Blizzard's late-night emergency patch saved Diablo 4's most controversial season yet

Diablo 4 season 3 screenshot of Rogue and Seneschal construct companion
(Image credit: Tyler C. / Blizzard)

Last week, Blizzard learned just how little Diablo 4 players want to avoid traps while doing dungeons. Reddit and social media were ablaze with criticisms over season 3's new vaults and the robot companion. It was as if the success of season 2 was an anomaly and Diablo 4 would go back to being the tedious grind it was when it launched.

But late on Friday, Blizzard dropped a patch that targeted the season's worst issues: the traps and the rate at which your companion's skills upgrade. Vaults are considerably easier now and the robot spider takes no time to grow into a powerful companion. The Reddit threads died down and people seem happy. Season 3 is saved.

Before the patch, the amount of loot you got at the end of a vault would depend on how many traps you ran into. Each trap you tripped would remove some of your Zoltun's Warding buff, earned with Pearls of Warding unique to the season. Screw up enough times and you'd lose too many stacks to open the bonus chests at the end. Players started bolting through traps just for the single guaranteed chest instead of trying to maintain the buff for the extra rewards.

Friday's patch more than tripled the amount of buff stacks you gain at the start of a vault, effectively giving players permission to keep stumbling through traps instead of avoiding them. I spent the weekend blasting through vaults and haven't missed out on a single chest. What was once a gamble is now a guaranteed way to fill my entire inventory with loot in maybe five minutes. And the XP is fantastic, too. Vaults have effectively replaced Nightmare Dungeons as the primary endgame activity, and while I think they might get old by the end of the season, they're so rewarding it's hard to complain.

Blizzard juiced up the robot companion in the same patch by dramatically increasing how fast it levels up. The Governing and Tuning Stones you find to customize how it fights drop more frequently and require fewer duplicates to level up each skill. Its damage output is still a little low until you've maxed everything out, but its protective buffs have kept me alive against the monsters in high-level vaults. I finally see what Blizzard meant when it emphasized how strong our little spider buddies could be.

(Image credit: Tyler C. / Blizzard)

Now, season 3's new systems have a satisfying loop: You complete open world events for vault materials, spend those on vaults for companion upgrades and gear, and then repeat all that until you're strong enough to kill the new boss—who can drop two extraordinarily powerful Tuning Stones. Items are still a pain to parse given how many pointless stats exist in Diablo 4, but that's something Blizzard plans to fix next season. And you could argue that rushing through traps defeats their purpose. But the community's flip from rage to praise after Blizzard's quick turnaround on the patch will hopefully highlight why season 2 was great and a philosophy that should be followed in the future: Diablo 4 is simply more fun when it's generous to everyone.

We're all farming the same handful of vaults over and over for piles of loot that often aren't that good, and yet it's still much better than not doing that. Character progression, whether it's leveling up or gearing up, is wicked fast again, which has opened the door for new builds as people get back to experimenting. This is the kind of creativity and excitement you want in a Diablo game, especially as people prepare for The Gauntlet, a fixed weekly dungeon with leaderboards coming later in the season.

Blizzard's solutions for season 3's problems show a willingness to just let players have their fun and accept that not every new idea works out as intended. A much improved reception for the season doesn't offset the fact that Microsoft laid off 1,900 Activision-Blizzard employees in the same week, unfortunately—a devasting loss that surely didn't make working on a patch like this any easier. If anything though, it shows Blizzard's ability to interpret feedback and stay flexible, which will be crucial as we get closer to the big changes in season 4 and the Vessel of Hatred expansion later this year.

Associate Editor

Tyler has covered games, games culture, and hardware for over a decade before joining PC Gamer as Associate Editor. He's done in-depth reporting on communities and games as well as criticism for sites like Polygon, Wired, and Waypoint. He's interested in the weird and the fascinating when it comes to games, spending time probing for stories and talking to the people involved. Tyler loves sinking into games like Final Fantasy 14, Overwatch, and Dark Souls to see what makes them tick and pluck out the parts worth talking about. His goal is to talk about games the way they are: broken, beautiful, and bizarre.