Diablo 4's first season, the Season of the Malignant, begins on Thursday, July 20. You'll have to create an entirely new character to access the new seasonal questline and items. The journey from level 1 to level 50 (and then level 100) can be a pain, but there are a few things you can do right now to speed up the process.
It's completely up to you if you want to continue playing your current character, which Diablo 4 classifies as an "Eternal Realm" character. The Eternal Realm is a fancy name for Diablo 4's normal mode for non-seasonal characters. Non-seasonal characters can never enter the Seasonal Realm, but some of their progress carries over.
I've taken all 5 things you can do to prepare for Diablo 4's first season and ordered them by importance. Nothing in here is absolutely necessary, but each of them can help you skip straight to the season's newest activities.
1. Finish the campaign
At the beginning of act 4 in Diablo 4's campaign, you'll get a side quest to unlock your horse. Although Diablo 4 lets you complete each of the first three acts in any order, act 4 doesn't unlock until you finish all of them. Once you do, you can get the quest, Mount: Donan's Favor, which sends you to the stable master in the city of Kyovashad.
Finish the quest and then every character on your account will be able to ride a horse no matter what level they are, including seasonal characters.
Diablo 4 only requires you to finish its six-act campaign once before it will let you skip it on any future character you make, including seasonal characters. If you're only halfway through it and make a new character on the Seasonal Realm, you'll be forced to start over. This is only a problem because the new seasonal questline and the new rare seasonal gems won't be available until after the campaign. You need to either finish the campaign beforehand and choose to skip it with your new seasonal character or finish it on the Seasonal Realm.
I highly recommend finishing the campaign so you're not stuck in it when the season launches. Doing so will help you with all future seasons. You'll have the option to skip the campaign whenever you make a new character and start the game at level 1 with a variety of endgame things to do. And chances are, those things will earn you a lot more XP than the campaign.
2. Find all 160 Altars of Lilith
Altars of Lilith are statues scattered around the open world that you can interact with for permanent, small stat bonuses. They also earn you Renown for the region you found them in. Every Altar of Lilith you find is permanent for your entire account—that means all characters—and their bonuses and Renown will carry over into each new season.
The stats are nice, but it's the Renown that will jumpstart your leveling experience for every season. Each region rewards you with skill points, Paragon points, potion capacity, and Orbol capacity for gathering enough Renown by thoroughly completing everything in it.
Altars of Lilith are one of six things you need to complete a region's Renown bonuses. By having them done early, you can start the season off with a powerful level 1 character to blaze through the early levels.
3. Discover every area on the map
Revealing the cloudy parts of Diablo 4's map, also known as the "fog of war," is permanent for every character on your account, including seasonal characters. A clear map will let you easily pinpoint where dungeons and towns are located, but most importantly, it'll net you more Renown for that region. More Renown means you'll start off with extra skill points and potion capacity.
Map discovery comes naturally if you're starting fresh and have the campaign to do or if you tackle the previous tips. While you dart between objectives or Altars of Lilith, make sure to tuck into areas you haven't discovered to save yourself time later. The renown you get per discovered area is pretty tiny, so if you have limited time, hit up the Altars of Lilith first.
4. Choose a class
Diablo 4 seasons are sort of like fun experiments that last a handful of months, which means they're the perfect excuse to play a class you haven't touched yet. The new items and balance changes will shape how each class plays and the relatively short season length prevents any one build from overstaying its welcome.
A list of balance changes are due out on July 18, so the state of each class might shift, but right now the rough tier list looks like this (sorted from best to worst):
- Rogue (Huge build variety, strong for endgame)
- Barbarian (Good build variety, strong for endgame)
- Necromancer (Good build variety, good for endgame)
- Druid (Low build variety, exceptional for endgame)
- Sorcerer (Good build variety, weak for endgame)
Some classes are much better for clearing endgame activities like Nightmare Dungeons, while others are just a blast to level up. Given that we don't know what the Malignant Hearts in season 1 will look like yet, you shouldn't worry too much about the class rankings and just pick one you think you'll enjoy, be it based on aesthetics or a favorite skill.
5. Start on World Tier 1 Adventurer
World Tier 1, or Adventurer difficulty is a great starting place if you want to race to level 50 and World Tier 3. World Tier 1 doesn't give any bonuses to XP or gold drop rate, but the leveling process is much smoother than playing on World Tier 2. I'd only recommend World Tier 2 if you want to take your time and face off against monsters who are somewhat of a challenge.
Otherwise, your goal should be to unlock and finish the capstone dungeon to get into World Tier 3 as fast as possible. Once you're in, you can start picking up Sacred and Unique items. You can essentially skip a phase of gearing up by jumping straight into World Tier 3.
Diablo 4 season 1 launches on July 20.