Disclaimer: My copy of Diablo II: Resurrected was provided by Blizzard for review purposes. This review only covers the PC version of the game.
Diablo II: Resurrected is one of those games that can’t neatly be sorted into the qualification of remaster or remake. The gameplay is (nearly) unchanged, but every aspect of the art and UI has been remade from scratch. For that reason, I’ll be focusing on what additions have been made and the art presentation rather than reviewing Diablo II itself, as it’s virtually the same game from 2000 under the hood.
The first point of comparison for any half-remake half-remaster game of this type are the graphics, and they are great. The quality of the models and textures are impressive, but what really stands out to me is the level of detail. Thanks to the ability to switch between the Resurrected and original graphics at the click of a button, I can see how much hasn’t just been upgraded but added from scratch.
One of the first times I noticed how much environmental detail has been added was the Catacombs in Act I. While in the original game the whole area has a uniform design, different rooms can now have different types of floors and furniture. I came across a library, with wooden floors and walls lined with bookshelves. When I switched to the original graphics this unique room became an empty grey stone one no different from the hallways outside.
Certain areas are completely re-imagined. The Maggot Lair in Act II has gone from a generic cave to a ribbed tunnel covered in mucus and silk that truly earns its name. The various ice cave environments in Act V now resemble actual ice, complete with see-through portions on the floor. Other locations may have changed a little too much. The Worldstone Keep in Act V is so different that, while the basic architecture remains the same, the lighting and texture differences are enough that the original and updated versions feel like separate locations. The Worldstone itself seems bigger and more imposing in the original graphics as well.
Additional details like these are everywhere in Diablo II: Resurrected. NPCs and monsters have more detailed clothing and additional accessories, there are reflections in every puddle and bloodstain, and some creatures have even gotten unique models where before they looked identical to their brethren. My personal standouts were Baal, who looks so much better than the garishly colored and almost bobble-headed original, and the Cow King, simply for being a great (and hilarious) example of characters that didn’t have a unique model before getting one.
Sometimes the level of detail makes it difficult to tell where to go. I’d often find myself, usually in dungeons, swapping to the old graphics mode to get my bearings as I would have trouble telling what’s scenery and what’s an entrance to another floor.
The ability to quickly swap back and forth between the new and old graphics during gameplay, while already mentioned, deserves a section all to itself. It might be my favorite feature. I feel it’s something more of these “remake-remaster” style games should include. The only other games I’m aware of with similar features are Blizzard’s own past remake-remasters and some Halo games.
Something I haven’t seen anyone else comment on is that some of the animations, especially for walking and fighting, have an almost Ray Harryhausen-esque stop motion feel. I can’t tell if this is an intentional stylistic choice, a side-effect of staying close to the lower framerate animations of the original game, or if it’s just me.
I would be remiss to not mention the remade cinematics. After the hullabaloo over WarCraft III: Reforged’s lack of updates to any cinematics, in-game or pre-rendered (save for the opening cinematic and the Arthas and Illidan fight), Diablo II: Resurrected has remade all the original game’s CGI cutscenes. They are all excellent remakes, I especially like how Mephisto and Baal are rendered. Their rotting flesh is viscerally grody in a way Blizzard’s other cinematics, even the one for Diablo IV, don’t quite match.
On that note, the cinematics in general don’t quite match those of other Blizzard games. The overall art direction, the designs of the characters, even the movement just feels subtly off. This isn’t a criticism per-say, the cinematics still look great, just different. I’m not sure why that would be. Perhaps it’s to keep a greater level of fidelity to the originals? Or, with Vicarious Visions having done most of the work on Resurrected, maybe they handled the cinematics instead of Blizzard’s usual team?
The biggest addition after the graphical updates is that Diablo II: Resurrected can be played on consoles, and thus has full controller support on PC. While I prefer a mouse and keyboard for PC games, I tried connecting a DualSense controller as well for review purposes. It was an illuminating decision.
Playing the game with a controller is a vastly different experience compared to mouse and keyboard. In many ways it’s a big improvement. Getting stuck while trying to flee from enemies, accidentally attacking a mob when trying to click to move instead, or being unable to interact with certain objects like a town portal when lots of mobs surround you are non-issues with a controller.
When using a controller, one can bind multiple abilities to different buttons without having to switch between them. Compared to a mouse and keyboard set up, where only two abilities can be selected at once and one must then use a hotkey to change that selection, then use said ability, it’s a huge advantage. Between this and the easier movement and interaction with objects, I found playing with a controller to be easier and more convenient than with a mouse and keyboard. In fact, I couldn’t beat the Ancients in Act V using traditional controls, I kept getting stuck while trying to run or dying while trying to switch between abilities. Then I switched to a controller and beat them with minimal difficulty.
These advantages do come with drawbacks, however. The UI’s redesign to accommodate the additional skill selections means that when you switch to the original graphics, the UI stays updated, with is visually jarring. Also, the iconic gauntlet cursor is replaced with a random circle. And of course, using the cursor during inventory management with a controller is the one time a mouse and keyboard setup is easier and more convenient.
The quality-of-life improvements, while appreciated, are minor. You can auto-pickup gold, the stash is now shared between characters, there’s an option to display a clock at the top of the screen, and you can refresh loot gambling from vendors like Gheed without exiting out and initiating dialogue again.
While I understand and respect the decision to keep the gameplay as close as possible to the original, even going as far as to keep some of the more famous bugs, I wish a bit more had been added. My biggest issue is how respeccing is handled. Like in the original, you’re given one free respec per difficulty setting, and then the ability to farm additional ones on Hell difficulty. If you make a mistake in the early game and use your respec too soon, you’re stuck until you’ve beaten the entire game on that difficulty level.
This adds a sense of importance and value to your skill choices, and I wouldn’t want to remove it entirely, but being so strict prevents experimentation or trying to figure out how builds work. I felt it necessary to look up a build online rather than try different things out myself for that very reason. Should I pick a subpar option, I’d have one chance to fix it, then be stuck until beating Act V. My personal suggestion would be to allow the respec farming method, where you collect drops from each of the Act bosses and combine them in the Horadric Cube, be able to be done on any difficulty. That would be a nice compromise.
Diablo II: Resurrected is everything WarCraft III: Reforged should have been. Now that Vicarious Visions is part of Blizzard proper, I’m very curious to see what their effect on Diablo IV and any future projects will be.
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