Diablo II: Resurrected, the remaster of Blizzard’s cult-classic dungeon crawler has been released on PC on consoles last week, and it's one of the best games released in September. The original Diablo II game was released on PC and Mac back in 2000, but many players who discovered the Diablo series through the excellent Diablo III back in 2012 are probably not very familiar with Diablo II.
In recent years, we’ve seen some pretty great games getting the remaster treatment such as Halo: Reach or the Mass Effect Legendary Edition. Diablo II: Resurrected is another labor of love from Blizzard’s Diablo team and Vicarious Visions, the studio that recently worked on the critically-acclaimed remasters of the Crash Bandicoot Trilogy and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2.
As you may know, the past couple of months have been pretty tumultuous for Activision Blizzard, with serious accusations of toxic work culture, several high-profile departures, and a series of lawsuits. As it turns out, the company has just settled a lawsuit with the US Equal Employment Commission (EEOC), and Activision Blizzard has agreed to pay $18 million to create a fund "to compensate and make amends to eligible claimants.”
Despite Diablo II: Resurrected being released during troubling times for Activision Blizzard, as a longtime Diablo fan, I’m very glad that this remaster exists. More than 20 years later after its original release, the game still holds up very well as an action role-playing game, and being able to play Diablo II: Resurrected with a controller is a really transformative experience.
Why Diablo II is a classic
I haven’t touched this iconic game in almost 20 years, but the original version of Diablo II is still available for purchase on Battle.net. Compared to the original Diablo game from 1997, Diablo II was a huge improvement with a much bigger world and more characters to experiment with. Back in the day, Diablo II was also a great game to play in co-op on LAN or Blizzard’s burgeoning Battle.net online service, and I can't think of another co-op game that had such an impact on the teenager I was back then.
At its core, the Diablo series lets players slay hordes of monsters in procedurally-generated levels, which you can replay as many times as you want to find better loot. All Diablo games are actually pretty short, but players can replay them again and again in higher difficulties in the hope to find the best-randomized loot the game has to offer.
Diablo II: Resurrected features the same seven playable classes available in the original game and its Lord of Destruction expansion: The Amazon, Barbarian, Necromancer, Paladin, Sorceress, Assassin, and Druid all play very differently, with each class offering three different sets of skills allowing for different play styles.
With Diablo III, Blizzard introduced a more straightforward skill system that lets players automatically unlock active and passive skills as their character gains experience. Active skills in Diablo III can be changed at your convenience, and they either have a cooldown time or require your character to do some damage before you can use them. This revamped progression system received some criticism back in the day, and it's true that there's still a lot to like about Diablo II's more traditional skill system.
In Diablo II: Resurrected, you’ll need to carefully decide how you want to upgrade your character every time you gain a level: Each time you level up, you can spend 5 character points to improve your core stats such as Strength, Dexterity, and Vitality. Moreover, you also get one skill point to unlock new skills or improve the ones you already have. You may not realize it at the beginning of your adventure, but some skills will become less useful as you progress throughout the game and you’ll really need to think twice before spending your skill points.
If the core gameplay of Diablo II: Resurrected remains very solid after all these years, the game also has a great story that I personally find much more memorable than Diablo III’s. In Diablo II, your character is tracking the Dark Wanderer, the hero of the original Diablo game who has turned evil after vanquishing the Lord of Terror and tried to contain his evil power within his own body. While you’ll be trying to stop the Dark Wanderer from freeing the other Prime Evils Mephisto and Baal, you'll be facing other legendary evils along the way and all boss fights are quite memorable.
A faithful remaster
The original Diablo II game from 2000 wasn’t really a pretty game, but the teams at Blizzard and Vicarious Visions have made excellent work to upgrade the graphics while staying faithful to the core material. I played Diablo II: Resurrected on Xbox Series X and Series S, and the new textures and animations, updated visual effects, and dynamic lighting look really good on both consoles.
While the remastered full 3D graphics are very nice to look at, the original 2D graphics from Diablo II are still there and you can switch between the original and remastered graphics with the press of a button. I didn’t try the PC version of Diablo II: Resurrected, but PC gamers will be able to import their characters from the original Diablo II game, which is really nice.
Because Diablo II: Resurrected is a remaster and not a full-blown remake, some gameplay mechanisms can feel a bit dated by 2021’s standards, especially for players coming from Diablo III. There’s a Stamina system preventing your character to run at all times, and the limited inventory system can also be quite frustrating.
