Diablo 4 had an incredibly well-received launch. Those who had been eagerly playing its betas since February found themselves deeply immersed in the game by the time the official release came around. However, the elation was short-lived as Season 1, titled ‘Season of the Malignant,’ arrived.
Seasons are integral to the Diablo experience but for a multitude of reasons, the player count dropped off a cliff, and both newcomers and seasoned veterans expressed their dissatisfaction.
I have my own theories on why this transpired, from the absence of a player test realm for substantial patches to the premature release of seasonal content. But this won’t be yet another dissection of what went wrong with Diablo 4. Instead, I’ve ventured into Season 2, the eagerly anticipated ‘Season of Blood,’ and found it to be a season filled with promise. So, if you’re pondering whether it’s time to return to Diablo 4, I’m here to help you answer that question.
Season of Promise
I was surprised when Blizzard unveiled Season 2, ‘Season of Blood,’ back in August. Season 1 was only halfway through its cycle, and its lukewarm reception suggested that a boost was in order. Season of Blood was announced for October, bringing with it a barrage of promises for game improvements. These ranged from introducing new endgame bosses to eliminating the need to grind renown every season, enhancements to stash management, and the liberation of inventory space from gems. However, despite the allure of these promises, I found myself initially apprehensive about the vampire-themed season. The burnout from the game’s first season was still fresh, and I wasn’t eager to dive into another round just yet.
My interest only piqued with the first developer update in October. The sheer volume of improvements and quality-of-life updates scheduled for Season 2 was overwhelming and, quite frankly, unexpected. Blizzard seemed to have genuinely taken to heart the feedback from the community and was finally addressing issues that we should have had resolved from the outset or, at the very least, by the start of the first season.
I found myself excited about Diablo 4 again, it was a great feeling. What’s more, the announcement that the game would be available on Steam was a game-changer for me. It meant I could play seamlessly on my Steam Deck without the need for workarounds. So, on October 17, with hope in my heart, I leaped into the season on my Deck, though not without a few initial launch hiccups. From the moment I started, I can confidently declare that my ‘Season of Promise’ is indeed delivering. Diablo 4 has once again become my go-to comfort game.
Streamlined Leveling Experience
While I haven’t reached the endgame content yet, the leveling process in Season 2 has been notably more enjoyable. This is, without a doubt, due to the absence of the need to grind renown for those initial skill points. With 10 skill points available from the start, you can immediately begin crafting your character’s build, and earning XP feels far more straightforward.
I’m not advocating for leveling to be as rapid as in Diablo 3 or as sluggish as it was in Diablo 2. Diablo 4 seems to have struck a sweet spot in the middle, particularly with the promised 40% increase in XP gain introduced in the latest patch.
Previously, the most hardcore players found it relatively easy to reach level 100, but it demanded an inordinate amount of time and dedication. This often made it feel nearly impossible for more casual players like myself. The idea of reaching the maximum level seemed so distant that I didn’t even care to try. However, with the recent changes, it feels like an achievable goal, rekindling my enthusiasm for the grind. This season, I’m determined to reach level 100 and finally take on Uber Lilith to claim that coveted trophy.
The mount felt utterly useless past a certain stage of the game before the changes, and now you can actually boost it’s speed for a decent amount of time, and it makes a hell of a difference. It effortlessly leaps over gaps without requiring you to approach obstacles at just the right angle, and it plows through irritating barricades. The mount, in short, now feels fantastic. While we still can’t dash around town, the improved overworld experience more than compensates for it.
The need to speed around town is negated anyway by the layout improvements made to the town itself. For instance, the Tree of Whispers now boasts an Occultist, always an excellent hub for traveling, and it’s now even better. Additionally, the Purveyor of Curiosities is conveniently closer to the waypoint, eliminating the need to scour the town for the vendors you require. If you find yourself wasting time in town, you’re not playing the game.
The joy of efficient storage
Yet another town improvement in Season 2, you’ll find abundant stash points scattered throughout the main cities. If you’re in a hurry to reach the blacksmith, there’s now a stash conveniently located nearby, and the same goes for other points of interest. This streamlined setup is a time-saver, reducing the frustration of navigating the town hubs.
The stash has been significantly upgraded by introducing a search and filter function. You will no longer be squinting at the screen, desperately trying to locate that Aspect you knew you stashed away just two days ago. Now, you can simply search for it.
