Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Release Date: September 23, 2021
Diablo II: Resurrected accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do. That’s great news for hardcore Diablo II fans, who have been playing the game nonstop for 21 years, and struggle to keep it afloat on modern hardware. It’s also potentially less great news for newcomers to the game, who may scratch their heads at some of its cumbersome mechanics and dense lore.
Truthfully, if you’ve played Diablo II sometime between its 2000 release date and now, you probably don’t need a full review to determine whether you should buy Diablo II: Resurrected. Instead, ask yourself: Do I want to replay Diablo II? Do I care about having modern graphics and online features? Do I want to pay $40 for the privilege? If so, buy the game; if not, there’s nothing new here to entice you back.
For gamers who have never played Diablo II before, the calculus is a little more difficult. Diablo II is a classic game in every sense of the word, with rewarding core gameplay, an interesting story and a structure that basically every hack-and-slash PC RPG has aped since 2000. On the other hand, in the intervening years, games like Diablo III, Path of Exile and Torchlight have demonstrated that the genre is ripe for a thousand little fixes, which Diablo II: Resurrected doesn’t adopt.
Diablo II: Resurrected is, no doubt, exactly what a sizable and dedicated contingent of fans wanted. At the same time, it’s hard to shake the feeling that it could have been a little more. Read on for our full Diablo II: Resurrected review.
Diablo II: Resurrected review: Gameplay
It’s fair to say that Diablo II is the template for the modern hack-and-slash RPG, and Diablo II: Resurrected recreates that game with remarkable fidelity. You choose an adventurer from one of seven classes. There’s something here for every taste, from the durable Barbarian, to the spell-slinging Sorceress, to the shapeshifting Druid. Every class has something to offer, whether it’s the Amazon’s proficiency with ranged weapons, or the Paladin’s auras, which can give a multiplayer party a semi-permanent stat boost.
Once you’ve selected your class, you hop into the varied world of Sanctuary, where you travel across four distinct environments — a grassland, a desert, a jungle and a heavenly otherworld — in pursuit of the demon lord Diablo. Along the way, you’ll slay hordes upon hordes of lesser demons, and pick up an armory’s worth of randomized loot, which ranges from “a complete waste of space” to “absolutely indispensable.”
Combat in Diablo II: Resurrected is amazingly straightforward. You use left-click for a basic attack, and right-click for whichever secondary attack you want to specialize in. Every weapon type, from axes to short swords to katar punch-daggers, offers a slightly different basic attack, and every character class has a variety of special attacks to learn and master. Special attacks drain mana; basic attacks don’t.
As such, the vast majority of Diablo II: Resurrected is clicking on enemies as quickly as humanly possible, occasionally retreating to quaff a health or mana potion. Managing huge crowds of enemies is an interesting challenge, since each class has a somewhat different approach to it. A Necromancer might hang back and let scads of skeletons do his dirty work, while an Assassin might disable powerful foes with martial arts while picking off weaker ones with traps. Combat is always simple, but not always easy, thanks to a huge variety of procedurally generated enemies and levels.
Gathering loot is the other big part of the equation. This has been one of Diablo’s biggest draws ever since the first game. Defeating enemies feels rewarding, since you never know what they might drop, whether it’s a lifesaving potion, or a powerful piece of unique equipment. Granted, most of the equipment you find is not all that useful — and this is where Diablo II starts to show its age.
Your inventory in this game is tiny, and nothing stacks, not even potions. As such, after 15 minutes or so of adventuring, your inventory will be packed to the brim, even if you’re fairly judicious about what you want to keep. You’ll also have to dive in and move items around manually to max out your space, since the game’s auto-sort options are limited. Micromanaging your inventory and making frequent trips back to town was tedious when Diablo II debuted. Now that games like Diablo III and Torchlight have streamlined a lot of these inconveniences, it’s odd that Diablo II wouldn’t at least have an option to follow suit.
It’s even odder when you consider that Diablo II: Resurrected does, indeed, have a few quality-of-life improvements. You can now pick up gold automatically, see a full list of gear bonuses, respec high-level characters and share an inventory stash across all of your characters. (Transferring items was a huge pain in the base game.) Diablo II: Resurrected gives you crystal-clear options for online and offline play, including whether you want to play with the Lord of Destruction expansion content, whether you want a hardcore (perma-death) character, or whether you want other players to jump into your game.
Better inventory management would have been a welcome change. So would a more refined mini-map, and recommendations for how to manage the game’s extensive skill tree. Diablo III was very clear about which skills would benefit your character’s playstyle; Diablo II relies on trial and error — or on online optimization guides, for which newcomers won’t have any context.
Diablo II: Resurrected review: Story
In fact, having played through the whole Diablo series (including the highly questionable Hellfire expansion), I can’t help but wonder what first-timers would make of Diablo II: Resurrected. While the gameplay isn’t that complicated to start, there’s no tutorial — and this time around, it’s not as though you’ll see an instruction manual before you insert the game into your CD tray.
This also means that new players will have precisely zero context for the long, expository cutscene that plays before the game even starts. Diablo II tells the story of a traveler named Marius, who accompanies a warrior called the Dark Wanderer into the Eastern realms of Sanctuary. The Dark Wanderer seems to command the power of Diablo, the Lord of Terror, and seeks to wage war against a heavenly deity called Tyrael. Your character pursues Marius, in the hopes of eventually stopping Diablo.
It’s a good story, at least once you figure out everyone’s identity and motivation. But it’s also a convoluted story, which relies heavily on the events of the first Diablo game. You need to know the Dark Wanderer’s identity, what happened to the town of Tristram, why it’s important to save the scholar Deckard Cain and even how Diablo himself factors into the ongoing war against Heaven and Hell. Since Blizzard hasn’t remastered the first Diablo game, the least it could have done was give a recap.
Diablo II: Resurrected review: Visuals and sound
One area where Diablo II: Resurrected absolutely excels is in its music and sound. Blizzard has given the game a full 3D overhaul, with high-res models and textures, 4K resolution and fast frame rates. Old-school fans need not worry, though, as you can toggle between the new and old graphics instantaneously, with a single button. I didn’t realize just how much of a difference the new graphics made until I saw the two side-by-side.
The sound design, too, is a thing of beauty, with crystal-clear music that’s still memorable after all these years, and redesigned sound effects. The voice acting is still strong, with even bit characters like Charsi the blacksmith or Gheed the trader showing a lot of personality.
Diablo II: Resurrected review: Verdict
I suspect that Blizzard had a very particular audience in mind when it decided to remaster Diablo II. That audience has been playing the game on and off since 2000, and are convinced that it is the apotheosis of action/RPGs. They may very well want to keep playing it for another 21 years, and they want a system that looks and runs well on modern systems to do so. This audience can rest easy. Diablo II: Resurrected is precisely what they want.
For everyone else — even longtime series fans like myself — my recommendation is more tentative. Diablo II is a great game. Diablo II: Resurrected is a pretty remaster. But it’s a pretty remaster of a game you may have already played to death, with only a few mild upgrades. While Diablo II’s strengths have always overshadowed its problems, its problems are still very much present here. There’s also the question of whether it’s a good idea to support Blizzard right now at all, considering the company’s alleged mistreatment of women and minorities.
In any case, Diablo IV is in the works, and it might be worth revisiting Diablo II before then, if only to refresh yourself on the story. Diablo II: Resurrected isn’t exactly a heavenly gaming experience, but it’s hardly a hellish one, either.