Unless Season 1 is a game-changer, Diablo 4 has become an even tougher job

The big Diablo 4 Season 1 patch arrived yesterday and the response was rough. Not sure if these were justified comments or just general internet outrage, I scoured the patch notes, soaked up the forum chat, and jumped into the game itself to get a feel for things as we head into Season 1. The result? Yes, the feedback is very negative, but for understandable reasons, I think.

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Perhaps one of the biggest changes that will affect everyone in Season 1 is that the grind is getting worse. With the changes introduced in this patch, leveling and farming gear will feel slower, and we’re once again being pushed towards Nightmare Dungeons on everything else, which means it will be less varied as well.

Previously, fighting monsters one level higher than your character granted 15% extra XP, with the bonus going up to 20%, and 25% for higher level 2 and 3 monsters, where it would then cap. Now this XP bonus has been reduced to only 1.5% additional XP per level, up to a maximum of 15% when fighting monsters more than 10 levels above you. In short, it will take longer to level up, as playing content that is three levels higher than your character will now award around 20% less extra XP.

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The new boss coming in Diablo 4 Season 1. At least we are getting a new boss. | Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment

The characters themselves are also getting more squishy as Season 1 approaches, so you might also find it difficult to fight monsters at such high levels. The patch introduced a series of changes that reduce the survivability of each class, with defensive affixes (stats on gear) and aspects (special powers on legendary items) becoming significantly weaker. The disobedience aspect’s armor increase, for example, has been reduced from 50% to 30%, while defensive affixes (total armor, damage reduction, etc.) have been reduced from 20-30%. This is retroactive and will apply to any gear equipped by your current characters.

On the upside, the level scaling has also changed, making enemies in the overworld and regular dungeons about five levels lower than your character in World Tiers 3 and 4. It’s a change the community has generally clamored for, but I’m afraid it means we’re going to be funneled even more into Helltides and Nightmare Dungeons exclusive farming. For a Diablo game in which the open world was meant to matter, it’s odd to have an endgame that feels nearly identical to Rifts farming in Diablo 3.

A scene from a Helltide in the Diablo 4 endgame setting.

Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment

This is all in addition to other changes not included in the patch notes that will further slow down farming. For example, returning Grim Favors to the Tree of Whispers no longer grants an extra XP reward, and World Tiers 3 and 4 would be locked at levels 50 and 70 respectively, meaning we won’t be able to upgrade to higher tier content for extra XP.

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The new patch also brings general balancing changes, many of which will nerf popular builds. For example, Vulnerable Damage and Critical Hit Damage have proven to be very effective damage modifiers since launch and have become staples in many endgame builds. Blizzard has recognized that these skills are now often seen as “a key requirement” for successful in-game building, and therefore reduced these stat rolls by 17% and 40% respectively. The problem is that you still need all the damage bonuses you can get for those late game bosses, and that feels like a particularly harsh reduction in some of the game’s most important damage modifiers, especially when they haven’t buffed anything to potentially replace it.

Generally, though, the buffs in patch 1.1.0 are much smaller tweaks to various offensive skills and affixes, meaning they’re less impactful changes than the hard nerfs mentioned above. Many of these buffs also target lesser-used skills, such as Blood Abilities for the Necromancer or Storm Abilities for the Druid, which means they naturally get less attention from the community.

Screenshot from Diablo 4 showing a close-up of a Barbarian.

Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Blizzard Entertainment

However, that doesn’t take away from the patch’s other biggest change, as several classes have also been targeted with their own specific set of nerfs on top of these more general changes. The Barbarian, for example, has had the Hamstring passive significantly nerfed, which will now only inflict Slow on healthy enemies, rather than all enemies. This means Barbarians won’t be able to consistently use crowd control damage modifiers, leaving them much weaker heading into the new season.

The Sorcerer, the most played (and arguably the worst) class in Diablo 4, was also hit hard. The powerful Devouring Flame passive, which provided a maximum bonus of 30% critical strike damage against burning enemies and an additional 75% critical strike damage against immobilized enemies, has had its bonuses reduced to a maximum of 21% and 30% respectively.

These passives were key parts of many builds in their respective classes, so these nerfs will prove detrimental to a range of popular options for the Barbarian and Wizard. So it’s understandable that people naturally focus on these across the buff range, because things that are buffed just aren’t popular. I’m sure part of Blizzard’s intention is probably to do other popular things in their place and to potentially push the meta forward, but for now players are understandably annoyed that the builds they worked on last month are now much less powerful than before.

Of course, there’s one big thing I didn’t recognize here: seasonal content! Vulnerable and Critical Strike’s damage stats may have been nerfed, but it’s possible Season 1’s Malignant Hearts will offer its own damage buffs that balance things out. So far, however, the initial response to patch 1.1.0 has been harsh, and in many cases I can see why. We’ll see how things play out when Season 1 drops completely on Thursday, and how Blizzard addresses those concerns in their planning. live stream friday.