Diablo 2: Resurrected’s first beta session is about to conclude, and I’m finally able to give my initial impressions regarding the game. With the disaster that Warcraft 3: Reforged proved to be, long-time fans are understandably worried regarding the state of Diablo 2‘s remaster. After all, we’re talking about a game that’s probably perceived as even more genre-defining than Warcraft 3 ever was.
As it stands, Diablo 2: Resurrected is no Reforged. Aside from a couple of (varyingly major) caveats, it looks like the game isn’t going to be an out-of-season April fool’s joke.
Diablo 2 Resurrected Beta Impressions: Going Back to Hell in Glorious 4K
It isn’t an overstatement to say that Diablo 2 has inspired a whole generation of ARPGs, including games like Path of Exile or Grim Dawn. It wasn’t any real surprise to me then, to see that the core gameplay of the title still holds up incredibly well by today’s standards. Slaying demons, picking up loot, leveling up, repairing your gear, handing in quests – rinse and repeat. The looter-style gameplay is a tried and tested formula: one that Diablo had already mastered two decades ago. There haven’t been any particular tweaks made to those aspects of the game, and I don’t think anyone would argue that changes were required anyway.
Cutscenes, which were already considered excellent back then, were redone from the ground up for Diablo 2: Resurrected, and everything looks crisp and up to modern standards. While in-game graphics may have aged a little poorly, there’s one aspect of the game that absolutely hasn’t: the soundtrack. Diablo 2‘s OST remains a hell of a good time even twenty years later, and it sounds better than ever in this remaster. The drums and guitar riffs do such a great job at subtly setting the tone of the game, it’s difficult not to shed a tear or two of nostalgia.
Playing Diablo 2: Resurrected also reminded me that the game had a slightly odd skill mapping system, that latter ARPGs ended up ditching. Here, you map two skills to both your left and right mouse clicks, and… That’s about it. Usually, the left click will have the regular auto-attack bound, while the right click will have another skill. To switch skills, you’d have to use an assigned keybind and then use your right-click again to actually make use of said skill. The system doesn’t feel as natural as directly having skills bound to different keys, before being able to make use of them directly – but I can’t really blame Blizzard for wanting to stick with such a core aspect of the original’s gameplay. Tweaking that around would have robbed the fans of something that makes Diablo 2, well… Diablo 2.
Red-Tinted Glasses: Where Resurrected Falls Short
Not everything’s rosy in the depths of hell, and this holds especially true for Diablo 2: Resurrected. On my first day of playing, European servers took a huge hit just a mere hour after the beta began. I had started as a Druid first, and around the time I reached level 4, the Bnet servers just tossed me out of the game. I couldn’t reconnect to my character at all, and even creating a new one didn’t help. It seemed like most of the other EU players were experiencing similar difficulties – something I confirmed after visiting the Bnet lobbies. My workaround was to just relaunch the game on NA using the NA server: not ideal, but at least the game was working. It isn’t uncommon to see rocky launches for online games, but the woes don’t end here.
Throughout my experience with Diablo 2: Resurrected, I had latency issues of varying extents. Hit registration didn’t always work, and my character would occasionally teleport to the other side of the screen. I’m not sure whether the servers being overloaded contributed to this, but I did think the combat felt a little floaty at times. I could swear I was targetting some of the mobs correctly, but nothing was really happening on the screen. The latency and lag problems were definitely the biggest gripes with my experience, and I sincerely hope this isn’t going to be a part of the final product. Hopefully, Blizzard is able to iron this out before the next beta phase rolls around.
Skull-Scratching Omittances: No Local Multiplayer, No Ladder
It’s now time to address another elephant in the room: the lack of TCP/IP multiplayer. Blizzard isn’t allowing the game to have any form of local lobbies, because of supposed security concerns. This was a rather prominent feature of the original Diablo 2 and remains an essential part of PC games of that era. Taking this away does hurt the game – and even if I personally wouldn’t have used the feature anyway, I’m sure a lot of others would have. Blizzard also announced that there isn’t going to be a competitive ladder at launch, which just adds to the list of beloved features that are going to be missing.
I didn’t personally have any game-breaking bugs after having played for several hours, but some players have reported consistent crashes. If the developers are able to fix most of these issues by the official launch date, the game is already in a much better place than Warcraft 3: Reforged could ever hope to be.
Fire Balls And Stash Tabs
I played around with the Druid, the Amazonian, and the Sorceress. The improved sound effects and graphical quality really served in making the whole experience just ‘feel right’, and I especially enjoyed my time with the Sorceress. Controller support works well too – and perhaps the skill system feels even better to use with a gamepad, as opposed to a keyboard and mouse. However, inventory managing did feel a little tedious this way, especially with the way the Sash and potions work.
Thankfully, there are some quality of life improvements, however. For example, you can now automatically pick up gold by walking over it, saving you a fair bit of effort in terms of clicking. There are also additional shared Stash tabs with expanded sizes, so you can switch items between your characters if needed. There’s also a couple of other UI tweaks here and there, to make the experience feel a little less archaic than necessary. It’s worth noting that you can actually bypass those changes, and just play the game in its legacy version if you wish to do so.
The Beauty of a Reimagined Hell
One of Diablo 2: Resurrected’s best features is undoubtedly the ability to switch between the remastered and legacy graphics with a single press of a button. When I first made use of the feature, I simply couldn’t believe how… dated Diablo 2 actually looked. Nostalgia goggles are powerful, and my mind had kept engraved a version of the game that, in memory, looked significantly better. If anything, my brain initially thought that the remastered version was closer to the original than the ‘actual’ legacy look.
It’s when you compare the two versions that you can really appreciate the game’s new look. Diablo 2: Resurrected walks a very fine line, where the updated graphics respect the source material while giving it that little uplift it needed. While I was a little disappointed with Diablo 3‘s Warcraft-inspired cartoonish look, I’m happy that Blizzard found a way to keep the original Diablo atmosphere intact for Resurrected. Character models are detailed enough, while the grim lighting (especially in caves and darker areas) constantly reminds you of the kind of game you’re playing. Transitioning between the legacy and remastered graphics is seamless, and it’s been a joy switching between the two on occasion to appreciate the change in quality.
Diablo 2 Resurrected Beta Impressions: Glad To Be Back
Diablo 2: Resurrected, at its core, is a good, faithful remaster of a timeless classic, and my impressions of the beta were largely positive. If Blizzard would include competitive ladders, local multiplayer, as well as improved latency: we’d have a true gem in our hands. As it stands, the couple of caveats might just be enough to deter longtime fans away from the remaster.
These are troublesome times for the company, and Diablo 2: Resurrected might just be half a step forward when it comes to regaining some trust from its player base. The project is definitely significantly better than Reforged, and I could feel the dev team’s passion oozing from the carcasses of every monster I slew. The shadow of the recent lawsuit regarding sexual harassment from within the company, still undoubtedly towers over the heads of the development team. Perhaps Blizzard first needs to get rid of its own demons in order to step back into its glory days.
Until then, I’ll be looking forward to playing Diablo 2: Resurrected once again, during the next phase of the beta.