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December 2023

Diablo II: Resurrected

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: RPG/Action
Release Date: Sept. 23, 2021


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PC Review - 'Diablo II: Resurrected'

by Cody Medellin on Oct. 7, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Diablo II: Resurrected faithfully remasters Diablo II and its expansion with hauntingly detailed high-res 3D visuals and Dolby 7.1 surround sound, while preserving its timeless gameplay.

Buy Diablo II: Resurrected

Even if you were to discount the ethical and managerial issues that came to light over the past few months, it would be difficult to look at Blizzard in a revered light. The Diablo Immortal fiasco received more ire from hardcore fans than Diablo III's launch did, so much so that the hype for Diablo IV's announcement wasn't as strong as expected. The abrupt killing of the Heroes of the Storm pro leagues left a bad impression, as did the recent poorly explained announcement of additions to Hearthstone. World of Warcraft has done enough to bleed players without giving them much of a reason to come back. Then there's the mishandling of Warcraft III: Reforged, which made people wonder what happened to a studio whose games could do no wrong. The announcement of Diablo II: Resurrected gave people a feeling of anticipation and dread. Seeing an absolute classic with a fresh coat of paint is exciting, but history has made people wary. To alleviate this, Blizzard did one thing right: It handed off development to someone else.

Vicarious Visions — now renamed Blizzard North — was responsible for bringing Diablo II up to modern standards, and as far as presentation goes, it did a fantastic job. From the dark dungeons to Hell itself, the game looks picturesque, and the little touches, such as color accents and reflections in puddles of water, help with that notion. The game also keeps a steady frame rate no matter how chaotic things get. To get a better idea of the size of the graphical makeover that the team did, you can flip back to the old style with a button press, where the game runs at an upscaled 800x600 with a 4:3 screen ratio and nary a smooth polygon. You can play the game in either graphical style, and for a game this old, the feature is neat even if you don't use it often. Meanwhile, the sound remains relatively unchanged. It's cleaner than before, as the voices and music come through with enhanced clarity, but don't expect any new tracks or dialogue. About the only thing you can't change are the cut scenes, which have been fully remastered to look more in line with the pre-rendered scenes in the company's latest titles.

There's also the matter of accessibility features that the team has included, along with a few quality-of-life changes that can be toggled based on preference. The usual suite of options, like font size changes and color combinations for colorblind people, ensure that everyone can get in. You can now run over gold pieces instead of having to click on them to pick them up, alleviating a small fraction of the overall clicking you'll do in this game. Items can be spaced out a little more, so you lessen the chance of picking up the wrong thing. Text-to-speech for chat messages is also a thing, and your shared stash can get one more page to store items, but this is the only thing that can't be configured.

One of the more surprising additions is gamepad support. For purists, that might be something they'll never bother to use, but for those who played Diablo III on any of the consoles, they'll find this to be an exact port of those mechanics. Full 360-degree direct movement and hotkeys for up to 12 actions are here. The same goes for menu navigation, where it takes some getting used to, as two different actions can use the same button, depending on whether it's pressed or held. It works well enough and feels natural, opening up the audience to those PC transplants who still prefer a gamepad when possible and those who only played Diablo III on consoles but are trying the PC instead. The only hang-up is when you level up, since selecting which points to allocate and which skills to unlock can be slower because you have to hold down the button to do any of those things.

If you have intimate knowledge of Diablo II, then that's the end of the new things in the remaster. The game has the expansion pack integrated into it, but you have the option of creating a character without the Lord of Destruction additions. All of the classes are still here, from the Amazon to the Barbarian to the Necromancer and more, along with their skill trees and abilities. The bosses are all the same, and all of the same build guides that have been created over the years still apply. Even some of the exploits from before remain, but it'll take some time to see if they're all here. In short, if you were able to blaze through the original version quickly by yourself or with a crew, then you can do the same exact thing in this iteration.

If you never jumped into the series until Diablo III or have no nostalgia for the original iteration of Diablo II, then several elements of the game will stand out more, but your feelings about each one will vary. The story is more intriguing than it was for the third game. Having to go after the possessed hero of the first game is an interesting twist, and there's less of a chance that anyone, except for the impatient players, will skip cut scenes this time out. It works from a gameplay perspective, as it gives a plausible explanation about why there are hordes left in his wake for you to clean up. It also means that the presence of side-quests, usually thought of as a staple in action RPGs, is brought down to a bare minimum, as you aren't tasked by random people to accomplish random things that are unrelated to your journey. Instead, the game's idea of a side-quest is you and your party stumbling upon a dungeon and looting the place; it streamlines the experience because it makes every quest matter that much more.

