It has been almost two decades since I first played Diablo II, sitting at my next-door neighbour’s old hand-me-down PC. We spent countless hours in the world of Sanctuary after school and on weekends, but after playing Diablo II: Resurrected during the Alpha test over the last three days, I realise that there’s a lot about the game I’d completely forgotten about and still a lot left that I am yet to learn about the game.
Firstly, I can’t overstate my opinion that the developers have done more than just give Diablo II a fresh coat of paint. Resurrected doesn’t feel like a remaster, it feels like a reimagining, more like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 than Warcraft II Reforged. It was obviously immediately that Vicarious Visions have put their heart and soul into bringing this beloved classic back from the dead for veterans and new players alike.
Diablo II: Resurrected feels familiar but fresh and the shiny new 3D graphics exclusively enhance the Diablo experience without tarnishing the game’s legacy nor feeling like a Diablo III reskin. With just a single tap of the ‘G’ key, you can switch between the original graphics and the Resurrected update and I don’t think the difference between them really sank in until I tried this feature for the first time. I was truly blown away.
Having played the majority of Diablo III on my Nintendo Switch, I was pleased to see that Resurrected has added controller support to Diablo II. I still spent the majority of my time in the alpha on keyboard and mouse (perhaps I’m more of a traditionalist than I thought) but there are a few features of controller mode that I really liked. Button mapping is automatic and gives you a lot more freedom when it comes to combat. Instead of being limited to two active attack buttons and then having to assign your abilities to different F*-keys, you can use the face buttons, triggers and even assign modifier buttons to have all of your attacks and abilities on hand at any given time.
Sadly, there isn’t an equivalent mapping scheme available for keyboard and mouse users yet but since most PC users have a suite of macro keys or additional mouse buttons to choose from, I can see the binding options being redesigned or updated in the future. The other bonus of playing with a controller is the auto-sort feature for your inventory. Good, God, this is a brilliant tool. Seasoned players will know that in Diablo II, your inventory is not limited by weight or capacity, it’s limited by how you organise its surface area. The auto-sort button instantly optimises your bag space, a necessary process that can sometimes feel a little tedious on the keyboard and mouse.
The addition of controller support and accessibility features (low vision mode, colour blindness settings, subtitles customisation, etc) certainly help Diablo II transition into the realm of current RPGs but don’t be mistaken; much of the game is still firmly rooted in the early 2000s.
The lack of instruction and clear direction may be confusing or even frustrating for new players who are used to tutorial sequences or instructional pop-ups. Having played a decent amount of Diablo III, I felt comfortable enough to follow my instinct but even then, I found myself doing things out of order or missing things completely. I discovered fairly quickly that some items just straight up will not tell you what they’re for or how to use them, which is something we don’t see in games all that often these days.
The lack of instruction isn’t the only aspect of the game that simply refuses to hold your hand. Dying in Diablo II is much more unforgiving than it is in Diablo III and I learned the hard way not to get too cocky if I found myself surrounded by enemies on all sides. When your character is slain, you lose your equipped gear and your gold. You can recover most of your gear by returning to your corpse but sadly, some foul creature may have already nicked off with your gold by then.
Though the punishment can sting a little at times, it has the benefit of making in-game choices feel much more important than they do in Diablo III. I found myself spending far more time analysing the specs of gear, carefully selecting gems to socket for additional stats and playing to my character’s class advantages to get the extra edge on enemy units. As a result, successful fights were all the more rewarding and I felt a genuine sense of triumph and perhaps relief after surviving particularly taxing boss fights. In my opinion, the proportionate highs and lows are key to any gaming experience that hopes to engage its players.
I’ve had a great time with Diablo II so far, and am definitely sad about the Alpha ending. Whether you need a dose of nostalgia from an old classic, you’re an Diablo III fan ready to try it for the first time or just looking for something new to play, Diablo II: Resurrected is an extremely promising remaster that has already demonstrated its many irons in the fire, so to speak.