Diablo II’s reign as the number one dungeon-crawling RPG was a bit before my time. I wouldn’t have even been ten when the Blizzard sequel originally launched, so my gamer ‘L’ plates were still firmly tacked on. That said, its grim fantasy world has always intrigued me, even if all I got to see was the skull-adorned cover art, squinting at the handful of screenshots on the back of the box.
Fast forward more than two decades and I’m now sat here playing through the opening quests of what many deem to be one of the greatest PC games of all time. Diablo II: Resurrected has finally presented an opportune way of experiencing this Blizzard favourite in modernised form, with some of the rougher turn of the millennium edges sanded down.
The impression I got from those first few minutes is that the developers are fully committed to preserving the core DNA, that “feeling” of Diablo II. With Vicarious Visions having been absorbed into Blizzard to help with the project, I got that same pang of nostalgia playing Diablo II: Resurrected that I did when firing up Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy a few years back (another Vicarious Visions remake).
Although I never so much as touched Diablo II in the past, I became wildly nostalgic for other dungeon-crawling RPGs that followed in its footsteps, Dungeon Siege being one particular touchstone. From the off, this is a remake that already feels far more fully realised than Blizzard’s most recent effort with Warcraft III, much more successfully updating the visuals and feel of the game to meet modern standards and expectations.
For those coming into Diablo II: Resurrected completely blind, it’s an action roleplaying game that adopts an isometric view, touting a spread of character classes who each have their own unique skills and playstyle. Of the 7 confirmed classes, the Diablo II: Resurrected technical alpha offered a selection of three: the Barbarian, Sorceress, and Amazon. Even during that first quest, you quickly get a sense of how diverse these classes are and the scope to which you can tailor them, assigning points to attributes as well as filling out each skill tree to your fancy.
Diablo II: Resurrected doesn’t mess around with drawn out introductions, at least not during this alpha. After speaking with a couple of NPCs I was free to roam into the wilds beyond, slaying foes and plumbing dungeons for treasures and trinkets. It’s very much a game of two halves: you have the real-time combat with swords by swung and spells being slung, then you have the looting and loadout tweaking.
Even with the knowledge that my progress wouldn’t carry into the full version of Diablo II: Resurrected, I still spent a chunk of time fiddling with my Amazon’s armour, weapons, and potions, switching the default spear for a crossbow/javelin combo to try and find a set of gear and abilities that suited a particular style of play. Hacking and slashing my way through the full game, with exponentially more classes, weapons, and loadouts to experiment with (plus online multiplayer) Diablo II: Resurrected could end up being one of my most played games of 2021.
In terms of presentation, there’s a strange blend of hugely improved character models and higher frame rate animations set against backdrops and a UI that give off an early 00s retro vibe. It works incredibly well and with the addition of Diablo II’s original soundtrack, it manages to transport you back through the years. Of course, with some helpful quality of life improvements and an overhaul and enhancements of the visual style, it’s really transporting you back to what your memory thinks the original game looked like.
Diablo II: Resurrected has already got me reeled in. Having bounced off its sequel Diablo III a fair few times I didn’t expect its predecessor to somehow make a Diablo convert out of me. This comes down to the no-thrills focus on what these games do best – hectic bouts of visceral fantasy combat, battling demons and the forces of darkness as loots rains down around you. Diablo II: Resurrected will do a whole lot more than simply sate fans waiting for the eventual release of Diablo IV, that’s for sure.