Diablo 2 Resurrected review – Gruesome glory ruined by gnarled gameplay
Despite being 20 years old, Blizzard’s Diablo 2 remaster has stolen the 2021 spotlight and become one of this year’s most highly anticipated titles. Beautifully recreated in 4k detail, Diablo 2: Resurrected perfectly captures the malevolent spirit of the original title, while giving the in-game graphics a fresh lick of blood-red paint – but there are some devils to be found in the details.
Blizzard’s iconic Diablo 2 has been touted by many as one of the best games ever made, so with the reveal of its remaster, Diablo 2 Resurrected, the gates of the Burning Hells were blown open and the fires of the inferno were set ablaze once more.
Transported into 2021 with 4K graphics and enhanced cinematics, the game is a perfect blend of nostalgia and freshness, and is likely to lure in players both old and new. However, look a little closer and the experience is plagued by a host of irritating bugs that spoil the homecoming somewhat. The devil, after all, is in the detail, and Blizzard hasn’t quite managed to slay all of the game’s demons just yet.
Diablo 2 Resurrected: key details
- Price: $39.99 / £34.99
- Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
- Release Date: September 23, 2021
- Platforms: PlayStation / XBOX / Switch / PC
Diablo 2 Resurrected trailer
Old blood transferred into a new body
From a 2D world into the 3D masterpiece it is today, Diablo 2 has gone on quite the journey. While the pixellated vistas of Lut Gholein and Kurast were a triumph of their time, the 3D reimagining of these iconic spaces is truly jaw-dropping in places.
Lut Gholein’s palace features a rainbow of Middle-Eastern-inspired colors, making it stand tall above the desert sands while, in contrast, the bloodstained halls of the Rogue Monastery (and pretty much everywhere else, because it’s Diablo) glisten ominously in the torchlight, reflecting your character’s fearsome features back at themselves in a warped, bloody mirror.
What’s equally fun to do, though, is switch between the Legacy and Modern graphics. For OG Diablo fans it’s the best way to channel that nostalgia, and for newer players, it’s a reminder of where the game came from, in comparison to where it is now. All available at the touch of a button, the process of swapping back and forth has been made seamless.
This spectacular 4K overhaul extends to the in-game cinematics, too. Telling the story we know and love in a way we’ve never seen it before, the new and improved Tyrael is truly heavenly. His angelic light juxtaposes beautifully against the bestial Mephisto, Baal and, of course, Diablo, who raise goosebumps on your skin.
Where the cinematics truly excel, though, is when they’re portraying the Dark Wanderer’s strife. The hero of the original Diablo story appears initially to be the bad guy, but as we accompany him through the eyes of Marius we learn he is truly the opposite. His strife, his pain – we live it alongside him in an emotional journey that truly shakes you to the core. As the light trickles from his eyes and Diablo rears his foul head once more, the player’s lust for vengeance is more potent than ever before.
It’s that pure anguish, sadness, and triumph that make this remaster something very different from its predecessor. While it re-enacts a classic story, the enhanced graphics make everything much more vivid, and more than a little terrifying.
From out of the shadows crawl your nightmares
It wouldn’t be Diablo 2 without the hordes of hell, though, would it? From the tiniest spider to the towering Prime Evils, the shadows are teeming with horrors lying in wait for your unfortunate champion. The positive, though, as each and every single one of them looks absolutely amazing. The negative? Well, they all want you dead.
A far cry from the pixellated adversaries of old, Blizzard has beautifully recreated the fear of stepping into the darkness. Giant arachnids speed towards you at an uncomfortable pace, their legs moving out of sequence in a way that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Undead mages shoot masterfully crafted fireballs that look like they’d burn you if you touched them. If you thought the cursed plains of the Lost City were terrifying in the dark before, you’re going to want to get as many light radius-extending items as you can this time around.
This is especially true when you finally confront the Prime Evils themselves. Mephisto’s terrifying skeletal form has been given a new lease of life, while Baal’s particularly monstrous features have been amplified to make him uglier than ever (sorry, big guy).
But of course, we need to talk about Diablo. Diablo 2’s iteration of the Lord of Terror has become the most popular throughout the game’s history, even beating out the new and improved version that players encountered in Diablo 3. Diablo 2 Resurrected’s version has already proven a hit, but seeing him in the flesh once more takes your breath away. Simultaneously beautiful yet bestial, encountering my favorite childhood demon all over again is a moment that will stay with me forever.
More bugs than the Maggot’s Lair
Getting stuck in a barrel and eaten by a zombie, though, really wasn’t what I had in mind for an evening of hack and slash glory. However, sadly bugs and lag are a pretty prevalent feature throughout Diablo 2 Resurrected.
Opening the main game menu often results in a bit of stuttering when loading up the iconic Diablo 2 Resurrected logo, and trying to get into the game itself results in the beautifully composed soundtrack becoming a garble of random sounds as the game struggles to catch up on itself.
- Read More: Is Diablo 2 Resurrected Cross-Platform?
In-game the bugs persist, with multiple enemies simply just stopping, or your character getting stuck on inanimate objects which are only there to add to the background scenery. Quite often, this will result in an untimely death in an awkward position you can’t attack back from, which makes plowing through the hordes that surround your corpse in a futile attempt to recover your gear incredibly difficult, and really quite frustrating.
This was made even worse by issues with in-game lag. Appearing more often during Act 2 and beyond, my character would often be fighting an enemy only for it to stop entirely and your attacks to do no damage. As soon as the game caught up, I’d find that demon dead, but then a whole swarm will be descending upon you are you’re already at half health.
Not only is it just straight-up annoying, it truly shatters the immersive experience that the developers have worked so hard to create. It pulls you out of Kurast’s jungles, or the heavenly halls of the Pandemonium Fortress, and brings you crashing back down to reality. While these are easily fixed in future patches, it gives the game a slightly unfinished feel, which is a real shame.
Not quite what was advertised
It’s common knowledge by this point that the lack of ladder upon release has disappointed fans far and wide. As shown on the game’s official website, the developers have promised that the ladder will arrive in-game relatively quickly, but it still feels like something has ripped the soul out of the game.
That competitive element is gone, some of the game’s best gear is locked away (although ladder-dependent Runewords are still available,) and it’s understandable that OG fans are angry. While the ladder was never really something I bothered about as a more casual player, its absence impacts a huge proportion of the community and isn’t something that can be ignored.
Diablo 2 Resurrected achieves what it set out to do: remaster Diablo 2. Its enhanced visuals and spectacular cinematics repackage the game in a whole new way, making it feel as though it really is your first playthrough all over again.
Breaking this immersion, though, are a slew of irritating bugs that are likely to be fixed soon. As patches drop over time we hope this sorts itself out, but at the moment they can be so game-breaking that they make you want to do diabolical things to your computer.
Despite all of this, I’m excited to jump back into the game. In fact, I’m itching to do it. Why? Because evil has returned, and it’s the Diablo 2 I know and love.
Reviewed on PC.