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Diablo 4 leaks show a controversial Diablo 3 feature is making a comeback

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A fresh wave of Diablo 4 leaks has surfaced online following a private playtest, suggesting a controversial feature from its predecessor is making a return.

In-game footage, screengrabs, and other morsels of information about Diablo 4 have appeared over the past several days, giving fans their first look at the upcoming action RPG. The leaks emerged after Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier revealed on Twitter (opens in new tab) that an early friends-and-families build of Diablo 4 had been released.

The leaks reveal several unconfirmed features of the RPG. Diablo 4’s character creator was shared on Reddit (opens in new tab), alongside details (opens in new tab) of the game’s Smart Loot system and partial player trading.

How smart is too smart?

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A Smart Loot system was first introduced in Diablo 3, causing quite a stir among series fans. Essentially a targeted drop system, it ensures that loot dropped by defeated enemies is appropriate to the class and stats of your character. If you’re playing a Wizard, for example, you’ll be less likely to find a crossbow than a ranged-focused Demon Hunter would. 

But its appearance in Diablo 4 has split players. Over on Reddit (opens in new tab), Some reckon the feature enhances the Diablo formula by making its grind quicker and more rewarding. It's particularly useful if you know you'll be sticking to a single class, as you’re likely to acquire lots of gear that’s suitable for your character.

Those who are less enthused claim the system encourages less experimentation. Players can very quickly build a strong character and may be less incentivized to replay the game with another class. Fed a constant supply of loot that suits a single character, changing class becomes hard work as you've no stashed gear to dip into.

Some players (opens in new tab) suggest the Smart Loot system should be scaled back to introduce a larger element of chance. Others dislike it in its entirety, claiming it removes those unexpected moments when you find the perfect item out of sheer luck or a powerful item that inspires you to totally pivot your character's build.

To trade, or not to trade

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Restrictions on player trading have also been hotly debated. According to the leaks, low rarity items can be traded among players in small quantities, but the most valuable loot can’t be given away at all.

Many on the official Diablo forum (opens in new tab) have defended the decision. They hope it will avoid attracting unscrupulous players who’ll try to rig the market to their liking. Others (opens in new tab) have noted that the importance of player trading will be intimately connected to the Smart Loot system. If each player’s drops are curated to suit their character, players will be less likely to find items they don’t want to keep for themselves. That partially negates the need to trade gear at all.

Although the leaks stem from an early build of Diablo 4, which may drastically change by the time the full game releases, there’s good reason to think these features will remain in place. Blizzard has maintained and defended the Smart Loot system since Diablo 3 released back in 2012, and Diablo 4's limited trading system was even teased back in 2019.

“The idea is that we have three different types of tradeable items,” said lead game designer Zaven Haroutunian during a Blizzcon 2019 panel (opens in new tab). “There is a class of items that can always be traded no matter what… and then we also have a class of items that are tradeable one time.

“We are also thinking the highest quality, most powerful things in the game should be items that you can’t trade at all. You have to earn them yourself. You have to go do those end-game dungeons and kill monsters to get that loot.”

Choose your hero

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Diablo 4’s character creator also got a showing in this recent leak, with several screenshots and videos shared on Reddit (opens in new tab). Offering our first glimpse into the cosmetic side of Diablo 4, they show a character customization system that looks a cut above that of past Diablo games. You’ll be able to choose between a variety of body shapes, skin colors, and tattoos.

An official Diablo 4 public or private playtest is yet to be announced. If you’re super keen to get involved, though, you could always nab a place in its beta program by getting a permanent tattoo.

Gaming News Writer

Callum is TechRadar Gaming’s News Writer. You’ll find him whipping up stories about all the latest happenings in the gaming world, as well as penning the odd feature and review. Before coming to TechRadar, he wrote freelance for various sites, including Clash, The Telegraph, and Gamesindustry.biz, and worked as a Staff Writer at Wargamer. Strategy games and RPGs are his bread and butter, but he’ll eat anything that spins a captivating narrative. He also loves tabletop games, and will happily chew your ear off about TTRPGs and board games.