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Diablo 4 – PTR Rework Review Guide

Ladies, gentlemen, and heroes of all ages, it’s now been a good handful of hours since the release of the public test realm for Diablo 4, allowing players on PC through Battlenet to test out essentially what will be season 4 or, at the very least, the bare bones of the major changes behind it.

Introduction to Diablo 4 PTR

We have no information as to what season 4 itself will be about in that sense, but this is to let us actually get hands-on with the majority of the larger systemic changes coming to the game that we were told were coming a number of months ago.

And well, I’ve spent the last few hours playing around with this in this PTR, testing out some of the more major changes and just playing the game to see how it feels. And I have to say, my first impression is it’s fun; it’s simpler than it was, but it’s fun, and that’s immediately an improvement in my mind.

That said, we will go over some of the more major changes, as well as any news coming out regarding the devs or community around this since its release.

Camera Distance Changes

First up, though, I want to talk about an overarching change that you’ll be seeing in all the footage here today, which is the new camera distance. It can now go further than it did before. It’s not an absolutely crazy amount, but you can see this comparison right here that a player did with it on and off, so you can see it directly.

It’s just a very simple zoom out a little bit further, but that little bit makes a lot of difference for a lot of people, especially when there’s things like these skeletal ballistas that exist that could fire at you from offscreen before but theoretically will now always be on screen if they’re in range.

Gear Changes Overview

After that, then, I do want to talk about the gear changes on a very basic level because I think they’re really important. To simplify it, you no longer need to care about rares in end game. Once you are at the point where you have legendaries in every slot, yellow equipment becomes obsolete as it can never have as many affixes as legendaries can now.

As well, at the same time, the actual pool of different affixes on gear when it drops has shrunk dramatically. The majority of the time, you’ll see things like main stat, life on hit, bonus maximum health, attack speed, resistances, things like that. There are just significantly less options in the pool to roll to begin with, things that are much less specific, and the ones that have been left there are quite straightforward in what they actually do and how to actually understand them.

Codex of Power Adjustments

Then we combine that with one of the more major other changes as well, which is the Codex of Power. They have finally done what tons of us said that

Codex of Power Enhancements

They should have done what many suggested ages ago, which is to make the Codex of Power a permanently upgrading storage unit. Basically, now, instead of each legendary aspect only having one use when you salvage it out of a thing, if you salvage a legendary as an item at a blacksmith, its power role will now be going into your codex, upgrading it. Then you can apply the highest role that you’ve ever had to any item as many times as you want to from that point forward.

Balancing the New Loot System: Challenges and Improvements

The one negative that I do have to say with this system so far is it seems like, to compensate for this being as powerful as it is and as unlimited as it is on the actual roles, they made applying legendary aspects and imprinting through the occultist cost a fair amount more resources than it did before, which is definitely a bit of a bottleneck. But nothing is final yet. But that is also why I’m saying right now, I’m making sure to mention that I think this could be a little bit fairer than it currently is, numbers-wise.

That said, these three things come together to simplify the concept of looting in the game as a whole. Before this, there were a million factors whether or not a piece of gear might actually matter to you or not. Now, the number of things that you need to think about is just so much smaller, but the actual potential quality of each piece of gear has a much higher ceiling too.

Looting Simplification

To put it simply, what they did was dumb down all the options quite a lot, and I think it’s a good thing for the style of the game that Diablo 4 wants to be, really at its core. Now, when you are looting, you know automatically that a yellow item just won’t be better than a legendary, so it’s not really worth picking up unless you just want to salvage it.

And you know that if a legendary drops, you want to see what affixes it has on it. If it has better affixes than the gear that you are wearing in that slot, you want to keep the item; otherwise, you’re going to salvage it. What’s the Legendary Power? What did it roll? It doesn’t matter, because now the best practice for legendary powers is to salvage the item that they come on and put them into your Codex of Power, unless the piece of gear itself is worth using in the meantime.

Immediately, that makes it so you spend an absolute fraction of the time thinking about loot or sorting through your gear than you used to, because that was a real problem the game had.

Itemization Depth Unchanged

But the reason that I really like the changes that they’ve made to itemization is it hasn’t actually made the system shallower at all. For them to accomplish that, if anything, they’ve actually made

Enhanced Item Journey

It deeper, they’ve made each item have a much longer journey and made it much more capable of achieving higher power than it could before. There are things like greater affixes now, which just feel good when they drop. They are pure RNG, only happening on drops from an enemy, larger than normal rules if it happens, of the affixes that it happens on, and you can have every base AIX on a piece of gear roll as a greater AIX. It’s possible if you are absurdly lucky. This sword is the best thing that I’ve gotten so far.

But then, there is also the tempering system that lets you add up to two bonus affixes of your choosing from a pool, and you can reroll them a bit. And how a lot of those are just some where some of the more specific or interesting affixes have gone that used to be on gear, but they’ve also added a ton of new and interesting ones in here too, to really just add another layer of customization to builds.

Customization and Masterworking

Then there is also masterworking, which is just upgrading gear but with larger stakes and a certain amount of luck involved too, to make it more of a chase mechanic than just a get it or you don’t. Because that’s the thing, a lot of the gear that’s in Diablo I on the current servers, on the Eternal realm, on season 3, the gear drops and then it’s either good or it’s not, and that’s it. You can maybe roll one AIX into being better than it is, you can maybe make it slightly better than it would be without doing that, but it’s so much different than what this is looking like on the PTR.

