In my original review of Diablo IV, I did not delve deeper into its endgame because I had just completed the main campaign not too long before writing the review. Adding on to that, shortly before I published the review, Blizzard announced that the first season of the game, Season of the Malignant, would be released on July 21. I was actually quite ready to climb out of this hell hole but since my friends continued to play the game, I stuck around for a bit longer as they made the grind a lot more bearable.
So now that I have spent quite a fair bit of time on both the endgame and seasonal content, here is my follow-up article to help you out of limbo if you are still deciding on whether you should buy Diablo IV or not.
Going back to the first circle
In my original review, I mentioned that you had to essentially start over with a brand-new character when the new season starts. Thankfully, some of your progress gets carried over and Blizzard was kind enough to let you skip the campaign entirely. Another nice touch is the fact that you get to keep some of the bonuses and renown you gained from discovering the map and Altars of Lilith. However, by starting a seasonal character, you will have to redo all the side quests and dungeons you have previously completed. Also, similar to Diablo III, characters in the Seasonal Realm do not share in-game currency and stashed items with characters in the Eternal Realm (Normal/Non-seasonal) but they will be transferred when the season ends.
So essentially, you will have to start from scratch and depending on how you see it, you might not want to go through the grind again especially if you already had a level 100 character that was kitted out with the best items for your build. However, at the same time, starting from scratch will let you try out a new class and also give you the opportunity to unlock new aspects, cosmetics and gear. Blizzard has recently tweaked the EXP and renown you gain so you do level up faster.
Just three days after the launch of the Season of the Malignant, I already ran into multiple level 60-70 players on the servers. So if you are devoted and hardcore enough, you should be able to get back to level 100 in no time.
‘Tis the season to get grindy
One of the nice changes Blizzard made to the Seasonal content is the fact that now it actually has a story to it that somewhat ties into the main campaign. This is different compared to Diablo III, where the seasons had nothing to do with the overall story, it just gave you new cosmetics and gear to grind for.
In Season of the Malignant, a new form of Lilith’s corruption is plaguing Sanctuary. It is creating new types of monsters and a former priest of the Cathedral of Light, Cormond, has enlisted you to help him investigate the new threat in return, he shares with you the knowledge to capture the new creatures’ Malignant Hearts that you can socket into your amulets and rings in the place of gems. There are four types of Malignant Hearts (Vicious, Brutal, Devious and Wrathful) and in total there are 32 hearts for you to find each with its own effect that is either general or class specific. These effects can help improve your build when paired with the right aspects and skills.
New malignant forms of enemies will show up all over the map so it will not be too difficult for you to gain these hearts. On top of that, there are six new dungeon-like Malignant Tunnels that have cropped up throughout Sanctuary where not only will you find hordes of Malignant monsters but you will also need to clear them to progress through the season’s story and rid Sanctuary of this plague.
A mixed bag of gifts
Similar to other live-service games, the new season introduces the Season Journey which is split into seven chapters. You will have to complete each of these chapters to move the story of the Season of the Malignant forward. To do so, you will have to complete the various objectives, such as reaching a certain level, collecting certain crafting materials, completing a world event and so on and so forth. I heaved a sigh of relief when I found out that you actually do not have to 100% these objectives. You will still be entitled to the rewards after completing 70-80% of them. If you are a completionist, you can finish them all but you will not get anything extra by doing so.
The rewards you gain by completing the Season Journey chapters are a lot more worthwhile compared to those in the Battle Pass. The rewards in the former will give you new Legendary Aspects, a Mastery Title and a Scroll of Amnesia, which lets reset your Skill Tree and Paragon Board for free. Rewards in the latter are mainly cosmetic items and a majority of them are locked behind the Premium Tier, so it is really up to you if you want to spend extra cash to unlock these.
The only thing that I personally feel is useful from the Battle Pass is the Smoldering Ashes, available in the free tier. These can be spent on Seasons Blessings that provide you with boosts to experience and gold earned, duration of elixirs and chances of getting rare material from salvaging and items and chances of more powerful Malignant Heart drops. However, while it is easy to unlock Smoldering Ashes, you will need to reach certain levels to actually use them.
