Diablo II Resurrected runs its Beta Access from August 13 to August 16. If you’re one of the people who bought the Early Access token, you’ve probably already played the game by the time you read this article.
For the rest, here’s the question: should you care about Diablo II Resurrected?
Recent events have damaged Blizzard’s reputation, both gaming-related and otherwise. Notably, their latest remaster, Warcraft III: Reforged, was far from the exciting product the company promised.
Now, Resurrected is bringing back the timeless Diablo II ARPG with enhanced graphics and performance. Given the company’s recent resumé, we should take a closer look before making a decision.
If you’re like me, you have replayed Diablo II more than any other game in your life. Because you’re reading this article, I’m guessing this is true.
Stay awhile, and listen. Let’s see what this game has to offer. And, remember, Diablo II was released in the year 2000.
Diablo II: Resurrected Release Date
The “Gates of Hell” will open this year. You’ll be able to face the Prime Evils on high-res when Diablo II: Resurrected debuts on September 23, 2021.
It’s not a PC exclusive this time around. Following the path Diablo III created, the upcoming remaster will launch for Windows PC, Xbox Series, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, and Nintendo Switch.
Most probably, we’ll see the remaster before Diablo Immortal. Immortal is an upcoming mobile game with a story arc between Diablo II and Diablo III. Afterward, we expect to see Diablo IV as an early 2023 release.
What Changes With Diablo II: Resurrected?
I will discuss the game’s marketing and then compare it against the Alpha tests to see how it holds up.
Diablo II: Resurrected includes all of Diablo II content. That means the vanilla game plus the expansion, Lord of Destruction.
The vanilla game offers a lengthy campaign you can play solo or co-op. Its plot takes you to caves, dungeons, deserts, and icy mountains to hunt the Prime Evils. If you’re unfamiliar with Diablo’s lore, the Prime Evils are Diablo and his brothers.
Diablo II has four “Acts,” each one featuring a final boss. Diablo is the last fight in the base game. He’s quite tough.
The expansion introduces Baal, Lord of Destruction. He sets in motion the events Diablo III explores. Before that, the expansion features the Act V campaign, which is lengthier than any previous Act.
The game ends when you defeat Baal. Nevertheless, you can replay the whole campaign on the Nightmare difficulty and then again on the Hell difficulty.
Characters can level up to level 100 across the difficulties. However, you should enter Hell once you reach level 65 (at least).
Moreover, each Act features various quests. Some of these quests reward quest items, loot, or permanent buffs like an extra skill point. You will get the permanent buffs on the upper difficulties as well.
The plot, the music, the scenarios, the action gameplay, and the deep RPG system created a classic that has lasted for decades—Diablo II: Resurrected promises to update the experience to modern standards.
So, for example, imagine hearing the haunting Tristam OST, again, with top-tier audio:
It’s a good thing that Blizzard won’t change anything regarding the main game. The idea is to deliver the same experience as before, only with better visuals.
Visual enhancements include Ultra High Definition textures. While 4K (2160p) textures are part of the game, the old-school remaster could also run 1080p/120fps.
If you remember the Sanctuary World, Resurrected makes it look better than ever. It seems like a significant overhaul rather than new textures on top, which happens on most remasters.
For example, Blizzard re-created the whole world with 3D isometric graphics. The old game had complex 2D CGI rendering, which was limited but has endured the test of time.
The new game engine allows smoother animations, softer curves, more detail, and better visual effects and lighting. You can see these improvements across the entire game. That means towns, dungeons, areas, monsters, spells, classes, animations, gear, or fire.
Even so, the remaster retains the atmosphere of the original game. By that, I mean shadows, lighting, and colors feel similar. Blizzard made the game look better without disregarding the original take’s gloom, gory, and dark style.
However, it does look a bit brighter. That’s because the new rendering engine allows better physics regarding lighting and shadows.
The upcoming Diablo II version has remastered 7.1 Dolby Surround audio. You’d need a proper sound system or headset to embrace the upgrade fully, though.
Otherwise, you’ll hear the same OST and sound FXs with high-definition audio. Blizzard re-recorded some of the game’s music. At the same time, they remastered all of the NPC audio clips, sound effects, and monster sounds.
The next improvement is about the cinematics. Blizzard promised they re-created the 27 minutes of cinematics within the original game.
Blizzard has been publishing the new cinematics on their YouTube channel. The sound is just like before, but the visuals are glorious.
Still, the original cinematic still holds up.
