Diablo 2: Resurrected feels more like a magic trick than a remaster

Diablo 2: Resurrected surprised me in the early minutes of the game. I’m not surprised because it looks so good; I was surprised because it looked exactly as I remembered it.

I’ve experienced this effect before, most recently while playing Pro Skater 1 and 2 Tony Hawk. I didn’t think these games looked like a murky, yellow mess when I first played them, because they looked similar to every other game on the market at the time. Diablo 2: Resurrected also looks similar to other hack n’ slash games currently available, so my 2021 brain only takes things at face value. Yes, this is a game I have loved in the past. I don’t know why they expect me to pay it again.

Which is the point, actually. Everything about the game’s graphics has been updated and improved, without touching the soul of the experience itself. When done right, such re-releases always feel like a magic trick.

It’s not how it is, but how do you remember it

I’ve played the technical alpha of Diablo 2: Resurrected to understand how this game will go, and what I saw after a few hours made me look forward to a full release.

Diablo 2: Resurrected is one of those Blizzard games where the remaster is as close to the original as possible, while updating the look of the characters and the environment. The game played just as I remembered it, and at first, I also thought it looked the same. Frankly, the whole thing feels like a rip-off.

But then I hit the button that lets me hot-swap from the updated graphics to the original, and my jaw drops. The fact that Diablo 2 it suddenly seemed like a modern game released in 2021 wasn’t a missed opportunity; it is a very dangerous miracle.

Diablo 2, in 2000 and in my memory, is a hard and ruthless loot-based adventure game. In 2021, the original looks like something Minecraft vomit — pixel smudges and jerky movements.

Barbarian class, before and after, with updated version on the left
Image: Blizzard Entertainment via Polygon and Image: Blizzard Entertainment via Polygon

Another interesting difference in Diablo 2: Resurrected is the number of frames in each animation. The running cycle for the new take on the Barbarian class looks smooth and strong. I would have stepped aside if I saw the giant staggering towards me. The original animation was more of a jerky stuttering step, almost making the character appear drunk. Was it really what it looked like back then? This is a game I spent hours playing?

“This is not a remake,” Rod Fergusson, executive producer of the Diablo franchise at Blizzard Entertainment, told Polygon in a recent interview. “We don’t reverse engineer; we don’t rebuild it and try to make it look and sound like [Diablo 2]. This is [Diablo 2]. […] It’s there, beneath the surface. The whole simulation, the engine for this game, the lifeblood of this game, is [Diablo 2] right below it. So there’s a toggle switch, a legacy switch, which when you press a button, you’ll see behind the curtain, and there’s Diablo 2 in 2D sprites run there, and you can play like you played 20 years ago.”

I’ve always appreciated Blizzard’s approach to its updated games: The creative team is very close to the original vision of how the game should be played, while focusing on updating the gameplay enough that it doesn’t look like it’s been around for a long time. capsules for the last two decades. The jump from 2D sprites to 3D models is also an impressive increase in fidelity; matched by the new animations, each character looks much more alive than they did in the original game.

There are some very clever new quality of life updates in this version which we will cover in a later story after spending more time with the game. But the work has been done Diablo 2: Resurrected made an immediate positive impression on me, even after just an hour or two. It’s not the Diablo I played with when I was a kid, but in the same spirit, and it feels like a warm blanket on a cold night.

Blizzard hasn’t announced a specific release date for Diablo 2: Resurrected, but the game is coming to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. Alpha test is played on PC.

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