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Review

Diablo II: Resurrected Review

Hotter Than Hell

Just a casual 21 years ago I had my first real encounter with a game that truly captured me. It was the first time I felt the real pull of a title commanding me to play it more – where every session dragged on for hours – and when I finally managed to free myself of its clutches, my time away from the keyboard was spent thinking about playing it again. Thoughts of demons, loot and badass heroes filled my head – this was what Diablo II promised, and delivered.

It was a game that set the bar high for its time, with a swathe of content and a narrative journey that leapt off the screen and into your schoolyard discussions. Even by modern standards, the game still manages to sit at least a head and shoulders above other, less passionately made titles.

Except for the graphics. They kinda suck nowadays.

How it feels to chew 5 gum

So thank the angels that Diablo II: Resurrected is here to fix that minor hiccup, and give Grandad a new set of duds so he can strut amongst the hip young kids once more.

It would be the simplest thing in the world to say that the game is ‘Diablo II, but pretty by modern standards’. While not entirely untrue, the amount of passion that has been poured into this project by the talented folks at Vicarious Visions is worthy of much more praise than merely ‘made it look better’. What has transpired is a proper rebuild of the game – not merely a remaster. Essentially every limitation that was present in the days of yore has been identified and reintroduced into the game’s world. It would be entirely too easy to simply take an existing sprite and remodel it to modern standards – instead the folks at VV took the time to revisit the old development resources that were present some two-decades-and-change ago, and worked to make sure that the original vision of the Blizzard North team was realised in beautiful high definition. Original concept art, 3D models and even cinematic resources were leveraged to make sure that the soul of Diablo II was present – and it shows. The game entirely feels like a freeing of the original inspiration that was built so long ago, a triumphant example of what can be done with modern elbow grease and a lot of respect for its roots. I found myself constantly pressing the in-game toggle key to view the old graphical styling, feeling like I was experiencing a living artbook of Diablo’s development – understanding the capabilities of 20-year-old development options versus today. It’s a marvel to witness.

Heaven or Hell, LET’S BONK

As for the game itself, well it should come as no surprise that it is every bit the moody, exciting action role-playing hack-and-slash experience that captured an older generation of players back at the start of the second millennium. You are a stalwart adventurer, plucked from the fabric of mediocrity and tasked with a grand adventure to pursue the Dark Wanderer, and perhaps banish evil from this wretched world once and for all. All manner of abominations await you in the dark, as you piece together a tragic tale of what befell the adventurer who came before you, who also thought themselves to be the one who would vanquish evil.

Taking place over a series of Acts, your journey will take you from misty moors, to sun-bleached deserts, pygmy-infested jungles and eventually, Hell itself. Each environment is unique and sprawling, but really the true soul of Diablo is found within its dark, claustrophobic dungeons. Each Act will take you through a myriad of dungeons, be they stony passages, forgotten temples or fleshy hives of giant bugs – and one thing is constant between all of them: they are fucking dark.

Tyrael the forceful GPS demonstrates how even the cinematics have been sexified

There is a feeling of unease that sets within you while wandering these oppressive spaces that can so easily become your tombs, as the game has always made use of a light radius system to truly lay out what you can (and very much CAN’T) see. It is an experience that defines Diablo II, as you navigate an all-consuming darkness while clearly hearing the snarling of demons in the dark. It makes for marvellous organic moments, as you crest a corner to reveal a horde of undead awaiting you – or open a door to uncover hulking, spiky beasts that are delighted to see some fresh meat. Even in the quieter sections, you find yourself drawn like a moth to the literal in-game flames – the atmosphere just carries you like a cartoon character following the scent of a pie.

A further improvement to the game is a fairly obvious upgrade to the sound layering. The ambient noise further elevates the rich environments, with the croaking of frogs and the call of birds in wild areas, the clank of metal armour or the rustle of leather – and the tell-tale signs of loot falling on the ground all clearly audible and instantly recognisable. A huge part of Diablo II’s glory was its auditory quality for its time, so it should come as no surprise that the elevation of this already fantastic benchmark is buttery goodness within your headphones of choice. The first time you hear a chipped skull hit the ground, I challenge you to tell me that it is not exactly what you’d imagine such a thing would sound like.

This is now officially old school retro

While this is the new hotness

Gameplay-wise, there are some quality of life changes made to ensure that the low-hanging fruit isn’t left to rot on the ground. UI tweaks have been performed to make sure the UX isn’t obnoxious in widescreen monitors, and some elements have been shifted in small (but reasonable) ways to correct the more egregious mistakes of yesteryear. Special care and attention has still been taken to make sure that these changes don’t alienate the purists out there, and from my time viewing feedback channels I can also confirm that a great many of these amendments came from player suggestions – a big plus. I also applaud the addition of automatic gold pickup as a minor change that works to make sure the deliberate pace of gameplay isn’t pushed to extreme levels of deliberate, as you spend the refractory period post-boss defeat wandering around collecting middling piles of dosh.