No end to this hell in sight
Once you are done with the main campaign and Season of the Malignant storyline, you can then move on to the endgame loop, which is more or less the same grind. It is all about gaining new levels and gear to perfect your build and you can do this in multiple (but same-ish) ways.
The first of the lot is by completing Whispers of the Dead for the Tree of Whispers. These are essentially timed side events that pop up all over the map and you gain one to five Grim Favours depending on the type of event you complete. By gaining 10 favours, you can then head back to the Tree of Whispers to pick one of three item caches and a heaping dose of experience as a reward.
If you have unlocked the Nightmare and Torment world tiers (Tier 3 and 4), then a Helltide will rise up in certain parts of the map. The Helltide is a truly treacherous place to be in because monsters are three levels higher than you and every so often a meteor shower will take place, where not only do these meteors hit hard but a powerful elite will usually emerge at the end of it. More often than not, my friends and I found ourselves getting swarmed by enemies and at our last sliver of health, we get insta-killed by a meteor.
However, with great risks comes great rewards, because, in the Helltide, monsters you kill drop Aberrant Cinders that can be spent on Tortured Gifts and Mystery Chests which is the most reliable way of farming Legendary equipment, especially Sacred and Ancestral gear. You will have to do a little bit of farming because opening them requires you to sacrifice between 75 to 250 cinders, depending on the chest type.
Tortured Gifts are usually tied to a single type of gear be it armour pieces, jewellery or weapons, Mystery Chests on the other hand will give you a random mix of items and you are usually guaranteed two to five legendary items. The only challenge here is the fact that, unlike Tortured Gifts, Mystery Chests do not appear on the map and do not stay in place. Depending on the area the Helltide is in, you might have to scour four to eight locations to find the Mystery Chests. Since the Helltide is a timed event (60 minutes) and you lose all your Cinders when it ends, you will find yourself in a rush to farm up as many Cinders as possible and search for these chests. This could lead to potentially deadly mistakes and you really do not want to die in a Helltide because you will lose 50% of the Cinders you have collected.
There are also two other timed events that occur frequently, these are the Gathering Legion and World Boss events. The former occurs more frequently around every 30 minutes while the latter occurs four times a day at approximately every six hours. Most players on the server will usually flock to these events so you will have a fair bit of help but it is still recommended that you participate in them only when you have a decent build. The Gathering Legion event is split into multiple timed rounds and the objective is for you to beat all the Servants of Hell to spawn an Overworld boss. The World Boss on the other hand is where you and other players will have to face off against a single but very powerful boss.
Finally, there is also the Player vs Player (PvP) zones known as the Fields of Hatred where you can earn two types of currencies, Seeds of Hatred and Red Dust. Personally, I have not delved much into PvP but from the little experience I have with it, it is similar to an Extraction Game (Escape from Tarkov, Hunt: Showdown). While you are in the Fields of Hatred killing monsters and other players will net you Seeds of Hatred, which you will need to convert into Red Dust by using Altars of Extraction. However, the moment you activate the altars, players in the area will be alerted and not only will you have to fend them off but also a horde of monsters. Once you have successfully gained your Red Dust, you can then spend them on cosmetics, mounts, scrolls and oddities at the vendors in the PvP towns. If you do not refine your Seeds of Hatred, you will lose all of them when you leave the PvP zones.
The fun is fading
So with all that has been said and done, the endgame and Season of the Malignant content have not really changed my stance on Diablo IV because essentially, the grind is still very much the same. I doubt it will change drastically over the next few seasons and updates. That is not to say it is not fun, but your mileage will vary. You could either end up playing this for months and years or you might just hang up your sword and shield after the first season.
Personally, I am already looking to invest my time in other games but since my friends are still playing, that might be the reason I continue jumping into Diablo IV every now and again. Or maybe if Blizzard decides to add a horse racing minigame or a monster farm simulator ala Stardew Valley, then maybe it might help reduce that feeling of perpetual grind for me.
Review code for the PC version of Diablo IV was provided to us by Activision-Blizzard.