Diablo 4 having its first Season so soon after launch was a mistake

Prava, a character in Diablo 4
(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

I’ve been avoiding writing this for over two weeks now, but I need to just stand up and admit it. I’m a Diablo 4 addict, and I love the franchise with every fiber of my being. But I’m burnt out with the game right now, and I think I know why.

Most of my hesitancy has been due to the original discourse around the implementation of Season mode, which I was vehemently in favor of. And don’t get me wrong, I still am. Having a seasonal reset is integral to keeping an ARPG like Diablo 4 fresh and exciting and something we longer-term fans enjoy and look forward to.

So why aren’t I playing right now? What has changed since the game’s launch that has made me lose interest and motivation? And more importantly, what can be done to fix it?

Season 1: Too much, too soon?

Lilith in Diablo 4

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Diablo 4 was released on June 6 to resoundingly positive reviews and incredible sales figures, becoming the fastest-selling game ever for Blizzard. The base game and campaign are the best Diablo game I have ever played, with a story that has gut-wrenching twists and turns and no clear path to good or evil. I stand by my opinion that this is the best Diablo game we have ever had at launch.

With all that in mind, I feel like Blizzard could have ridden the glory train a bit longer. They admitted in a campfire chat a few weeks later when discussing the implementation of Season mode, that many players were still not done with the main campaign. So why exactly the rush to get Season 1 out the door by July?

While many pro streamers had already hit level 100 and taken down Uber Lilith, most casual players like myself were still working our way up to that level. And personally, as soon as I knew the date that Season 1 was going to begin, at level 76, I stopped playing. I figured when Season 1 started, due to the reroll, I would just hit my level 100 goal in that season. With the XP buffs through the battle pass and the new Season of the Malignant mechanics, it would be more fun, right? Well… after a few days of playing, I just wasn’t feeling it.

A rushed and underwhelming start

The announcement for Season 1 and simultaneous patch was met with uproar from the fanbase, but it was almost worth it for the memes. (Image credit: Jennifer Young - Windows Central)

When Season of the Malignant was revealed, I wasn’t surprised that it didn’t offer much in the way of drastic changes to the game. And it didn’t need to. If Blizzard delivers new and engaging content with each season, they don’t need to come out with a bang on Season 1 and create a problem where they are constantly trying to outdo themselves. It just needed to be a smooth introduction to how a season worked, with a small new activity to participate in.

And it was, but the power offered by the Malignant Hearts you can collect in the game wasn’t aspirational enough for me. I ignored the new season mechanic almost entirely, as using the hearts didn’t exactly make me feel the power fantasy I’m looking for in a game like this. Probably not helped by the across-the-board nerfs that were made to certain damage types in the controversial Patch 1.1.

Also, Season 1 just didn’t feel like a true season I’ve come to expect from Diablo. One of the main attractions is having a leaderboard and seeing what the top builds are on that board. What items are the top dogs using? Where do I stack on the list regarding power against my friends playing the game? Can I be the 3254th Rogue in the world this season? But we don’t have a leaderboard at all. Even more baffling, Diablo 3, the game preparing to go into maintenance mode, is getting a brand new leaderboard and mode in the form of Solo Self-Found. Something fans have been asking for for years, and it’s been implemented in Diablo 3, while in Diablo 4, we are waiting for leaderboards. Why Blizz?

When asked when leaderboards would be implemented in Diablo 4, developers have said it’s being worked on, and they hope to have it in place by Season 3. Which begs the question, why didn’t they just wait until the leaderboard function was ready before implementing seasons? I’d rather have a fully-fledged board than a half-baked attempt at a season.

Previous installments of Diablo have enjoyed more time to cook before throwing players into seasons. Diablo 2 was released in 2000 but didn’t get season mode until 2003. Diablo 3 was released in 2012 and didn’t start seasons until 2014. While Diablo 4 does follow a different monetization model and probably needs an incentive to sell regular battle passes, I don’t think a six-month wait would have been a bad idea.

A lack of rewarding goals

My Galactic Wings earned in Diablo 3 Seasons (Image credit: Jennifer Young - Windows Central)

My other gripe with Season of the Malignant is that none of the Battle Pass rewards appeal to me, which kills my ambition to complete it. In contrast, with every season in Diablo 3, there was something tasty to receive at the end of your Season Journey. Whether that be a gleaming set of galaxy star-studded wings or a new pet, there was something you wanted to chase to show you had completed all the challenges laid out before you.

The cosmetics in Diablo 4 are absolutely gorgeous. I love the armor and weaponry available in the game, and the artists involved in making them have spent a great deal of time making them look good. You can look just as badass at level 10 as at level 100. The issue with this is that there is nothing on the Battle Pass or within the Season Rewards that’s remarkably different or eye-catching compared to what is already available. Let alone the fact that you barely see your character up close.

Public play is both encouraged and discouraged

Diablo 4 - Season of the Malignant

The cosmetics in Diablo 4 are great, but outside of the Battle Pass you barely see them. (Image credit: Jennifer Young - Windows Central)

On earning great cosmetics, there’s nowhere to really ‘flex’ your hard-earned items. Diablo 4 is the first title that’s MMO-lite, with a shared overworld with other online players, yet you only ever see them in random events or an occasional ride past on your horse in town. There’s no way to search and join other players in a lobby, again something we already had in Diablo 2: Resurrected and Diablo 3. We could search for other players completing bounties or Nephalem rifts, and better yet, we could check out each other’s gear on a loading screen. You better believe I wore my obnoxious wings to every public game.

