Diablo II: Resurrected is a fantastic audiovisual overhaul of the classic and influential ARPG, developed, published, and remastered by Blizzard Entertainment and Vicarious Visions. The TL;DR version is that very little has changed under the hood. PC players who still enjoy partying up to tackle the classic battle.net version should jump on this without a second thought to enjoy the audio-visual remastering and a few quality-of-life changes. For console players, the choice is less obvious and depends on what your expectations are.
For console owners – and I’ll assume the vast majority of you never played the clunky PlayStation 1 port of Diablo – you don’t need to be concerned coming into Diablo II: Resurrected with no background knowledge. The first game can be considered more of a lengthy prologue and those events are recounted in the first act and fleshed out in several cutscenes.
All you need to know is that shortly after Diablo was defeated below Tristram, the heroes avoid the celebrations and swiftly leave the town, looking subdued and troubled. Shortly thereafter, a dark wanderer is seen heading towards the Rogue Monastery that guards a mountain pass to the deserts beyond, pushing ever eastward as demons emerge in their wake to ravage the countryside. Your hero arrives in the Rogue Encampment to investigate these troubles and the adventure begins in earnest.
To say Diablo II: Resurrected has an epic story would only be half-true. The cutscenes, which have been lavishly been recreated scene-for-scene, are a great reminder of just how impressive Blizzard’s early CG work was. However, unlike StarCraft or Warcraft III, Diablo II: Resurrected does not have great in-game storytelling. Most of it is conveyed through lengthy, narrated text blocks that are at odds with the gameplay pacing (especially when playing with a party).
Sure, the Diablo experience for most players is about optimising their end-game loot grind, but those looking to catch up on the story and lore will find minimal narrative context between acts. There are several conversation threads you can explore with NPCs in each hub area, but the game makes you eke out those details every time you complete a stage of a quest. For those that enjoyed the companions in Diablo III, the hirelings in this game have no personalities or backstories.
Diablo II: Resurrected is primarily a game about turning off your brain for several hours of slaying hordes and gathering loot, then sitting back and enjoying the lengthy and spectacular cutscenes between acts that progress the plot and flesh out background events. Each pre-act cutscene sets up the next location and Prime Evil you’ll be defeated, while the six quests you’ll tackle each act are just a convoluted path towards that goal.
Your tolerance for classic gameplay is going to be the deciding factor. Diablo II: Resurrected’s biggest problem is that the excellent console port of Diablo III already exists. Irrespective of what PC purists might say, it’s one of the most engaging ways to play Diablo III, with the benefit of slick gamepad support and couch-coop. It has brisk pacing, multiple difficulty settings you can adjust as you play, a constant sense of progression (both for character skills and unique loot), and the flexibility to play around with character builds if one isn’t working. Diablo II: Resurrected does not… or at least not on your first playthrough.
Diablo II: Resurrected is more Diablo II – for better and worse. Despite its influence on the genre, it’s far more of a traditional RPG than its action-RPG sequel. There are tons of granular stats to consider, no active dodge rolls, dice rolls that determine if you hit and for how much damage, more dice rolls to determine if you block or evade. Despite the animation flourishes, there are times it’ll feel like your attack does not correlate with the damage dealt. If Diablo III on console was your introduction to the IP and set your gameplay expectations, this presents a serious disconnect between input and response. Even playing solo and offline, it can sometimes feel like you’re experiencing online network lag when attacking mobs of enemies. It feels less obvious using a mouse and keyboard (which is supported on the consoles) but is very noticeable when using a gamepad that directly drives the character.
That said, if you’re comfortable with a more traditional stat-heavy and roll-dependant RPG, Diablo II: Resurrected offers an incredible degree of complexity and multiple systems to engage with – just very slowly at first. The fundamentals will be familiar to fans of Diablo III: you roam a randomly generated overworld and dungeons, slay mobs of creatures while hoping to find elite variants, gain levels that grant attribute and skill points, collect mountains of (mostly rubbish) loot, and spend too much time in your inventory swapping between new gear.
With a steady progression in enemy strength as you move from zone to zone (and act to act), clearing overworld maps and optional dungeons are both vital to gain XP and increase your chance of rare loot drops. Each of the seven characters – which cover genre staples like the tanks, glass-cannons, and summoners – have several skill trees, with multiple interdependent skills, and scant few chances to reset and respec. Weapon choice, coupled with skills, dictate attack patterns, range, and damage types – they don’t simply function as modifiers for an attack skill à la Diablo III.
