Blizzard 'learned a lot of lessons' from having to emergency fix Diablo 4 season 3's vault dungeons, but says they'd need more work before bringing them back permanently

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

In January, Blizzard had to drop a late-night emergency patch to turn Diablo 4 season 3 around. Within a day of launch, players decided the robot spider companion was useless and that dodging traps in the new vault dungeons wasn't worth the headache. Blizzard quickly boosted the strength of the pet and streamlined vaults, making them so abundant with loot that now players are sad they'll be leaving when season 4 launches on May 14.

Blizzard has repeatedly said it wants to be very careful with how it brings seasonal features back so it won't clutter up the non-seasonal mode of the game. We've seen a few item-based features return, like season 1's malignant heart powers and season 2's vampiric powers, but seasonal dungeon types or events haven't reappeared.

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(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

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The newly reworked Helltide open world events coming permanently to the game alongside season 4 are the first sign of how Blizzard might intend to bring back fan-favorite systems.

'Helltide Reborn', as Blizzard is calling it, incorporates ideas we saw in season 2's Blood Harvest events, which were stuffed with monsters and activities for players to participate in. It's a full redesign of an old event that was starting to fall behind everything else Blizzard has added to the game since launch, and it might be the blueprint for returning features down the line.

(Image credit: Blizzard)

"I'm not gonna suggest that vaults could never return in the future."

Joe Piepiora, associate game director

When I asked associate game director Joe Piepiora if we might see season 3's vaults again, he wouldn't say no, but he thinks they'd need some work before they become a permanent dungeon type in the game. He acknowledged their value as some of the fastest dungeons to run and their efficiency over regular endgame Nightmare Dungeons, but was also aware that nobody likes having to carefully maneuver around traps.

"I'm not gonna suggest that vaults could never return in the future," he said. "But I think we learned a lot of lessons about, you know, with the initial release of season 3 we got some feedback that the vault traps seemed like they were a little too difficult to kind of bypass."

At the time, Blizzard's solution was to all but remove the punishment from running into traps, making it so you can basically ignore them and still get the full rewards. It wasn't a particularly elegant solution, but it got the job done before people had completely written off the season. But that doesn't make them fit for a permanent addition to the game, according to Piepiora.

"So if we were to bring them back," he said, "we'd be keeping those things in mind, allowing for some player mistakes; not looking to really slow the player down but [have them] engaging with fun, exciting combat, and guide them through some of these experiences where traps are a component of it, but not the only focus."

Given the gargantuan rework to loot coming alongside season 4 and the Vessel of Hatred expansion due out later this year, I wouldn't expect to see vaults again for some time. Maybe in the future they'll return as a rare type of Nightmare Sigil (items that activate Nightmare Dungeons) to break up the usual endgame grind.

It won't be long until we have to say goodbye to vaults. Season 4, which is dropping along with Diablo 4's biggest update ever, launches on May 14.

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.