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DiabloApr 9, 2021 10:00 am CT

Diablo 2: Resurrected is Diablo 2, which is good, because that’s what we were all hoping it would be.

After spending several hours playing Diablo 2: Resurrected on a Barbarian and an Amazon, I can report that my first impression of the game is that it is indeed Diablo 2, just prettier. And yet, that means it’s not just good, it’s significantly better than if you just played Diablo 2 without the updates. What does that mean?

First, if you’ve never played Diablo 2, but have played the various ARPGs that descend from it — games like Grim Dawn or Torchlight or even Diablo 3, don’t expect exactly the same experience. Diablo 2 didn’t play as frenetically as some of its modern descendants, and even using a controller doesn’t really change that — this is a bit more slow paced than those games are. This is, after all, the Beatles of the ARPG genre. Pretty much everything ARPGs today do, they either do because this game did it, or in reaction to it.

All the hallmarks of the original Diablo 2 gameplay experience are here. Town Portals are still something you buy — you’ll want a Tome of those, and a Tome of Identify while you’re at it. You’re going to run out of inventory space right quick. Combat ramps up in speed as it grows in difficulty, because you get to spend your skill points on new attacks and abilities that you’ll add into your rotation. Since the Technical Alpha only has Acts 1 and 2 so far, some of the game’s most complex fights aren’t accessible yet, but what is there includes old favorites like Blood Raven and Andariel, and those are very significant tests for lower level players like I was at that point.

They did not change Diablo 2’s heart, but they did make it shinier

So whether you’re an old Diablo 2 veteran or have never played the game before, be warned — the game is almost entirely the same, as far as I could tell, with the only differences I experienced due to the fact I was using a PlayStation 4 controller on my PC to play it. The controller is entirely supported — you can do anything you would do with a keyboard and mouse on it — but it does feel a little different to move without clicking, and there’s a bit of learning to do to get familiar with the control scheme. Nothing major, and it certainly doesn’t change the core gameplay loop, which is entirely preserved from the year 2000, some twenty-one years ago when the game first came out.

So what’s different, then? Well, the updated cinematics aren’t in yet, but while the UI certainly hearkens back to the original, it’s very much improved.

Weapon models actually appear in the game, and the way the weapon looks at the vendor or on the ground is how it looks in your hands. The character models are still the same characters — there’s no gender options or any customization at all, really, aside from the gear you wear every Barbarian is an angry bald dude and every Amazon is the same javelin flinging lady.

But they’re definitely much better now. They look like what you’d expect if Diablo 2 released in 2021 — much better models, even the in-game scenes of them are cleaner, crisper and more easily identifiable. You can tell where you are, what you’re wearing, and what the environment is made up of — even little torches in caves are distinct and clear, not just random pixel clumps. It’s a night and day difference between Diablo 2 and its Resurrected remaster.

This is a game that will still eat all of your time

I just spent six precious hours of my life playing this game when I said Eh, I’ll play it for an hour, that’ll be good enough and I barely even realized it until I looked at the clock and saw it was four in the morning here. It’s kind of amazing to me that a game from twenty-one years ago could do that — especially a game that hasn’t really done anything to update itself in terms of core gameplay. The skills are the same, the attacks are the same, the way it feels is the same, and yet somehow it does actually feel better to play it — the sheer update to the visuals means that you don’t have to make the mental effort of translating the game. It has improved its visual set, which makes for a less cluttered, more easily comprehended experience.

It’s better even though it is almost exactly the same. It may be better because it is almost exactly the same, in fact — Diablo 2 is the grandfather of the entire action role playing game genre for a reason. So many games have come along and tried to replace this game, from its own sequel to literally over a dozen game franchises. I still prefer Diablo 3 — I find the gameplay faster and more fun — but there’s no denying that it was a blast to get to go back and see Blood Raven again, to return to the story that made Diablo what it is today. The original Diablo created the franchise, but Diablo 2 made it a juggernaut, and Diablo 2: Resurrected is an amazing achievement in that it knows exactly when to make a change — controller support, linked stash — and when to leave the game alone and let it speak for itself.

I think a lot of players who’ve never given Diablo 2 a second thought are going to enjoy Diablo 2: Resurrected, and the players who already love the game will plunge happily back into it for hours. I know I did.

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