Blizzard has detailed its plans for the post-launch Diablo 4 experience in a fresh livestream and developer blog, focusing on seasons, battle passes (including pricing), and the shop.
The takeaway is that it all sounds pretty standard for a live service game, with one twist — there’s a heavy focus on seasonal content that, as per Diablo tradition, can only be accessed by starting a fresh seasonal character. Oddly, Blizzard does not go out of its way to explain this, perhaps assuming that it will be taken as read by the Diablo community, but it has been confirmed in previous interviews.
Seasons in Diablo 4 will be quarterly, with the first coming in “mid to late July” — a matter of weeks after the game’s launch on June 22. You’ll need to complete the game’s campaign on one character before you can access it. The season will introduce fresh questlines, separate from the campaign narrative, as well as new gameplay features that will change the experience of leveling and developing your new character — all of which will be exclusive to the season and will be retired at the end of the three months. Your seasonal character, however, will be moved to the Eternal Realm at the end of the season, where it will remain playable. Each season will also bring standard patch content like balance changes and quality-of-life improvements.
Guiding you through each season will be a Season Journey similar to Diablo 3’s, which is basically a series of achievement-style objectives to complete, organized into chapters. One change here is that you will no longer have to complete every single objective in a chapter to progress to the next one, allowing you to pick and choose somewhat based on your playstyle. Objectives reward you with things like crafting materials and legendary aspects for the Codex of Power (which enhance your character’s skills in a similar manner to legendary loot items) — and also Favor, the resource that levels up Diablo 4’s battle pass. Battle passes will also refresh every three months, timed to new seasons.
Linking seasons and battle passes in this way is notable, because while Favor can be earned in other ways — completing quests, grinding monsters, participating in world events — making it a reward for objectives in the Season Journey seems to put the seasonal play style of repeatedly starting new characters (as opposed to grinding the endgame) at the heart of the game’s long-term post-launch reward structure, and the optimal way to play.
As for the battle pass, it will have three versions: free, premium, and accelerated. The free version has 27 tiers and rewards players with cosmetic items and Smoldering Ashes, a resource that can be spent on XP and gold boosts, and other bonuses for your seasonal character. These boosts come with level requirements and are only available from the free battle pass.
The premium battle pass has 63 more tiers which reward you with cosmetics unique to that season and platinum currency that can be spent at the game’s shop. The accelerated pass is the same, but allows you to skip forward 20 tiers and comes with a special cosmetic. The premium and accelerated passes will cost the platinum equivalent of $9.99 and $24.99 respectively.
The shop only sells cosmetic items for customizing the look of your character. These are all grounded in Diablo 4’s dark fantasy aesthetic and, unlike the cosmetic rewards available from the battle pass, are often class-specific, allowing you to further “reinforce the fantasy of your choice for your character,” as Blizzard put it. Blizzard showed examples of purchased armor cosmetics that had a different vibe to legendary armor earned through gameplay, but weren’t necessarily more (or less) impressive. The shop’s stock will consistently rotate, and your purchases will be available for any character of that class on your account, as well as across different platforms.
I’m not mad that Blizzard seems to be steering players toward starting new seasonal characters by putting so much focus on them in the game’s post-launch content and battle pass rewards — rolling new characters to explore different classes and builds is absolutely one of the most fun ways to play Diablo. But with the focus elsewhere on an MMO-style persistent world and a meaty endgame, there seems to be a tension here between two playstyles. It will be interesting to see how the Diablo 4 developers resolve this clash.
If you want to try the game for yourself, there’ll be one last open beta test — which Blizzard is calling a Server Slam — this weekend. Here’s when the Server Slam will be available.