Diablo 2 Resurrected: Returning to Sanctuary after 20 years

. 9 months ago
Diablo 2 Resurrected Returning to Sanctuary

An original Diablo 2 fan enters the world of Diablo: 2 Resurrected to see if it can recapture the dark spirit of the original.

In the late 1990s the original Diablo may have been the first game I became addicted to. Not your average “I can’t wait to get home from school and play some more Diablo” addicted, but locked in a room for 24 hours with copious amounts of Diet Coke and Squares bars addicted. It was an eating meals on my knee and fighting sleep at 4am to get through that last dungeon kind of addiction.

What’s worse is that it wasn’t even my game, but a friend’s. Back in 1998, the internet wasn’t quite what it is today – especially not in rural parts of Northern England. While my own family was yet to buy a computer, let alone one that could handle the web or a copy of Diablo, my friend up the street did have all these things.

Imagine being addicted to a game that you could only play when hanging out with a friend. The good news was, he was equally addicted to Diablo and happened to own multiple computers. While playing the game online was possible, we instead had LAN parties – sometimes all weekend. This was also my first experience of multiplayer in an RPG.

Diablo 2 resurrected characters
The new character selection screen in Diablo 2: Resurrected.

Diablo 2 before it was Resurrected

By the time Diablo 2 arrived in the year 2000, the Lord of Terror had us firmly in his grasp. My friends and I reached some dizzying heights in terms of level progression, but the finer points of builds and tactical play eluded us due to our young age and lack of knowledge. However, my early experience with Diablo 2 was defined by compulsive gameplay and having a blast with my friends.

It’s a feeling that few other games have ever really managed to replicate. Sure, some games have got under my skin since, making me obsessively clock-watch until the weekend, until I can finally get a hit to satisfy my craving (looking at you; Skyrim and Dark Souls.) While other games have offered a fantastic multiplayer and social experience, none have ever managed to marry these traits together quite like Diablo 2 did in 2000.

It may be that online multiplayer can’t quite match the comradery we had during our LAN parties. We consumed so many Diet Cokes and Squares bars that I can’t see these products today and not be reminded of this period of my life. I’ve even bought these items in the past and eaten/drank them while playing other games to try and replicate that feeling, but it still alluded me.

diablo 2 resurrected
Diablo 2: Resurrected’s visuals are a big improvement over the original.

Moving on from Diablo 2

I’d return to Diablo 2 in college. The game still held up well, but I never put the same amount of time into it that I once did. I’d beat the fifth Act and move on to something else. Although at this point, I didn’t have the same level of nostalgia I do today. This was also the dawn of the PS3, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii era, so there were so many other gaming-related distractions. Diablo 2’s blocky graphics couldn’t compete with the likes of Oblivion or Halo 3.

Diablo 2 wasn’t popular with many of our peers and despite having a legion of committed fans around the world, it felt like our thing as a group of three friends. This may be why I hold the game in such high regard and credit it for such a fun experience when I was younger. Nostalgia has a way of clouding your vision and judgment. The more time goes on the more your mind dresses up the memory. The concept of ‘remember when?’ becomes as addictive as the experience itself.  This is what I began telling myself when I was unable to recapture the feelings I had playing Diablo 2.

Diablo 2 Resurrected all heroes
Blizzard Entertainment
The original five Diablo 2 heroes before The Lord of Destruction expansion.

Enter Diablo 3 and a new generation of fans

When Diablo 3 arrived, I jumped in with both feet, buying the game at launch and a shiny new gaming laptop to enjoy it on. As a single guy living alone at the time, this was bliss and I’ve continued to play Diablo 3 on and off ever since. I even bought it again when it released on the Nintendo Switch to play on the go and get back into it.

While Diablo 3 has always been a fantastically addictive experience, even that didn’t scratch my itch. My two friends and I now had careers, responsibilities, and homes to run, so they couldn’t really join me. They also perhaps didn’t look back on our time playing the game as fondly as I did. Diablo 3 just became another multiplayer game on the pile.

Fast-forward to 2021 and I’ve been excited to play Diablo 2: Resurrected. It’s been nice to see the Diablo 3 community, many of them too young to remember Diablo 2 in its heyday, get behind the game. Despite being over twenty years old, the internet is treating Diablo 2 like it’s a totally new release rather than a remaster. I suspect some fans have heard the legends and are keen to see what all the fuss is about.

diablo 3 malthael reaper of souls
Blizzard Entertainment
Diablo 3’s final boss: Malthael, The Angel of Death

Returning to Sanctuary with Diablo 2 Resurrected

You can see what we thought of Diablo 2: Resurrected in our review right here. But as a returning fan, jumping back into the dark world of Sanctuary after so long feels like putting on a warm jumper on a chilly day. There’s something comforting about hearing that music again, or Cain asking us to “stay awhile and listen”. I even greeted Warriv enthusiastically when he said, “greetings stranger” at the very start of the game.

Despite all this, I had come to the conclusion that I was looking back at Diablo 2 with rose-tinted glasses. When I saw the updated visuals, I initially felt it looked no different to the game I remember. It wasn’t until I switched to retro graphics that I saw how improved it really is. To me, it just looked like the same good old Diablo. I think I’ve never really judged the game for being dated due to it representing such a special chapter in my gaming story. This may be why I’ve built up my experience in my mind over the years.

Diablo 2 Resurrected Diablo boss battle
Blizzard Entertainment
The Lord of Terror has never looked so fierce.

The experience of Diablo 2 Resurrected

I honestly don’t need Diablo 2: Resurrected to do anything new or clever. I just want it to help me capture a small piece of what I used to feel when I played it as a teenager. And so far, I think it has. I’ve also bought it on Nintendo Switch to play in bed at night. This is especially useful now that the portable console is compatible with Bluetooth headphones.

The Switch version also seems to have ironed out most of the issues it had last week during launch, which is excellent news. The matchmaking problems also seem to have eased off on the PS5 version too, following a recent patch. Thank the Prime Evils!

The hype around the game’s release has even caught the attention of my two old friends who have each picked up a copy of the game. Now as three married men with families, we’re probably not going to be able to sit around for hours on end playing the game, while chugging cans of Diet Coke like we used to.

Playing online may also not have the same charm as our old dining room LAN parties. But since playing Diablo 2: Resurrected this weekend, even with literal oceans in-between some of us, it’s the closest any of us have come to replicating that old feeling.

I didn’t imagine it after all.

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