Diablo 2: Resurrected Preview - It's Back and We Had a Hell of a Time Playing It
Post by KostaAndreadis @ 03:00pm 15/04/21 | Comments
After spending a weekend playing Diablo II: Resurrected it's safe to say that this remaster more than lives up to the iconic action-RPG that is D2.
Thanks to many high-profile releases in recent years there’s been a palpable sense of loot filling the air. Bright coloured weapons, armour, clothing, and other inventorial trinkets with stats or a unique look to grab your attention. The thrill of chance bringing with it something special. Reward through action.
The resurgence and rise of the action-RPG is not something limited to the isometric viewpoint that Blizzard North’s Diablo and Diablo II brought to the mouse-clicking world at the turn of the new millennium. Action-RPG mechanics and design principles have resonated and spread like Diablo’s many monsters and beasts -- infiltrating the surrounding Sanctuary we call videogames.
With Diablo II’s initial release going all the way back to the year 2000, much like Blizzard’s own Warcraft series it would be this somewhat inevitable sequel that took something great and pushed it into the realm of ‘one of the greatest of all time’. Diablo II ramped up the size, scope, and ambition of what was considered by some a real-time dungeon crawler.
But even back then there was some confusion as to what an action-RPG really meant. The simple point-and-click interface of the franchise meant anyone could pick up Diablo, slay some monsters, and have fun in the process. But it’s this accessibility that is the genius of the genre and Blizzard as a whole, and for those willing to spend the time to learn its systems there was a delicate balance at work with character progression, abilities, stats, and skills coming together.
With Diablo II’s initial release going all the way back to the year 2000, much like Blizzard’s own Warcraft series it would be this somewhat inevitable sequel that took something great and pushed it into the realm of ‘one of the greatest of all time’.
It was with Diablo II that many of us learned about different builds, playstyles, optimisation, and the importance that one attribute point in the wrong place could mean when it comes down to those final moments. It was here we learned the joys of a Barbarian spinning his blades like a Whirlwind, the power of a Javelin wielding Amazon warrior, how smite-y a Paladin’s Blessed Hammer could be, and just what an Emperor Palpatine-like Sorceress could do with a little chain lightning.
Challenging, brutal, dark, and gothic – Diablo II: Resurrected brings it all back in style. A remaster to savour.
Going hands-on with the recent Technical Alpha build that featured the game’s first two Acts alongside the ability to take either the Amazon, Barbarian, or Sorceress for a spin, the sheer magic of Diablo II shines through the moment you begin your adventure in the troubled and almost overrun Rogue Encampment. Here we get to see the newly remastered visuals which are presented in a remake-like fashion. That is a modern, impressive 3D layer that sits on top of the original 2D pixel core.
When it comes to remembering how a game we loved from decades ago looked our memories often fill in the gaps. A natural thing to happen when our collective imaginations are captured by an experience – and based on this powerful sense of nostalgia alone Diablo II: Resurrected is very much ‘Diablo II But With Today’s Visual Fidelity’.
Pressing the ‘G’ key on your keyboard to switch between the old and new visuals in an instant not only highlights the remarkable difference 20 years can make – but solidifies this remaster effort as one of the most impressive we’ve seen to date. Seeing pixel rain become a mix of moisture and fog, you can feel the dampness.
What makes that idea of a Diablo II remaster and Resurrected special though is that the new visuals, lighting, animation, environment detail, and other effects amplify the tone, feel, and setting that is Sanctuary. The gothic and claustrophobic nature of Diablo II’s many caves, ruins, and ancient underground temples are all dialled up here – immersion by the way of 2021. Seeing fire light up a dark interior, monsters freeze from an Ice Bolt, and little details like statues and crumbling walls looking weathered, this is Diablo II like we’ve never seen it before.
Incredibly the art direction doesn’t feel different – even though the detail is magnitudes higher. The darker tone compared to Diablo III extends to how it plays too, and on that front – outside of a few quality-of-life features like auto-gold pick-up – things are kept as they were. Managing what you can or can’t carry, choosing where to put your attribute points carefully, what skills to choose, it’s all measured and paced in a way that amplifies the journey.
You’ll also forget that Stamina was a thing and that putting points into Vitality doubles as a means to ‘keep running’.
From that pick-up-and-play perspective Diablo II is challenging, requires you to stay on your toes, keep an exit strategy in mind, but still easy enough to just dive into and have fun. That said there are a few Year 2000 things that remain in-tact, like not being told exactly where to go, what an item might do, or whether or not you’re prepared or ready to venture into a particular dungeon. It’s classic Diablo by the way of modern visuals.
From that pick-up-and-play perspective Diablo II is challenging, requires you to stay on your toes, keep an exit strategy in mind, but still easy enough to just dive into and have fun.
And on that modern note, with Diablo II: Resurrected console bound the option to play with a controller in-hand was something we chose for most of our time with this Alpha build. And, yeah, outside of a few quirks moving about it works brilliantly -- and presents a classic experience in a way that will see it reach a wider audience across multiple setups. That is, those not limited to sitting at a desk clicking the hours away.
In fact, having skills and abilities mapped to controller buttons ala Diablo III might just be more intuitive and easier to use than juggling different keys on a keyboard. Potential heresy sure but having that option even on PC is a great touch.
Not having played Diablo II in many years perhaps the most impressive thing about Resurrected is just how well it all holds up. The pace might be a lot slower than the action-RPGs of today, but the progression through the first two Acts feels as epic as it ever was – moving from fields to caves to desert temples and ancient ruins. The story still resonates and the remastered soundtrack from composer Matt Uelmen is still as evocative, strange, melodic, and sinister as ever.
And after spending a few days in Sanctuary, it was one of those deals where not being able to keep playing was disappointing. With the new visuals, controller support, and gameplay that holds up, enough time has passed that we’re more than willing to revisit this classic. Especially now, with Diablo IV on the way. Above all though, for those worried that Blizzard might not be able to deliver a remaster worthy of the source material – even in its Alpha state Diablo II: Resurrected was polished and performed well.
And hey, when it comes to resurrections in April – this was easily the most memorable in a long time.