Overall, Resurrected will take full advantage of modern gaming hardware. It’s the same hack & slash gameplay you remember with the benefits of newer consoles and PCs. Compared to the old 800 x 600 experience, it’s a massive improvement.
Diablo II: Resurrected supports online co-op gameplay. Up to eight players can join a single party. The more players in the party, the stronger the Hell monsters grow.
You can play resurrected either solo or co-op. To play co-op, you go into a global multiplayer server and join other players. Alternatively, you could choose the single-player option. Global servers will differ on the three classic difficulty levels: Normal, Nightmare, and Hell.
Here’s a BlizzCon 2021 clip where Diablo developers talked about the multiplayer aspect of the game:
At the same time, Blizzard removed a popular multiplayer feature. The remaster won’t allow co-op on a single console, so no couch multiplayer.
Similarly, you won’t be able to play Resurrected on a single TCP / IP. In other words, players won’t be able to join your match by connecting various PCs or consoles on a single Wi-Fi with Lan cables.
Be that as it may, the multiplayer will work via the Battle.net application. It’s not the best game launcher out there, but finding and adding friends on the app is easy.
New Ladder System
There’s a new worldwide ladder to race to the top of a league. You can rank your character in the ladder system, and the progress will restart every so often to keep characters interested.
We expect to see a league or seasonal system similar to other games in the genre. It means the developers would add loot, monsters, dungeons, and other features to each league. It’s a reason for players to come back to the game and try out new classes and builds.
Changes to the Stash
As Diablo II is heavy on the loot, Blizzard expanded the original stash tab.
Characters on your Battle.net account will share the stash, but each character has its stash tab. As a result, sharing items between your heroes is easy.
However, the inventory remains the same.
New User Interface
The developers redesigned the user interface, an essential addition to a decades-old game. Its user interface will show advanced character information, item tooltips, and item comparisons.
Additionally, there’s an automatic partying function when you enter multiplayer games.
Upcoming and Expensive Cross-play
Cross-progression will be available sometime after launch. You’d be able to play Diablo II: Resurrected across various consoles on a single account.
In other words, you can take your characters, loot, and progress on all available platforms.
However, I don’t see how this is a functional feature. It’s more of a marketing gimmick. See, you still need a separate Diablo II: Resurrected purchase for each console to enable cross-play.
How is this a thing, and yet Blizzard doesn’t allow cross-play?
For example, is a stark move compared to options like Microsoft’s “Play Anywhere.” Most games you buy via the Microsoft Store or the Xbox Store are available for Xbox and Windows 10 at no extra cost.
Well, Blizzard rarely wins any points for being user-friendly. Either way, here’s a video detailing the latest upgrades on the Battle.net app.
The ARPG Gameplay You Remember
Diablo II: Resurrected features the same gameplay. It’s a remaster, so there are no changes to the core mechanics.
So, we didn’t see any changes in the Technical Alpha tests. It has better graphics, better sound, and better performance, but it’s the same game. Even the attack and spell animations look similar.
If you’ve played any modern ARPG game like Path of Exile, Wolcen, or Last Epoch, Diablo II feels familiar. Better said, Diablo II took the ARPG genre to mainstream and plenty of games after Blizzard’s take elements of its formula.
Diablo II: Resurrected is a hack & slash dungeon crawler. You receive a quest from an NPC on the town and then fetch or kill something inside a dungeon. On your journeys, you’ll level up, collect loot, and press your clicks hundreds of times.
Here’s a video showcasing the Diablo II: Resurrected Technical Alpha:
I like one of the comments in the video: “The remake graphics are actually the original graphics in my memories..” That’s exactly how I feel, and that’s exactly what a remaster should do.
Diablo II doesn’t have an action bar. You can map a skill on your left click and then another on your right-click. That’s it. Even though you can change these skills at any time, your movements are pretty limited.
Blizzard’s answer is the ability to “map” the rest of your skills on your keyboard. However, you needed to click on the action icon to open up your available skills.
Technical Alpha gameplay videos showcase a similar dual-click configuration on the PC version.
However, a picture on Blizzard’s web page shows a different setup: an action bar with seven skills. I believe they will add a similar structure to the PC version, which will probably happen on the Beta or the final release.
Some users have already tried playing the PC version with a controller. While it allows an expanded action bar, inventory, trading, and stash management is a hassle without a mouse and keyboard.
Aside from the skills, running, and walking, there’re four slots for mana or health potions on either version.
Diablo II Skill System
You can start a new play at any time with one of the seven classes: Amazon, Assassin, Barbarian, Paladin, Sorcerer, Druid, and Necromancer.