On the PTR, you take a good item, you turn it into an incredible item. You don’t take an okay item and make it into a slightly better item; you have to start with a good item and then you have to put effort into it, making it actually perfect, which means that no matter when you get the item, it will take some time, and that’s good because it makes the actual journey of leveling feel more important too.

Positive Initial Impressions

A step in the right direction for that, it doesn’t necessarily solve everything by any means, but from my initial impression with it, it definitely feels genuinely far better, and I’m actually having fun with the game right now playing PTR. It’s honestly been a while since I felt proper enjoyment and engagement to this level from playing Diablo 4.

Past that, then, there is some other stuff too. I haven’t reached like uber bosses or anything like that. I haven’t even tried the pit yet. I don’t even have my build fully sorted yet, in the first place. This is just my initial first impressions from the first couple of hours, just going through some more basic stuff.

Though, I do have to say, dust devil Barbarian ridiculously fun. It’s like a more brutal version of tornado Druid, which I’m also a really big fan of.

Enhancements to Helltide

Hell tide as well is really well changed. They increased the density of Helltide in general, they added a number of smaller activities or events around the area, and they’ve added what is essentially a threat meter to the activity. It will fill as you kill enemies within Helltide, and the higher it gets, the more frequently enemies will spawn right on top of your head. Fill the bar completely, and a bunch of enemies will spawn in waves, followed by a boss, which is essentially just one of the Blood Seekers from season 2. It makes Helltide as a whole feel a lot more active.

I rarely felt like I was just purely traveling without killing enemies along the way. I was just carving my way from event to event, rarely going on my horse, and that is honestly what Helltide should be, in my opinion. Helltide as a mechanic is at its best when it feels like dungeon density but in an open-world setting, in a much larger explorable area.

And well, I think we could even go with more density than we have here for sure. I think we’re a lot closer, and it feels a fairly large amount better, in my opinion, as a result.

Refinement of the Codex of Power

I also sort of glossed over it a bit too quickly to make a larger point earlier, but the new Codex of Power changes are just 100% perfect. It is exactly what we wanted, and that’s how it’s always should have been. Salvage an item, its legendary aspect goes into your codex, and then you can apply the best one that you’ve ever found to any piece of gear from that point forward. Now, instead of hoarding good roles in case you maybe might need them later, filling your entire storage with just legendary aspects.

System Simplification and Gameplay Enhancement

We can instead just salvage any piece of gear you don’t want to actively wear because that’s how the system works now. It simplifies some of the biggest tedium, increases the percentage of playtime that is actually playing the game, and decreases the playtime spent organizing things. Instead, it’s just an absolute plus all around. To sum up my personal impressions, we aren’t quite there yet; it is not a masterpiece yet by any means, but I wasn’t expecting Diablo 4 to turn into that overnight.

What it is, however, is much better than it was. It’s a lot more enjoyable to me. So, if you’ve ever had fun while playing Diablo 4, I have no doubt that with these changes in place when they come for season 4, you will enjoy it more than you used to, than you ever have in the past, whether you stopped playing it months ago or you still actively play it today. The game just feels genuinely better, much better, with the changes that are coming.

Final Thoughts and Considerations

That said, a couple of things to mention before we wrap up for today, so I can just go log in some more playtime and get you some more detailed information on it all later. This tweet from Adam Jackson states, “Keep in mind, especially with these specific numbers, everything is still subject to change. This is just the PTR; it’s the public test realm.”

So, you see me in this barely out of the box, five legendaries on it that matter, really no uniques at all on it yet, Barbarian Build, murdering through a tier 70 plus nightmare dungeon, consider maybe that dust devils might be tuned down just a touch before this hits the actual game. But for right now, it’s really fun.

And then, finally, just in case there are people out there who weren’t expecting a PTR to begin today, maybe you were a bit out of the loop, and your reaction to seeing and watching this article is to want to try it out for yourself, just a quick warning that at least as of right now, you do have to do.

Prologue and Level Boosting

The prologue of the campaign up to Kova Shad takes about 15 to 20 minutes at most, even doing it at a casual pace. But it is worth mentioning that’s required before the mega boost to level 100. The devs did say that they were considering adding a workaround for even requiring that.

And just about does it for today, then, everyone. Just a quick wrap-up of my first impressions a couple of hours into messing around with the PTR for season 4 of Diablo 4. I’m honestly quite impressed with it so far. I knew from reading and hearing about the changes that they were going to do that it would be a positive move for sure, but actually getting to experience them in-game is notably better.

First Impressions and Gameplay Feel

I cannot overstate the actual difference in the feeling of loot dropping compared to before, and how much simpler it is to just know within a quarter of a second if an item should be marked as junk or not, so I can just move on and keep actually fighting enemies. And again, just how much more active it makes the game feel, even all by itself.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed this, then, and again, we will be covering the PTR quite a bit more extensively over the next few days while it’s up for anyone who is interested in the changes. So, let us know what you’re most interested in, and if there is anything you want us to actually check specifically.

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