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Diablo 4’s first season is off to a rocky start before it even begins

Community in revolt at patch 1.1: ‘Everything is worse’

Diablo 4’s classes in battle Image: Blizzard Entertainment
Oli Welsh is senior editor, U.K., providing news, analysis, and criticism of film, TV, and games. He has been covering the business & culture of video games for two decades.

Diablo 4’s first season, Season of the Malignant, begins Thursday at 1 p.m. EDT. This should have been an exciting moment for fans of the game, but instead the community finds itself in open revolt over the hugely unpopular changes in Tuesday’s pre-season update, patch 1.1.

The patch is short on buffs and long — very, very long — on nerfs. Players’ defense and damage have been reduced, and leveling progress has been significantly slowed, especially in later levels and on higher World Tiers. Even the Sorcerer class, which players agree is the most underpowered in the game and has a serious build diversity problem, was nerfed instead of buffed. Both the Diablo 4 and Diablo subreddits are overwhelmed with complaints about the patch.

Streamer Asmongold summed the situation up in the opening minutes of a video discussing the update. “Number one: Everything is worse,” he said. “Number two: Everything is harder. Number three: Everything you were doing, now you have to work harder to do it again. Number four: Leveling — slower.

“Number five: Helltides — worse,” he continued, referring to the late-game activity in which sections of the map are overrun with high-level monsters. “Damage reduction: reduced. Vulnerability: gutted. Good decision, by the way. I agree with the vulnerability decision, I think it’s smart.” Vulnerability is a mechanic via which players do more damage to monsters that have been put in a vulnerable state, and it was so overpowered that a damage multiplier against vulnerable monsters had become the most powerful, sought-after stat in the game.

“However,” Asmongold said, “everything else kind of sucks. Now, obviously there have been some really big problems in the game, like resistances not working, people running out of storage space, Necromancers not having a viable minion build, characters not being fun to play at the early game. Rest assured: None of those things are fixed.”

There were early signs that Blizzard had gone into damage control mode, with a livestream addressing the changes announced for Friday. “We have been hearing feedback from players regarding some of the changes in 1.1.0,” community development director Adam Fletcher said late Tuesday. “We are going to have a Campfire Chat later this week on Friday to talk more about it.”

Some changes are already being reversed. One of the most controversial changes in the patch — not detailed in the patch notes, but quickly spotted by players — was the introduction of minimum level requirements for the third and fourth World Tiers (effectively difficulty levels). This might have been intended to block the practice of higher-level characters being able to group up with low-level players and boost them through the levels at tremendous speed by carrying them into the higher World Tiers.

But it also cut off an avenue for better XP gain and faster progress for skilled players leveling their characters — something the patch had already targeted by reducing the experience reward for killing monsters at a higher level than the player, and by lowering the level of monsters so they trail the player by up to five levels. It seems Blizzard has had a change of heart about the level gating already. “We will be removing the level requirement for World Tier 3 & 4,” Fletcher tweeted.

The feeling among players is that Blizzard’s intent is to make Diablo 4 feel harder, and to slow down progress toward the later levels — a part of the game that had already come in for criticism around its lack of content and poor loot rewards. But, players say, in seeking to delay players’ arrival at those late-game problems, Blizzard has actually make them worse, with the side effect of making the entire game less fun to play.

Another school of thought is that the general nerf to player power is intended to balance out the increased power that will be available from the season’s Malignant Hearts mechanic — though this would be to the detriment of players who choose not to roll new seasonal characters and continue playing on the game’s so-called Eternal Realm.

Diablo 4 has been a huge hit for Blizzard, and the launch of its first season and attendant Battle Pass is the moment its ambitions as a live service game kick into high gear. Blizzard will need to be very persuasive in Friday’s Campfire Chat livestream to keep the game’s core community on side at this crucial moment.

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