Lobbies are another feature that’s been promised as coming soon, but again I ask… then, why didn’t we just wait and start seasons when they could be fully fleshed out?

Many players have expressed their frustration and disappointment with the lack of public lobbies in Diablo 4, as they feel it hinders the social aspect and the game's cooperative gameplay. Some players have even resorted to using third-party websites or apps to find groups or clans to play with. This is not ideal, as it adds extra hassle and risk for the players who just want to enjoy the game with others. Without public lobbies, Diablo 4 feels like a lonely and isolated experience, which goes against the spirit of the game.

Nightmare dungeons? More like Nightmare inventory management

Inarius holding his sneaky secrets

I would side with Inarius if he would just sort out my gem bag. (Image credit: Windows Central)

This will sound extremely nitpicky, but I hate inventory management in games. The longer I spend salvaging, moving items around, and puzzling over what to keep and sell, the less time I have to play and enjoy the game. And the inventory management in Diablo 4 is awful.

It’s not implemented differently between PC and console, and I know I’m repeating myself here, but we already had this in Diablo 3. An easy-to-use radial menu and categorized equipment, so I could see all my boots, helms, jewelry, etc., in one nifty place and navigate it with a controller in seconds. Diablo 4 treats PC and console players equally, so you must go through everything individually. In addition to this, gems take up a bunch of space in your inventory, and rather than go through combining them at the jeweler or putting them into my stash, I lose patience very quickly and end up selling them all.

While we’ve been promised a dedicated gem bag for Season 2, Blizzard decided to make it just that bit more infuriating for Season of the Malignant. The Malignant Hearts count as gems and will also fill up your inventory fast and need to be salvaged.

This, combined with a stash that arranges aspects (legendary affixes) by rarity rather than name, makes inventory management tiring. I’m normally excited to level up my chosen class and then play another during a season. Still, I’m not encouraged to experiment because storing items from two characters would just push my patience to the limits.

On top of inventory management woes, visiting all the vendors and crafters you need when trying to play efficiently is a slog. They are spaced a curious way apart, as if the game wants you to spend more time in town at the tavern talking about your adventures rather than being out in the world slaughtering demons. You know what I’m going to say here: this was better in Diablo 3. In adventure mode, the vendors were all brought closer together so we could spend less time crafting and selling and more time bludgeoning and earning XP.

Diablo 4 is a game in progress

Diablo 4 Campfire Chat

The Campfire Chats have been a great way to discuss changes with the community, and I hope they are here to stay. (Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Diablo 4 is a live service game, and it will go through many more teething problems before we reach perfection, if ever. I’m ok with that. I don’t want to constantly compare a brand-new game to others like Diablo 2 and 3, which have had 10-15 years of development and community feedback. As a live service game, Diablo 4 is expected to evolve and improve over time, with regular updates and patches that add new content, features, and fixes to the game. However, this also means that the game is subject to change and experimentation, which may not always please the players or meet their expectations — including mine, a diehard fan girl.

What I can’t accept, though, is when Diablo 4 makes mistakes, it should have learned from its previous editions.

Blizzard already has data by the bucketload from Diablo 2 and 3 on what people enjoy doing in Sanctuary and what they do not, and I wish I’d seen some of the quality of life features we had already, kept for Diablo 4 rather than promised at a later date. This and other issues I’ve mentioned are already well on the development team’s radar, and they’ve given perfectly good reasons in the Campfire Chats for not implementing some things like extra stash space, all reasons I could accept fully had they just held back on throwing us into season play so soon. Season 1 may have been a premature launch for a live service game, but it may also be a valuable learning experience for Blizzard and the players.

It's still my Game of the Year

Diablo 4 Collectors Box

I bought the Collectors Box and the game 3 times, so don't tell me I don't love it, but it's ok to see it's shortcomings. (Image credit: Jennifer Young - WIndows Central)

Not to rag on Diablo 4 completely, but it’s still a great game that I love and appreciate. I’ve waited a long time for this game, and my first playthrough in review and second when the game was released was mesmerizing. The final cutscenes were an experience I’ll never forget, and the campaign was an absolute triumph.

Season mode is supposed to be a fun and exciting feature that adds variety and challenge to Diablo 4. Still, I think it was introduced too early without consideration for the game quality. Instead of enhancing the game, it has somewhat diminished it for me, but I certainly won't be giving up on it.

The endgame needs some work to make me want to stay on the hamster wheel, and I have every confidence that Diablo 4 will get there in time. This is its first live service game, and there will be hiccups along the way, which I can accept as long as they are addressed and improved.

For now, I’m taking a break, playing other titles. While I’ll certainly be checking out Season 2, I’m also hoping that most of the basic quality-of-life changes we need to make the endgame more enjoyable are implemented by Season 3. Because, at the end of the day, Diablo 4 is still my game of choice when it comes to slaying demons and looting treasures. I believe in you, Blizz!

Jennifer Young

Jen is a News Writer for Windows Central, focused on all things gaming and Microsoft. Anything slaying monsters with magical weapons will get a thumbs up such as Dark Souls, Dragon Age, Diablo, and Monster Hunter. When not playing games, she'll be watching a horror or trash reality TV show, she hasn't decided which of those categories the Kardashians fit into. You can follow Jen on Twitter @Jenbox360 for more Diablo fangirling and general moaning about British weather.