If you were worried about the Diablo 2 remaster, don’t be: Vicarious Visions has knocked Diablo 2 Resurrected right out of the park.
With the alpha for Diablo 2 Resurrected going live over the weekend, I had the chance to answer a searing question: would Diablo 2: Resurrected be a quality remaster like Command & Conquer and Starcraft, or would it be more of a Warcraft 3: Reforged situation? So far, the answer is definitely the former.
Blizzard hasn’t unlocked the multiplayer side of Diablo 2: Resurrected yet, although the way things are going right now I’m pretty confident in what I’ve played. Development is being handled by Vicarious Visions, the same studio responsible for last year’s Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2 superb remaster. Vicarious were also responsible for the Destiny 2 port on PC, and the Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy on all platforms.
It’s a pretty solid track record, and Diablo 2 Resurrected looks set to continue that. Like Starcraft Remastered and the more recent Command & Conquer Remastered Collection, the Diablo 2 remake plays it pretty straight. Despite being obviously remastered for modern consoles and PCs up to 4K with a brand new lighting engine, controls and UI, everything still runs on the same 25 fps logic cycle as the original release.
The benefit of that is it means you get to do that super cool trick where you flick a button and the graphics magically transform from 2000 to 2021 with a sweet dissolve:
Honestly, no matter how many times I do it — and the same was true for Starcraft Remastered and Command & Conquer Remastered Collection — flipping between retro and modern graphics never gets old.
It also highlights just how good a job Vicarious Visions has done here. What they’ve done isn’t just remaster Diablo 2, but literally remake it a way that it feels like you’re playing the original. You’re not obviously — the UI is different, there’s controller support, and a whole range of changes under the hood to make it play nicely with modern systems. Auto looting gold is a perfect example: once you’ve got it on, you’ll never want to turn it off.
It’s actually masterful just how closely Diablo 2 Resurrected adheres to the original look, while providing an obvious upgrade. Check out these shots from Blood Raven, one of the first boss fights, and another iconic moment from the game’s first act — the flaming pentagram.
Of course, there are some flaws. Play long enough and you’ll notice an obvious disconnect between Diablo 2: Resurrected‘s modern look and the way the character moves. The remastered graphics give the appearance of a smooth 3D world, but in reality your character is still running around on a grid. That adds a little bit of a stutter into the game’s movement, which is necessary given that everything is still running on that ancient 25 fps game logic underneath.
The controller implementation is pretty good for the most part. Vicarious actually redesigned the entire UI menu for controllers, and the game automatically flips between the two depending on the control system you’re using at the time.
But what’s a bit frustrating is when you kill a ton of creatures, or a mini-boss/big boss and then have to loot all the surroundings. With a mouse you can just directly click on the item you want. (Correction: You can hit ALT to highlight items on the ground if you’re on PC — my bad, everyone.)
Controller users have an extra frustration, in that you have to manually walk around until the game highlights the item you want. Take a step a bit too far in the wrong direction, however, and you’ll highlight a different piece of loot instead, and the only way to counter correct is to physically manoeuvre your character into the right spot.
It’s really only a pain because inventory tetris is still a factor. The classic grid management was a hallmark of the early Diablo games, and Diablo 2 Resurrected has no interest in messing with something so fundamental to the original experience. But the developers could really work on adding something to make the looting and sorting of loot easier on controller. PC users can just sort it out with the mouse if it’s a hassle — people playing on the Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X and co. won’t have that fallback.
But Diablo 2 Resurrected is very much still in development. And apart from that design quirk, the alpha was pretty flawless — no performance issues, no major crashes, disconnects, or any annoyances whatsoever.
Also, if you want to talk about nostalgia trips, there’s this beauty on the main menu:
IPX fans, rise up.
Anyone up for an oldschool TCP/IP game night?
Diablo 2 Resurrected is launching on PC, PS5, Xbox Series X, Xbox, PS4 and the Nintendo Switch later this year, although a specific release date has not been announced.