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If the preview of Diablo 4’s upcoming season 4 PTR is anything to go by, I can kiss my free time goodbye when it launches properly in May. Blizzard has completely revamped the action RPG that came out just a year ago. Everything from numbers to settings is now laid out before you, practically daring you to push its limits.

At the moment, barbarians are causing mayhem by summoning countless deadly cyclones, while necromancer minions are finally getting their moment to shine. These powerful builds may get toned down before the season starts, but they wouldn’t have even existed in the Diablo 4 we knew last year. The game used to be too focused on replicating the subdued, gritty atmosphere of its predecessor, Diablo 2. Now, Diablo 4 is a playground for all sorts of fantasies, whether it’s a rogue leaving live grenades behind or sorcerers freezing dungeons and watching monsters shatter.

Loot has undergone a significant change, now offering meaningful ways to enhance and customize your favorite skills rather than just giving incremental stat boosts. Instead of boring bonuses like increased damage to elite enemies, you can find stats that directly improve skills, like expanding the range of your corpse explosion. This reflects the true spirit of an action RPG, allowing players to experiment and find their preferred playstyle. Compared to this, the live game feels like a beta test.

I quickly put together a necromancer minion build using the PTR’s free level boost, and my skeleton crew tore through an endgame dungeon despite my terrible gear. I didn’t follow a guide or spend much time optimizing my setup. While I’m sure I’d struggle against monsters in The Pit, a new endgame dungeon that scales up in difficulty like Diablo 3’s greater rifts, it’s satisfying to try something without being penalized for not having good enough gear.

In the old Diablo 4, my next step would’ve been grinding for hours to find items that specifically boosted the stats my character needed. But in the new Diablo 4, I can create them myself.

Gone are the days of spending hours sorting through loot after every dungeon. Now, each item is like a piece of clay you can mold using Diablo 4’s two new crafting systems: Tempering and Masterworking. Tempering lets you add stats to your gear as you level up, limited only by materials and gold. For example, if you find boots with movement speed, you can enhance them further with a mobility manual. Then, using materials earned exclusively from The Pit at level 100, you can Masterwork them to increase those stats even more. Every four Masterworking levels boosts a stat so much that it feels like you’re breaking the game. To me, that’s the best part of an action RPG: Finding or creating something so powerful that it feels unintended by the developers. Masterworking allows you to experience that feeling constantly.

You can juice up any stat with Masterworking, meaning you could create a build with so much resource cost reduction that you wouldn’t even need the classic “builder” and “spender” skill formula. The possibilities aren’t endless, but they’re varied enough to ensure that no two builds will look exactly the same, forcing you to focus on what you truly enjoy.

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