Each class features three skill trees, and the skill threes don’t synergize with each other. Instead, you unlock skills from top to button, and the talents within a skill three add bonuses to one another.
Additionally, you unlock the possibility of purchasing a skill on certain levels. For example, you need level 6 to unlock second-tier skills.
Then, you gain a single skill point each time you level, and you can put 20 points on each skill. The idea is to focus on a single tree and two or three skills. Additionally, you can pick other supporting abilities from the other trees.
The system is easy to understand and fun all the way through. There’s always room to grow, albeit progress options are limited.
Notably, Diablo II suffers from a lack of balance. Melee classes tend to feel underwhelming compared to magic classes (Sorceress, Druid, and Necromancer).
The skill system was great for the time, but we’ve seen plenty of upgrades to the hack & slash ARPG leveling system. So, yes, it’s a bit outdated, but it’s still fun.
Moreover, Diablo II: Resurrected appears to offer superb performance. Seeing your skills on glorious 120fps instead of the old 23fps limitation is impressive.
There’s also the matter of stat points. Diablo II features a classical setup: Strength, Dexterity, Vitality, and Energy.
Vitality is the most critical stat because every character starts with a tiny HP pool. Also, Strength is an important character attribute for every class because you need Strength points to wear stronger armor.
On the other hand, Energy only raises the Mana pool, so you don’t need much early investment on the stat. Lastly, dexterity sets hit chance, evade chance, shield block, and the ability to equip bows.
You earn 5 character attribute points per level. By knowing Vitality is the critical stat, you can’t mess this up. Still, there’re ways to re-spec your character.
Here’s a tip video for both returning and new players.
Aside from the stats and skills, there’s no extra mechanics to speak about.
Modern games have elements like DoTs, elemental ailments, buffs, debuffs, etc. However, Diablo II keeps its formula as pure as possible.
Diablo II is about how much vitality you have versus how much vitality a monster has. How much damage can you do and heal with your potions versus how much damage can the monster do to you?
Aside from that, there’s a deep loot system. It includes a vast amount of weapons, set armor, and class armor. Notably, some of the best armors add “+levels” to your skills, but these are rare to find on a single-player character.
Then, you can hire a “Mercenary” to travel with you. There’re four kinds of mercenaries, some of them offering an Aura to buff your character.
Mercenaries level up, use skills, and wear gear. You can give various pieces of gear to the mercenaries as well: weapon, body armor, and helmet.
Overall, there’s not much depth on Diablo II, definitely not as much as we remember. That’s not inherently a bad thing. It’s about taste: do you prefer complex or light ARPG games? Diablo II falls in-between.
Because Resurrected is a remaster and not a remake, I’d say it’s a perfect remaster. Somehow, it manages to capture the original game’s style, atmosphere, and looks while looking leagues better. In fact, it looks nothing like it, but it can still trick the most hardcore saga fans.
Performance is far better than the old version. It’s not a lazy coat of paint. It’s an overhaul that allows the world, the NPCs, the heroes, and the monsters to move, feel, and look like a modern AAA title.
The new rendering engine delivers the expectation we have while respecting what made the original game awesome. Everything feels fresh because it’s new. It’s the ultimate homage to the original game, all with new cinematics, re-recorded OST, and remastered dialogues and sound FXs.
That said, this is a remaster, not a remake. You might find its lack of balance a bit clumsy. Possibly, you’ll feel as if the game is “nothing new,” even though it’s one of the most important additions to the genre.
Another thing you’ll notice is its lack of action bar, plus its lack of advanced effects like DoTs. It makes Diablo II feel simpler and rather mechanic. In comparison, newer games need more micro-management as survival requires constant movement, dodges, defensive skills, etc.
So, should you care about Diablo II: Resurrected? Yes, if you’re a fan of the saga, the original game, or both. If you like ARPG games and dungeon crawlers, you’re probably part of this audience.
Otherwise, you should wait for other gameplay trailers and reviews before making a decision. But, see, Diablo II is a masterpiece, and its core design has aged very well. Newer games can be more complex, deep, or immersive, but they continuously improve upon Blizzard’s original take.
Also, most fans consider Diablo II to be on another level as Diablo III. I believe that as well, so there’s that.
Oh, there’s one more thing. The company made a critical mistake when they launched Warcraft III: Reforged. They erased the original version from the store, even though the remaster was buggy, poorly made, and lacked crucial multiplayer features.
Resurrected, on the other hand, won’t replace the original version. It seems Blizzard has learned from its mistakes.