Intro: Stay a while and listen
- Developer - Vicarious Visions
- Publisher - Activision-Blizzard
- Release Date - September 23, 2021
- Platform - PC (Reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch
- Genre - Action RPG
- MSRP - $39.99
What it is - Diablo II Resurrected is a remastered version of the old-school classic, complete with original characters, items, quests, runewords, and more.
What it isn't - This isn't a live service game. It's not a modern ARPG that holds your hand. Expect to grind and spend lots of time searching for good gear. It also has a lackluster endgame that doesn't evolve.
Diablo II Resurrected is a remaster done right. There's hardly anything bad to say about this re-release (at least on PC, the console port is a very different story), and every old-school Diablo fan should pick it up.
Vicarious Visions are wizards that have cast a time-warp spell by capturing the early 2000s era of Diablo, complete with practically everything that Diablo II and Lord of Destruction had. The remaster isn't perfect--Diablo II isn't perfect, mind you, but D2R is missing a few things--but this is the Diablo you grew up with, only with some big improvements.
To review Diablo II Resurrected properly means we have to somewhat review Diablo II, because, at its core, the game remains largely unchanged. D2R is simply old-school Diablo II and Diablo II Lord of Destruction with better graphics, some great quality-of-life improvements, and a few restrictions thrown in too. Okay, the graphics aren't just better...they're insanely better.
Evil reborn: Graphics worthy of a remake
The upgraded visuals are befitting of a fully-fledged remake. Everything looks better (well, with the exception of maybe Harrogath and certain areas), and some of the new models are eye-poppingly good. You're going to see some of your favorite childhood memories in a new light. The artists have done such a good job that I found myself simply marveling at the new upgrades, hitting G to change between the classic and remastered versions as I played.
These tweaks and upgrades go a long way. Diablo II's new facelift literally unearths 20-year-old graphics and updates them to modern-day standards, complete with 4K resolution and realistic high-definition effects.
Town portals cast reflections on the marbled surfaces of the Arcane Sanctuary and Pandemonium Fortress, the River of Flame is a scorching hellscape befit of a prime evil, skills glow in new and exciting ways, lightning ignites the screen in a dazzling arcing fury, and environments like Act 3 pop like never before with extremely detailed ornate carvings.
To put it simply: Diablo II Resurrected is Diablo II only better. It does come with some big trade-offs depending on how you play. For me, someone who always played online via realm ladders, D2R is a great fit.
But if you're an offline player who loves using Diablo mods like PlugY...you're out of luck. You probably shouldn't buy D2R because these mods aren't supported. It's a big blow to the D2 community, and Blizzard says it will keep legacy Diablo II up and running simultaneously with the new remaster. One big bonus for offline players is cross-progression with consoles like the Nintendo Switch, so you can take your holy grail quest on the go on long trips or commutes.
That being said, Diablo II Resurrected takes many pages from some of the best mods' playbooks. The quality-of-life improvements are significant to the point where the game feels much more streamlined.
Major QoL improvements
Here are some of the biggest QoL adjustments:
- Auto-gold pickup
- Controller support on PC (this is HUGE)
- Shared stash with three pages (incredibly useful and fantastic)
- Being able to add players in-game by right-clicking on their portraits
- Shift+clicking an item will add it to the chat screen, making it ideal for trading and showing off your finds
- You can clear the skills and attributes icons when you level up
- New advanced stats tab shows you extra bonuses like magic find, faster hit recovery, etc.
- Ladder-only runewords and uniques are unlocked
- Uber Diablo and Ubers now available in singleplayer
- No character expirations
- Cow King can now be killed freely
- Awesome gamble refresh button makes mass-purchasing rings, circlets, and other items much easier
- CTRL+click an item to send it right to your stash
- Cross-progression with consoles
That's a pretty big list. It's not enough to make Diablo II Resurrected a different game, but it's definitely enough to make the experience a lot better than it was. Anything that can save you time in Diablo II is a plus; this game is incredibly time-consuming, and the drop rates are pretty extreme.
The shared stash is incredibly useful. Controller support is astronomically important if you're like me and play this game until your wrist grinds into fine powder from overuse. Another great feature is being able to instantly add other players to my friend's list without having to type out the /f add command.
Core issues: Diablo II is still chaotic
Diablo II Resurrected does have its issues. Many of these issues are core Diablo II issues, like the punishing drop rates and lack of meaningful endgame content.
Some issues are isolated directly to the remaster itself. Take the new Battle.net 2.0 framework, for example. The devs faithfully recreated only the basics of Diablo II's lobby and chat system, which involved a fairly detailed series of channels that players could go into to communicate, chat, set up games, and put up trade offers.
The original Diablo II Lord of Destruction channel system vs the new Diablo II Resurrected lobby.
