Diablo 4’s first season adds ‘stupid’ powerful new builds for each class

Diablo 4’s first season, Season of the Malignant, is coming to the game on July 20 — just a month and a half after D4’s launch. Blizzard Entertainment detailed the new seasonal mechanics (alongside the announcement of a new class for Diablo Immortal) during a lengthy livestream on Thursday.

Season of the Malignant takes place after the Diablo 4 campaign and acts as a side story in the world of Sanctuary. After players worked to push back the forces of evil in the main campaign, a new corrupting curse has started to make its way through the rest of the world. At the start of the season, players will receive a summons to the capital city of the Fractured Peaks, Kyovashad, at level 1 to meet Cormund, a new character. Cormund wants players to capture corrupted hearts and use them to increase their own power, so they can further purge the blight from the land.

This, of course, manifests in some powerful new tools for each Diablo class. While playing the game normally in season 1, there’s a chance for players to come across a Malignant monster. These monsters are extra tough, but drop a special Malignant Heart item when they die. Interacting with this heart will respawn the enemy — making them even more difficult to deal with — and summon in a bunch of additional foes. If players still manage to triumph, the beast will drop a Caged Heart, which you can use to drastically increase your power over the course of the season.

A screen shot of a Caged Heart in Diablo 4’s Season of the Malignant Image: Blizzard Entertainment via YouTube

Caged Hearts come with their own Legendary-level powers — such as the one shown above, which causes critical hits to electrify enemies — and players can socket them into their jewelry items. For the entirety of Season of the Malignant, all rings and amulets will drop with a festering socket that’s either red, blue, or yellow. These correlate to different colored heart powers. Players can only match like-with-like, so they won’t be able to put a blue heart in a yellow socket. There is a rare fourth color of heart, which players can place in any of the three sockets.

Season of the Malignant will come with 32 new powers that are exclusive to the Malignant Heart system. Tim Ismay — the lead producer for seasons in Diablo 4 — said on the livestream that these new powers are “stupid broken,” and will enable a lot of new and interesting builds during season 1.

If players are looking for a specific Malignant Heart, they can break down existing hearts they find in the world for a special crafting currency. Once they’ve gathered enough, they can take the currency into a Malignant Tunnel — a new activity space packed with Malignant monsters — and spawn a special enemy at the end that’s guaranteed to drop a Malignant Heart of their chosen color.

The Blizzard developers also revealed that Season of the Malignant will come with some new story content (not related to the main plot of Diablo 4), a new boss monster, new Legendary Powers, and new Unique items.

A hero of Sanctuary captured a Malignant Heart in a cage in Diablo 4 season 1 Image: Blizzard Entertainment

The new powers and items will also come to the Eternal realm, which is where all the non-seasonal characters live in Diablo 4. In order to play any of the Season of the Malignant specific content, or increase their season pass level, players will need to create a new seasonal character from scratch on July 20.

However, Blizzard reiterated that all seasonal purchases are purely cosmetic, and that players will never be able to buy in-game power with real-world cash in Diablo 4 — a major departure from Diablo Immortal.

The last few minutes of the livestream went over aspects of seasons that the developers spoke about in their last livestream: the Season Journey, the new Seasonal Blessing mechanic, and more. The studio also revealed that all Diablo 4 seasons will last at least 12 weeks, and that the patch for Season of the Malignant is the biggest Diablo 4 patch yet.

Finally, associate game director Joe Piepiora and Ismay promised that patches will come at a more regulated rate during Diablo 4’s seasons. The studio moved very quickly to nerf overpowered builds and items in the early days of Diablo 4’s launch, frustrating some players. But outside any major emergencies or game-breaking issues, Blizzard said it plans to keep nerfs and buffs to a minimum each season.

Players have just two weeks to prepare for the new season, and between finishing the campaign and finding all the Altars of Lilith, there’s a lot to do.