Blizzard’s Diablo 2 was originally released in 2000. It has been fondly remembered by most ever since. As such, it’s no surprise that very little needed changing for Diablo 2: Resurrected. Vicarious Visions has done what it repeatedly does best. The studio took a classic game and created an up-to-date version that mirrors how players remember it in both form and function.
The multiplayer test this week allows players to dip into Diablo 2 once again. This time overhauled visuals, animation and performance allow for an unparalleled experience – if the experience you are after is Diablo 2. The new character models are well detailed, along with every item they equip. Spells, attacks, and abilities all look gorgeous while maintaining the feeling of the retro game they are built upon. Mechanics can feel arcane thanks to modern sensibilities, but really they add to the charm. Being dropped into a world with no real direction or encouragement to progress other than your own will to explore is a refreshing throwback in a gaming landscape of tutorials, waypoints and – not recommended due to COVID – handholding.
For those returning to the game with their bundles of nostalgia hoping to relive the original experience, then they’re in luck—Diablo 2: Resurrected changes very little from the original iteration. A few options like the minimap can be tweaked, but otherwise, the gameplay is near identical to the original, with all its obscurity and difficulty intact. Absolute purists may have some problems with updates to things like stash sizes, but the positives should far outweigh their complaints. The test only contained acts one and two, but both come with completely remastered cutscenes that will please fans old and new and show promise for the acts available on release.
Those who have arrived at the series with Diablo 3 may have a less enjoyable time. Diablo 3 plays with a different ideology to Diablo 2. While both are about killing and looting, Diablo 3 was much more approachable for players who didn’t want to learn by trial. Diablo 2’s progression system isn’t well explained, and mistakes can be costly. This can be seen with the inventory system being a relatively small grid that causes choices to be made with every looted object. Those used to looting everything in sight and making choices later will have to adjust to the changes. However, the ideological differences go both ways, with Diablo 2 providing a far more open and experimental experience than its predecessor. Character builds can be far more varied depending on stat distribution and gear choices leading to far more options for players to pursue. Exploration is also player motivated with the choice to progress or grind in the player’s hand.
For those who haven’t experienced Diablo in any form, then this could be a good place to jump in. The game’s lack of direction is freeing but can be confusing for those who aren’t used to it. Experimentation and perseverance are key to enjoying the game’s complex systems, and at times the learning curve can be pleasantly punishing.
Diablo 2: Resurrected‘s eight-player coop allows gaming groups to get together and have a good time doing whatever they like, whether that is running dungeons for loot, gathering experience, or progressing the story. If they want, they can challenge each other to duels and test out their skills on each other. Giving a new class a spin for a few hours can also offer some off-main fun and diversity in playstyle without turning into a committed grind.
Vicarious Visions has also brought Diablo 2 to consoles, and while Diablo 3 has been ported previously, Diablo 2 is a much more mouse-focused game. As such, a lot more work had to be done to bring the controls in line with expectations, and Vicarious Visions has greatly succeeded. Attacking targets feels easy to direct, and loot is selected based on what players are closest to, so picking up a healing potion when you need it most is easily done. To help with visual clarity, health bars are placed over enemies heads instead of at the top of the screen allowing console players to identify which target they should focus on quickly. Some abilities require specific targets, and the game intuitively determines what is most likely being aimed at based on the input. Targeting an enemy, hitting them with a bash, then looting their corpse for a potion can be done on joysticks as easily as with a mouse. Menu screens such as traders and skills can still be manipulated with a cursor, but several shortcuts allow for speedy use of the various screens.
Some bugs reared their heads, but this is a technical test, so they will likely be patched out. Most notable was some rubber banding as enemies, and sometimes the player character would pop to a different part of the screen. This was a multiplayer technical test, so those issues could be down to connection as offline lobbies were not available. The online nature could also account for some of the surprising frame rate drops. Situations with minimal enemies and spells would sometimes slow the frame rate into a choppy mess. Though, this usually resolved itself.
Overall, Diablo 2: Resurrected is a modern-looking retro game. Everything under the hood works as it did in 2000 but with modern efficiency and a beautiful update to the visuals. For those looking for nostalgia, or a hit of now lost challenge, this is a product worth keeping an eye on. For those who enjoy modern systems and the clarity that comes with them, this might feel like a more tedious time sink, but it really is a lot of fun if you’re willing to put up with the grind. Diablo 2: Resurrected does include the Lord Of Destruction expansion and the classes, items, and everything included within, making this a complete and loving package of Diablo history.