Blizzard just revived Diablo 4 with a list of changes so massive that it's practically a new game

Diablo 4's Lilith
(Image credit: Tyler C. / Activision Blizzard)

Blizzard should call Diablo 4's next season Diablo 5 because the changes coming are so fundamental and widespread, it's going to feel like you're playing a full-on sequel.

After months of teasing a massive overhaul to Diablo 4's core design, Blizzard used today's Campfire Chat steam to walk through season 4's rework—which will be permanently in the game from then on—to loot and many of the game's other core systems over the course of a nearly two-hour stream.

The changes touch almost every aspect of the game, which is probably why the stream opened with game director Joe Shely defining the most important aspects of Diablo 4 as the decisions you make before combat and the ones you make in between to set up what's in store next season.

Season 4's loot rework redefines how you build your character through loot and adds much-needed complexity—and creativity—to Diablo 4's character progression.

Diablo 4's items, and your character as a result, are going to become flexible in ways they've never been since its release. A pair of gloves, for example, can drop with only a few stats, or affixes, you want, and—through two new crafting systems—these can now be shaped around the kind of build you want to play. Blizzard has clearly taken inspiration from Last Epoch and Path of Exile to add a staggering amount of customization to its loot. The hope is that the age of sorting through mountains of gear for the perfect items is finally over—and Blizzard believes it can be done without a loot filter.

A whole new way to upgrade loot

Let's walk through a theoretical example of how upgrading loot will work in season 4 and onwards:

  1. You defeat a boss who drops gloves with three stats on them (Legendary and Rare items have one fewer stat on them now) 
  2. They're almost perfect for you but will need to be Tempered at the blacksmith 
  3. You Temper your gloves with a new 'manual' item you found that adds one of four mobility-based stats (e.g. movement speed, evade cooldown reduction, etc.) 
  4. You're lucky and get the movement speed stat added to your item before using up its maximum Temper rerolls 
  5. You add one more stat that makes your Bone Splinters skill shoot more projectiles 
  6. You then use the new Masterworking system to increase all the stats, including the Tempered ones, on the gloves even further, up to 12 times 
  7. You luck out and roll the four major upgrades to your movement speed, increasing the stat dramatically (one stat jumps way up every four upgrades) 
  8. You're now the fastest necromancer that ever lived

The new variability forces you to choose what parts of a build you like the most, and should make every piece of gear exciting to upgrade.

This is, of course, a hyper-specific example. I don't think most players will want 40% bonus movement speed on their gloves, but you get the idea: You can push your favorite stats up to ridiculously high numbers on each piece of gear. And some of the stats will fundamentally change how skills work—a maxed-out Bone Splinters stat will probably cover the screen in projectiles. And that's only one example; there are plenty more for other classes to discover in season 4.

The sheer amount of different gear you can create through Tempering and Masterworking—which will replace the basic blacksmith upgrade system—is huge, and I suspect no two builds will work exactly the same as a result. Diablo 4 will never escape having meta builds, but the variability forces you to choose what parts of them you like the most, and should make every piece of gear exciting to upgrade.

The biggest changes to how you acquire loot

(Image credit: Blizzard)

To support this new system, Blizzard has made a number of other major changes to the way items, affixes, and aspects work in Diablo 4:

  • Item stats are now simplified into flat bonuses like more damage and more health
  • Items with stats like intelligence and strength will only drop for the classes they benefit the most (e.g. sorcerers won't see strength items) 
  • Legendaries in world tier 4 will almost always drop at max item power 
  • Uniques will drop in world tiers 1 and 2, and Uber Uniques can drop from level 55+ monsters—giving you build-defining items as you level up 
  • You can now trade Legendary and Unique items you haven't crafted on to other players, which will fully veer Diablo 4's economy into MMO territory 
  • The gold cost to reroll stats through enchanting will hit a cap instead of exponentially increasing 
  • Every Legendary aspect in the game will be available in the Codex of Power 
  • When you salvage Legendary items, the best aspect rolls are added to your Codex of Power for unlimited uses on other items 
  • Ancestral Legendary and Unique items (Ubers too!) can drop with stats already upgraded before you even start crafting 

Blizzard has effectively pulled the most exciting loot into the earlier parts of the game so everyone can get a taste of different builds sooner, and shifted the value of loot for endgame players who know exactly what they want away from the moment it drops. The drawback, of course, is that the chase for the best stats and best gear probably won't have a definitive end as they do now. You will simply have to decide when you're satisfied.

New endgame activities

All of these improvements will give you the extra power you'll need for Diablo 4's newest endgame activities:

  • Helltide will show up in all world tiers with more monsters and a new summonable boss
  • Andariel is a new boss who drops the same items as Duriel
  • The Pit of the Artificer houses timed, randomized dungeons of increasing difficulty (over 100 tiers) for rare crafting materials and items to summon…
  • New "Tormented" bosses who have a higher chance to drop Uber Uniques and will drop a Resplendent Spark (you need four to craft an Uber of your choice) on your first kill 

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Class changes—some of which aim to legitimize weak builds like minion necromancers—are coming too, as well as a slew of quality-of-life changes, like the ability to zoom your camera out a little more. Blizzard said the full list of patch notes will be available next week, and you can expect them to be War and Peace-sized.

To make sure season 4's launch goes smoothly, Blizzard will run a week-long playtest, or PTR, starting on April 2 for PC players using the launcher. And on May 14, Diablo 4's most pivotal season will launch, marking an entirely new era for the action RPG.

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.