Can Diablo 3’s weak Season 21 Trials of the Tempests buff be saved? Yes.
Last week, I wrote a post asking the question “Is Blizzard’s hotfix of the Trials of the Tempests buff enough?” Because in my view Diablo 3‘s Season 21 hasn’t been as good as previous seasons. While I understand that’s always the possibility when dealing with Themed Seasons like this — we’ve discussed the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to Diablo 3 Seasons before — it’s time to address what I believe to be the case: the Trials of the Tempest buff is still not working properly and at this point Season 21 needs work.
The buff is fine in terms of what it adds to your character. It’s a buff that affects gameplay from the moment you start out your Season journey and continues all the way through to level 70, calling the elements to assist you as you smash your way through demonic hordes. It adds interesting changes to how combat works. It’s a kill streak buff, triggering more frequently as you rack up kills, a mechanic which I enjoyed in Season 19.
But the way it dominates the field of vision when it triggers makes it a difficult buff to play with, and while I think graphical tweaks could still rein it in, it’s worth considering that by now a lot of players have probably written the Season off.
What do we do? Well, nothing, But we can talk about it.
Can we save Season 21?
First up, I don’t think the buff needs to be adjusted. It works fine. Not everyone loves kill streak buffs, but I’m okay with it.
Random elemental effects breaking out onto the world while you play isn’t a bad idea, it’s just lacking in the meta-play aspects of Seasons like 17 or 20. In fact, I think that’s what I would suggest for Season 21, and every Season to come: take inspiration from Season 20 and how it had both the meta-theme aspect with the Forbidden Archives buff and the return of double Treasure Goblins from Season 14’s Season of Greed.
Imagine if every Season had a theme that combined a meta-play aspect and a more direct aspect, whether it’s more Treasure Goblins, more loot from Caches, what have you. These featuresdon’t have to be repeats or recycled. Season 20 got Treasure Goblins added because the pandemic had a lot of people sitting at home playing video games to take their minds off of things, but I think it revealed that in these, the waning Seasons of Diablo 3, it’s time to consider making the Season experience a more wide-ranging affair.
Essentially, I suppose it’s an expansion of the question I asked in jest — should every Season have double treasure goblins? No. But every Season could probably benefit from having something else, some additional benefit that makes the gameplay more engaging. Hanging the entire Season’s success on a buff that may or may not engage the players just is a hard sell when we’re a year or two away from Diablo 4. (I know, that’s optimistic on my part, but sooner or later we will get that game, and when we do Diablo 3 essentially ends.)
Season 20 was an accident, a confluence of real world events, but I think it was also a discovery. We simply can’t go back. We can’t just do a Theme and be done with it.
There are limits to what is possible, but we can do more with what we have
There is, of course, a simple fact that there’s a significant amount of work involved in designing, testing, and implementing a Season’s Theme and it’s probably not realistic to expect them to do that twice for every Season. It’s completely unlikely that Season 21 can do that.
But I think that for Season 21 it would make sense to look back at previous Seasons and draw inspiration from them — imagine if Season 16’s Season of Grandeur buff was introduced, for example. It would add a nice meta-play aspect to the Season and give players an aspect of gameplay they could work towards and make decisions based on, something you can’t really do with the Trial of the Tempests buff.
I wouldn’t go with Treasure Goblins again — we’ve done that twice now. But between Season 16, Season 17 and Season 20, we have some solid options for a meta-play aspect to bring back. Then, for Season 22, it would be an interesting idea to develop another meta-play Theme and pair it with one of the several Season buffs that added a power, like Season 18, 19, or 21. By alternating which kind of secondary Season Theme to bring back, you could broaden the available pool of Seasons to return in this way, ensuring that the combinations remain relatively fresh and distinct. Sprinkling in stuff like Season 14 and 15, which just add stuff ultimately, when you’re getting tired of too much complexity.
This is all predicated on the idea that we only have so much time left for Diablo 3, of course. But I think it’s worthwhile. And for Season 21, it would definitely be nice to see something like the Season 20 Kanai’s Cube meta-game come back, something that felt like it interacted with you and your choices.
It could definitely balance out what has been a less than well-received Season.
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