The change in how gems function has also substantially alleviated inventory management woes. They no longer drop randomly, and you can craft them at your convenience, ensuring your precious storage space is used more efficiently.
I can actually do world bosses and legion events
Blizz please can you give us better World Boss spawn times in the UK, as a parent I am begging you. Between 7pm and 12am thanks bai ✌️ pic.twitter.com/X5rmrdVZXuJune 15, 2023
World Bosses and Legion events are a lot of fun, and really the only time you actually work together with other members on the server. Att least in the UK if you worked full time and/or had kids to schedule around, World Bosses just weren’t part of my gameplay loop. The spawn times were so infrequent and always at inconvenient times of the day. Legion events, though more frequent, suffered from poorly executed notifications on the map, often leaving me to realize an event was underway only when it was too late. This was far from the seamless experience one would expect from a game marketing itself as an MMO-lite.
Fortunately, change has come. World Bosses now spawn every 3.5 hours, twice as often as before, and the warning timer has doubled, offering a more generous window for participation. Legion events are now marked on the map much earlier, providing a 10-minute warning, allowing me to partake in these activities more frequently and with greater ease than ever before.
Embracing the vampiric theme
I love vampires. One of my all-time favorite movies is Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and if you happen to browse my Twitter feed, you’ll often find me simping over Astarion from Baldur’s Gate 3. However, even I wasn’t entirely sold on the idea of ‘vampires in Diablo’ until the developer update came along.
The voice acting from Gemma Chan is impeccable as the vampire hunter Erys, and the story is actually engaging and makes sense within the wider Diablo lore rather than feeling like a cheap bolt-on.
The vampiric powers and the concept of the Sanguine Circle introduce an intriguing method for tailoring your character’s build. One of the standout powers is the ability to transform into a cloud of bats—because who wouldn’t want to do that? In contrast, the Malignant Heart theme from Season 1 felt like a rehash of Legendary Gems from Diablo 3, complete with the monotonous mechanic of fighting enemies not once, but twice. It simply didn’t deliver an enjoyable experience. What is enjoyable, you ask? Vampires, blood harvests, and hordes of vampire minions. This theme is genuinely FUN, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.
Finally, the hunt for Uber Uniques can begin
I’m not far enough into my season journey yet to even begin the Uber Unique farming that’s been promised in the latest update, but I’m already seeing the results of it. Beforehand I didn’t know anyone amongst my acquaintances that had a Shako or Andariel’s Visage, but now more people are getting their hands on them and we are seeing the excitement, the hunt is well and truly on.
These items are still exceptionally rare, but not so elusive that only 1-2 people in the world have them. Striking the right balance between items that are covetable yet attainable can be a challenge, but Blizzard appears to have cracked the code with this Season.
This should have been our Season 1
My enjoyment of Season 2 isn’t solely attributed to the changes made; I believe that taking a break from the game did me good and reignited my passion for Season 2. However, I stand by my statement that the Diablo 4 team may have leaped into launching Seasons too soon in the game’s lifecycle. If they had taken a step back, absorbed community feedback from the very beginning without rushing into Season 1, this could have been our inaugural season, and the game’s image would likely be in a much better state today.
But you live and learn. With all the improvements and lessons learned so far, I can only imagine how great the game will become by the time Season 3 arrives. If you’re a Diablo fan who, like me, took a step back, then yes, I believe returning to experience the Season of Blood is a good move. You might be pleasantly surprised by how good it feels.
The only regrettable aspect is that many of my peers who experienced burnout in Season 1 have moved on to other games, which is quite understandable in a year filled with a sea of quality titles. For some, Diablo 4 had its moment in the sun, and it’s time to move on. For others like my colleague Zachary Boddy, only the lure of a new expansion will bring them back.
Nonetheless, the beauty of seasons lies in the fact that you can jump into any season and start from the same blank slate as other players. Some may feel it’s not worth returning until leaderboards are implemented. Introducing leaderboards will significantly enhance the endgame experience, especially for competitive players. So, if you’re competitive by nature, it might be worth holding off until the leaderboard feature arrives.
So, I’m curious, are you currently enjoying Season 2, Season of Blood, or are you still biding your time, eager to see how the game evolves?