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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Switch Review - 'Diablo II: Resurrected'

by Andreas Salmen on Nov. 12, 2021 @ 1:10 a.m. PST

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.

Blizzard has been going through a bit of a rough patch of its own creation, both in terms of recent game releases and workplace climate. Diablo II: Resurrected is the first major release since then, so there's a lot riding on the title. It had to fight the usual server issues at launch, which feels like a depressing routine that all major releases have to go through nowadays. More importantly, Diablo II: Resurrected is one of the few titles that released day and date on the Nintendo Switch alongside all other major platforms. We played the Switch port of the demon-slaying action-RPG to see how well the isometric action plays on Nintendo's handheld.

Diablo II: Resurrected was developed by Vicarious Visions, a studio that has proved its talent with the recent Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2 and Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. The approach for D2:R is essentially the same. Polish up the visuals to a degree where they're undoubtedly better across the board but feel oddly familiar if you played the original, all while keeping the original gameplay largely unchanged except for a few quality-of-life improvements. If your only concern is whether D2:R will fulfill your Diablo nostalgia, you won't be disappointed by this polished reimagining. While PC has always been the best place to enjoy the series, 2019's Diablo 3 port on Switch proved that the handheld was fully capable of providing a close enough experience on the go. I'm pleased to say that the same is largely true for Diablo II, with some minor caveats.

The narrative is largely told via cut scenes and minor expository dialog during gameplay. I must preface this by saying that I have played the original release but have never completed the story campaign before. I was experiencing most of the game for the first time, and it was all right. The five acts that comprise the story of D2:R, which takes place in different areas and biomes, each correspond to a story beat about demons bleeding into the real world and how your adventurer unravels the cause of it. There is quite a bit of lore here, but the way it's told is archaic and easy to ignore. If you don't, the story can stagnate in the later acts, and if it weren't for the otherwise solid D2 gameplay, I wouldn't have been enticed to see it through to the end. What the plot may lack in excitement, it makes up for with interesting visuals and enemy designs. That's probably why you're playing Diablo II anyway.

At the beginning of our adventure, we can choose one of seven character classes. There is no further customization; your character class and the gear you find completely define your stats and which skill trees and abilities are available. Fans may remember only five character classes in the original release, but D2:R includes the Lord of Destruction DLC, which adds two more classes (and the fifth and final act). Everything's here for the complete experience, including Paladin, Necromancer and Assassin.

Not much has changed with the gameplay, and the things that did change are minor but welcome additions, such as a shared chest space to easily transfer items between different characters or the automatic collection of dropped gold. Otherwise, it's the same old loot fest where you grind the same bosses over and over for the rare chance to get a new item. The depth and potential amount of content could set you back dozens of hours and beyond. This is mostly down to the flexibility that D2 offers in creating specific character builds. Thanks to the three skill trees, each character class can evolve in entirely different subclasses based on the gear and skill trees you invest in. That's where the draw of the gameplay comes from, and it still works as you slay countless enemies in the detailed overworld maps and dungeons.

It's also very much a game of patience and perseverance, much more than many games nowadays demand of players. Some dungeons can stretch quite a while with limited options to save, which can be quite frustrating while playing on a handheld. If you use an online character to cross-save your progress via your battle.net account, a connection loss can cause your session to end prematurely or prevent you from starting it in the first place.

More on that later.

Given that the gameplay and addictive properties have stayed the same, it's probably more interesting to talk about how D2:R runs and controls on the Switch. After all, we are confined to a portable console with limited power and a controller as the only input option. In fairness, using a controller for Diablo II is convenient most of the time, but it's obviously a step down from precise mouse controls. That means your character must be facing a target to hit it, and in a large crowd of enemies, that can cause you to face anywhere but the correct way and miss your intended target. Inventory management is a pain, as the game expects you to move individual items across the screen via a cursor controlled by analog sticks. Since you'll likely move a lot of things around as the game throws more loot at you, rearranging inventory space becomes incredibly cumbersome and slows down the experience to a crawl.

The ability to map skills to certain button combinations works well, and aside from the previously identified annoyances, playing D2:R with a controller is undoubtedly better than not playing it at all. This is great news because the game looks great and runs smoothly on the Switch, with some obvious but manageable downgrades in comparison to other versions. The resolution is noticeably lower, and environmental details are pared back a bit. You can move back and forth between the Resurrected and the original look, which instantly proves that the differences are light-years apart. The swap from 2D sprites to 3D character models, new animations, beautiful VFX effects, and sharper and more detailed textures ensure the game retains its signature look without feeling as dated as a 20-plus-year-old title.

The Switch version is capped at 30fps, which is half the frame rate of the other available versions. It's not a title that requires higher frame rates, so it does not impact the experience. It also does do a great job sticking to that target. Regardless of how far along in the game you are and how much is going on around you, the 30fps caps are incredibly solid throughout. If portability is a factor, D2:R on Switch is a viable option that makes concessions that don't harm the overall experience.

What we cannot get around is the rough launch period with server issues that are still ongoing and may, at any moment, deny access to your online character or boot you from the game altogether. If you want to use cross-progression, you must use the online character slot. If you don't have internet, you cannot play as that character, which makes the whole portability aspect moot, depending on your situation. You can create an offline character locally, but it won't be able to participate in any online events or multiplayer. It also won't randomize the map layout every time you load your character, as is the case with online characters. One last thing to consider is that the Switch version is limited to online play with four players, while other versions allow up to eight players. There is no cross-play between any of the platforms, only cross-progression via battle.net across all versions.

Diablo II: Resurrected is a great port plagued by the usual server issues. When those stop — or if you can work around them — D2:R is a great port that polishes up a cult classic without losing its original charm and gameplay loop. The improved visuals run well on the Switch, and the quality-of-life improvements and good controller implementation ensure that D2 is a joy to experience on the handheld. Of course, there are some noticeable downgrades, but none of them impede the experience, and they're necessary to ensure the game runs smoothly and without hitches. If you favor portability over quality, the Switch version of D2:R is worth picking up.

Score: 7.8/10

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