The idea of having both an offline and an online character can go both ways. On the one hand, this ensures that you can play the game if the internet connection dies or if the servers go down for extended periods of time. However, it also means that you need to juggle characters and be mindful of having your online character ready so others aren't always carrying you. To that end, the presence of AI companions would be nice if they displayed some intelligence. You can often move faster than they can with your normal walking speed, so much so that you can get into a fight and do most of the work yourself while they come in toward the tail end and pick off an enemy or two.

If you choose to play with a keyboard and mouse, be prepared for something vastly different than which controller players experience, beyond the fact that you control your player's movements by clicking all the time. The biggest advantage is in the ability to open up several menus at a time, which makes it easy to do things like stat changes while still seeing and controlling the action on-screen; that's essential when the game has no pause feature. The toolbar also lets you navigate between the various menu options much easier than on the controller. On the other hand, those looking for the hotkey bar from Diablo III will be taken aback by the simpler display. Only two actions can be bound to the left and right mouse buttons, with no way to assign actions to the other keys on the keyboard. The game still works with two actions available at a time, but having to constantly swap out actions in the middle of a fight and not having more of the attack suite available at a moment's notice makes things feel more difficult when going solo against a strong mob.

For new players, the biggest nuisance comes from the inventory system. On the one hand, the smaller number of slots and the inability to expand it greatly makes you very conscious about the loot you pick up. Unless you're trying to get items for another character class in your roster or trying to amass as much gold as you can, you'll resist the urge to grab everything and spend a considerable amount of time poring over the stats of everything you pick up to see what's worth keeping or dropping. Even if you're overflowing with scrolls to return to camp, the stash isn't large enough to keep it all.

On the other hand, you'll hate this when you carry items that grant great buffs if they're in your inventory at all times, and it can reach the point where you'll barely have room to carry anything else. To compound that, only a few items can be stacked to save space. Keys do this automatically, and you can get a book for various scrolls, but potions don't behave the same way. You can put them on your belt or sash for easy access, but don't be surprised if you get your inventory full of one-time use health, mana and stamina potions. Of all of the things that could have been cribbed from Diablo III, stacking potions would've been a great one.

Despite all of this, new players are still going to feel compelled to keep playing. Even without the promised seasonal ladders in place, the level progression and gear drops are paced enough that you aren't going to power-level yourself the first time through. Leveling up feels more meaningful, and while you may lament the drops that give you stuff you don't care to use or weapons that aren't for your particular class, you're still overjoyed when you find something truly significant to pick up. Even if you aren't playing in a party of eight, the randomized levels and loot drops, along with the general toughness of enemy mobs, make it so that even solo sessions are hard to stop once you get going.

As demonstrated by the last few releases from Blizzard, Diablo II couldn't launch without some technical mishaps. Try playing online, and there's a good chance that you can't get in due to frequent server issues. If you do get lucky and connect, there's still a good chance that you'll either get disconnected or have occasional rubberbanding for both yourself and enemies. That created more than a few moments where getting attacked by nothing or damaging the air was a thing. There are also reports of characters not coming back after leaving a game. They aren't completely lost, but the game thinks that they're still in a game that has already ended. Of course, none of this happens if you're playing with an offline character, but since multiplayer is a big deal in Diablo II and you can't port over an offline character into an online one, the issue is quite big. Those with low-end systems who could play the beta release are finding that they can't boot the game on release due to an unintended increase in system requirements. As with Diablo III, these things will likely get fixed quickly, and at the time of this writing, some of the issues have already been cleared up, but their sheer existence in Diablo II isn't a good look.

If you don't run afoul of the game's technical and server-related issues, you'll find Diablo II: Resurrected to be a good version of the classic action RPG. For those who have played with the 2000 PC classic countless times, this is a like-for-like copy of that title, only with a few more accessibility options and a new lick of paint so it blends in with modern releases. For those who are new to the game or are more familiar with Diablo III, keyboard and mouse players will feel limited, while the lack of modern quality-of-life amenities can dampen the excitement for the title. Either way, once everything clears up, Diablo II can become a great addition to any ARPG library, and if you're one who pays attention to the review score, you can bump up the number when the fixes roll in.

Score: 7.5/10

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