Diablo IV Season of Loot Reborn Review

Diablo IV’s latest season started on the 14th May aiming to redefine the game’s loot system. Called the Season of Loot Reborn, it makes some pretty massive changes to that loot system, and little else. Still, the loot is the heart of a Diablo game so the ability to save legendary affixes to imprint onto other items and upgrade loot by tempering it could be a welcome change, so I decided to once again take on the seemingly infinite forces of hell to get my loot on.

We will get the none-loot based stuff out of the way first, because it is incredibly scarce. This season revolves around the Iron Wolves, members of whom have been disappearing mysteriously. Usually the season’s quest is available immediately upon entering the Endgame, but here you’ll need to find an Iron Wolves medallion that must be dropped from monsters during Helltides. This will trigger the side quest and finally let you go and investigate some missing Iron Wolves. These quests are short, re-use enemies from the Helltide, and are just generally a bit uninspired. That’s all the story you’re getting in this season.

There are a bunch of other changes though. In addition to being available to players in all world tiers now, Helltides themselves have a few more activities to engage in, even if they are pretty same-y all things considered. There’s also a huge Bloodmaiden public boss fight you can trigger and cross your fingers there’s someone to help you out nearby. On top of all this, there’s also a new heat system, where as you kill more enemies in the Helltide, you’ll progress through three tiers of notoriety with the hellspawn, each tier bringing more and tougher enemies, until it reaches maximum and triggers an onslaught and a boss called the Helborne.

This all makes Helltides a little more varied, even if it’s just a variety of slightly different ways to encounter and then slaughter legions of enemies. Thankfully you’ve got a few more tools to help gear yourself for this particular hellish threat. The biggest, and perhaps most important change of the Season of Loot Reborn is the way legendary affixes are now handled. Previously you could complete dungeons to unlock some affixes that could be imprinted onto items, but many of the best ones had to be found on gear. Now when you scrap a legendary item at the blacksmith, its affix is added to your library, ready for you to imprint onto any compatible item as many times as you like. If you scrap a legendary item that has the same affix with better rolls it’ll upgrade the one you have.

This has a profound effect on the game, now you can transfer your strongest legendary traits onto new gear as the original gets levelled out of its usefulness. Certain abilities can be permanent fixtures in your build – I’m playing a sorcerer this time around and I’ve had one legendary affix since I was relatively low level that splits the single beam of fire from Incinerate into three that each do more damage. I’m level 66 now and it’s still as fun as it is effective.

You can also now upgrade items using the new tempering system. In amongst all the loot – and there is a lot of it – you’ll find new recipes dropping that give you the ability to temper your gear with certain upgrades. You activate this recipe in your inventory to learn it and then make your way to the blacksmith to apply it to some gear. It’ll give you one of a small selection of upgrades with the opportunity to reroll a few times should you get one that’s less useful. There were quite a few times where I used all my rerolls trying to get a useful upgrade for my all fire sorcerer only to end up with one that upgrades ice blast.

This is a bit frustrating but I suppose that’s RNG for you. These upgrades aren’t exactly very powerful on their own but if you tailor them to your build they could give you a little extra impact or survivability where you need it most. Then there’s also the Masterworking system, which allows you to improve affixes that are already on your items once you unlock it at World Tier 4.

This is all mostly welcome changes. The legendary stuff means that you’re now more chasing for affixes rather than particularly well rolled items, which means you can use more loot but also does a lot to diminish how special it is when you finally get that item that’s rolled just right. It cuts down on frustration though, so overall it’s a positive. The changes to Helltide are mostly positive as well, but there is one frustration that keeps popping up and I don’t think it’s one that can really be fixed by seasonal changes: the difficulty is all over the place.

My sorcerer, in the past week, has destroyed the Hellborne that spawns after you fill the Helltide heat metre in seconds multiple times. Now I’m level 66 and when the Hellborne spawns, I know that I am about to die. This is despite slaughtering literally hundreds of enemies, including numerous elites, within a second or two each in the run up to the Hellborne spawning. Even despite killing the Seething Abomination in the PVP areas without any issue at all, or despite defeating Kixxarth the Helltide Assassin solo, which I had never managed to even come close to on any of my previous characters, the Hellborne just destroys me in a second whilst I barely dent its health.

It’s not that enjoyable having to watch the heat bar fill up when you know instant death is on the end of it, but it’s even worse twenty levels after you were able to do it easily or when everything else in the game might be a bit too easy. The Legion events and the World Bosses aren’t a challenge, but this one thing turns up and one shots me the moment I stop moving long enough to cast a spell. The only other thing with this issue I’ve encountered is the Bloodmaiden that can be spawned also in Helltides, which has a few attacks that are hard to avoid that deal disproportionate amounts of damage, but she’s meant to be a public event boss with multiple players fighting her off.

Obviously this problem is caused by the level scaling system that underpins all of Diablo IV. You can level up whilst fighting and find that the same enemies are now more difficult if you’re not careful and it effects the whole experience. Early on, it’s shockingly easy, but later on it’s only mostly easy except for extreme and unpredictable difficulty spikes that very suddenly and unexpectedly ends your life.

However despite this particular issue, I have been having a lot of fun with Diablo IV. Whilst I feel the move away from finding powerful items to just collecting affixes isn’t ideal for me, it does help to account for some of the issues the former approach has, namely items that become essential to your build outliving their usefulness before you have an adequate replacement. It allows you to mix and match your legendary traits more easily and enables unbelievably powerful builds to be a constant if you want them to be, which has the knock on effect of allowing you to try other options since it’s so easy to go back if needed.

It also helps that it’s so unbelievably generous with loot. I’ve found more legendaries in the last week and a half than I have with whole characters in the past, it’s astonishing if not a little overwhelming. Of course, there are only so many you can equip, so you end up scrapping a lot of legendary items and collecting their affixes instead. One place of particular looting note is the Iron Wolves caches you earn for levelling your reputation with them, some of which guarantee Unique items, which if you’re not familiar is basically an extra-legendary item with particularly powerful abilities and stats that can define your build. Uniques are even rarer than legendary items and with these caches you can guarantee you find one long before you’re likely to otherwise.

On top of the loot, Diablo IV’s gameplay – that is, the actual fighting of lots of monsters with your awesome abilities – is still the best in the genre. There are definitely issues specifically with how the game is multiplayer only, the level scaling that’s likely a result of that, that it’s a live service with a battle pass and seasons yet provides precious little content each season and stretches it out as much as it can, or even that it has a store that charges extortionate amounts of money for purely cosmetic horse armours. But, it sure as hell plays better than all of the competition.