I think the difficulty of jumping back into Diablo 2 years later is that Diablo 3 has refined and perfected the game’s formula in most ways.
Diablo 2 is often considered one of the most important, finest PC releases of all time. I can absolutely attest to that, playing when the game was at the peak of its popularity. Based on that alone, it’s quite a feat to finally play the game on home consoles. The level of work Vicarious Visions have put into this to make that happen is incredibly impressive.
But coming at this as a game releasing in 2021, now trying it on an Xbox, sadly I couldn’t help finding the combat monotonous, the mission structure archaic, and everything feeling a bit of a slog, perhaps a bit too faithful for a 20 year game.
It seems a strange complaint to make, admittedly. When people call for remakes and remasters, usually they want most of the content to stay intact, save for modernizing of control systems, freshened up with an updated engine.
Diablo 2 does a fantastic job of that. The environments are great, character models look slick and the UI is really sharp and well supported for a controller. Yet the whole flow of the game, the pacing of missions, inventory management, death, even movement, have not aged well.
Movement, for example, only allows you to run for a limited time before you slow down and have to recharge, and the way the character model moves and maneuvers around the map seems to struggle at times with the angling of analogue sticks.
Inventory management is also pretty frustrating with a limited number of slots and a lot of manual switching and changing. It gets pretty tedious fast having to drop things, swapping items around, as you can usually fill up your bag after killing a few mobs.
While I appreciate the selectiveness, really having to think about what you pick up, the game doesn’t give you an easy option of accumulating items to sell for gold and the distance between summoning stones makes things quite brutal.
It’s also worth mentioning how sluggish it feels navigating the UI with the left stick as it never feels particularly seamless or enjoyable, unlike Diablo 3 which felt truly reactive.
Not to mention text scrolling feels like it’s a half measure between trying a modern approach versus being constrained to the archaic UI of the past with the auto-scrolling going at odds with what you’re doing with the right analog.
And then there’s Battle.Net. Much has been documented about the poor system in place and there’s nothing happening in Diablo 2 Resurrected that should convince you otherwise. Not least in saying that if you build a character for online and the system is down, you won’t be able to access them at all.
That wouldn’t initially seem to be a problem but Battle.Net seems to go down a lot, at random times, and for extended periods. At least several times during my review period, in fact.
All of those things mentioned above would stand for a game 20 years ago. They’d be more easily forgiven, but it’s admittedly much harder to look past them now, especially at the end of the year when competition for your wallet is at an all-time high.
Despite all of that, it’s Diablo. The moment-to-moment action is as enjoyable as it has always been, even if it boils down to button mashing.
The detail in the game is staggering, it definitely doesn’t look like a 20-year-old game. There’s a wealth of replayability across the various modes, difficulties and procedurally generated environments. Not to mention the different classes you have access to.
The main hook is absolutely still as engaging as ever and players will sure to be invested whether it’s their first time delving into this hellscape or a much-awaited return. I just feel like the genre itself has moved past many of the concepts that were beloved here for so long and playing Resurrected was often a strong reminder of that.
There’s a lot to be said for trying to keep the game authentic, maintaining what made it so successful all those years ago rather than try to reinvent it using the Diablo 3 mechanics – even though, I think that’s personally what I was looking for.
Diablo 2 is a game I loved once upon a time and played it for many hours. I think Resurrected has perhaps made me realise that while some elements of the game are as strong as ever and still hold up exceedingly well, my preferences as a gamer have changed. I now crave a convenience that was never present here and feel like the franchise has moved on for the better.
+ Stunning upscaling of environments and characters
+ Tons of content and replayability
+ The Diablo moment to moment action is still a great hook
– A lot of the game’s flow and systems feel dated
– Frustrating UI navigation and management
– Feel’s a bit of a regression after playing DIablo 3
Diablo 2: Resurrected is now available on PC, PS4, Xbox, and Switch
Played on Xbox Series X