Diablo 4’s Season of Blood brings some cool new vampire powers into the fold, but the real star of the action game’s second season is its sweeping quality-of-life changes. Players will now have an easier time leveling up, gaining quality loot, and just navigating the open world of Sanctuary.
Game director Joe Shely and associate game director Joe Piepiora sat down to do a roundtable interview with Polygon and other outlets ahead of Blizzard’s Oct. 4th livestream, and gave additional context to Nightmare Dungeon changes, Renown, and more.
One of the most notable changes for players in Diablo 4’s second season update will be an increase in experience gains. Blizzard claims players will be able to reach the level cap of 100 about 40% faster than in Season of the Malignant — which already increased experience gains compared to Diablo 4’s launch. This process should be much smoother for players as well, as monsters will now match their levels between 55 and 75.
Shely told the panel that last season, players set a goal for themselves: Get to level 100. However, many players found that they were never able to hit that milestone because XP gains were so slow. This change should allow more players to reach the level cap each season, allowing them to play with a truly maxed-out build.
As for how players will spend their time at max level and where they’ll be able to earn some of the game’s most powerful items, enter the five new endgame bosses: Grigoire The Galvanic Saint, the Echo of Varshan, The Beast in the Ice, the Dark Master, and the Echo of Duriel. Each boss has its own laundry list of busy work for players to complete in order to unlock their encounter — such as completing Nightmare Dungeons above level 30 or completing Grim Favors — but they also come with Unique rewards. That’s Unique with a capital U.
Because the bosses each offer their own pool of Unique items, this process makes farming for that special helmet that much easier. Instead of running dungeons and hoping the desired item drops, players can just gather all the materials, kill The Beast in the Ice, and then do it all again if they don’t get what they wanted. The Echo of Duriel is perhaps the most interesting of the five, as Duriel has a chance to drop the ultimate, super-rare, uber Uniques that were previously almost impossible to acquire. To compensate, players will need to kill the four other endgame bosses each time they want to face Duriel.
Blizzard’s designers didn’t build these bosses to be as tough as the ultimate Uber Lilith fight. However, these bosses will (hopefully) prove a challenge to most players while still giving them a targeted way to farm some must-have items. The Echo of Duriel (who is level 100) will be the most difficult of the new bosses, but the reward will obviously be worth the struggle, considering he’s the only way for players to farm Uber Uniques in Diablo 4. For players who have more in-game gold than time, Blizzard also confirmed in our interview that players will be able to trade with one another to get the items needed to summon Duriel and the other bosses.
While these bosses are a form of milestone activity for players, Nightmare Dungeons will still exist as places to both farm for better items and push builds to their limit. However, the dungeons are becoming much simpler and less grindy. The design team has reworked several Nightmare Dungeon affixes to make them less obnoxious, and Nightmare Sigils now teleport players directly into the dungeon instead of to the door.
Teleporting to Nightmare Dungeons is one thing, but players will still need to ride their horses around the world if they want to reach events like Helltides and the new seasonal activity, Blood Harvest. Thankfully, mounts have also been improved in season 2. Horses are now faster, and their dashes will allow them to break through barricades in the roads. Shely told us that the mounts should be more intelligent as well, and they won’t get stuck on objects in the world as easily as before.
Two of the other biggest pain points — gems and Renown — are also getting addressed in this season.
The grind to accrue Renown — the resource players get for completing activities in each area — is no longer something players will need to partake in every season. Much like the Altars of Lilith change in season 1, players who’ve fully unlocked their Renown track with one character will never have to do it again.
Previously, players would have to max out their Renown — which all but required doing nearly every dungeon and most side quests in the game — every season in order to get all available Skill and Paragon Points. Not only is that not the case anymore, but (unlike with the Altars of Lilith carryover) you won’t need to first log into a character that’s completed the Renown track in order to propagate that data to the rest of your account. Piepiora told us that all of that data migration should happen without that extra step in season 2.
This is yet another massive 180 on the Renown system from Blizzard in barely five months’ time. When we asked about the massive shift, Piepiora told us that players simply weren’t having fun redoing the grind every season, hence the move here (as with the Altars last season) to alleviate the pressure on players to only play “efficiently.”
As for gems, these items will no longer take up bag space, as they’re now considered crafting materials. This change comes alongside a massive upgrade to the Stash itself. Stashes now appear in more locations — including all minor towns with a Waypoint in them — and players can search their Stashes for specific items and affixes.
These are just a handful of the major changes coming to Diablo 4 with Season of Blood. Shely and Piepiora told us that the focus on quality-of-life upgrades was largely due to season 2 being the first season where they and the rest of the Diablo 4 team could really listen to feedback. Because of how close Season of the Malignant launched after the release of Diablo 4 (just over a month), that season’s content was largely finished before players had really gotten to dive into the action-RPG. However, with season 2, Blizzard has been able to react more to player feedback and finally create some sweeping, specific changes that players have been requesting.
All of these changes, as well as the content for Season of Blood, will come to the game on Oct. 17, just a few weeks before fans are expecting Blizzard to announce Diablo 4’s first expansion at BlizzCon 2023.