When I first sat down to play Diablo 4’s Season 3 – Season of the Construct – I certainly wasn’t worried that I am not going to enjoy my time. Though I had my misgivings about the apparent focus on traps and hazards in its dungeons, it was simply impossible to judge the bigger picture without actually delving into it.
There was a worry that, because Blizzard took so long to talk about the new season, it might not be as ambitious or grand as past seasons. But the full reveal quickly assuaged those fears.I have now put enough time into the season, and I am confused about so much of what went into its deign.
Season of the Construct has three ‘pillars’. The first is Diablo 4’s first companion; an AI-controlled pet that follows you around and deals damage to enemies, protects you, and occasionally pull aggro.
It’s a decent idea, especially for people like me who almost always play ARPGs solo. I was very excited to have a buddy come along and do (some of) my bidding. But this is where the Season’s first letdown manifests. Your companion is… a mechanical version of an existing enemy in the game. It does not pick up gold/loot for you, nor does it have its own storage to lighten your load. It can’t run to town and sell excess items, dismantle them, or really serve any function. It just sort of tags along, maybe providing a little mild spice to combat.
If you went in expecting the Seneschal Companion to work like companions traditionally have in ARPGs (like the best Ashes in Elden Ring), you’ll be sorely disappointed. So what can it do? Well, it can attack enemies! As part of Season 3’s loop, you acquire two types of stones that dictate the attacks it has, and modifies their behaviour. You can set it up to be more of an aggro bot that mainly exists to protect you, or you can lean hard into its damage potential.
Like the past two seasons, the items you acquire – in this case, Governing/Tuning Stones – can be upgraded by finding more of them. And, annoyingly, like those seasons, you cannot choose which ones to upgrade, meaning you could spend hours playing and getting duplicates that upgrade stones you’re not interested in using, rather than the ones you already are.
Though I did occasionally feel the companion’s presence, it was mostly because of my chosen class this season. As a squishy Sorcerer, I benefit a lot from having someone else keep enemies occupied so I can pelt them with my fireballs from a distance without having to constantly worry about rushers closing in.
The companion, really, feels like an afterthought. It has the same exact design as many of the “new” enemies introduced this season. This so-called “new” monster family is very much like when Bungie changes the look of an enemy faction in Destiny 2 (when it bothers to add one): Blizzard has just modified some attacks, and called it a new enemy.
This monster family acts the same way; it’s not a new faction. Instead, we get these mechanical approximations of existing enemies we’ve been fighting since Diablo 4 launched. It was quite amusing to emerge from the season quest’s first dungeon to get attacked by two groups of monsters using almost identical animations, except one of them is clanky. Indeed, I found that I often lost track of my own clanker amidst all the chaos of combat. And no, I don’t care that there’s a real reason why these (initially intended as ‘vault guardians’) are modelled after the natural monsters of the world.
Perhaps the most disappointing, and head-scratching, addition is all reliance on traps and hazards in and out of dungeons in Season 3. Somehow, Blizzard made the most annoying part of playing Diablo 4 a core feature of the new season.
Because you’re invading vaults designed to keep intruders at bay, they’re laden with traps at every corner. You almost have to play Diablo 4 as some sort of bullet hell shmup where you need to make sure you don’t click too far into the right, lest you end up in the firing line. Oh, and you have to do all that while fighting enemies as you normally would, many of whom already have their AoE attacks and lingering pools of elemental effects.
Upon entering a Vault, you get an opportunity to spend a currency obtained from various activities to gain protection from those traps. It’s quite a clear indication Blizzard knows some traps are unavoidable, especially as you engage in combat. Even when things quiet down, the level of movement mastery and dodge timing expertise required to not get hit is just silly.
At best, it slows down the pace considerably. At worst, it comes across as a mechanic that was made for a different game. And all of that before you even reach the Nightmare versions of those dungeons, something I am not looking forward to doing this season. It would have been fine for traps to exist as a gimmick in one or two dungeons here and there, but the entire point of a whole season!?
I have had to avoid picking up loot because it was in the path of some sort of firepit or poison darts and I just didn’t want to bother with charting a path through it all like I am some sort of high seas navigator. In the simplest possible terms, if I’m having to leave loot behind so I don’t lose HP (or die!) in a loot game, something has gone terribly wrong.
Which brings us to the first post-season patch, which, if you’re keeping track, was released just three days after the season went live. The patch does its damndest to cut down on all the effects of those annoying traps, letting players run into them at much less of a penalty. It’s almost like Blizzard is admitting the entire point of the new season was misguided.
Even in the process of writing this review, Blizzard is preparing yet another patch that buffs your companion, S3’s other controversial addition. I suspect, since you can’t entirely remove traps, more work will be done there to push them into the background.
And so Diablo 4 finds itself at this bizarre, early pitstop. The game was missing a lot of what anyone would consider ARPG standard at launch, but it slowly and steadily re-introduced (some of) them. Blizzard seems to have understood what Diablo 4’s weakest areas are and is prioritising them, especially after the chaos the first major post-launch patch caused amongst the community. Season of Blood continued to build on that commitment to itemisation and endgame, and ended up being more engaging as a result.
All of this makes me question whether Season 3 simply was developed separately, away from what Diablo 4 had gone through since launch. It comes across as a first attempt; a couple of (mostly) meaningless gimmicks, no real direction in the core pursuit, and a quest that doesn’t really build on what came before – exactly the sort of cobbled together first content drop that’s usually made as everyone rushes to finish the main game.
Here’s hoping for something a bit more engaging in Season 4.