’ll have to acquire yet another Diablo 4 resource, potent blood, to perform these tricks.
Still, Diablo 4 players seem far more excited about the new season’s accompanying quality-of-life overhaul, Diablo 4 update 1.2.0, and with good reason. Diablo 4’s first season and associated updates were a disaster, the season made the monsters grindier, the characters squishier, and nerfed some of the most popular Diablo 4 builds to boot. Blizzard walked back a few of the nerfs following an outcry, with Blizzard’s associate director of community management Adam Fletcher promising to never do an update like it ever again, and the Season 2 revamp continues that trend.
The “top level” changes introduced by update 1.2.0 are described in detail over here. The broad takeaway is that you’ll be able to mine Content out of Diablo 4 faster and with less fuss and preamble. For example, you’ll be able to skip the campaign when you start a new character, providing you’ve completed the prologue with any character, so as to get at the seasonal content faster.
You’ll also be able to level up quicker – specifically, Blizzard say you can reach the max level “about 40% faster”, with monsters at level 50 doling out more XP than before, and elixirs and Season Blessings stacking with the bonuses granted by each World Tier. Grinding through the same material over and over for rewards has been reined in a bit: regional Renown rewards are permanent, for example, rather than resetting when you start a new character. As we’ve already reported, it’ll be easier to get Unique and Uber Unique items from endgame bosses, and Blizzard are adding some fresh new climactic munsters with Unique farming in mind.
Dungeons will be more random of layout, to make re-running them less monotonous, and will drop objectives closer to the critical path, so there’s less backtracking. Nightmare Sigils will teleport you directly into the Nightmare Dungeon, to “expedite” the demon-slaying. Inventory and stash management are getting a clean-up, with a new search bar and filters. Gems will count as crafting resources to free up inventory space, while stashes are being added to smaller waypointed towns, saving you the need to visit capital cities, where the shops will be easier to find. Mounts are going to be quicker and less prone to getting stuck on things. Dismounting will take five seconds, not 10.
There’s a lot more of that kind of thing, but I’ve now used up today’s last surviving neurone, so I’ll let you sink your fangs into the source.
As multiple-character veterans of Sanctuary may have deduced from the unscientific way I’ve boiled down the forthcoming update, I’m very much not a heavy-duty Diabler. While I like many aspects of Diablo 4 – the environments, the backstory, the cutscenes – I can’t imagine anything worse than making an overloaded loot treadmill like this a habit. I’m struck by the fact that so many of the changes seem designed to make Diablo 4 get the hell out of your way, so you can focus on – what, exactly? A shinier helmet, I guess.
I’m more inspired by what I’ve read – in a comment somewhere on RPS, in fact! – about co-op dungeoneering at higher levels, when timing, strategy and ugh, ‘synergy’ are apparently of the essence, and all the hours you’ve spent memorising skill rotations finally pay off, as you alter your combos sinuously to fit the scenario. If only it were possible to fast-forward to that level of play, rather than spending so much time sprucing up your skills and gear by tiny increments.
But really, if there’s anything at all that fascinates me about Diablo 4 it’s the “triumphant comeback from a humiliating fall” narrative that’s now forming around the game, as news of the quality-of-life changes percolates through the festering compost of the internet. We’ve had a few of those comeback stories lately. The obvious one is Cyberpunk 2077, now popularly deemed to be a Good Game, but there’s also Baldur’s Gate 3, to a lesser degree. Larian annoyed a lot of players with the game’s third major patch, but they clawed back some goodwill with the latest hotfix, and are presently dining out on the line that they’re a studio who “listen to their community”. I wouldn’t be surprised if Payday 3 follows a similar trajectory.
It makes me wonder how much these sensational stumbles and recoveries are planned in advance by the purveyors of big budget season-based games, tapping into the foetid soap opera structure of social media, and the expectation that any “triple-A” game must eventually Come Good, whatever the cost. I’m sure I’m just imagining things. I mean, you’d have to be mad to outright design a game to bring about a period of failure, so as to tee up an astonishing revival. But it’s certainly an entertaining story, and perhaps we in the press should think harder about that.