Diablo 2 is one of best games ever. A sequel to an already genre-defining game, it expanded on it significantly and was practically peerless for years afterwards. Two decades on, the biggest name in the genre that doesn’t have Diablo in it is Path of Exile, which clearly intended to recapture the grim, dark atmosphere of Diablo 2 in a more modern game. Diablo 2’s influence is so big that even Avengers games have loot systems these days. Yet Diablo 2 remains the benchmark. Chances are, if you spent hours and hours farming for loot in the 2000s, it was in this game.
Naturally, I am one of those people, and Diablo 2 and its expansion Lord of Destruction occupy an important space in my increasingly storied gaming history. Diablo 2: Resurrected should have immediately filled fans with excitement to return to such a landmark game, but after Warcraft 3: Reforged left players dismayed, and with the moral questions that hang over Blizzard these days, you might have been a little wary. Thankfully, you mostly have nothing to worry about.
Diablo 2: Resurrected remakes the game entirely in a new 3D engine. It’s got all new models, lighting, sound, music, and effects, but with the same grimdark aesthetic. It looks absolutely gorgeous in 4K and with native widescreen support, and it’s perhaps closer to how I remember it in my head than the actual Diablo 2. In fact, you can compare for yourself, as you can switch back to the old graphics at any time – here’s a video. The lighting is particularly good and most noticeable in dark environments as spells light everything up along their path with bright colours. Even the cutscenes, which looked gorgeous for the time, but are now worse than the cheapest children’s shows animation these days, have had an overhaul, bringing them much closer to what you’d expect from a modern game.
It plays reasonably well, too. I’ve been playing on PS5, which means crawling through dungeons with a controller as it doesn’t support mouse and keyboard. There are a few issues with this, but none that I found insurmountable by any stretch. Specifically, it’s to do with aiming spells like the Necromancer’s Corpse Explosion. You hold your analog in the direction and push the assigned button, but this explodes the nearest corpse in that direction. Ideally, you want things that explode to be under the enemy’s feet, but you can’t really do that properly with the controller. The result is that you need to run about a little bit more to get to the corpse you want. Similarly, targeting specific enemies in a group is a little trickier if they’re too close together, small, or (god forbid) one of the tiny Fetishes with blow darts from Act III.
There’s also the inventory UI. It uses a cursor that’s controlled with your analog stick like many other games these days. It’s not the end of the world, but you will have to put up with it as you’re juggling items around a lot due to limited inventory space. I also occasionally find myself picking up items during combat whilst trying to attack, which means I don’t attack and get to hear that “I am overburdened.”
Playing as a necromancer, I’ve also got to be careful my nine minions don’t get stuck behind each other in a corridor, inevitably leaving me alone just as I stumble into a pack of elite enemies. This is most prevalent in the Arcane Sanctuary in Act II, which has a lot of flights of stairs that bounce you side to side as you walk up or down them. These are all small problems that can be managed or overlooked (or are just a bit silly, like the last one), but they still affect the experience.
Other than that, it’s just Diablo 2 in all its glory, with a few little tweaks around the edges of the core gameplay. It’s not too tough until it is, which is a reminder from the game that you need to go grind and farm. I got all the way to the Act III boss before I hit a wall, but when I went to farm the boss of Act II it absolutely destroyed me somehow. I still haven’t found an actual legendary, but I have found three set items – all gloves and the third a repeat of the first. The RNG gods give with one hand, take with the other, and use a secret third hand to slap you in the face. This isn’t a criticism exactly, it’s just how Diablo 2 works.
There’s a reason you used to be able to buy items in the original Diablo 2 items for real money. Thankfully there’s two decades worth of online guides and tutorials to help you build your character, as you can only respec once per difficulty. If you waste it early on, because you decided you do want to invest in your Teeth skill, then you might get stuck at Mephisto for a while. Not that that’s what I did or anything.
There’s also the curious case of online. I have tried to play online via matchmaking a few times, but each time I did so, I was stuck in a solo game and nobody turned up. On console you can’t choose from a list of servers, so you can’t get around this without friends who have the game. There’s also been a lot of lag and a few disconnects during launch week, though that seems to have evened itself out now. If you don’t want to play online, you can just make an offline character and you won’t be needing any servers, though if you will want to play online with your character later you’ll need to make an online character and play alone in a private server when you don’t fancy company, which is a pain. Apparently the game also needs to check in with Battle.net the first time you play, so you’ll need an internet connection then, but after that you can play offline without a connection.