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How Diablo 4's Loot Reborn Update Will Make Its Items, And Players, More Powerful Than Ever

Blizzard is hoping fewer, but better, items in Season 4 will get players back to the demon-slaying fun faster.


With three seasons under Diablo 4's belt since its launch, it's safe to say a lot has changed for Blizzard's ARPG. But it will be the game's upcoming Season 4 update on May 14, dubbed Loot Reborn, that marks the biggest shift for Diablo 4 yet, completely reworking items--how they drop, their stats, and how they are upgraded.

Across both the game's Eternal and Seasonal realms, items will be fewer in number, with fewer affixes. Many of the game's more confusing, niche, or circumstantial affixes will be removed, resulting in items that will generally be better and more suited towards a player's class and build. Meanwhile, Blizzard is introducing two new ways to improve items, Tempering and Masterworking, which will give players more control over their item progression than ever before. There's even a new, 200-floor endgame dungeon players can fight their way through, all in the name of upgrading their items even further.

We recently chatted with Diablo 4 lead live game designer Colin Finer and lead live class designer Adam Jackson for more insight on these sweeping changes. They shared details on how Blizzard is looking to not only get players back to the fun of killing demons faster but also how the game's itemization changes will result in a more balanced, "better feeling" game.

Fewer Chores, More Demon Slaying

The core issue the Loot Reborn update looks to address is one that many dedicated Diablo 4 players have had with the game since launch: It takes players too much time to sort through items and manage their inventory, when they would much rather be playing the actual game. Great items were out there waiting to be found prior to Season 4, Finer said, but sifting through hundreds of items to find one powerful item felt like a "chore."

It was a piece of feedback Jackson said the team has heard consistently from players since the game's launch.

"[Players] said, 'I go to a dungeon, I get 30-plus items, and I have to sit there and spend a lot of time going back to town and parsing all of these stats on all of these items,'" Jackson said. "Four lines of stats, on 30 different items, and a lot of them can be really complicated. It's a lot of brainpower and not fun work when we really want players to be going out and fighting the monsters and killing things and getting loot. That's the fun part of the game, right?...So we are trying to reduce that and add fun to the parsing part of the backend, by turning it into a crafting system that's engaging and enjoyable to do versus just looking at stats when they drop."

Masterworking improves affix values on a piece of gear, with the required crafting materials gained from the new endgame dungeon, The Pit.
Masterworking improves affix values on a piece of gear, with the required crafting materials gained from the new endgame dungeon, The Pit.

That's where Masterworking and Tempering come in. Though items will drop with fewer affixes than before, Tempering recipes allow players to add an additional affix. When used in conjunction with the Enchanting system already present in Diablo 4, players can now more precisely tune an item to their tastes, with Tempering recipes even introducing brand-new affixes that allow for new build possibilities. Jackson used an example of Dust Devil Barbarians. Whereas there were previously some Barbarian Legendary items that would spawn tornadoes damaging tornadoes, they didn't scale and ultimately weren't effective at higher difficulties. After the Loot Reborn update, however, players will be able to seek out Tempering recipes that grant affixes that relate specifically to buffing Dust Devils, turning it from a niche Legendary power that can be fun for a little while into an actual endgame build.

"There's a lot of stuff there that wasn't possible to do before that is now," Jackson said. "A lot of builds can come online now and actually scale and be meaningful and powerful that didn't exist before."

Masterworking, on the other hand, lets players take their chosen items even further in power than before. Upgrading an item through Masterworking improves all of that item's affix values. For every four Masterwork upgrades, one random affix on the item will see a large power increase, making it even stronger. Items can be Masterworked 12 times, but for an item to reach the pinnacle of its power, players will need to get the required crafting materials from The Pit, a new, 200-floor endgame dungeon that is described as "the hardest the game is going to get as far as your normal dungeon and farming content." Each floor will increase in difficulty, and the tilesets and bosses on each floor will be random. Making The Pit's boss encounters even more challenging will be the fact that ghostly shade versions of other Diablo 4 bosses will appear mid-fight to throw out one-off attacks, just to keep players on their toes. Conquering these challenging encounters and climbing to higher floors will result in higher level Masterworking materials, allowing players to push their gear even further.

Rebalancing Sanctuary

With Tempering, Masterworking, and a chance for Ancestral items on World Tier 4 to roll with a larger stat roll than normal for a given affix, players will have more control of their gear, and gain more power from it, than ever before come the Loot Reborn update. That's something the Diablo 4 team is well aware of, and though Jackson said no one class benefits from the itemization changes more than the others, overall, characters will no doubt be stronger.

