I was oblivious to the isometric role-playing genre once. The overhead viewpoint was a real turn off for me. I preferred getting down into the nitty-gritty in first or third-person, which without a doubt increases immersion. But then something happened. I tried my hand with Diablo III, and I’m not entirely sure why I did. Maybe it was the jump from 2D to 3D, maybe it was the characters, the setting, the environments, dialogue or even the aspect of loot gathering, farming Diablo items became tedious. Who knows? But man, I am glad I did. From then on, I was a fan. The combat, exploration, story and those awesome characters and enemies really blew me away. This made me want to take a jump backwards; maybe you’re like me wanting to play the whole series after experiencing a new sequel. Well, this may be an unpopular opinion (and that’s what it is, an opinion), but I wasn’t impressed by the previous two entries. They felt like a step backwards. The janky animations and two-dimensional sprites didn’t do a lot for me, I’d clearly spoilt myself by playing a spruced up new game first. Jump forth to 2021, and we now have Diablo II: Resurrected, an updated, enhanced version of the cult classic, which I didn’t really enjoy the first time around (don’t shoot me), but this version may have tipped my scales.
After the events of the first game, the unnamed wanderer who defeated Diablo himself and tried to contain his essence inside himself has become corrupted, unleashing demons upon the world. It is up to you to follow this “Dark Wanderer” and put a stop to him unleashing the four Prime Evils, one of which is Diablo himself. Obviously, in true Diablo-esque fashion, the story goes deeper than that, but in the fear of spoilers, I’ll leave it at that. The plot takes place over four acts in four separate sections of the world that branch out to other locales. Admirably done script-reading performances across the wide variety of characters you’ll meet on your travels does well to push the story forward, and each act is introduced with some brilliantly rendered cutscenes.
So, the enhancements take shape when the game begins, and they are impressive. All of the 2D character and enemy sprites are now fully 3D, and the animations have improved dramatically. Levels have now improved, making them feel more alive with improved lighting and much better textures. Everything is just so much more detailed, from messy book laden desks and shelves, dusky rock piles to random dead bodies of fallen travellers; they all add to the overall aesthetic of the game. Dark caves and dimly lit corridors all feel gloomy, and the smaller field of vision gives off ominous vibes as you traverse forward, not knowing what monstrosity you’ll soon be going toe-to-toe with.
Enemies come in all shapes and sizes. From standard to the outlandishly grotesque, each foe you face brings with them their own style of danger. Skeleton archers may be a two-hit kill, but they keep their distance as they shoot their arrows at you. Hulking giants may slowly walk towards you but deliver massive damage. And then there are the special enemies, the named glowing types. These guys are nothing more than upgraded, stronger versions of their minions, but each one should be approached with caution. Killing them gives a lot of loot though. Speaking of loot, this is where I became slightly frustrated. Many times I’d hear the satisfying chink of something valuable hitting the floor after popping out of a recently defeated foe, only to find there is nothing there. This didn’t happen often enough to ruin my experience though, and rare loot is exactly that, rare. Seeing a yellow or orange item on the ground makes you excited, only to find it’s for a class that you’re not playing as.
All of the classes carry their own gameplay style; however, later in the game, you can mould some interesting combinations. The Barbarian is a muscle-bound grunt who is an expert with short-range melee weapons. His skill tree involves a lot of buffs and power moves that fit his brute persona. The Assassin is a martial arts expert, so she uses knives and swift attacks to dispatch her foes. Her skill tree contains traps and shadow moves to help her stay out of danger while delivering sneaky blows. Then there is the Necromancer, a ghoulish sorcerer who has the ability to raise corpses to fight for him. He can also use curses on enemies and bone-type attacks to take out enemies personally. There is a play style here for every type of player.
Diablo II is stronger online. Playing cooperatively with a friend is an absolute blast, and with Resurrected, the added Shared Stash feature allows players to share found items themselves without the need of a mule. Thankfully, massive improvements have been made to the networking. I never once experienced any lag or difficulty finding a game thanks to Blizzard’s stellar netcode. Then there is the PvP experience, which I didn’t enjoy. Players are pitted against each other in duels to earn rewards, but in this type of game, I just don’t think it is very fun.
Diablo II: Resurrected allows players to switch between the upgraded visuals and the old graphics for the nostalgic ones among us thanks to the overlaying feature. It is interesting to switch between them at key moments just to see how much work has been done to bring this game to this generation. It’s marvelous and a massive feat for Blizzard for pulling it off.
So, how do you remaster a game? Well, Blizzard has shown us that leaving the core gameplay untouched, all its systems intact and only doing major work on the visual quality does the job nicely. They pulled off a remaster that has more than successfully pulled me in. The constant grind for the best loot, tense boss fights and extensive exploration won me over completely. This is a great way for newcomers to experience this classic if the original version didn’t take your fancy.
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment, Vicarious Visions
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS4/5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC
Release Date: 23rd September 2021
Gaming Respawn’s copy of Diablo II: Resurrected was provided by the publisher.