The Soapbox: Will Diablo IV’s Vessel of Hatred be a sufficient answer for Path of Exile 2?


Everyone loves a good enrage timer, right? It puts pressure on everyone involved in a raid or boss fight to pull their weight and play well enough to ensure the boss doesn’t do its unstoppable party-wiping attack that ends the fight. So what does this have to do with Diablo IV? Well, it’s on its own enrage timer: June 7th, 2024. That’s Path of Exile 2’s beta date, and Grinding Gear Games’ Jonathan Rogers seems determined to get things right the first time around – something that hasn’t seemed to be a priority with Blizzard with either Diablo III or IV.

My professional integrity and pride as a video game journalist forbids me from buying into any sort of hype, so I won’t, nor will I try to convince our readers to buy into it either. This applies to Path of Exile 2 too, of course, but nobody can deny that when Path of Exile 2 is in the fans’ hands, Diablo IV will be its direct competitor. Anything Diablo IV does after June 7th, 2024, will be compared to how PoE2 does things. In other words, the Diablo IV team needs to get its shit together before Path of Exile 2 enrages.

So is Blizzard prepared, or will Illidan Stormrage have the justification to burst through the Diablo IV team’s ceiling and say the thing? Let’s examine the current state of Diablo IV and what the announcement of Vessel of Hatred does for the game.

Just me and the boiz just overflowing with rizz from my sweet necromancer drip. (Translation: I bought some cosmetics for my necromancer, and I feel cool.)

Diablo IV as of November 2023

I got the itch to play Diablo IV last week and patched up the game. It was a good time too since Season 2 just started, and I was curious about the gameplay changes Blizzard made for the game. I took a break midway through the Season of the Malignant because I was getting bored, so this time around, I’m building a Bone Spear Necromancer, one of season 2’s most powerful builds. I am pleasantly surprised with the leveling experience this round; I’ve clocked only five hours on this new Necromancer, but I’m already level 36. The leveling pace is much better than this past summer, and part of it comes from the increased experience received from monsters, but the season-exclusive Blood Harvests are the real star of the leveling show so far.

A blood harvest is very much like the helltides in the eternal (non-season) realms. For the uninitiated, just know that these events “infect” a specific area for an hour with more powerful mobs and better loot. Players in the helltide collect a special currency that’s used to open chests dotted around the area. During launch and season 1, the issue was the monster density. It didn’t feel as if there were enough enemies to kill; players complained that it felt like a slog and was a huge bore. But after playing the blood harvest, I now think it looks like things are heading in the right direction.

The key difference between helltides and a blood harvest is that it’s available from level 1. The gameplay loop is still the same: An area gets infected with a special mob – in this case, vampires. Players collect the currency from enemies, and then they can either open chests with them or collect 150 of this currency and use it on special fountains to summon a ton of monsters and make the world rain loot and experience. A lot of the season journey activities are tied to these blood harvests, and they are key to progressing through the season. I’m really enjoying these blood harvests too! There’s always one happening, so you can simply log in and do a blood harvest as something to do if you’ve got only 15 minutes or as the start of a longer gaming session. Either way, it’s been giving me solid experience, loot, and meaningful season progression right off the bat. It’s a strong start.

Of course, blood harvests are just a small piece of the pie, and even with the announcements made during BlizzCon, I don’t think there’s enough here to be an answer to POE2. There is a clear avenue of attack for Blizzard, though…

The campfire chat reveals some very good changes in on tap. Lets hope they can close it out with better itemization

What’s up Diablo IV’s sleeve?

The Fireside Chat panel during BlizzCon actually didn’t show too much about Vessel of Hatred, oddly. The devs mainly shared a bunch of concept art, talked about the context of the forest players are returning to, and teased season 3, which is coming at the end of January. It was fine – nothing too crazy. There was the inevitable backlash of the Diablo IV team not showing more details about the upcoming expansion or talking about itemization, but I wasn’t expecting anything like that from a campfire chat. The takeaway is that the Diablo IV team has been very careful with what it says about this new expansion. With Path of Exile 2 on the way, I’m sure the team doesn’t want to give the POE2 team an answer for the tentpole new features that Vessel of Hatred will come with.

The main pain point communicated by players was how little Blizzard talked about things like itemization. It’s understandable that folks got upset with the lack of details. But the D4 team is in a position where no matter what it does, someone is not going to be happy. I think it was better to stay tight-lipped about it, personally. Players want itemization that feels as good as Diablo II’s, which is the gold standard, and while I honestly have no idea if the studio can do it, at least time is on its side this time. For now.

My favorite thing about Diablo IV is certainly the weapon and armor aesthetics, lets make the number game just as good!

In fact, I’m putting my battlepass-and-cosmetics money (yes, I do have a budget for that stuff) on the D4 team not saying anything else about itemization plans until after June 7th, and I further bet that implementation will take place a few weeks before the expansion releases. But didn’t I just say that the enrage timer goes off on June 7th? Yep, but any raider can tell you that it’s an opportunity for a fresh start. It’s far more practical to overhaul itemization on Diablo IV‘s timeline and not on Path of Exile’s timeline. Trying to beat Path of Exile 2 at beta will not address itemization effectively.

I wouldn’t even be surprised if Blizzard is intentionally waiting to see how GGG is handling its itemization before announcing anything meaningful. Also, a major overhaul on the itemization would be most appropriate during an expansion release too (it’s what Blizz did with Diablo III: Reaper of Souls). Taking a year to develop an itemization system that works well for Diablo IV wouldn’t be a bad call because itemization is more than just good loot; the entire gameloop needs to be analyzed in order to make it work. The itemization system in POE worked because it fits how POE plays. Diablo II’s itemization was amazing because it tied together everything that made Diablo II. Diablo IV is unique, and thus it needs its own unique system. What matters is that the Diablo IV team needs to get it right come Vessel of Hatred’s release.

So will Vessel of Hatred be a sufficient answer to POE2? On the condition that itemization is fixed there, then yes. But I’m becoming convinced it’s Blizzard’s only real chance.

Everyone has opinions, and The Soapbox is how we indulge ours. Join the Massively OP writers as we take turns atop our very own soapbox to deliver unfettered editorials a bit outside our normal purviews (and not necessarily shared across the staff). Think we’re spot on — or out of our minds? Let us know in the comments!
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