Other staples include ridiculously named items or elite enemies with an absurd amount of resistance to physical or elemental attacks. There are more gem variants for socketing but the process and effect are similar to Diablo III. Runes are a variation on gems, with the order spelling out a rune-word for more specialised buffs. Charms can be kept in your inventory for additional passive buffs. Once you get the Horadric Cube, there’s even a convoluted “crafting” system to engage with. There’s a lot to think about and little margin for error. A jack-of-all-trades build is unviable at higher difficulties, so you need to study your skill-tree and skill interdependencies in advance, and plan your build from the get-go.
Unfortunately, Diablo II: Resurrected retains several “classic” gameplay elements that might feel anachronistic to modern players. Increasing the difficulty – from Normal, to Nightmare, to Hell – and therefore loot quality, requires completing the 5-act campaign, from beginning to end, several times for every character you create. The starting “normal” run feels woefully slow-paced and unrewarding, with only a handful of unique items per act and even fewer set items. You lose experience, gold, and gear when you die and have to do corpse-runs to recover it (I forgot about this and it can be awful). Inventory space is limited but you’re required to stockpile potions, scrolls of town portal/identify, and ranged ammunition. The RNG can create labyrinthine interiors – especially on higher difficulties – an annoyance compounded by a stamina meter that reduces you to walking every other minute.
Countering these dated elements are a few quality-of-life changes that are worth highlighting. Gamepad support is solid, though best suited to melee characters or those with area-of-effect attacks. You move with the left analogue stick, while targeting is automatic and seems to have a simple but effective priority system. Menu-ing and inventory management is done by way of an emulated mouse cursor not unfamiliar to many modern titles. There’s an automatic gold collect toggle, expanded character sheets that highlight gear bonuses, a shared stash to easily transfer items between your characters, and several accessibility options for both console and PC players.
Of course, all things are better with friends and Diablo II: Resurrected is no exception. On higher difficulties in particular, when resistances become a pain to deal with, having multiple party members with different skills and elemental attacks is essential. Thankfully, there’s cross-play with other platforms and even cross-progression if you link your profile to a battle-net account. Just remember, there are no player-specific loot drops, so I’d avoid randoms who are prone to hoovering up unique or set items and disconnecting.
The highlight of this package remains the remastered visuals and audio (which includes 7.1 surround sound support). The good news – for those who hated Diablo III’s lighter, more cartoony art style – is that the grimdark presentation returns in Diablo II: Resurrected, to the point where you often can’t see all the crisp details and will discover a new appreciation for items that increase your light radius.
Make no mistake, the remastered visuals enhance the existing assets so you’re not going to see new locations or avoid the repetition that comes from raiding your 15th desert tomb, but the characters, monsters, equipment, and environments look incredibly sharp and detailed. Console users on next-gen platforms would do well to stick to the 60fps “performance” as it ensures traversal and fighting feels more responsive and immediate. To further highlight these visual improvements, you can swap back to the classic visual at any time and question your memories (assuming you have any, of course).
When it comes to the audio, the sounds of combat and spell effects have never been clearer, and the same is true for the timeless, moody soundtrack. Diablo II laid the foundations for so many future loot-based games and there’s still no denying the thrill of hearing a rare item drop to the ground with a heavy thud, the jingle of a ring, or the glassy crash of a gem. The enhanced versions of the original tracks are incredible and the increased clarity and complexity make a huge difference. You can pick out each instrument, emphasising those electric guitar riffs while exploring the wilderness around Tristram or the oriental percussion instruments you hear when exploring the Aranoch desert and the tombs below.
All of which brings me to the final score. By sticking to the original gameplay loop and underlying systems, Diablo II: Resurrected has objectively dated elements that just don’t hold up in a post-Diablo III world – and these elements feel even more out of place on console. For PC players who still love the classic game or crave a nostalgia hit, Diablo II: Resurrected is easy to recommend. For console players that have friends to join them on a classic adventure, there’s still a deep and enjoyable game here. However, Diablo II: Resurrected is not suited to playing with randoms and feels too slow-paced and unrewarding when played solo, making it harder to recommend if that was your plan.
Diablo II: Resurrected is available on all major platforms
This review is based on the Xbox Version of the game.
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