Diablo 2 Resurrected is the remaster of Blizzard's classic RPG, and after playing it a bit, many of its timeless qualities shine through.
Please don't be mad at me, I haven't played Diablo 2 since middle school. And at that time, my friends (who were also high-level StarCraft and Warcraft players) basically carried me through most of the experience and the Lord of Destruction expansion. However, Diablo 2 showed me the satisfaction you can get out of a good hack-and-slash RPG, tearing through mobs (often with friends), using different classes and builds, and being smart about how to handle the tougher encounters.
After spending some time with the technical alpha, I now see how Diablo 2 Resurrected delivers that exact experience all over again. It really is Diablo 2 with a fresh coat of HD paint, running without a hitch on modern systems. It plays identically to the original game and preserves that experience one-to-one, but with a few quality-of-life improvements and some major visual enhancements that don't affect the core gameplay systems. This is essentially what Blizzard did with StarCraft Remastered back in 2017--the same iconic game looking real fresh.
And just like StarCraft Remastered, Diablo 2 Resurrected lets you swap between the visual styles instantly with a keystroke. Both graphical modes run simultaneously, and switching between them is seamless. While it's not much more than a novelty to scratch that nostalgic itch, seeing the original sprites and choppy animations in a 4:3 aspect ratio helps you appreciate the work that's been done with this remaster. Revamped assets, high-definition textures, and modernized visual effects like lighting, shadows, and particle effects still maintain the true look and feel of Diablo 2 and use the proper 16:9 widescreen format.
One of the more important, but minor improvements comes with the cleaner user interface. Navigating your inventory, character screen, and skill tree is just a bit easier to parse with this redesign and the HD brush-up is certainly easier on the eyes.
Overall, this game is all about its dark, brooding atmosphere that intimidates you along the loot grind and demon-slaying journey, and that's not lost in Resurrected.
As I'm playing through it again in a single-player local campaign (multiplayer is not available in the technical alpha), the ins-and-outs of playing Sorceress are starting to come back. Again, I'm looking up the different builds that are made possible by Diablo 2's simple yet diverse skill trees. As I crawl through crypts of Rogue Monastery and the Maggot Lair beneath Aranoch, I'm working towards that Fireball-Frozen Orb build that worked so well some 20 years ago and getting back up to speed on how to control mobs and manage my mana pool. Admittedly, Diablo 2 is a repetitive game, and in 2021, that much is readily apparent. But when the gameplay systems are as tight and satisfying as they are in Diablo 2, running through its series of dungeons is still a ton of fun.
Another thing that's potentially great for newcomers and veterans alike is the ability to respec your character as many times as you want, free of charge. One aspect of the original Diablo 2 experience was understanding how to build your character from the outset and having to live with some of the mistakes you may have made, unless you use one of the few ways to respecialize your skills. A patch late in Diablo 2's lifespan granted a respec in the early hours, but there was also a more convoluted way to earn a respec.
Some may argue that unlimited respecs isn't in the true spirit of the game. However, this being a remaster where the overall point is to deliver the core experience rather than punish you for what's an antiquated system, I'm not going to complain about it. It's not going to affect the in-the-moment thrills and challenges we remember most about Diablo 2.
Diablo 2 was incredibly influential, setting a new bar for action-RPGs on PC and became one of Blizzard's key pillars--it's quite clear as to why when many of the game's timeless qualities shine through. But whether or not you prefer the streamlining that was done for Diablo 3's gameplay systems, you have to admit that the series has evolved in significant ways when you take off the rose-tinted glasses Things like the tedious inventory management, the somewhat basic level design, and the tiresome trek of getting your gear back if you die have shown their age, of course. And as integral as the stamina system is for how you approach combat situations, it is rather an annoyance from an exploration standpoint. Diablo 2 Resurrected has been a great time, but having it is also important for seeing the genre's growth.
I'm still very early in this nostalgia rush of a playthrough, but aside from early server issues during the first hour of the alpha being live, Diablo 2 Resurrected is shaping up to be a damn fine game, because, well, it's Diablo 2 reimagined. It very much gives me that "this is what it looked like to me back in the day" vibe, and it's a cool feeling when I can switch the visuals to see just how wrong I was.
I don't know if I'm down to struggle through Act IV or Baal runs on Hell difficulty in the year 2021--I got a lot of games in my backlog as is. But if that's something you want to relive, or even play through for the first time, Diablo 2 Resurrected is showing all the signs that it's going to preserve that unique RPG that many of us remember fondly. So far, it's exactly as advertised, and I'm excited to see how the multiplayer experience will hold up in this remaster.
Diablo 2 Resurrected is scheduled to launch sometime this year on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Switch. Blizzard has a beta phase planned before launch as well, so more people will be able to get a chance to try this remaster.