Diablo 4's Lunar New Year event doesn't feel like an event at all. The promised cosmetic rewards take about an hour to earn and trying to find the XP-boosting Lunar Shrines is harder than trying to find an Uber Unique. It's as if the event was designed for the Diablo 4 that existed before season 2's overhaul, and Blizzard's hotfixes can't seem to make it much better.
Today, Blizzard doubled the XP bonus from the Lunar Shrines scattered throughout the open world and dungeons to 100% (from 50%). You'd think a 100% XP boost would be huge for anyone who needs to grind out the last few levels toward 100, but the bonus is way too limited to have much of an impact.
When you activate a shrine, you only have around a minute to slay nearby demons to benefit from it. Ideally, you'd gather up a bunch of monsters to pop right after activating it, but not only do they not spawn very many enemies, their locations in the open world are too inconsistent to rely on as a leveling method. You'll spend more time looking for them than using them.
Nightmare Dungeons with Lunar Shrines aren't good, either. I've entered several of them and could only find one to three shrines each. In a season where XP is already easy to grind from densely packed vaults, the shrines are forgettable. They would've been a boon when the game launched and a limited-time power-up would help you crush more than a few high-level monsters at once. But people blast through hordes of monsters like gods now that every class is much stronger by default, so a few extra lightning strikes or heaps of gold doesn't meaningfully change the experience.
Season 3 hasn't managed to meet the expectations set by the last season, and a dull event makes the discrepancies painfully apparent.
The rewards for using the shrines are just as stale. There are 20 tiers of rewards to unlock for killing monsters with the shrines and most of them are bags of random loot and gold—two things that you're absolutely showered in by everything else in the game. The second to last event reward is a meager 300K gold, for example. A single cache from spending 10 minutes completing Grim Favors will give you over three million gold and all sorts of loot and companion upgrade stones. A few hundred thousand gold is almost an insult.
Season 2 should've been the blueprint and yet season 3, so far, feels like it came from a different timeline. Blood Harvests were a fun excuse to go out into the open world and pick up loads of loot and Vampiric Powers felt unique and nearly-build-defining in some cases. Midwinter Blight, the last limited-time event, had its issues when it came to grinding up the cosmetics, but it at least gave you potions for a permanent XP buff. Other than vaults, Season 3 hasn't managed to meet the expectations set by the last season, and a dull event makes the discrepancies painfully apparent.
All eyes on The Gauntlet
Underpowered bonuses—that Blizzard rushes to patch days later—are a theme of season 3 so far. While I'm enjoying the season overall and don't think an event alone would ruin it, I'm crossing my fingers that the upcoming leaderboard dungeon doesn't feel as thin.
Players have high expectations for fixed weekly dungeons that force you to balance speed and power. Last season's Abattoir of Zir dungeon achieved a similar feat by adding extremely difficult dungeons to the game, forcing people to come up with builds specifically made for it. It prompted the use of an underutilized Uber Unique to make some classes immortal and builds that would've never worked on normal monsters that die instantly. The same creativity could come out of The Gauntlet when it eventually comes out and could invigorate what has become a rather plain season for endgame players. But nobody will care about climbing the leaderboards if the feature comes out half-baked, and especially not if exploits like "snapshotting" item benefits without wearing the items remain mandatory to be competitive.
The problem isn't how long it takes to fix things, it's why they come out that way in the first place.
Diablo 4 has made huge improvements since it launched, but season 3 keeps introducing things that feel like a step backward until Blizzard starts fixing them a few days later. The problem isn't how long it takes to fix them, it's why they come out that way in the first place. Overwatch suffers from a similar problem where updates are inexplicably inconsistent with what came before, messing with everyone's expectations. Its newest hero launched without any free (to earn) Legendary skins, something that was a guarantee since the original game. So when these games nudge you to invest in the battle pass or log in for a new event or buy a skin, it starts to feel like playing the game isn't the top priority. And with Microsoft laying off 1,900 Activision Blizzard developers, many of whom were keeping the live service trains going, it's hard not to get worried about the future.
The Lunar New Year event isn't a sign that Diablo 4 is a dying game or anything like that. Season 4 has a massive rework to items coming and an expansion is due to launch by the end of this year. The work required for those is probably immense, but none of it will matter if everything in between continues to disappoint.