Diablo IV: Season of the Malignant preview — Malignant Hearts and Menacing Monsters

Season 1 of Diablo IV is launching on July 20th, and there’s a whole lot to know. We recently sat down with the Blizzard team to find out what makes Season of the Malignant a huge departure from the “Eternal” campaign.

The first thing to know is that Season of the Malignant, and all future seasonal content, is considered to be endgame content. More accurately, post campaign. Yes, you’ll be creating a brand new character (and there’s a reason for that – hold that thought), but from a story perspective it’s meant to follow on from your battle with Lilith and the denizens of Hell.

Diablo IV | Season of the Malignant | Announce Trailer

Unlike seasonal content in other Blizzard games, Diablo IV’s seasons will feature not only new game mechanics, but also story content. Season of the Malignant will begin in Kyovashad. Having pushed back Lilith and her forces, a new foe rises in the power vacuum – a vile creature named Varshan the Consumed. Varshan is corrupting the monsters and creatures of Sanctuary, causing them to become Malignant – a new variant of foe that has that special Malignant affix. Killing them will drop Malignant Hearts, and that’s the core for what makes this season special.

Malignant Hearts can be socketed into your gear. Unlike a gem, which might add 5% to your lightning damage, these often have wild effects on gameplay mechanics. For instance, one heart we saw stunned every creature nearby if more than 5 creatures got close to the player. Another causes critical strikes to be “stored” on an enemy, and once their battery is charged, they’ll explode just a few moments later with bonus damage to all nearby creatures. All of these are meant to be mechanically different than the “Eternal” items and that’s precisely why this needs to be attached to a new character.

As you collect socketed gear and progress through the new quests of Season 1, you’ll slot in one of the 32 available Malignant Hearts to gain the aforementioned powers. As these wildly change the way the game is played, it’s meant to be a temporary boon. It allows the Blizzard team, as well as the player, to experiment with new systems and mechanics without affecting the overall balance of the campaign. At the end of the season, which will last for 12 weeks, these Malignant Hearts will disappear, being removed from their sockets and evaporating. Those seasonal characters will then become “Eternal” characters forevermore.

Diablo IV | Season of the Malignant | Gameplay Trailer

To help you navigate the story of Season 1, you’ll be working with a new character named Cormond. Cormond is a former priest of the Cathedral of Light and seems to have a great deal of knowledge about the Malignant, posing far more questions than it answers.

To farm for these new Malignant Hearts, the player will seek out Malignant tunnels. These tunnels allow the player to farm for a specific color of Heart as these tunnels are aligned with a specific color of creature. As such, there will be more of that type of monster, raising your chances. If that doesn’t pan out, you can also use an item called an “Invoker” which can be stabbed into a Malignant Outgrowth to “force the lever” so to speak. By doing so, you’ll simply select the color you want and then slay the monsters ahead, resulting in a greater chance of getting the desired heart drop. There are 32 Malignant Heart types, split across four different colors/elemental aspects. Choose wisely, however, as unlike gems the object they are socketed into will be destroyed upon their removal, though you can swap in a new one without the loss.

If you are wondering about the “Tiers” that were mentioned pre-launch, we finally have a good idea of what those look like. Season 1 will have a whopping 90 tiers – 27 free, and 63 Premium. Both will yield “Smoldering Ashes”, which can be spent on Season Blessings. These Blessings allow you to earn additional XP, Obols, Gold, and more, though these too will only last until the end of the Season of the Malignant.

Another mechanic introduced is the concept of Favor, which lets you progress through the Battle Pass Tiers. There are a total of seven story chapters in Season of the Malignant (playing out similar to the various regions in the campaign), and completing the objectives will yield Favor. Trading in Favor, again, yields Season-wide rewards, though you won’t have to complete them all to progress to the next chapter.

It wouldn’t be a new Season without new goodies. Seven new Legendary Aspects can appear on your equipment, a new “Mastery” title, and a “Scroll of Amnesia” (which provides a free Paragon Board and Skill tree reset) are joined by six new unique items and six new dungeons to explore. There is a lot to explore with this seasonal content prior to the already-acknowledged expansion pack.

We are just touching on the broad strokes of what lies ahead, and with a whopping three months minimum to explore it all, it should alleviate the pressure that players like myself feel to finish seasonal content. Diablo IV is the fastest selling Blizzard game of all time, and based on my experience, it’s easy to see why. It’s great to see the team continue to expand the world, and if this season is any indication, we are just getting started.

Diablo IV is available for PC, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. You can read our review here.

Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief | [email protected]

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming.

Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter.

Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 28 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes), and an Axolotl named Dagon!

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