Diablo 2 shaped a genre, but don’t expect it to play like a modern ARPG
If you were born after 2000, first off, congratulations on making me feel like a shriveled animated corpse driven from its tomb, but also, congratulations on being younger than Diablo 2. The premier game in ARPGs was released in 2000, and we’ve seen a whole Diablo game released since then, 2012’s Diablo 3. It’s entirely possible that for a whole generation of gamers, Diablo 3 is the game they think of when they think of the franchise. And that’s fine, it’s a good game, but it means you may have certain expectations when it comes to the franchise, and Diablo 2: Resurrected is not necessarily going to meet those expectations.
Even if you never played Diablo 3, you may be coming to Diablo 2: Resurrected from one of its spiritual successors — that is to say, any ARPG published after it. Grim Dawn, Wolcen, Path of Exile, all of these games came out after this one, after all. Big Torchlight fan? Well, it’s very much based on Diablo 2, but it also made its own changes.
Having expectations is okay, but they will require a bit of adjustment. Diablo 2: Resurrected isn’t Diablo 3. It’s not even Diablo Immortal. Diablo 4 won’t be out for a while yet, but it isn’t that either. It’s pure Diablo 2 — that’s the goal the developers of the remaster have been working towards, and so far it’s been very successful. The technical alpha test was definitely a big sign that Diablo 2 is what we’re getting with this game.
So what does that mean, compared to Diablo 3?
Leveling was different in Diablo 2 than its descendants
Diablo 2 has a level cap, and it’s level 99. It takes 3,520,485,254 XP to reach level 99. There are no Paragon levels. So once you hit 99 — which you won’t by simply playing and finishing the game’s story — there are no more levels to achieve. Each level you get adds 1 skill point and 5 stat points that you can allocate as you see fit. There wasn’t any such thing as respecialization in Diablo 2 before the 1.13 patch which released in 2010.
That means that Diablo 2 was designed so that once you spent a skill point, it was spent and you couldn’t get it back. I’m personally hoping Diablo 2: Resurrected will include respec, but just in case it doesn’t, be aware of this possibility. Even if Diablo 2: Resurrected has respecs, they won’t be easily obtained — complete the Den of Evil quest (the first quest in the game) on a specific difficulty and you get one respec per completion per difficulty, for a grand total of three respecs.
By the time you reach level 99 (and it’s not going to happen soon, get that idea right out of your head) you’ll have 98 skill points and 490 stat points to allocate. That’s it. No Paragon levels, no endless treadmill of power ups, you have 98 skill points and 490 stat points, and you probably will have to play the game on Normal, Nightmare, and Hell difficulty to get to max level.
Three difficulty modes are all you’re getting in Diablo 2: Resurrected
Unlike Diablo 3, with its ever increasing Torment levels, there are three difficulty levels in Diablo 2 and thus in Diablo 2 Resurrected, the aforementioned Normal, Nightmare, and Hell difficulty levels. You will also be able to make Hardcore characters once you finish your first Normal difficulty character, meaning that you die for good if you die while on a Hardcore character. All XP, all gear, all everything — gone.
The three difficulty levels in Diablo 2 are straightforward enough — mobs deal more damage, have more health, and take less damage. You have to hit harder and be able to take more damage to defeat them. As a result, the improved gear that drops on each new difficulty level is a requirement for defeating the higher difficulty levels, especially bosses like Diablo or Baal.
Diablo 2 has gameplay that’s a bit slower and more measured
Diablo 2 is less frenetic than Diablo 3, with more skills that add incremental damage increases and skill levels that boost damage by a small amount. Many skills can be taken up to 20 times with diminishing returns as you spend points in them, encouraging niche builds and rewarding you for getting those higher levels on your character. A lot of Diablo 2 players viewed Nightmare difficulty as the beginning of the actual game, since a lot of skill builds couldn’t be finalized until at least level 40. Especially as you progress in the game, single player Diablo 2 after the Lord of Destruction expansion had a Mercenary system that allowed you to use your accumulated treasure hoard to hire assistance, and that assistance was often necessary for the highest level encounters with bosses like the afrementioned Diablo, or Duriel, or any of the unique mobs you could face. Hell difficulty boss fights are a matter of strategy, expert timing, exacting gear loadouts, and the exact right build in some cases — and keep in mind, respecialization wasn’t a thing back then.
If you’re coming to Diablo 2: Resurrected from a later game, get ready for a more measured experience. Gameplay, movement — it’s all slower and more deliberate in this game than its descendants. Even Torchlight, which tried very hard to be Diablo 2 with a few modern changes, plays somewhat more rapidly than its predecessor. Diablo 2: Resurrected preserves the original game’s system of Town Portal and Identify scrolls and the smaller inventory that caused you to have to make more frequent trips back to town to sell items, another brake on gameplay. It’s best you accept that this will be happening and prepare yourself — there’s no companion llama to take your loot back to the store while you keep playing in Diablo 2.
D2 was a great game, and from what I’ve seen of it, Diablo 2: Resurrected will be that great game again. But it remains a game designed in the late 1990’s, a game that came out in 2000. Expecting it to feel like the games that came after it — the games that often were influenced by it and even reacting to it — you’ll be aware of that disconnect. Just play it for what it is, not for what came after it.
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