With Diablo II: Resurrected, Blizzard and the Vicarious Visions team did something I thought was impossible – they successfully recreated Diablo II just as I remembered it. When I look back on the original today, it’s really fascinating how this remaster paints over the old graphics with a masterful brush and shows the gloomy fantasy environments and deadly bosses exactly as I remembered them. Of course, the original artwork didn’t look like this in 2000, and seeing them today is something of a historical horror. Diablo II: Resurrected is an incredible rework of one of the most important and influential games in history, eager to be experienced by newbies and veterans alike.
The main change here is of course the graphics, which go up to 4k. At first glance, the new look may not seem like much. I said, “Well, it was like this …” But that’s incredibly far from the truth. A slightly quirky and way too enjoyable addition to the game, players can switch between the old graphics and the new graphics in real time with the push of a button, even when spells, effects and abilities are triggered. I spent a lot of time on this feature and had breathtaking moments comparing the old with the new in each act. While the old graphics look gruesome today and are even challenging to look at for a long time, they are evidence of Vicarious Visions’ graphical upgrade. The new graphics are incredibly true to the old vision, with almost none of the notable missteps we’ve seen with Warcraft 3: Reforged, where critical units looked weird. Using some form of technical alchemy, the new game is layered right on top of the old one and it’s breathtaking.
This is the first time Diablo II can be played on a controller, and it’s fluid, intuitive, and responsive. Players can easily assign skills to buttons and should ensure a smooth console experience. While you will find it hard to break me off my mouse and keyboard in a Diablo game, this was the first time I was tempted because of the ease of use.
Tiny changes give players some quality of life improvements. Players collect gold by going over it, which is a godsend given the many stacks of junk coins in the dungeons. Players have shared the storage room to send items to other characters on their roster, which saves a lot of time and energy as it used to take a lot of character / game changes to move items. Finally, a few other options make life less of a chore, such as having dropped items fall to the floor without having to hold down a button. None of these changes change the basic core of Diablo II, but they do make the experience easier.
The core of the game is untouched for better or for worse. I will still be complaining about the narrow hallways at Maggot Lair. Thanks to the isometric environments, an unfortunate click led me straight to death and derailed a funeral run. A surge of excitement ran through my body as Baal died and several set items fell. A wave of desperation followed as I had them identified and realized that they are rubbish. The entire gaming experience today can feel pretty dated just by walking from area to area and howling at a button or two. Nothing has been rebalanced, so some class builds remain much stronger than others.
However, the simple essence of Diablo II – gaining new skills, endlessly discovering and collecting loot, and blasting it through boss after boss and dungeon after dungeon – lingers over the years. As in the past, players are encouraged to explore different classes and builds as they collect heaps of loot, allowing all sorts of options from paladins turning magical hammers to baron druids. When you have friends to play with, the experience of dealing with the nightmares and sharing the rewards becomes even more fun.
Diablo II: Resurrected shows why the original title remains the standard by which all other ARPGs are measured. While it doesn’t have a lot of hooks and ever-evolving content that became a foundation for the genre as it turned into a game-as-service model, not all games need to be played in the back of your mind forever. Diablo II: Resurrected proves that Blizzard’s classic is still a blast today. Whether it’s your first foray into Hell and beyond, or your thousandth hour, Diablo II: Resurrected is well worth the time.