Diablo II is one of the greatest action RPGs of all time, and one of my favorite games. So, when Blizzard announced they were remastering it, I was cautious. How could a remaster recapture the magic of the original game? Were they going to botch the remaster like they did Warcraft III Reforged? Needless to say, I had my concerns when starting up my Diablo II Resurrected review.
While other friends were obsessed with the latest Pokemon or Street Fighter game, I was playing Diablo II and various other computer RPGs. I’ve fallen asleep at my keyboard to the Rogue theme and the Tristram theme. I’ve hoarded SOJs for when the online economy got so inflated gold was literally worthless. I have so many memories from Diablo II.
The intention with Diablo II Resurrected is to honor the timeless original while also making it look and feel fresh and new. This is a difficult thing to do especially with how many consider the original perfect. What we got is basically the original in all its glory, but with a fresh coat of paint. Read more in my Diablo II Resurrected review!
Diablo II Resurrected
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment, Vicarious Visions
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S (reviewed), Switch, PS4, PS5
Release Date: September 23, 2021
Price: $39.99 USD
From the get-go, you can immediately tell Diablo II Resurrected is like the director’s cut of the original. The cutscenes being remastered, the character and enemy models being updated, the environments and effects all getting touched up and redone – everything looks fantastic. It really is like viewing the game I’ve loved for decades, but with a new set of eyes.
The magic from my teenage years hits right away with the classic Blizzard Entertainment logo being etched into the screen. Everything from the original game is here, only shiny and new. Diablo II Resurrected captures the original so much so that if I play from far away on my 65″ TV, it looks exactly like the original intended to look. If I get closer, I see the layers of new details.
Dungeons and environments have an even eerier atmosphere, whether it’s the dark and decrepit Rogue Monastery or the murky and twisted jungles of Kurast. I still can’t get over some enemy models, like the fetish midgets, looking wholly different, but only because of the greatly improved detail. Diablo II Resurrected truly is a sight to behold.
I have to point out some visual changes that are not welcome in Diablo II Resurrected. These include the Amazon having her thong outfit censored to cover up her butt while also making her face and jawline so masculine you’d think she was a post-op powerlifter. The former is debatable but the latter is unacceptable, she really looks terrible and I genuinely don’t like her new face.
Furthermore, female enemies ranging from the first boss-like monster Blood Raven to the giant multiple armed-boobie demon Andariel were both censored to also cover up their boobs or butts.
Why? What’s the point of this? This not only tarnishes the original game’s legacy and designs, but pisses off longtime fans like myself. I’ve only covered the big examples as there’s other stuff censored, too.
One of the most random forms of censorship in Diablo II Resurrected, however, is the curious removal of the pentagrams from the menus. Again why was this removed, and who were they afraid to offend? The pentagram is still in the game but only as a loading symbol, likely because it’s much less prominent. This was supposed to recreate the original, not remove things.
It’s hard to describe the feeling I got exploring the Blood Moor once again to that incredible soundtrack, fumbling into a dark and twisted world, only with the game essentially in full HD. It felt like coming home – this really is now the definitive way to play the game.
There’s a caveat with that previous statement though – this is only if you’re ok playing solo as the servers are still pretty much unstable. For what it’s worth, though, those instances of censorship don’t really hurt the overall experience for me to where I don’t want to play it at all, it’s just annoying and pointless to make these changes.
Diablo II is one of those seminal action RPGs that really established, or at least greatly expanded upon the genre, and for a time was considered the standard for ARPGs. With five robust classes in the base game and two more in the Lord of Destruction expansion, there is still quite a lot of content to enjoy in Diablo II Resurrected.
In terms of gameplay, if you somehow never played the original or never saw it in action, Diablo II is an isometric action RPG where you smash monsters, get new gear, and level up while building your ideal character build. It’s an incredibly cathartic and rewarding experience, whether you’re slaying giant maggots or the lord of terror himself.
For all intents and purposes, this is the exact same Diablo II from the year 2000. Characters move the same, attack the same, animations feel and look reminiscent of the original, enemies attack and behave just like they did over 20 years ago. There’s also no quest markers so you zoomer babies will have to actually figure out where things are and explore a little.
Normally I’d be a bit upset that a remaster didn’t add anything new but after the Warcraft III: Reforged fiasco, I’m thankful Blizzard and Vicarious literally kept the gameplay as it was. Both returning fans like me and newcomers can now enjoy one of the greatest and darkest ARPGs of all time, on PC or even the Switch. There’s enough content here to keep you busy for a long, long time.
Another note – you can only buy Diablo II Resurrected digitally, meaning you will never truly own this game like you can the original on its old discs. This is a bit surprising considering it’s literally Blizzard’s biggest release for the entire year, and they’re not hurting for money. I’m just confused why they didn’t offer a physical release, at least on consoles.
When you first start up your quest to save the world, you’re playing in normal difficulty. Oh yes, things only get more difficult when you try nightmare and eventually hell difficulty. What’s it like to fight an uncommon mob with stone skin, magic resist, and lightning enchant? It sucks harder than our increasingly worthless fiat money, but at least you can defeat the monster in Diablo II.