"I would say we're pretty cognizant that total player power is going up in this season, because we made gear more powerful," Jackson said. "You get meaningful stats, you get new stats that didn't exist before, and you can juice them up now with these additional systems."

That increase in player power has required some rebalancing, Jackson said. Monsters, in general, should be a bit more challenging come the update to accommodate for more powerful players, and stat caps have been put in place in certain areas to ensure that "things don't just completely break down." Overall, however, the game should feel more balanced and consistent, as Jackson said making certain powerful affixes, specifically ones like Damage Reduction, more rare in Season 4 makes it easier to balance the rest of the game accordingly.

Tempering adds a random affix from a recipe to a selected item, and will allow for even more character builds.
Tempering adds a random affix from a recipe to a selected item, and will allow for even more character builds.

"At first you think, 'Oh, I can't get it, that's not cool,'" Jackson said. "But actually what it does is it lets us normalize and better know how much survivability a player is going to have when damage reduction is very, very rare or many players don't even have it. One, it makes that stat really meaningful when you get it, so if you ever see it somewhere, like on a unique or something, that's really impressive. But also it makes it better for us to tune incoming monster damage. The difference between a monster hitting you and your player having all damage reduction on every piece of gear and having none is very large, a thousands of percent difference in survivability. So players that didn't know or didn't have any just got one-shot by everything. We want to normalize that experience of incoming and outgoing damage so that we can actually balance and have a better feeling game on the tuning side."

Another major itemization change is the fact that all Legendary Aspects will now be added to the game's Codex of Power upon being acquired, which can then be imprinted on a piece of Legendary gear as many times as needed. It's a huge quality-of-life change that will result in less inventory management and more experimentation on the part of players, who will no longer have to micromanage their inventory of Legendaries.

"Players were just hoarding Legendaries in their stash…It just added so much mental overhead to the whole experience," Finer said. "It's cooler to just say once you find that Legendary item you get to keep that roll forever and you don't have to think about it anymore, it goes straight into your codex, you can imprint it on any Legendary item. We just think that made it way more streamlined. We didn't want you managing your stash and having to keep all these crappy aspects on the back end and having to manage that."

Aiding The Iron Wolves, And The PTR's Future

Reworked loot may be the focus of the season, but like previous seasons, there is new story content for players to dive into as well, even if it's not the main selling point. Season 4 sees players teaming up with the mercenary band the Iron Wolves to push back the demons inside the game's updated Helltide areas, which feature new activities inspired by Season 2's Blood Harvest events. Though the loot rework is the star of the season, Finer said the combo of the Iron Wolves and the theme of Loot Reborn pair nicely together and "made for a pretty seamless integration."

Season 4 will introduce Accursed Rituals to Helltides, alongside a new mini-boss, the Blood Maiden.
Season 4 will introduce Accursed Rituals to Helltides, alongside a new mini-boss, the Blood Maiden.

With so many massive changes to Diablo 4's items, more testing was needed. It's for that reason Blizzard deployed a public test realm to help gather data and feedback for Season 4, something that was common for Diablo 3 and is regularly used in Blizzard's World of Warcraft but hadn't yet been done in Diablo 4. Finer said Season 4 felt like the right time for more player feedback given the breadth of changes, but that the team in general feels like it has a "ton of data" when it comes to making more standard, seasonal balance changes and that a PTR might not always be necessary.

"Season 4 just had so much that it really required a ton of time to chew through and test, and it felt like that was the right time for it [the PTR]," Finer said. "We don't necessarily know, or have concrete plans, on doing a PTR every single time."

A Fresh Start

Loot Reborn is a major turning point for Diablo 4. With reworked items, item progression, and a rebalancing of both player and monster power, it's in many ways a fresh start for Blizzard's ARPG. Jackson said the update just marks "the beginning" for systems like Tempering, which he said Blizzard can continue to adjust and add build-specific recipes to help further balance the game in the future.

The update all goes towards getting the ARPG closer to what Finer said has been the Diablo 4 development team's goal from day one: having awesome loot that players are excited to find.

"We've sort of reframed it," Finer said. "We still want you to be excited about loot, but we don't want that journey to stop as soon as that awesome item hits the ground. We want you to take that piece of gear and take it on its own journey."

Diablo 4 Season 4 will begin on May 14, alongside a host of class balance changes. Its first expansion, Vessel of Hatred, is slated to arrive in late 2024.

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