Diablo 4’s big Season 1 patch hit yesterday and the response has been rough. Unsure whether it was justified feedback or just general internet outrage, I've combed through the patch notes, absorbed the forum chat, and hopped back 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 reckon.
Perhaps one of the most significant changes that will impact everyone in Season 1 is that the grind is getting worse. With the changes introduced in this patch, levelling and gear farming will feel slower, and we are yet again being pushed towards Nightmare Dungeons over everything else, meaning it will also feel less varied.
Previously, fighting monsters that were one level higher than your character would grant 15% extra XP, with the bonus jumping up to 20% and 25% for monsters 2 and 3 levels higher, where it would then cap. Now, that XP bonus has been reduced to just 1.5% extra XP per level, up to a max of 15% when fighting monsters 10+ levels above you. In short, it’s going to take longer to level up, as playing content three levels higher than your character will now offer roughly 20% less extra XP.
Characters themselves are also getting squishier heading into Season 1, so you might struggle to fight monsters at such high levels, too. The patch has introduced a range of changes that reduce the survivability of each class, with defensive Affixes (stat rolls on gear) and Aspects (the special powers on Legendary items) getting significantly weaker. The armour increase from the Aspect of Disobedience, for example, has been reduced from 50% to 30%, while defensive Affixes (total armour, damage reduction, etc) have been reduced by 20-30%. This is retroactive, and will apply to any gear that your current characters have equipped.
On the upside, level scaling has also changed, making enemies in the overworld and regular dungeons roughly five levels lower than your character in World Tiers 3 and 4. This is a change that the community have generally been pushing for, but I worry that it means we're going to be funnelled even more towards exclusively farming Helltides and Nightmare Dungeons. For a Diablo game in which the open world was meant to matter, it feels odd to have an endgame that feels almost identical to farming Rifts in Diablo 3.
All of this comes amid other changes not included in the patch notes that will slow down farming further. For example, handing Grim Favors into the Tree of Whispers no longer grants an extra XP reward, and World Tiers 3 and 4 are reportedly locked to levels 50 and 70 respectively, which means we won’t be able to jump up to higher level content for extra XP.
The new patch also brings general balancing changes, many of which will nerf popular builds. For example, Vulnerable Damage and Critical Strike Damage have proved to be very effective damage modifiers since launch, and have ended up as pivotal parts of a lot of endgame builds. Blizzard have acknowledged that these skills are now often viewed as "a hard requirement" for a successful build in the game, and are therefore reducing these stat rolls by 17% and 40% respectively. Problem is, you still need every damage bonus you can get for those endgame bosses, and this feels like a particularly harsh cut to some of the most important damage modifiers in the game, 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 skills and offensive Affixes, which means they’re less impactful changes than the harsh 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, meaning they are naturally drawing less attention from the community.
However, that doesn't take the sting out of the other most important change from the patch, as several classes have also been targeted by their own specific set of nerfs on top of these more general changes. The Barbarian, for example, has seen the Hamstring passive nerfed substantially, which will now only inflict Slow on Healthy enemies, rather than all enemies. That means Barbarians won’t be able to consistently make use of Crowd-Control damage modifiers, leaving them much weaker heading into the new Season.
The Sorcerer, the most-played (and arguably worst) class in Diablo 4, has also been hit hard. The powerful Devouring Blaze passive, which offered a max of 30% bonus Critical Strike Damage against Burning enemies and a further 75% Critical Strike Damage against Immobilized enemies, has had its bonuses reduced to a max 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 Sorcerer. It's understandable, then, that people are naturally focusing on these over the range of buffs, because the things getting buffed just aren't popular. I'm sure part of Blizzard's intention is to probably make other things popular in their place and to potentially keep the meta moving forward, but for now players are understandably annoyed that the builds they've worked on for the past month are now far less powerful than before.
Of course, there's one big thing I haven't acknowledged here: seasonal content! Vulnerable and Critical Strike damage stats might have been nerfed, but it's possible that Season 1's Malignant Hearts will offer their own damage buffs that balance things out. For now, though, the initial response to Patch 1.1.0 has been rough, and in a lot of cases, I can see why. We'll see how things shake out when Season 1 fully drops on Thursday, and how Blizzard will address these concerns in their planned livestream on Friday.