State of the game - Diablo 4 Season 3 - Episode 6

Originally published at: State of the game – Diablo 4 Season 3 – Episode 6 – Alphagamer

This week Blizzard started Season 3 in Diablo 4 called Season of the Construct. With the season being live for nearly 3 days and with spending a good amount of time in the game I am sharing my current view of the season including a forecast for how long I anticipate to play.

The synopsis of the new season:

Unearth a new threat looming deep beneath the sands of Kehjistan, where a tool devised for good has been overtaken for demonic evils. Prepare to battle the elements as you maneuver through deadly Hazards, take on vicious Constructs, and master Sanctuary’s newest challenges. With the help of a new companion at your side, you just might make it out alive.

Let’s look at the setup of this season.

Like the previous two seasons, this season provides a new quest line and a new Boss called Malphas, Keeper of the Vaults. New this season are the season specific dungeons, called Vaults. Another new mechanic is the Seneschal Construct, which is a player companion that can be customized through different Governing and Tuning stones which will provide the companion with offensive and defensive powers.

So what is going well and what isn’t going well

Things that are going well!

  • The Questline

  • The Seasonal Companion

  • Seasonal Dungeons

  • Quality Updates

Things that are NOT going so well!

  • Controlling the Companion is Limited (Read: No Control)

  • The Companion Stones Mechanics are Unintuitive

  • The Seasonal World Events are Unintuitive

  • The Traps and Puzzles are Not Fun

  • The Gauntlet is Late

  • Blizzard didn’t learn from Season 2

I will provide a bit more context on my views of things that are not going well in season 3.

Companion Control and Seasonal Power Mechanics

I did enjoy the questline as it adds new lore to the game and links into the main storyline of Zultun Kulle. Pushing the questline will result in unlocking the Seneschal Contruct, the player companion. The companion follows you and it can’t die, this is all fine. This is where the control of the pet stops. There is no way to give it instructions (attack specific mobs or a boss) and you can’t set a general response (aggressive, neutral, offensive, etc). Functionality seen in pets in other Blizzard products. The other thing is utility, it would be great if the pet could pick up gold, potions or loot that drops.

What is missing is a leveling system of the pet and rewards that are associated with the levels of the pet. Why not have a pet level up to level 25 and at each 5 levels some sort of ability unlocks. Blizzard has a lot of materials from previous Diablo games or World of Warcraft to get ideas from. And those ideas have been tried and tested.

Blizzard wanted to use the Governing and Tuning stones system to level up the players companion. However, this process is very unintuitive and clunky. The stones can be unlocked through the questline and the Vaults (the seasonal dungeons) but after 3 days it is still unclear how these level up (can level up to 10). Does this level up when you find more of the same stones? Or if you clear a specific Vault? No clue…

Compared to season 2, this is a step back. Season 2 had a clear mechanic in place to level seasonal powers: Your kills vampires, vampires drop loot (Blood Lures and Seeker Keys) that are used to complete seasonal events and level up seasonal powers.

The image below shows the companion (spider like robot) and on the right the Seasonal mechanic with the Governing and Tuning stones.

Seasonal World Events

What worked really well last season was the season themed world events called “Blood Harvest”. This would basically be a location on a map that would be fully immersed into the seasons theme. The color of the map part would be greenish, the mobs would be theme related (vampires) and the seasonal quests would all be there. This would refresh and rotate on the hour.

The new season does have season questions that also count towards Tree of Whispers, which is good. However it is not as clear and the experience is not as immersive. Also, the quests are not as fun as previous season. The pillar quests are weird and it is not clear when the objective is met. The Malphas summon is okay and the other quests are just Tree of Whisper quests.. I might be missing the point but it doesn’t feel great.

Traps and Puzzles

This might be more a subjective point but I am not a fan of traps and puzzles defining the experience of an ARPG and that mechanic driving what rewards you get after completing a dungeon. I prefer to increasingly battle more difficult and different monsters and bosses.. I also still use the mouse to navigate and combat.. which results in not being a 100% accurate on movement which is highly frustrating when navigating these traps, this might be better the keyboard is used for navigation (which was released per this season).

The issue for me remains. The occasion trap or puzzle is fine, but for it to be such a big part of the season isn’t great. I think other genres, like Rogue-likes or Souls like games, are much better at this.

The Delay of the Gauntlet and Lessons from Season 2

These 2 points are more general in nature, but say a lot.

Season 2 was received really well and made a lot of players that left Diablo 4 at launch and during season 1 return to the game. I believe season 2 actually increased the sales of Diablo 4. Blizzard being able to measure what works well from their data and from player feedback they should have been able to use season 2 “wins” for season 3. It doesn’t feel this really happened. It is said that different development teams are responsible for each season, but this should not be an excuses for these teams not to be connected. This feels like a missed opportunity.

The reasons why are unclear and will probably never be known but it is not a good sign for key functionality to be late for a release (in this case a season). This either means it was not ready or it didn’t pass quality checks. Whatever the reason, it is not good to delay major functionality as it will put the success of a season at risk before the season really started.

Conclusion and Plan for Rest of the Season

At this point I am a level 61 Barbarian and enjoying leveling up a new, fresh character. The thing is, this is NOT because of the season, but because I just seem to enjoy playing a bard (not played before). So far I am not overly impressed by the season, so I will likely press on to level 100, try some of the end game content but likely will switch back to Baldur’s Gate 3 or try something else.

Let’s see what happens with the next patch and what is planned for season 4.