D2R's lobby system is extremely barebones. It lacks the customization options and the communication potential that its forebear offers.
There's only one default "channel" in D2R, the basic Lobby, and you can't make your own custom channels--back in the day, you could make an OP channel where you controlled who could join and who couldn't, for example. Clans had their own channels. There was a big trading channel for each region.
Legacy Diablo II has "realms" separated in geographical regions, like U.S. East, U.S. West, Asia, and Europe. Now there are no more realm gateways to choose from; you can't hop between regions like you used to be able to. There's only one gateway, and you can't choose it.
There's no trade channel in the lobby, but for some reason, there's a Trade chat section in-game. There are no specific channels for each class, either (however, no one really used these). It's just a basic lobby where you can sometimes catch people to chat with, but mostly it's a faceless experience. You can, however, see other players' characters and click on them to add them as friends. Custom profiles are gone, though, and you can't see the exact level of the characters at the bottom of the screen anymore.
Another big gripe I have with D2R's Battle.net 2.0 system is the friend's list itself. There are two versions of the friend's list: One that can be accessed in the game and one that's accessed in the lobby.
The old-school commands are still there. You can type /f list, and it'll bring up everyone on your friend's list. But it no longer shows you which games your friends are in. It doesn't even show you which friends are online, which is the entire point of the /f list command.
This makes playing with a friend--or finding out info on what they're doing--unnecessarily convoluted if you're already in a game.
Outside of a game, the friend's list is great. You can open it up, right-click on a friend, and directly join their game. You still don't know precisely what game they're in--the list only tells you the act and difficulty they're doing, not the game name--but you can still jump right in.
This is an extremely convenient tool that really does help streamline the flow of games. Now that you can add anyone at any time and join them at any time (as long as their privacy settings allow it), gamers can interact in a quick and easy way. You can also DM them from this list, a function that D2 calls whispers.
Other issues are simply ingrained into the old-school Diablo II experience. This game has some serious friction and doesn't always respect your time, and things can be cryptic. If you don't understand the best ways to go about leveling up, for example, it's perfectly possible to spend tens of hours making very little progress.
There are tons of videos out there detailing how to best optimize your class, gear set, questing, magic finding, etc., but this isn't a game where you want to stay lost forever. It's very much a min-maxing experience that I simply couldn't enjoy very much, just meandering and ambling about.
To me, Diablo II's fun is very much contingent on knowledge; how much you know determines how much fun you have. For example, it might be a fun idea to roleplay as a necromancer with a two-handed sword, or maybe you found a really really cool piece of armor that looks great and has a really interesting series of stats...but overall, it's simply just not a good fit mechanically for the experience. You simply have to understand that most of the gear you find will be useless garbage that's only good for selling, not actually using.
Any ARPG has these kinds of trade-offs and gamers are mostly seasoned to this kind of thing, so it shouldn't be a problem. But I've found that Diablo II is less forgiving than other ARPGs because A) it's older and B) it's built around a certain element of social play.
Gameplay: The best ARPG ever
When it comes to gameplay, Diablo II Resurrected is as sound as a Pink Floyd concert. The point-and-click mastery of the classic is there in full force. While Blizzard's new guard doesn't deserve full credit for Diablo II's gameplay, their tremendous efforts for preservation should be recognized.
Runeword images courtesy of MazeEQ
Characters, classes, builds, items, skills--everything is there. Vicarious Visions is using Diablo II Lord of Destruction version 1.14 as the base for the game, so that means all the runewords, uniques, synergies, and other tweaks have been unearthed as the foundation for a new era of Diablo II.
The items look absolutely incredible. Uniques actually look like their pictured icons when equipped--popping a shako on your head looks different than wearing an emerald-gemmed cap, for example--and items like Stormshield set themselves apart. You can now tell when someone is wearing a specific unique item.
Skills have also been revamped to look better than ever. Holy Freeze has a ghostly glow, Firewall blazes on the screen, the Druid's Armageddon reigns destruction on foes, and abilities like Holy Shield shine with heavenly brilliance. The game is a visual feast, and the skills keep things colorful, fresh, and visually appealing.
The cinematics are mind-blowingly good and manage to keep the grim, gothic style intact while injecting some seriously impressive graphics. The result is a mix of old and new in the perfect way.
Much to the delight of old gamers like myself, practically everything in D2R is the same as the original. Progression loops--Trist runs, Tomb runs, Chaos Sanctuary, and then the almighty Baal runs--and the unforgiving RNG brings back PTSD-inducing shockwaves of hours of wasted time. Those meph runs are just as brutal as ever. Just look at one of Dbrunski125's human bot videos to see how many magic find runs are required to find high-end items.
