It’s the year of our lord 2021 and I’m playing Diablo II on my PlayStation 5.
Well, technically Diablo II: Resurrected, but it might as well be the same thing.
Diablo II: Resurrected is Blizzard’s latest attempt at revamping one of its classic, widely beloved role-playing games with some new bells and whistles. Since its reveal last February, however, the remaster has also been conscripted into pulling double duty as Activision Blizzard’s first major release following the multiple lawsuits and investigations into its workplace. Among other things, the company stands accused of propagating a hostile, sexual harassment and abuse-filled environment for employees, one of which ultimately took her own life.
Any writing about Diablo II: Resurrected, at least in my mind, must also address the demonic elephant in the room. Some outlets even made site-wide decisions to cease favorable Activision Blizzard reporting altogether. When it came time for someone to tackle Resurrected here at Kotaku, our bosses thankfully gave us the option of declining involvement in this kind of “hey look, the shitty corporation released a new game” coverage, a luxury few in our line of work have been afforded.
My own take on the matter is that Diablo II: Resurrected is not the work of one slimy CEO or the men who made life at Activision Blizzard a living hell for so many. Hundreds of devs across several studios worked to push this game across the finish line. And after all that’s happened, they still take pride in what they’ve accomplished. Even as Blizzard employees walked off the job and demanded better from leadership, they never once asked folks to stop playing and enjoying the games they made.
So, in that specific light and setting aside the actual quality of the game itself for a moment, I consider Diablo II: Resurrected a triumph. Making games is such a monumentally difficult task in the best of situations that I can’t imagine what it took to get Resurrected out the door with unaccountable creeps leering around every corner.
Diablo II: Resurrected is a remastered, modern-day port of the 2000 dungeon-crawling classic of the same name. It updates the experience with multiple dazzling coats of paint and a few welcome quality-of-life changes, but for better or worse, this is the Diablo II you remember from the early aughts. Anyone with the briefest of history with the original game will more than likely be able to jump into Resurrected with very little difficulty. Diablo II’s skeleton, reanimated or not, is very much intact here.
Unlike the games that came before and after, Diablo II never appeared on home consoles, which also makes Resurrected the first time folks can trudge through the Blood Moor and engage in endless hardcore Baal runs with a controller—well, without the use of mods, of course. And while this isn’t, as with Diablo III, the clearly superior way to play the game (I really miss my dodge button), switching away from the traditional mouse and keyboard setup does come with its own unique set of benefits.
Most notably, playing Diablo II: Resurrected on controller expands your character’s toolset by allowing the mapping of six skills, which can also be toggled with six more skills by holding a button (the left trigger by default). This is far cry from the original game’s two mouse buttons and makes Diablo II feel much more engaging. That said, the loss of precise targeting and menu navigation afforded by that mouse can often be a deal-breaker. In switching between the two control types, I found both to be fun and frustrating in equal measure. It’s just a matter of deciding which inconveniences you’re willing to put up with.
My absolute favorite thing about Diablo II: Resurrected is the ability to swap between the spiffy new visuals and the old-school graphics on the fly. In the several hours I’ve played the game, at least half that time has been spent just switching back and forth to see how the devs remastered the original environments for this new game. It’s wild, at least to a complete luddite like me, how closely they were able to match Diablo II’s aesthetics. Some may find fault with how closely it resembles Diablo III at times, but I very much appreciate the added visual clarity that comes with this modern reimagining.
Funny enough, my memory of the original Diablo II looks much closer to Resurrected, so going back to those low-fidelity graphics can be a huge mindfuck.
Sadly, none of these changes can distance Diablo II: Resurrected from the fact that, on the whole, it’s still just Diablo II, a game that, despite its iconic status, only grows more and more tiresome as the years drag on. The dungeon-crawling genre has come so far since 2000 that Diablo II now feels more like an outdated relic than a beloved classic. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot of fun to be had with these old-school systems. I just don’t have the patience to deal with the bullshit anymore.
The plodding pace of its moment-to-moment gameplay, missing attacks on enemies right next to you, the orgasmic moaning of female NPCs as you hack them to bits, the constant stat checks to squeeze out one or two more damage, the limited inventory space, and the frequent trips back to town to offload your junk. It all combines to create an experience into which I no longer feel obsessively compelled to sink hours of my time. Bummer.
Diablo II: Resurrected is sure to be many things to many people. A revamped classic from your childhood. An opportunity to finally experience a foundational piece of video game history. The latest opportunity for a mega-corporation to buy its way out of controversy. A personal accomplishment to hold onto when everything around you is going to shit. Diablo II is such a monstrous focal point of gaming culture at this point that, really, any opining about its pros and cons is almost completely useless. It’s a known quantity that almost everyone is revisiting with a set of preconceived and firmly held notions about its importance.
There’s a reason Diablo II is so fondly remembered, just as there’s a reason gaming iterated then wholly improved upon its conventions. Diablo II: Resurrected isn’t a stunning revelation just as it’s not a complete letdown. It’s Diablo II, folks.