Compared to Diablo III, Diablo II: Resurrected can also feel a bit punishing at times: When your character dies, you’ll be resurrected in the town hub but without your gold or equipment. You’ll have to go back exactly where you died to get everything back, but that often means having to run around the same monsters that can now kill you even faster than before due to you having no equipment.
Some welcome quality of life improvements
If Blizzard and Vicarious Visions really did their best to respect the original material, Diablo II: Resurrected brings some very nice quality of life improvements. Auto-gold pickup is a welcome addition (you can turn it off in settings), as is the new emote wheel for faster communication in multiplayer games.
Game controller support is a true game-changer, and it’s now probably the best way to play the game even on PC. The original Diablo II game only allowed players to use two skills at once with a mouse, but game controllers on PC and consoles introduce much more extensive key binding options.
On Xbox, you can assign different skills to the ABXY and RB/RT buttons, and you can also holt the left trigger to assign six additional skills to the same buttons. That’s even better than what Diablo III offers on controllers, and being able to access so many skills at once really helps to make Diablo II: Resurrected more accessible for new players.
There’s definitely a lot of inventory management in Diablo II: Resurrected, and doing that with a controller can be quite tedious. However, the developers added an Auto-sort inventory feature you can use by pressing the right stick, and I wish this is something I discovered earlier. Another welcome quality of life improvement in Diablo II: Resurrected is the new shared stash, which makes it easy to share loot between your different characters.
The not so good
I played Diablo II: Resurrected on Xbox Series X and Series S, and both consoles offer a Quality mode that’s locked to 30FPS and a less detailed Performance mode that targets 60FPS. Even though the game looks great in Quality mode, I'm afraid the 30FPS target doesn’t really suit a fast-paced hack and slash game like Diablo II.
If you’re planning to play Diablo II: Resurrected on Xbox One, be aware that there’s no Performance mode on old-gen consoles and 30FPS is what you’ll get even on the Xbox One X. This is quite disappointing, especially when Diablo III ran at a much smoother 60FPS on the Xbox One and even the aging Xbox 360.
Diablo II: Resurrected also had some server issues at launch, and I did get kicked out to the menu a couple of times during my review. The game separates offline characters from online characters you can use for multiplayer games, though playing solo with an online character still requires a connection to the Battle.net servers, and I wish this wasn’t necessary.
Because the levels in Diablo II: Resurrected are procedurally generated, being kicked out of your game due to server issues means that you will lose all your progression (though not your inventory). This can be especially frustrating when this happens right before a boss fight, and that generally means that you’ll need to start your progression again from the nearest town portal, and these things are pretty rare in the game.
If I’ve been able to play Diablo II: Resurrected in co-op with a friend on Xbox without issues, I have yet to figure out how to use the Party Finder feature to join a random public lobby. The game supports co-op with up to 8 players, but so far I have never managed to find other people to play with on Xbox.
While cross-saves support via Battle.net is on the roadmap for Diablo II: Resurrected, it’s worth noting that cross-play multiplayer isn’t in the pipeline yet. Unlike Diablo III, Diablo II: Resurrected also doesn’t support local co-op, and the PC version of the game has also dropped support for LAN multiplayer. Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that even though the original Diablo II and Diablo III were released on Macs, Diablo II: Resurrected has completely skipped macOS.
Still my favorite Diablo game
Overall, I had a lot of fun revisiting Diablo II after all these years, and I think the game has aged beautifully thanks to the excellent remastered graphics and top-notch controller support. Even though the gameplay and online features can feel a bit clunky, Diablo II: Resurrected is a really addictive game with a lot of replay value, and gamers who discovered the series through Diablo III should definitely try this remaster.
While this feature isn't available at launch, Diablo II: Resurrected will also get ranked Ladder modes for competitive players, though there's no ETA yet. Ladder players will be able to earn exclusive loot while trying to reach the top of the ladder, and Blizzard teased more frequent ladder periods compared to the six-month seasons in the original game.
Many gamers tend to criticize remasters as an easy way for game developers to continue to make money from old games, and it's true that some remasters are a bit lazy. However, that's definitely not the case for Diablo II: Resurrected, and I think the fact that a whole new generation of players will be able to play Diablo II for the first time should really be celebrated. Game preservation is great, and I wouldn't be surprised if old-school Diablo fans like me end up liking Diablo II: Resurrected more than Diablo III.
As Blizzard Entertainment is currently hard at work on Diablo IV, the release of Diablo II: Resurrected is a really great way to bring back this iconic action role-playing series to the spotlight. At $39.99 on all platforms, it's also really affordable and the Xbox version of the game also supports Smart Delivery and Xbox cross-gen multiplayer.