The thrills of 8-player boss kills are still there as everyone frantically runs over to try and grab the loot, the camaraderie in bonding with older players who were there back in the days of the original, the excitement of finding a really good item or setting up the perfect trade, and just the overwhelming feeling of growth and progression as you watch hordes of demons, ghosts, skeletons, and practically every other monster dying from your supernatural magical skills.
The flip side is also true.
All of the annoying things are back in full force. There are trade scammers, bots spamming the chat, people who join games to kill Mephisto before you can beat the quest, and the realization that you're still no match for a murderous walking cow, a tiny writhing demon, or even a flying swarm of desert gnats. Starting a new character and grinding from the bottom up is still a humbling experience.
D2 also has a bad endgame. Technically, Diablo II Lord of Destruction isn't finished. Blizzard North never finished the full list of elite unique items, for example, and there were plans for more endgame content outside of the Hellfire Torch ubers and the special uber Diablo Pandemonium Event. Once you level up your characters and secure the gear, there's really no point in continuing to grind other than trying out new builds, and these new builds do the same things as the other characters, just with different gear and a different path.
It is absolutely possible to hit a wall in Diablo II. Maybe this will change with future content (it's very likely), but as of right now, the game has a very clear linear endgame path. That's not the say the ride isn't fun and addictive, of course.
There's also the sense of teamwork and bonding. Everyone is just terrible at the beginning, but if there are 8 of you, you're going to progress. Everyone works together and stays in their role; sorcs blast Blizzard, hammerdins will tank in the middle of enemies, barbs will Whirlwind and buff everyone up, etc.
The old courtesies also come back--tp please, ty for runs, free items here, wp up, tp up, etc. Like any online game, Diablo II has its own etiquette, and the social interactions are very much part of the online core experience. Blizzard and Vicarious Visions have recreated the environment to make these things possible and carry them forward.
Wrap-Up: Hellishly Good
Playing Diablo II Resurrected is like opening a time capsule after 20 years to discover your favorite meal is not only still fresh, but it tastes better than you remembered.
I have played Diablo II more than any other PC game, and I can honestly say this is the best version that I've played. The excitement of the randomized loot is still there, as is the nostalgic pull of the bosses, environments (the Arcane Sanctuary and Chaos Sanctuary bring back a flood of memories), and iconic characters.
The game faithfully recreates some of my favorite experiences with the franchise. Again, there are some things missing--like a dedicated trading channel, something that used to be like a stock trading floor--but overall, it's a fantastic remaster. The attention to detail and care that Vicarious Visions and Blizzard have put into this project are commendable and noteworthy.
Is the remaster entirely necessary? Functionally, no, it's not. You can buy Diablo II Lord of Destruction and play that instead, and the experience won't differ all that much. However, D2R offers a new starting point for the game, and it's likely to receive new updates over time. Plus, there's a healthy influx of new players, which is always a big plus. And the game respects your time a lot more, thanks to the new QoL improvements.
+ Incredible graphics and upgraded effects
+ Same skills, characters, classes, quests, runewords and items
+ Tons of quality-of-life improvements make gameplay much easier--auto gold pickup, three-page shared stash, being able to add friends by clicking on someone's name
+ Somewhat authentic lobby system allows gamers to communicate
- No ladder at launch
- No trading channels in lobby
- ebug (ethereal socketing bug) doesn't work any more
- Cannot be played offline forever, requires periodic Battle.net check-ins (offline DRM)
- Crashes, disconnects, various issues with Battle.net launcher
- Character disappears on main menu
- Far too easy to delete a character
Test PC Specs, PC Spec Requirements
PC System Tech Specs:
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 3700X
- GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER
- RAM: 32GB (2x16GB) Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2666MHz
- Storage: ADATA XPG SX950 480GB SSD
- Monitor: Acer XG270HU WQHD AMD FREESYNC (2560 x 1440) Widescreen Monitor
- OS: Windows 10
- PSU: Thermaltake Smart M 850W Semi-Modular Power Supply
- Case: Cooler Master MasterCase H500 ARGB
- Operating System: Windows 10
- Processor: Intel Core i3-3250/AMD FX-4350
- Video: NVIDIA GTX 660/AMD Radeon HD 7850
- Memory: 8GB RAM
- Storage: 30GB
- Internet: Broadband Internet connection
- Resolution: 1280 x 720
- Operating System: Windows 10
- Processor: Intel Core i5-9600k/AMD Ryzen 5 2600
- Video: NVIDIA GTX 1060/AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT
- Memory: 16GB RAM
- Storage: 30GB
- Internet: Broadband Internet connection
- Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Grpahics and Visuals
The Bottom Line
Diablo II Resurrected is one of the best remasters ever made, and makes big improvements over the original.