For many gamers of my generation, Diablo would have been one of the first action Role-Playing Games that we were exposed to.
Granted, playing a game about conquering the depths of Hell as a kid might have put an unnecessary fear of the term "fresh meat" as well as a huge distrust of closed doors in me, but Diablo II was an immediate "must play" the moment it was released.
D2 and its expansion, Lord of Destruction, were great distractions to the mundanity of school life, and building a Sorceress who could conquer all foes or an Amazon that could rival Penthesilea in Greek legends was therapeutic (as was associating a particularly annoying teacher with one of the Prime Evils).
Naturally, expectations were even higher in 2012 for Diablo III, the first Diablo game I could well afford to pre-order with all its fancy goodies. For those unfamiliar with the franchise, Diablo games are all about creating a character, getting random gear drops that scale with your level and supplement your skills, getting to the point where you're able to comfortably beat your enemies to submission, then going to the next difficulty level where your gear is once again at level worthless and you continue the cycle.
Auction House Tycoon Diablo III had its fair share of disappointments, and while there were some nice touches like being able to select options for your character class, it always lacked the soul many gamers had felt from the earlier games. Twenty-four seasons, countless cosmetics, enough mechanics to rival Magic: The Gathering and 16 levels of Torment difficulty later, that still bugs some people.
And while some gamers (like me) wanted Diablo 4, a remastered version of D2 is what Blizzard offered fans of the long-time series as the next chance to go back to Sanctuary. There are a few debates about whether one should buy Diablo II: Resurrected given recent news, and if that's how you would like to decide on your game purchases, you do you.
For others, if the question is if D2: Resurrected is worth investing time in, especially as a returning player, that really depends on how much you want to experience the D2 storyline with graphics and audio upgrades.
This is probably a good time to admit that I wasn't someone who pre-ordered the game, or checked out the demos, so I was coming into the remaster quite "fresh", not entirely sure what to expect. If you've been following updates on the game since its announcement, forgive me if the rest of the first impressions might be things you already know. With that out of the way, let's get on with my journey back in time (sorta) to the world of Sanctuary.
For starters, D2: Resurrected is huge. And I don't mean world huge, I mean the "I missed the Samsung SSD on Amazon Prime Day weeps" huge.
It requires 30gb of space to install, and for those of you (like me) who might not have gotten a new rig in the last year or two because — I don't know, you can't find an affordable graphics card or something, and are still on lower capacity SSDs — it could mean deciding between if you're going to keep that installation of Pathfinder: Kingmaker which you bought on Steam sale and know you'll definitely start playing (someday), and freeing up some space to load up this remaster.
Of course, all this extra storage requirement comes with some upgrades. D2: Resurrected supports 4K, shot-for-shot remakes of the original cinematics, and the game, while retaining the "feel" of the original, doesn't feel extremely dated when you're playing it.
That, itself, is part of the magic. And being able to take a peek behind the curtain makes you marvel at it even more.
For this, Blizzard included a Legacy mode, which you can toggle, so you can see very clearly how much the game has been updated for this generation. It's the D2 I remember, but it's also one where I want to get up close and admire what 20 years in technological advancements have given us.
The audio has also been remastered in Dolby Surround 7.1 sound, however, as I haven't found a need to replace my pair of Altec Lansing FX6021 speakers (around when I was still playing the original D2), I have to admit that was less obvious to me. The score evoked memories of my first foray into D2, which was a different chill from the "Hotel Toilet Music" playlist playing in the background.
You have the option to create offline or online characters, from all of the classes from the original and its expansion, but you won't be able to choose genders. Once you've selected a name and created a character, it's off to the first Act of the story, in the middle of the Rogue Encampment, as you set off on your journey to save the world.
The offline mode means that unlike D3, D2: Resurrected can be played in single-player mode without a constant internet connection, and in the early moments I found a few quality of life features that weren't in the original, such as auto-gold pickup, which were nice. If you're intending to play mostly online, though, you might want to wait for a bit to see how the servers are after launch.
Having done a speed run through a Torment XIII (yes, I know, soft) rift last night in D3 in preparation of D2: Resurrected's release today, I was slowly reminded of why some Diablo fans hated D3 and longed for a D2 spiritual successor, especially as I hit level 2 with my Amazon.
"Which skill do I pick?! What stats should I use? What if I mess up? I can't remember my build! Send halps."
These choices, denied to hardcore fans in D3, suddenly matter again. In D3, changing your build basically revolved heavily around itemisation and your gear. Sure, Season 24 D3 was no longer the pure DPS game of vanilla D3, but it still never had the same feel as D2 build customisation.
In D2, if you want to build a Javazon (an Amazon that throws Javelins) and a Bowazon (an Amazon that uses a bow), you have to build two separate characters and level them. Sure, you could use the Den of Evil workaround or a Token of Absolution, but these were still limited in their uses (not to mention somewhat painful to farm).
Compare that to a simple change of armour and weapons/off-hand equipment, picking a new set of skills for your hotkeys and flip-flopping on your passives like roti prata. It's not that D3's system was necessarily bad, but its simplicity did feel less Diablo sequel and more Diablo-lite.
Throw in a story in D3 that raised so many questions, and boss fights that were either you getting squished or you stomping the boss depending on your items, and maybe you'd start to understand why Blizzard thought releasing a D2 remaster might be a good move ahead of Diablo: Immortal and Diablo 4.
Diablo and D2 basically built the Diablo fanbase as we know it today, and fans of the series are not going to be disappointed with the upgrade that D2: Resurrected brings. It's a chance to revisit old friends (press F for your OG Diablo characters), experience a gripping story, and remember what the heart of the Diablo series is like. It's nostalgia done right.
For newcomers (especially for those who might have only known D3), D2: Resurrected is likely to take some time to adapt to. And if you loved the mechanics in D3... well, consider carefully a visit to Diablo's past.
But if you're willing to spend the hours (and you will spend many of these, wait till you find out what Runewords are) to invest in the game, what you're likely to find is a deeper understanding of the franchise. And possibly greater appreciation when the super realistic VR Matrix-mode version of D2 comes out in another 20 years or so.
This PC early access version of D2: Resurrected was provided by Blizzard. Diablo II: Resurrected is also available of the Xbox Series X/S, the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and 5 as well as the Nintendo Switch.