One of the only things I wish Blizzard had looked at changing is the console controls and the now ancient menu system. Think of it like Resident Evil 4 but you can’t stack items, your joysticks move the cursor like a literal mouse pointer, and sometimes switching between tabs gets annoying with the triggers and bumpers alternating. This is a minor nitpick but I hope this can be tweaked.
While I’m typically a solo gamer, I played my main starter character in Diablo II Resurrected as an “online” character so when I caught up with my bros, we could play through nightmare and hell together. Unfortunately, the game’s servers, even while playing solo, are unreliable at best and borderline infuriating at worst. Minute lag got me killed way more often than I’d like.
If you switch to playing offline, this is thankfully no longer a problem but what if I wanted the option to play with my buds later? It’s silly to think the game’s netcode is so bad that even playing solo can lead you to a premature death, due to small lag spikes. Maybe when the remaster was done they also didn’t touch the original netcode either, which was made to run on dialup.
Also, another big negative, there’s no local cooperative play for Diablo II Resurrected. I get that keeping this as close to the original in terms of gameplay is a noble goal, but would local co-op unbalance things that much? Was this a technical limitation or just outside the scope? My dad and I had a blast co-oping Diablo III, but now we’ll have to play “online” for that to work.
A final thought with gameplay is that while this perfectly recaptures the essence of the original game, I’m daring to ask what if Blizzard could have added things? To avoid them screwing this up, perhaps they could have dug up fun behind-the-scenes video, documents, or even media. Anything to make this more of a love letter to fans of the original, more than a simple 1:1 HD remaster.
Diablo II is naturally the direct sequel to the original Diablo, with the everlasting battle between good and evil threatening to spill out into the human world of Sanctuary. The three prime evils, Mephisto, Diablo, and Baal, are a constant threat between their indirect corruption and eventually, their demonic assault on the world. I love the story between Diablo I and II.
I’d say while the original Diablo was more indirect with its storytelling and its cutscenes were more primitive looking, Diablo II really portrayed a dark, twisted, evil, and doomed world. The characters, their stories, the backstory with how the world came to be, all of it meticulously builds this evil world and story. It’s a grandiose tale compared to the original.
The original Diablo only took place in Tristram and its ruined cathedral, which eventually progressed to hell itself. Diablo II is a much larger story that has you going through quests in the moor, the desert, the jungles, and even beyond. Each act has its own unique theme and a handful of quests for you to pursue alongside the main questline.
The pacing and the overall flow of story in Diablo II has always felt just right to me, as we’re all here to kill demons and get better loot, right? Cutscenes are never longer than they should be, the next chapter is set up for you to pursue the demonic threat. Generally, you aren’t beaten over the head with lore – but there’s quite a lot to digest if you keep digging.
Where to begin with Matt Uelmen’s absolutely legendary soundtrack for Diablo II? From the original Tristram theme making a return in all its twangy and haunting glory to the absolutely dark, depressive, and melancholic ambient pieces that set the mood in a dark cave, all of it is pure brilliance. It’s a crime to play Diablo II with the music turned off, which I know some do.
I’ve listened to the Diablo II soundtrack both in game and in every day life so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve meditated to Matt’s soundtrack, I’ve fallen asleep to this music. There’s so many layers to the soundtrack it honestly never gets boring to me. Matt really nailed a balance with melodic yet asymmetric music that can be looped infinitely.
One of my favorite reoccurring instruments or at least themes is the very meticulous and rhythmic percussion drums, ranging from oriental to Arabic percussion. These are usually set to various other world instruments sprinkled throughout, creating a moving piece that really blends well with your adventuring and monster slaying.
The music in Diablo II so expertly captures the feeling of a dark, twisted, damned world that it’s an essential part of the experience. It sets the mood so brilliantly and I also think this is why Blizzard didn’t touch the soundtrack at all, unlike lots of other remasters. If only Matt was asked to compose for Diablo III, but that was a very different take on the series’ mood and aesthetics.
All in all, I’ve got to say that I was very impressed when going through my Diablo II Resurrected review, it really is the same game I’ve loved for so long, only it looks way better. I’ll dump several hundred more hours into this new and shiny HD version of Diablo II, because the game is just that damn good, even after twenty years.
Despite the server latency issues and the stupid censorship, this is still the Diablo II I’ve loved for most of my life. The Blizzard Entertainment that produced this timeless classic is sadly not around anymore, but at least the archaeologists that touched this up for 4K displays did a fantastic job. How can such a dark and twisted world feel so much like a nostalgic, fuzzy homecoming?
Now after playing through the game for my Diablo II Resurrected review, I’m just hoping beyond hope that somehow Blizzard can finally produce a true successor to Diablo II. I enjoyed Diablo III but it just didn’t nail the atmosphere and presentation the original two games had. Maybe Blizzard can learn from this and start making games their fans actually want in the future.
Diablo II Resurrected was reviewed on Xbox Series X|S using a copy purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Diablo II Resurrected is now available for Windows PC, (via Battle.net), Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Switch, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.