Diablo 4’s first season, Season of the Malignant, arrives on July 20 — and it sounds almost like a mini expansion for Blizzard’s hit dungeon-crawler. The season brings a new quest line, which takes place after the events of the main campaign, as well as a new gameplay mechanic revolving around socketable Malignant Hearts that will superpower your character and enable “stupid broken” new character builds. It also interacts with Diablo 4’s first battle pass to unlock new cosmetics and bonuses for seasonal characters.
But there are two significant requirements for entry to the season. The first — well publicized, if not well understood — is that you will need to create a fresh, level 1 seasonal character to participate in the season. (Don’t worry, you won’t lose your old characters, nor will you lose your seasonal characters when the season ends.)
The second requirement is less well known, but was confirmed by Blizzard in an FAQ posted to the official Diablo website on Thursday. You need to complete Diablo 4’s campaign on one character to gain access to the seasonal content on or after July 20.
On one level, this makes perfect sense. The season’s storyline follows the campaign’s, and the Malignant Hearts mechanic is clearly meant to be additive for people already familiar with the game’s systems. In Diablo and its action-role-playing-game ilk, seasons are generally understood as a clean-slate leveling challenge for experienced players.
On the other hand, there are many reasons why you might not have finished Diablo 4’s campaign yet. Perhaps you’ve been busy, on vacation, or playing The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (or, in my case, all three). It’s also a side effect of the way the game is structured differently to previous Diablo games.
In Diablo 2, there is nothing to do but play the linear campaign on repeat, while in Diablo 3, alternative activities in the game’s freeform Adventure Mode don’t open up until the first campaign run has been finished. In Diablo 4, however, you can easily level your character (and have a great time) doing side quests, running dungeons, and exploring the open world without touching the campaign quests at all. Level scaling is in effect across the game, and most areas of the world are open to explore. I spent my first week or two in the game messing around like this, and have only lately realized I’d better get a move on if I want to join in the seasonal fun.
What’s the quickest way to complete Diablo 4’s campaign?
Diablo 4’s campaign is substantial, but it’s not a behemoth. If you stick to the critical path, avoid distraction (easier said than done), and ignore those side quests, it should take you around 25 to 30 hours to finish. You’ve got this!
Here are a few things you might want to know:
- The campaign has six acts (plus a short prologue and epilogue).
- Acts 1 to 3 are the most substantial, and can be tackled in any order. They also branch into multiple quests at places. Tackle them how you like, but taking them in numerical order boringly makes the most sense.
- Once you’ve completed these three acts, you’ve broken the back of the game. Acts 4 to 6 need to done in linear order, and they won’t take as long as the first three. Acts 4 and 6 are comparatively brief, although Act 5 is pretty long.
- While there are no strict level requirements for the quests, each act does have a recommended character level to start: level 1 for Act 1, level 10 for Act 2, level 15 for Act 3, level 30 for Act 4, level 35 for Act 5, and level 40 for Act 6 (though level 45 might be safer).
- Whether or not you keep pace with these recommended levels will depend on which World Tier (Diablo 4-speak for difficulty level) you play on. World Tier 2 (Veteran) is harder, and you risk getting stuck on some of the bosses, but the extra XP gained by playing on this level is enough that you shouldn’t need to do any grinding outside of the campaign quests. It’s probably the quickest route through the game. On World Tier 1 (Adventurer), you’ll likely need some other sources of XP. (Higher tiers are locked until your first completion of the game.) Either way, if you feel you need to grind out some XP, hit up some dungeons — they’re the fastest way to level up.