A triumphant example of what can be done with modern elbow grease and a lot of respect

Something that is wholly new is the inclusion of full controller support, obviously to support the remasters release on console platforms. What started as a cursory glance at how these behaved turned into a much longer session appreciating how naturally the game lends itself to this control scheme, feeling as comfortable as the console release of Diablo III did. One gripe could be leveraged to the inventory management, but realistically I struggled to think of how they could improve it without dramatically changing how the Tetris style stacking puzzle presents itself – a necessary (prime) evil, if you will.

We don’t really talk about the soup of the day anymore

The game was certainly visually communicative back in the day, admirably so. It made the most of the limited hardware of the time – but there is a certain level of unmissable polish when these animations and models are brought screaming into the modern era. Seeing a Blood Golem crumble into a puddle of blood and meat, or learning that Urdar ogres have nipple chains that attach to their belt are sights that you are taken slightly aback by upon viewing in high definition. As a returning player, you will find a plethora of questions that you never asked, suddenly being answered. I was shocked to realise that the Mercenary NPC in Act III was actually holding a snake coiled around her neck and arm; I originally thought she had a misshapen club hand or similar unfortunate jungle deformity.

On one occasion I was disconnected from the servers, bringing my hack-and-slash to a rather abrupt and frustrating end. I can understand the infuriation many would feel – as a single occurrence it prompted me to just take a break and stretch my legs, but I was briefly weary of the time-proven failings of ‘always online’ DRM. It’s understandable that the online nature of the game would be a mandated modern necessity, utilising Battle.Net for the sake of its additional bells and whistles – even providing the expected communication enhancements to perhaps ask a mate to come and lend a hand. I imagine these initial teething problems (while frustrating now) will be proven temporary, as it is in the best interests of Blizzard to make sure the gameplay is interrupted as little as possible. Not to mention that they have been down this road before, with positive outcomes.

With a name like that, how could I resist popping inside for a look

Really, it is quintessentially Diablo II, warts and all, and those warts are still somewhat endearing by today’s standards. It could be easy to imagine a newer generation of gamer questioning the slow build of momentum within the game, but honestly it’s something that wears away quickly once it’s shadowy hooks are deep in you.  The title is a product of its own generation of gaming, where convenience wasn’t at the forefront of every mechanic, and perhaps the experience was. The game isn’t played at a breakneck pace, with all manner of dopamine-inducing loot drops working off an algorithm to ensure maximum player engagement is maintained – instead Diablo II is presented to you as a story to be enjoyed, where the definition of RPG is still focused on playing a role. You are an adventurer, and Diablo has returned – so what happens next? You are in a prime position to find out.

The big guy himself

Final Thoughts

The richness of opportunity and player choice are timeless in their execution – there is clearly a reason this title is so fondly remembered. It’s Diablo II, exactly as you remember it – though a great deal prettier. And if you don’t remember it – you likely never played it before, so good news! Now is a great time to go to Hell for the very first time.

Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher

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Diablo II: Resurrected Review
Evil is timeless
The fires of hell burn hotter than ever, bringing the tale of the Dark Wanderer back in an eye (and ear) blisteringly good way.
The Good
It is 100% Diablo II
New and improved sound design has an incredible depth to it
New age visuals are incredibly detailed and awesome
The richness and variety of gameplay has aged beautifully
Feels right at home with controller inputs
The Bad
Item management on console is meh
Music can stutter while loading, I guess
Player power/pacing may alienate newer players initially
9
Bloody Ripper
  • Blizzard Entertainment, Vicarious Visions
  • Blizzard Entertainment
  • Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
  • September 23, 2021

Diablo II: Resurrected Review
Evil is timeless
The fires of hell burn hotter than ever, bringing the tale of the Dark Wanderer back in an eye (and ear) blisteringly good way.
The Good
It is 100% Diablo II
New and improved sound design has an incredible depth to it
New age visuals are incredibly detailed and awesome
The richness and variety of gameplay has aged beautifully
Feels right at home with controller inputs
The Bad
Item management on console is meh
Music can stutter while loading, I guess
Player power/pacing may alienate newer players initially
9
Bloody Ripper
Written By

Known throughout the interwebs simply as M0D3Rn, Ash is bad at video games. An old guard gamer who suffers from being generally opinionated, it comes as no surprise that he is both brutally loyal and yet, fiercely whimsical about all things electronic. On occasion will make a youtube video that actually gets views. Follow him on YouTube @Bad at Video Games

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