So when I was invited to Diablo II: Resurrected as a technical alpha, I was excited. Of course, the alpha only contained three classes (barbarian, witch and amazon) and was limited to the first two acts of the single player game. But even these limited segments gave a glimpse of what the final game would look like. Fortunately, from my first days with the game, I can confirm that Diablo II: The resurrected pieces are almost exactly as I remember them, and it’s an absolute dream.
Visually, Vicarious Visions, and by extension Blizzard, have struck a chord with this release. I spent the first 20 minutes switching between the graphics of Risen and Legacy. Ready to play right out of the box, the Switch shows how much attention Diablo II has paid to the details for the modern audience.
The transition from the clunky character models of 2000 to the detailed, whimsical creations of Resurrection is an absolute delight. Even with time constraints, the original Diablo II managed to overcome so much personality and coolness factor. Resurrected uses the same elements and almost perfectly captures what made the original so visually popular.
A good example is the dark nature of the game. When Diablo III launched in 2012, it was considered too light. No one would speak of the risen Lord in this way. Especially when you start descending into the bowels of the catacombs, this game is really depressing. You can only see what’s right in front of you, so you can’t be sure what new evil creature is waiting for you around the next corner. It’s amazing how much the return of beam stats can set the mood of a Diablo title.
It’s not just the way the game interacts with the environment, although I could talk about that for hours. Diablo II: Risen also focuses on renewed design of opponents. While playing Act 1 and 2, the only enemy that bothered me was the exile you meet right before the fight with Andariel at the end of Act 1. They don’t look bad, but with the modern redesign they have lost the fear factor they originally had.
Everything else seems incredible. One of the enemies to watch out for are the Arachs, which you will encounter as you progress through the catacombs. These giant spiders have always been scary, but this update has turned them into pure nightmare fuel. I admit I let out a squeal when I first attacked her.
Once you get over the beauty of the game, it’s essentially the same game you’ve played at some point in the last 20 years. Blizzard has made some clever quality of life changes that have made the experience smoother, but they haven’t done anything too drastic.
This is both good and bad. On the one hand, the Diablo II fight is memorable for a reason. Even within a class, you have so many ways to approach the game. Do you make a witch who only focuses on throwing fireballs, or do you use a frozen sphere to put enemies in ice? Building diversity prevailed at the time, and remains one of the best examples of giving players multiple viable options. And the skills you remember, like the jump attack and Hydra, look fantastic in the new graphics.
But it also means that the game retains some of its old features. One example I noted earlier is how easily your mercenary gets stuck on walls, forcing you to leave him behind. Eventually they teleport to you, but it’s annoying to go into the fight thinking you have support and then see on your minimap that Floria is up against the wall three rooms away.
In the grand scheme of things, these problems are insignificant. And in a way, they help preserve the charm of the old school in 2021. Still, I can’t help wishing they had gone a little further in some areas. If this game were made from scratch today, many things would be different. But Blizzard hasn’t incorporated much of what we learned in 20 years into the current experience.
Just look at the dungeons you’ll encounter during your quest. In the original Diablo II, they only serve as farming areas for experience and loot. There’s no reason to interfere unless you want to. Today’s game will offer side missions to give you a reason to explore these optional dungeons. It would be great if Blizzard added something like this to take advantage of content that many players don’t want to explore.
I can’t help it either, but I wish they had a little more quality of life. The ability to automatically pick up gold is great, but why can’t I have a switch to always display the names of objects as I walk through the world? It’s 2021. I don’t want to have to keep looking for my Alt key. This sort of thing is even more frustrating when you switch to a controller.
Yeah, Diablo II: Risen finally has full controller support. That’s huge for young viewers who are new to the game. Overall, the controller works well, although I still think the game is better with a mouse and keyboard. However, the controller has a feature that displays the names of objects as you walk past them. Maybe I’m missing an option, but I don’t understand why it’s not available in mouse and keyboard mode.
This all goes back to my problems with Diablo II: Resurrection is rare, and this is only alpha status. I would like to see the team continue to improve certain aspects of the game, but after Warcraft III: As losers of reform, I can understand why they wanted to work in moderation.
Whether you played thousands of hours of Diablo II in the early 80s or are new to the game, Diablo II: Resurrection is something you should definitely check out. The basic gameplay remains excellent and the visual changes are a treat. We just need a release date from Blizzard.
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