Things are, somehow, getting worse in Sanctuary. The gist is that there's a curse going around in Diablo 4 Season 1, aka the "Season of the Malignant," and it's turning humans and demons even more feral than usual. On the plus side, we'll be able to slot "Malignant Hearts" into gem slots for "stupid, new broken builds," says Blizzard.
The roughly three-month-long event includes a new questline and story, seasonal mechanics, and the first Diablo 4 battle pass, which includes free and premium tiers.
When does Diablo 4 Season 1 start?
The first season of Diablo 4 began on July 20 at 10 am PT, and will run for about three months. Along with the new seasonal realm, that marked the launch of the first Diablo 4 battle pass and its 90 tiers of rewards.
A pre-season patch was released on July 18 to prepare for the update, and it turned out to be a controversial one.
What gameplay changes are coming in Season 1?
The big picture: a "festering curse" has infected Sanctuary, turning enemies and humans alike into "bloodthirsty fiends" and adding new "Malignant" items. There's a new side story quest line centered around combating this curse, led by a new character named Cormund. The story takes place after the main Diablo 4 story, and if you've already finished the campaign, you can skip it with your seasonal character to jump right in. (Otherwise, you'll have to play through the campaign on the seasonal realm to get the the new stuff.)
Alongside that new story, gameplay and gear changes will be in effect on the seasonal realm:
- Elite level monsters will have a chance to spawn as a "Partly Corrupted" variant and drop a Malignant Heart, which spawns an even more powerful "Fully Corrupted" of that enemy before you can claim its heart.
- There are 32 total Malignant Hearts with special effects that socket into jewelry like a gem would, but are ultra powerful, allowing for "stupid, new broken builds."
- Jewelry and Malignant Hearts during the season each have four possible colors that need to match for them to be paired together.
- Malignant Tunnels around the world will be a place to farm for Malignant Hearts with a higher rate of infected enemies.
- The Season Journey menu includes chapters with objectives and completion bonuses for the season.
- A new boss Varshan the Consumed will be lurking in Malignant Tunnels.
- The season will bring 6 new Unique Items and 7 Legendary Aspects
Malignant Hearts have prefixes in their names that determine what kind of power they'll grant you, it also helps you choose which corrupted monsters to seek out. Alternatively, you can craft gems at Cormund's wagon.
Here's all four types and the bonuses they give:
- Vicious Heart (red): Offensive power
- Brutal Heart (blue): Defensive power
- Devious Heart (pink): Utility power
- Wrathful Heart (white/gray): Super power
How to access Diablo 4 Season 1 content
Unlike a lot of other games, Diablo's seasons won't give you more to do with your existing, max-level characters, which has caused some confusion for newcomers.
Instead, participating in each season means making a new character on the seasonal realm. If you've completed the campaign in the eternal realm, you will have the option to skip the campaign when you start your seasonal character, jumping right into the new seasonal questline and mechanics.
Diablo 4 is expected to have four seasons per year, lasting around three months each, so Season 1 won't end until sometime in October or November. You won't lose your Season 1 characters when the season ends: They'll be transferred to the eternal realm and become regular characters, without some of their special seasonal powers.
Here's a quick breakdown of what this looks like:
- Normal mode, "Eternal Realm" characters can't be used in season 1
- You must make a new character on the Seasonal Realm (there's a prompt at the end of character creation)
- You must complete the campaign to access the new seasonal questline
- Campaign completion on any realm, or mode, allows you to skip it on any character created afterward, including Seasonal Realm characters
- Campaign progress doesn't carry over between the Eternal and Seasonal Realms (so finish the campaign on whichever of your characters is furthest before creating your seasonal character)
- Seasonal Realm characters start at level 1 but carry over map discovery, Altars of Lilith, and any Renown gained from either of them
- When the season ends, your character and their items (minus Malignant Hearts) are permanently returned to the Eternal Realm
When you transition from an eternal realm character to a seasonal character, you'll retain all the fog of war you've cleared from the map, the renown you've earned, and Altars of Lilith you've unlocked.
How Diablo 4's battle pass works
The first battle pass includes 27 free tiers and 63 premium tiers. The premium track costs 1,000 Platinum ($10). The free tiers unlock cosmetic items and Smoldering Ashes, which can be used to purchase Seasons Blessings: boosters for gold, XP, or Obol earning. The premium tiers only unlock cosmetic items and Platinum, Diablo 4's real money currency, which is used to buy cosmetics in the Shop.
You'll earn battle pass tiers by advancing in the "Season Journey" and killing monsters with your seasonal character. See our Diablo 4 battle pass guide for more.