Diablo 4 Season 4 dragged me back despite the rampant overgrowth of currencies to keep track of

 A sorceress in dark eyeshadow.
Credit: Blizzard

The number of currencies you're expected to collect in modern games seems absurd, but never more so than when Diablo 4 gives them names like anguished goth poetry. To open your Tortured Gifts you need Aberrant Cinders, and while you're hunting for those you should be looking out for Baneful Hearts, which can be used at Accursed Nests to summon a boss who can be killed to farm Exquisite Blood.

I made fun of this in a tweet where I invented a bunch of currencies in the same style, suggesting "future patches will let you foment Pain Shards by transmorphing Wound Imps into Malfeasance Tokens, instead of having to distress your own Affliction Coins." I thought "Pain Shards" was a bit on the nose, then a subsequent update added a currency called "Shards of Agony" so actually I didn't go far enough.

And yet here I am in Season 4 running Helltides to collect Fiend Roses. They got me, and all they had to do to win me over was give me a bunch of free stuff—and speed up the levelling.

This season is subtitled Loot Reborn, and the focus is on giving players more and doing it faster. It arrived at the same time as a temporary game-wide 50% boost to gold drops and a 25% boost to XP, and the difference that makes is remarkable. I'm on my third character now, so being able to race up the levels is a delight. I just want to unlock all the skills now, don't make me wait.

When I see a treasure goblin, my sorcerer wails on them with lightning that crawls along the ground like electric worms just like in the original Diablo, and when they run away I teleport alongside to smack my Arc Lash in their face until they give up their loot, which now includes a bonus bag you can open to make it rain again—a little delayed gratification to save for when you're in town so you don't overfill your inventory. It feels good, especially compared to how stingy Diablo 4 was at launch.

I did have to wait to get into Helltides, though. These intense events, painting part of the map red and filling it with higher-level enemies, were previously only available in World Tier 3, unlocked by finishing the story then running a special Capstone Dungeon. Part of this season's generosity is making Helltides available in every World Tier, but I didn't realize until I was hours in that you need to skip the campaign to get at Helltides right away. I'd elected to replay story mode, and so had to finish eating my plot vegetables before I could have my Helltide dessert.

A red portal in Hell
A red portal in Hell

It's easy to make mistakes like this in the information overload of live-service games. Season 4 has a laundry list of changes like adding of manuals with affixes, or modifiers, you can add to items by tempering them, as well as special crafting materials found in a megadungeon called the Pit of Artificers that let you masterwork items. It adds pets, Andariel as a summonable boss, and a questline including the Iron Wolves and a whole separate reward system earned by ranking up their Wolf's Honor. Like the currency overgrowth, it's a pile of stuff designed to encourage acquisitiveness and FOMO, all wrapped in a bunch of words you'll find next to "miserable" in the thesaurus.

I can't deny I enjoyed my third run-through of the campaign. Story has never been the strong point of a Diablo game, which rely on characters doing dumb shit all the way back to the protagonist of the first game trying to ensure the soulstone he'd trapped Satan in was safe by jamming it directly into his own forehead, but Blizzard's high-budget cutscenes remain impressive. I happily sat through the whole Lord of the Rings-style battle for Hell cinematic yet again.

And then, story out of the way, I jumped into a Helltide, a monster-rich environment that boils Diablo down to purest clickfrenzy. Freeze some imps, teleport to a succubus, drop a big electric AoE, collect loot, rinse and repeat. Turns out if you call a Skinner Box a Gloom Casket or a Dismal Receptacle or something, I will happily climb inside and turn out the light.