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13 things to know before starting Diablo 4

There's a lot to learn before diving into the world of Sanctuary

Lilith stares angrily while standing in front of a blood red backdrop in key art for Diablo 4. Image: Blizzard/Activision

Diablo 4, an isometric ARPG about pressing X to fight the hordes of hell, is here, and as dense as a certain infamous poem about its domain.

After multiple betas and years of teases, the game is finally available on both consoles and PC. But even if you’re familiar with Diablo 3 or other games in the series, Blizzard has modernized Diablo 4 in some pretty surprising ways, including both MMO and open-world elements.

It can be easy to get lost in all the game’s systems — even if you’re a veteran. So we’ve got tips for you before you start. Stay a while and listen, won’t you?

Try out all five classes

Diablo 4 lets you create up to ten characters across five different classes: Barbarian, Necromancer, Druid, Rogue, and Sorcerer. Ideally you already know which class you want to play, either because you tested them out in the beta for yourself or you just love a specific kind of fantasy game archetype.

But regardless of which class you choose, you should consider spending some serious time with the other classes as well. Diablo 4 is a long game, and you’re going to spend a lot of time perfecting the loot on a single character. Unless you’re dead set on one class, it’s a great idea to spend a bit of time with all the classes before you get too far in, so you’re able choose and then invest properly in your favorite of the five.

Even if you’re confident that Barbarian is the only class for you, consider trying the others just to gain knowledge of what your co-op friends or random allies of other classes are capable of. And who knows, maybe when you need to roll a new character next season, you’ll try your hand at a Necromancer or Druid instead.

Change your looting options

Looting options in Diablo 4 / IV. Item Label Duration set to 10 seconds and set to toggleable. Gameplay settings. Image: Blizzard Entertainment via Polygon

Nothing is more core to Diablo than the loot grind. Finding gear buffs your build, allowing you to effortlessly hack and slash your way through even the beefiest enemies. But in Diablo 4, you may notice that the drops “disappear” off of the floor.

By default, item labels will fade away after being on the floor for 10 seconds, but you can change the display to be toggleable. There will be a lot of moments where you’re fighting against enemies and loot will drop, but the fight will extend past those measly 10 seconds. You’ll “lose” your gear, but in reality, it’s still there on the floor, just not visible. Head over to the “gameplay” tab in your settings, and scroll down to the Item Label Display to set your desired settings.

You have to manually unlock waypoints

A sorcerer stands near the Kyovashad waypoint in the Diablo 4 beta. Image: Blizzard/Activision via Polygon

You can fast travel to any waypoint you’ve visited. Thing is, unlike most games, which automatically unlock fast travel spots when you pass them, you have to manually interact with it. The prompt is simple (press “X,” at least on PlayStation) but make sure to do it, lest you find yourself trapped, cold and alone, in the depths of a dungeon, getting repeatedly obliterated by a boss who seriously outranks you.

Use the map’s pin feature to get where you’re going

Diablo 4 doesn’t allow you to move while keeping your map open — a staple of the genre — which can lead to a lot of time spent pulling the map up to figure out where the hell you’re going. But there’s an easy solution to all your navigation problems: the pin.

If you pull up your map, you’ll see a control prompt for the pin (square on PlayStation) on the bottom border. Dropping this pin is like creating a waypoint, and your mini-map will display a red line leading you to wherever you want to go. This is great for finding main quest objectives, but it’s especially good for finding the Altars of Lilith scattered around the world of Sanctuary.

Weapons degrade when you die

There aren’t many drawbacks to dying in Diablo 4 (unless you’re playing a Hardcore character); checkpoints are generous, and respawns don’t take much time at all. Still, there’s one repercussion: Every time you die, your gear will degrade a little bit.

Respec is free — to a point

There’s no risk in trying out skills you’re unsure about, at least in the early goings. You can respec classes with no repercussion up to level 15. It’s an easy way to see if you like certain parts of the skill tree before committing fully. For example, if you’re playing a Sorcerer, swap builds between ice, fire, and lightning magic in the early goings to see which type of magic you prefer most.

After level 15, you’ll need to pay some gold. But the cost isn’t so expensive that you’ll never be able to swap your build to something else if you’d prefer. So experiment early, but don’t stress if you want to experiment a bit later as well.

