First impressions from Diablo II Resurrected’s alpha: Just as good as you remember

    
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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.

Massively Overpowered skips scored reviews; they’re outdated in a genre whose games evolve daily. Instead, our veteran reporters immerse themselves in MMOs to present their experiences as hands-on articles, impressions pieces, and previews of games yet to come. First impressions matter, but MMOs change, so why shouldn’t our opinions?
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SmiteDoctor

I might give this a spin when it goes on sale.

In the meantime I can just do the Diablo 2 Mod on Grimdawn.

To be fair Grimdawn is the spiritual successor any way with those newer gen graphics.

On a side note did anyone ever come up with a mod to make the graphics in Grimdawn look more 2020?

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Sarah Cushaway

Cool. D2 was one of my favorite games back in ye olden days.

Blizzard still isn’t getting a red cent from me ever again.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

I’ve been back to D2 a number of times over the years and in a number of ways, playing Median XL mod and the Grim Dawn D2 mod (which is by far the absolutely most fun one can have with D2).

I’m not sure whether a remaster will get . . . oh, heck, who am I kidding. Of course I’ll play this.

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IronSalamander8 .

I love me some pixel art, and I played a ton of Diablo 2 back in the day. But, despite revisiting a bunch of classic games, mostly FPS games like Heretic, Hexen, Doom, and so on, I have no real interest to return to this one or basically purchase it again (I still have my CD-ROMs for this game and the expansion) and I can’t really see my way towards playing through the game again anymore either.

That being said, I like that they let you play with the old style graphics or new as you choose and it looks and sounds like they did a much better job on this one than WC3 remastered.

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Jim Jeffries

WC3 reforged is my biggest disapointment in gaming history. I cant beleive they did that game so dirty.

Would be nice if they went back and fixed it but yeah… don’t think they will.

I loved D2 but I can’t bring myself to buy this after WC3. Maybe one day when it goes on sale.

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Ardra Diva

what I remember the most about this game is how the graphics took a hit when they ended support for 3dfx and made it just d3d.

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Danny Smith

D2 is the only blizzard title i never played and watching some folks play through this its a hard pass from me. It feels like another Brood War remastered where if you have fond memories of your youth spent playing it its a grand old time but if not it just looks like Path of Exile but worse.

And man i get that. I can’t expect everyone who plays FFXIV to go back to FFIV and enjoy it as much as i did back in the day.

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Dankey Kang

You had to be there really. For a lot of us, Diablo2 was the game we played before WoW came on the scene. The singleplayer campaigns were great, but the online was what really made it. Boss runs all night trying to get a decent unique/rune, trading with other players for that one item you wanted to complete your build…

Obvioulsy the ARPG genre has moved on a bit since but there’s still some things which are great about Diablo2 even now; the music, atmousphere and setting being amongst my favourite in any videogame to date.