To all the Goblins I’ve chased before: The best, most interesting, and most exciting Seasonal Themes in Diablo 3
Diablo hasn’t always had Seasonal Themes, but they make each Season something special. The first Theme for a Diablo 3 Season was Season 14’s Season of Greed, and I have never forgotten it, because it meant that I wrote Always Be Hitting Goblins. It’s one of my favorite posts on this website, but while I have a lot of fondness for Season 14, I would argue that there have been more interesting Seasons since, with cool and unique mechanics and metagame implications. But for me that frenzied rush to hit as many Treasure Goblins as I could is simply hard to beat.
So, which Season was the best? What incredibly subjective opinion of which Season’s Theme had the most flair could we all agree on?
Well, none. We’ll never all agree on anything. It’s the internet, it’s humanity, and we’re never going to come to a complete consensus. I mean, come on, I once heard someone defend Batman and Robin for an hour straight. But we can still have fun talking about the topic.
Before we go on, let’s cover the Seasonal Themes that have come and gone so far.
The Roll of Seasons
Season 14: The Season of Greed
This Season was the first, and it was the one that pioneered the concept of a special Theme for a Diablo 3 Season. In this Season, we were given the gift of double Treasure Goblin spawns, meaning that if you were quick and murderous you could potentially get double the reward from any Goblins you saw and dispatched, whether they dropped loot, Blood Shards, special pets or what have you.
Season 15: Boon of the Horadrim
Season 15 continued in the footsteps of Season 14, but the reward for this Season — double the Horadric Caches for completing Acts in D3‘s Exploration Mode — lacked the dynamism of S14. You just got two Caches, you didn’t have to do anything or exert any extra effort as you did with the Goblins. It’s not a favorite of mine — while there’s nothing wrong with getting more stuff, there’s no element of risk or excitement to simply getting two boxes at the end of a task instead of one box.
Season 16: Season of Grandeur
The first of what I’d call the meta-theme Seasons, Season 16’s Theme was built around granting all Seasonal players the buff that normally requires one to wear (or use Kanai’s Cube on) the Ring of Royal Grandeur. The ring reduced the number of pieces of a Set you needed to wear to access that Set’s bonuses, and in Season 16 everyone got that buff — no ring required. While this bonus didn’t apply to non-Seasonal characters (the first two Seasons had been accessible even if you weren’t on a Season character) and it didn’t stack with anyone wearing the Ring or using the Kanai’s Cube of its Legendary power, it did provide a tangible benefit that was unique to the Season since it meant you could wear fewer pieces of a Set and still gain the benefits of that Set’s bonuses. This kind of meta-theme would continue in future Seasons.
Season 17: Season of Nightmares
Carrying on the meta-theme aspect, Season 17 took the concept of Season 16 and ran with it. The Theme was based around the Legacy of Nightmares set, giving every single player its Set power: Player’s damage dealt is increased by 750% and damage taken is reduced by 4% for every Ancient Item they have equipped while having no Set Bonuses Active.
This was so influential in terms of how players approached Season 17 that Blizzard later introduced a Legendary Gem called the Legacy of Dreams so players could keep this playstyle without wearing the Legacy of Nightmares set. While Season 16 introduced the concept of an established item power becoming a Season Theme Buff, it’s arguably Season 17 that had the most impact on how the game was actually played.
Season 18: Season of the Triune
This Season combined elements from Season 14 and Season 16, in that it was a meta-theme Season, but one that didn’t rely on a previously established Legendary or Set Bonus. Instead, the Power of the Triune would cause all Season players from 1 to 70 to have a chance to spawn one of three circles on the ground that they could stand in — a circle that would reduce the cooldown on abilities, another that would increase the damage the player dealt, and another that would reduce the resource cost on abilities. Unlike Season 16 and 17, which were heavily dependent on you having either a Set or at least two Ancient Legendary items, this power was useful for any level of Seasonal Character.
However, the circles were often inconvenient to stand in and there was no real meta-game planning component to the Season — either you got a circle or you didn’t. There was no way to make them spawn more often and if you couldn’t stand in place — perhaps your build reduced incoming damage while you were moving, for example — then you couldn’t really take advantage of the Triune buff. A strong but flawed Season.
Season 19: Season of the Eternal Conflict
Season 19 took the basic idea of Season 18 and tried to fix the problem of the circles spawning in odd places or not spawning at all by making this Season’s buff, Pandemonium, directly link to the player. Season 19’s Season of the Eternal Conflict was all about kill-streaks — it encouraged a different kind of meta-gaming by causing players to design builds that were all about mobility, constantly hitting mobs to keep their kill streaks from falling off, and getting that streak as high as possible. The Pandemonium buff increased movement speed and damage, adding a +0.05% movement speed and +0.1% damage buff that stacked up to 50% +50% movement speed and +100% damage — which would require 1000 stacks of the buff. In addition, there were a host of random effects as one stacked the buff higher, including some that Blizzard deliberately kept from us until players actually managed to stack it high enough to find out.
This was possibly one of the most exciting of the Season Themes, taking the approach from Season 18 and going all-in on it in an extremely satisfying way.
Season 20: Season of the Forbidden Archives
After Season 19, it’s not surprising that Blizzard took a step back from the ambitious and somewhat complex Pandemonium kill streak buff and tried something a bit less exhaustive, that hearkened back to Season 16 and 17 a bit. The Season of the Forbidden Archives altered the way Kanai’s Cube works, allowing players to disregard the usual restrictions of the Cube and play faster and looser with the Legendary powers the Cube allows to be applied directly to the character. You could now use two Weapon Powers and an Armor power, or three Armor powers, or a Jewelry power and two Armor Powers, or what have you — you were no longer required to pick one Weapon, one Armor, and one Jewelry power.
This meant a lot of metagame speculation about which set up would be the best, similar to those previous Seasons, but it also meant that once again you had to have Kanai’s Cube unlocked and have at least three Legendaries before you could get much use of this, making it less fun for characters as they leveled.
Season 21: The Trials of Tempests
As of this writing Season 21 isn’t live yet, but the PTR is dropping this week and the Theme is Trials of Tempests, which will be similar to the Triune Season in that it will allow players to randomly explode with elemental damage to kill foes around them. It should be good for 1 to 70 Seasonal Characters, but won’t really require much in terms of meta-game planning unless the buff is affected by player gear and skill choices, which we don’t know yet.
So which Season was the best?
It really depends on what you mean, but for me, Season 17 was the most influential Season. It took the idea of Season 16 and made it bigger and better, to the point where players liked the concept so intensely that Blizzard actually made a Legendary Gem just so they could keep playing with that style.
Season 14 started the whole concept of Themes and it had all those Goblins we loved hitting, and I think Season 19 may have been the best executed Season with a buff that started relevant and never stopped. But Season 17 was the first time Blizzard looked at what they were doing with Seasons and truly realized the potential of the Themes to change and break out new styles of gameplay.
So if I had to rank them, I’d say:
- Season 17
- Season 19
- Season 14 as my personal favorite — Goblins ahhh hit em hit em all always be hitting goblins — but that just, like, my opinion, man
But now that we’ve recapped all the Seasons, there lies the comments, waiting for you to come and explain why Season 20 was the best. For the record, I’ve pretty much loved every Season except Season 15. I’m sorry, y’all, but Boon of the Horadrim was the big let down.
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