No Rest For The Wicked

HIGH The new visuals make it glorious again.

LOW Zero gameplay improvements?? That sucks!

WTF Why does the Amazon look like Willem Dafoe?

Diablo II is a game that hardly needs introduction.

This classic action-RPG released in 2000 was an inspiration for many other franchises, and quickly turned into a genre-defining cornerstone. When Blizzard announced a remastered version called Diablo II: Resurrected, fans were delighted. Unfortunately, it’s tough to live up to such a storied reputation and the results of this revival were, perhaps, not what everyone expected.

In Diablo II: Resurrected, the warrior who defeated the evil Diablo and saved the world at the end of the first game is now missing. A dark wanderer is seen moving east, followed by all manner of hellish creatures. Warriors at a rogue encampment hear of this and decide to face the wanderer and uncover the fate of the missing hero.

Players start the game as one of the seven warrior archetypes at the encampment, and there’s a diverse cast to choose from — the Amazon is a master of javelins and bows, the Assassin is a master of martial arts and diversion, the Barbarian is brute force, the Druid controls natural elements and animals, and more.

Although a remaster, principal designer Rob Gallerani explained in an interview that the team’s intention was to keep the gameplay as untouched as possible, with only minimal changes compared to the original. The idea was to let a new generation of gamers feel what it was like to play an action-RPG back in the year 2000. With that in mind, I have to say that they achieved their goal — the isometric camera, constant inventory management, lack of map location info and quest markers, and an unending grind to get incrementally better gear and items is the kind of tedious, tiresome experience that we rarely see in modern titles.

Diablo II: Resurrected is the same adventure I experienced 14 years ago as a teenager, but there’s no question that it would benefit from the quality-of-life tweaks that we see in newer work — some of the elements feel painfully outdated now, such as a stamina bar. Running around the huge maps without any directional indicators is already time-consuming, so adding stamina management and limiting movement speed is aggressively boring.

Even basic features such as the number of times the player can respec are unchanged, and even worse, there’s no way to use an ‘offline’ character in an online game session, or vice versa. That means players who’ve already spent dozens of hours leveling up and collecting loot in crypts, dungeons, jungles, and deserts have to do it all over again if they want to play online with their friends or experience the game offline if there happen to be connection problems or server maintenance that day. It’s absurd!  

I know that it’s difficult to change game mechanics since there will inevitably be some kind of butterfly effect, but remasters are about enhancing the original experience, aren’t they? Diablo II: Resurrected‘s meager quality-of-life changes such as automatically picking up gold or an increased/shared item stash function are (of course) welcome, but there are far too many grating issues that are not addressed.

While the developers say they were trying to retain the original gameplay experience by leaving all of these rough edges unaddressed, the available classes have experienced big design changes. Almost all of the female characters are now less sexualized — their clothes are now less revealing, some have aged considerably, and some had a change of ethnicity. These are good changes that reflect modern standards, but why implement these shifts while leaving so many glaring gameplay issues alone?

To be fair, there have been other updates. The biggest changes come on the visual side.

The remastered graphics are gorgeous — from the lighting of dark dungeons to the wind that stirs the desert sands, the visuals in Diablo II: Resurrected are magnificent. However, for players who want to go old-school, it’s possible to switch back and forth between original and remastered graphics with the press of a button.

Another major improvement is the increased framerate. Playing Diablo II at 60FPS is no longer a dream, and this is an important change because it affects the flow of play. The speedier framerate makes the combat smoother, especially in dungeons where lots of enemies are moving in a relatively tight space.

Diablo II: Resurrected is far from perfect. The changes in character design are likely to rile up returning players, and the archaic gameplay probably won’t agree with younger generations weaned on more streamlined, sophisticated experiences. While I appreciate that this legendary title is now available in an improved format, it’s not a caveat-free recommend.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Blizzard Entertainment and Vicarious Visions and published by Blizzard Entertainment. It is available on PS4/5, XBO/X/S, Switch and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and was reviewed on PC. Approximately 20 hours of play were devoted to the single-player and coop mode, and the game was not completed. There are co-op modes available.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M for Blood, Gore and Animated Violence. The players will fight and kill thousands of monsters. Body parts are bloody and dismembered when the enemies die. There are a lot of dark and gory dungeons and caverns.

Colorblind Modes: There are colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game has subtitles for conversations with text that cannot be resized or altered, but there are some audio cues (such as the sound of diamonds and other valuables dropped by enemies) that are not translated into subtitles and have no visual cues. This game is not fully accessible.  

Remappable Controls: Yes, the game’s controls are remappable.

Ali Arkani
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