Multiplayer isn’t in yet. There are only two acts and three classes available. So why am I heading into Diablo II: Resurrected? Simple: It’s a stone-cold classic that’s getting a makeover for modern audiences. Why wouldn’t I want to check it out?
It’s been well over a decade since I last stepped into Diablo II’s grimdark Sanctuary, but the fond memories I have of looting and leveling in this action RPG still resonate strongly within me. Like many of you, I’m undeniably curious how this upgraded edition looks and handles. So what do I have to lose here by looking?
I went with the Amazon, as she was the very first class I ever played in Diablo II back in the day. Gotta keep up with traditions!
So obviously, this is not being brought up to the graphical or animation level of Diablo III, and I think you need to steel yourself for that. It looks 3-D, but it still handles in that slightly stiff way that the original game did. I mean, it’s functional and faithful, but there’s also a little disconnect between the improved graphics sitting on top of the same design.
Early steps back into this world were a mixture of fun and frustrating. The basic gameplay loop is still there and as solid as ever, so it’s mostly a matter of uncovering a map, thwacking any and all bad guys you come across, and looking for little secret pockets of loot. The visuals are greatly improved, and I liked some of the sparse lighting effects that I came across or how the night’s sky reflected off of puddles.
I was less enamored with the overlay map, which looks just as sketchy and inadequate as the original version. It’s definitely hard to tell exactly what fog of war you’ve yet to uncover, which I found to be a sticking point. I mean, it’s adequate, but I would’ve liked to see a polish pass on it to make it look better.
There were little quirks of Diablo II that I had to reacquaint myself with that had nothing to do with the upgrade itself, things like needing to equip bows in the right weapon slot and arrows in the left before being able to use it or how limited the inventory is in this game (seriously, it’s so small!).
Sound design is top-notch and contributes greatly to the “feel” of combat, with those meaty attack sounds, wet sloshy kills, and personality-laden mob quotes filling up the battlefield soundscape.
And that’s good because combat is what you do 99% of the time in ARPGs. I was glad to find that it’s just as fun in Diablo II as I remember, with insane crowds of mobs descending on my character, triggering a frantic click-fest to survive. There’s something about this model that makes you feel elated and breathless when you come out of a fight and see dozens of corpses all around you.
What’s even better is that you’re really getting two games (or two versions) for the price of one here. By hitting the “G” key, you flip into legacy mode and can play the game as it originally looked. Clearly, you can see by the images there that the newer version is far more crisp and polished, not to mention playing at a higher resolution.
Yet here’s the weird thing: When I flipped into legacy, the pixelated graphics ended up sporting more personality and color than in the remastered. Both version play the same, and before I knew it, I knocked off an hour of roaming around in legacy mode alone and enjoying the game just as much (maybe even a smidge more). Having played remastered adventure games like The Secret of Monkey Island that allows for similar graphical swaps, I both appreciate the options and have a lot of fun going between them here in Diablo II.
Let me reiterate this point: Rather than the legacy version existing solely to prop up the efforts of the remastered team, it’s a terrific game in its own right. Perhaps we’ve been conditioned in our era to appreciate pixel art — and Blizzard North had some great talent in this field.
As I was playing through Act I, I kept asking the same questions: Is this still fun today? (Yes.) Would this be a lot better with small quality-of-life improvements, such as inventory sorting and respecs? (Definitely.) And perhaps most importantly, is this a product that modern Diablo players want?
I mean, it’s not as if the Diablo community is bereft of choices. Diablo III is a great full-service package with all sorts of modern design and amenities. And with Diablo IV and Diablo Immortal on the way, people looking for newer experiences are going to have those in full.
But as a retro gamer myself, I’ve found that there’s a joy in re-discovering an old favorite and finding that it holds up just as well today, in its own right, as it did on the year of its release. And when you get a visual and audio upgrade package, then it takes a good thing and tacked on a few more years of life. So, yes, I think players will find that Diablo II: Resurrected is a great return to form, especially if they’re looking to fill the long wait until the next chapter in this franchise.