Diablo II: Resurrected nails the feel of the original, for good and bad – Hands-on alpha impressions

This is the best Hell has ever looked.

Image via Blizzard

The summer of 2000 would prove to be an important one for me. Like any young tween, I was fully ready to start doing “mature” things. For me, that meant downloading MP3s of rap albums like Country Grammar and The Slim Shady LP off of Napster and spending every waking second of my summer playing a new game from Blizzard. To say that I was a fan of Diablo II would be an understatement. I was obsessed. I spent days farming items with my friends. I pleaded with my mom to let me buy in-game items off of shady dealers on eBay. Every night, I dreamed about loot drops that were sure to happen soon. It’s not only a major part of my gaming history but of my real life, considering all the friends I made playing online.

So when I was invited into the Diablo II: Resurrected technical alpha, I was ecstatic.  Sure, the alpha only included three classes (Barbarian, Sorceress, and Amazon) and was locked into the first two acts of single-player. But even these limited segments provided a window into how the final game will look. Fortunately, in my early time with the game, I can confirm that Diablo II: Resurrected plays almost exactly like I remember, and it looks like an absolute dream.

Visually, Vicarious Visions, and by extension Blizzard, has knocked this release out of the park. I spent the first 20 minutes just toggling between Resurrected and legacy graphics. The switch is instantaneous and shows off how much detail has gone into making Diablo II come alive for modern audiences.

Going from the chunky year-2000 character models to Resurrected’s intricately detailed creations is an absolute joy. Even with the time’s limited tools, the original Diablo II was able to get across so much personality and cool factor. Resurrected takes those same elements and almost perfectly captures what made the original so beloved visually.

One great example is how utterly dark the game is. Diablo III was raked through the coals for being “too bright” when it launched in 2012. No one will be saying that about Resurrected. Especially as you start to move down into the bowels of the Catacombs, this game truly feels oppressive. You’re only able to see what’s right in front of you, making it impossible to know for sure what new creature of evil is waiting around the next corner. It’s incredible how bringing back the light radius stat can set the mood of a Diablo title.

Screenshot by Gamepur

It’s not just how the game handles environments, though I could gush about that for hours. Diablo II: Resurrected also nails the updated enemy design. Playing through Acts 1 and 2, the only enemy that felt off for me is The Banished that you encounter just before fighting Andariel at the end of Act 1. They don’t look bad, but the modern reimagining has led to them losing that scare factor they had originally.

Outside of that, everything else looks incredible. One enemy that I must highlight is the Arachs you run into while working your way through the Catacombs. These giant spiders have always been frightening, but this update has turned them into pure nightmare fuel. I’ll readily admit that I let out a little scream when I first happened upon them.

Once you get past how good the game looks, this is essentially the same game you’ve played at some point over the last 20 years. Blizzard has implemented some wise quality of life changes that make the experience smoother, but it hasn’t done anything too drastic. 

That’s both good and bad. On the one hand, Diablo II’s combat is remembered fondly for a reason. Even within a single class, you have so many ways to approach the game. Do you build a Sorceress focused solely on tossing out fireballs, or do you use Frozen Orb to keep your enemies on ice? The build diversity reigned supreme at the time and still stands as one of the best examples of how to provide players with several viable options. And trademark skills you remember, like Leap Attack and Hydra, look amazing with the new graphics.

However, it also means the game retains some legacy issues. An example I noticed early on is how easily your hireling gets stuck on walls, causing you to leave them behind. Eventually, they’ll teleport to you, but it’s annoying to go into a battle thinking you have backup only to notice on your minimap that Floria is running against the wall three rooms back.

In the grand scheme of things, these issues are minuscule. And, to some extent, they help keep that old-school charm intact in 2021. However, I can’t help but wish they’d gone a bit further in several areas. If this game were made from the ground up today, so many things would be different. But Blizzard hasn’t incorporated much of what we’ve learned in 20 years into the current experience on purpose.

Just look at the dungeons you stumble across while questing. In original Diablo II, they only serve as areas to farm for experience and loot. There’s no reason to hop into them unless you just want to. A game made today would give you side quests to provide you a reason to explore those optional dungeons. It would’ve been great to see Blizzard add something like that to take advantage of all the content many players won’t bother investigating.

I also can’t help but wish they’d gone further with some of the quality of life features. Being able to pick up gold automatically is huge, but why can’t I have a toggle to always display item names as I run through the world? It’s 2021; I don’t want to be searching for my Alt key constantly. Something like this is even more frustrating when you switch over to a controller. 

Screenshot by Gamepur

Yes, Diablo II: Resurrected finally has full controller support. That’s massive for a younger audience coming in fresh. For the most part, the controller works well, though I still think the game plays better on mouse and keyboard. However, the controller has a feature that displays item names as you walk near them. Maybe I’m just overlooking an option, but I don’t understand why this isn’t available in the mouse-and-keyboard mode. 

All of that said, my problems with Diablo II: Resurrected are few and far between, and this is just its alpha state. I would have liked to see the team go further in modernizing some of the game’s aspects, but after the Warcraft III: Reforged debacle, I understand why they wanted to work with restraint. 

Whether you spent thousands of hours playing Diablo II in the early aughts or are coming to the game fresh, Diablo II: Resurrected is something you should absolutely check out. The core gameplay remains top-tier, and the visual changes are a treat. Now, we just need Blizzard to announce a release date.