One of the big questions when thinking about remastering a game is whether it needs to change at all to be viable in the current market. For Diablo 2: Resurrected, Blizzard has stayed absolutely true to the original game while giving it a complete visual makeover.
Diablo 2: Resurrected is an action heavy RPG built around choosing from one of seven distinctly varied character classes, exploring dangerous places, slaying innumerable monsters, gathering new items and using the experience gained to improve your character’s stats and unlock new abilities so you can explore ever more dangerous places filled with ever more dangerous monsters. It’s a compelling hook – one that had me enthralled for years in it’s original form and which inspired more caffeine and sugar fueled dungeon crawling nights in my past than I can count on two hands. That hook is well and truly still here, and as potent as it ever was.
It’s important to understand exactly what kind of re-release Resurrected is. While Resurrected gives Diablo 2 a humongous graphical and audio overhaul, transforming the characters and environments into full 3D, the game running underneath it all is Diablo 2, same as it ever was. Aside from some inventory management improvements and reasonably good controller support, Resurrected plays exactly as Diablo 2 always has – evidenced by the fact you can switch back to the original visuals at any moment. Doing so was quite a shock to me. It’s hard to remember just how Diablo 2 looked twenty years back – and being able to directly compare gives a real appreciation for the remastering process here.
The graphical overhaul is quite phenomenal. It looks just how my rose tinted memories of Diablo remember it but in sharp, high fidelity. Things move at a smooth and consistent 60 frames per second on PlayStation 5 (if you switch to Performance mode at least) and characters keep the late 90s 3D animation vibe while looking entirely modern at the same time – like they’ve jumped off the cover of a fantasy themed rock album of the time and on to the screen. Environments have had a complete overhaul as well, and generally stay true to the original’s aesthetic however I feel they lose some of their charm and texture. Things have become minutely detailed as is expected in the 4K era, but the punchy contrast of the past environments is sometimes lost in the transfer. It’s minor and absolutely not game breaking but I found things like paths much less clear than they used to be.
Music and audio have been revamped as well with more spacious sounding recordings that, for me, still kept the personality of the music from the original game that’s been seared into my brain for all these years. The prog-rock inspired music that accompanies your exploits in the first act is just awesome to hear in either remastered or legacy form – staying mostly ambient but always evoking the perfect mood for horror fantasy dungeon crawling.
Under the hood, Resurrected is Diablo 2 for better and for worse. Movement, combat, character building, AI – it’s all exactly as it was in 2001. I do consider Diablo 2 to be a milestone for the genre especially for it’s time but if you’re well experienced with it’s follow-up Diablo 3 you’ll definitely notice some quality of life improvements that were made there that are missing from 2.
The most impactful for me personally is the lack of couch co-op. While it’s understandable that the original Diablo 2 was made for PC where the idea of sharing a screen is nigh unheard of – I felt it’s inclusion with the console releases of Diablo 3 transformed the game by making multiplayer infinitely easier to organise. It would have been nice to have some degree of same-machine multiplayer but given it wasn’t in the original its absence is understandable. Be prepared for other challenges as well like dropping your entire inventory on death, requiring a tense unarmed dash to retrieve your stuff. Your character skills and stat bonuses are locked in the moment you choose them as well – which might come as a shock to people used to Diablo 3’s more flexible ability system. This will all be second nature to people forged in Diablo 2’s hellfire but are changes worth noting for new players.
Resurrected brings with it a full suite of online features, many of which existed as an option in the original release but which gain prominence in today’s more connected world. The default way to make a character is Online – these characters will be able to participate in online parties, join in ladders and can use cross-progression systems to play across multiple platforms. The catch being that in Online mode you’re playing on Blizzard’s servers. This won’t necessarily be a problem for everyone and the benefits of cross-progression and online multiplayer will be well worth it for many – but this all comes with the caveat that your character cannot be used without an internet connection, and playing online brings with it other issues like short pauses while buying, identifying and managing items.
During pre-release and post-release I found my game lagging behind the server regularly enough for it to become bothersome – often I’d walk into a room teeming with monsters and start dealing with them only for the game to zip me back to the entrance, surrounded by the monsters and with a good portion of my health gone. This could be improved as time goes on, but it’s a less than perfect experience currently. There is of course the option to create an offline character if you only want to play locally (on your own system or through a local network), but offline and online characters can never mix – so if you ever want to use a character online with friends then offline isn’t an option.
While I’d have loved couch co-op to find a way in to the console version and the server issues are a nuisance, to me they don’t truly mar the game underneath. The gameplay is a little dated and might be a shock to people used to Diablo 3, but the fact I still found myself mashing monsters for hours on end is testament to the compelling core gameplay hook that was present in the original and is still very much here underneath the beautiful high-resolution veneer.
Diablo 2 Resurrected is a brilliant way to rediscover an indisputable classic, whether you're a veteran or taking your first look back at Diablo's roots.
Compelling Dungeon Crawling
Huge Amount Of Character Builds To Play With
Impressive Graphical Overhaul
Memorable, Moody Soundtrack
Some Graphical Improvements Come At The Cost Of Clarity