Dismantle gear instead of selling it

You can automatically mark loot as junk (Square on PlayStation). Selling junk in bulk can earn you a decent chunk of change, but honestly, you’ll naturally earn plenty of gold through defeating enemies and looting chests. You’re better off dismantling your junk gear at the blacksmith. Every time you dismantle an item for the first time (say, an Apprentice’s Wand weapon), you’ll then unlock that item in your transmog wardrobe.

The only caveat here is if you know you’re planning on re-doing your skill tree anytime soon — in which case you can swap to selling your items instead. The beauty of Diablo 4’s economy is that you can swap between selling and salvaging based on your needs. But if you’re just starting out and want to know which reserves to build up first, you definitely want to start filling your pockets with the magical materials you earn by destroying your gear at the blacksmith.

Don’t sleep on Aspects

Aspects are passive abilities that you can add onto your gear to either add an effect or modify an existing one. You gain them by completing dungeons or extracting them from an item you own (more on that in a sec). These passives can upgrade your abilities, increase your damage, bulk up your defenses, or provide your character with more utility. Employing aspects is necessary to make your characters stronger and improve your build to easily take down the mightiest enemies.

While Aspects are mostly important for endgame builds, there’s nothing wrong with spending some resources to get your character going early on in the game — before you reach level 50. These Aspects can create an incredible power spike for your hero, allowing you to speed through some bosses and content that might’ve otherwise given you some trouble.

How to extract Aspects from your gear

Aspects in Diablo 4 / IV. Additional chain lightning propagations with the addition of this aspect. Sorceress. Red gear. Image: Blizzard Entertainment via Polygon

If you have a piece of gear with a passive you really enjoy but find a new piece of equipment with better base stats, you can transfer the passive over to the new gear. Head over to the Occultist in the northwest corner of Kyovashad and extract the passive from your old gear to receive the Aspect (though this will destroy your old gear in the process). You can then imprint the Aspect onto your new gear at the cost of a few rare crafting materials, which you can get by salvaging your unnecessary gear.

The side content is definitely worth it

Renown screen in Diablo 4 / IV showing the possible rewards you can receive in that specific region along with the challenges/collectibles you must do to increase your renown Image: Blizzard Entertainment via Polygon

In each region of Diablo 4, you’ll earn Renown by completing a variety of challenges such as clearing Strongholds, completing side quests, and tracking down Altars of Lilith. After you hit a Renown milestone, you’ll receive rewards for either your current character or all of the characters on the realm. Some of the rewards include bonus experience and gold, extra skill points, more potion charges, and even Paragon Points, which will be extremely useful for the late game.

But consider waiting until you unlock your mount

Diablo 4 finally adds mounts to the series, and they seriously speed up your adventuring around Sanctuary. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to unlock your horse until after you mainline the story for a bit. Consider ignoring the various side activities until you’re able to travel around on the back of your noble steed, which should be when you’re between level 30 and 40.

You may delay some Renown levels if you wait, but you’ll seriously cut down on your walking time in the long run.

Participate in random events around the map

As you’re exploring Sanctuary, you may see an orange circle on your minimap. These circles indicate that there is an event taking place in the area. These events can range from protecting civilians, eliminating enemies in the area, or escorting a ghostly spirit from one point to another. They may not seem like the most enticing tasks, but these events are an easy way to get gear. A chest will spawn after you successfully complete each event; this guarantees gear (or the occasional unique).

Play on World Tier 1 (at first)

The World Tiers in Diablo 4 are difficulty levels, but they’re not “easy, medium, hard, and super hard” the way they may seem. Each difficulty level gives bonuses to XP and gold, but they also increase enemy health and damage. They’re designed not only for “good players” but “good players with good gear.”

Even if you’re someone who doesn’t typically like playing games on lower difficulties, you should play on World Tier 1 until you get some solid loot under your belt. Some classes — especially Druid and Barbarian — will really struggle in the first 30 levels or so against some of the campaign bosses on World Tier 2, and you’ll potentially waste a lot of time slamming against them if you still have bad gear.

The bosses and campaign monsters won’t just fall over on World Tier 1 or anything, but you’ll have a much better time if you aren’t decked out in Legendaries yet.

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