Blizzplanet Review: Diablo II: Resurrected Tech Alpha
Blizzard Entertainment announced Diablo II: Resurrected during BlizzConline 2021, but it was widely known after the leak that revealed it was in development by Vicarious Visions. It has been a long wait not only for the confirmation of the leak to become official, but also the longing for playing the game once more in modern PCs.
I was never very good at figuring out builds and proper gear in Diablo II, but there was always something alluring with slaying demons, and exploring deep gritty caves and ancient temples while completing quest objectives back in the day.
Diablo II: Resurrected reignited that longing for Diablo II. It is a true remaster. If you were dreading another Blizzard remaster after the Warcraft III: Reforged disappointment, you should feel great relief.
Diablo II: Resurrected runs on the old engine. Vicarious Visions has introduced a very intriguing technology playing an AI on top of the classic engine which instantly plays 4K/1080HD assets on top of the engine. To coin Vicarious Visions, the old engine is like a puppeteer guiding the puppet (the remastered graphics). You can switch back and forth from original graphics to Resurrected merely by pressing the F5 button.
By pressing Z you can zoom in to see your character, NPCs, objects, or monsters in great detail. Nothing more terrifying than to zoom in on Duriel, let me tell you. You are probably dead by the time you zoom out.
During the BlizzConline Diablo II: Resurrected Press Q&A, we were told that the team worked on Diablo II following a formulae: the 70/30 rule. 70% of it includes: Sound graphics, updating, pretty much the game itself. The pristine nostalgia. But the other 30% was to modernize the game — and boy/girl, is it welcome.
The UI looks awesome and gritty. You can play Diablo II: Resurrected with a console-controller — that’s how I have played D2R for 22 hours of gameplay, but still using the keyboard some times. All you need to do is plug the controller to a USB port, and press any button. The game will switch the PC UI to Console UI in 1 second. Press anywhere onscreen with your mouse, and it switches back to PC UI.
This neat trick by Vicarious Visions made me realize Diablo II was always meant to be played with a modern console-controller. Blizzard North was truly ahead of their time.
If you find a high quality gear you want to wear for your character, simply use the left-stick as a mouse cursor while the inventory is open, then hold the A button for 2 seconds. That will switch your equipped item for the one you aimed at with the left stick’s cursor.
Want to drop an item to the ground? Use the left-stick to aim at it, and press X.
There is not much space left? Hold down the right-stick in your controller as if it was a button. The game will sort all items and organize them neatly to the left, giving you extra space.
Currently, you can remap the PC UI keybinds in Options/Help. You can remap some skills and actions in the Console-Controller mode, but not everything — which is disappointing, but hopefully it is because they are still developing the feature. For example, one thing I really wanted to change in tech alpha was the walk/run toggle. It is set to holding down the left stick by pushing it down as if it was a button. Damn, toggling to walk by accident while running away from Duriel and Andariel wasn’t fun. lol
I would really remap that toggle to something else. Preferrably to LT + LB bumpers. Something you would not accidentally do.
Grievance aside, Diablo II: Resurrected is the remaster you have always wanted to play. The experience will drag you back to playing this game for a long time. You can even import your classic Diablo II save files into Diablo II: Resurrected. So you don’t have to start from scratch — if so you wished.
There are other things about Diablo II: Resurrected that are a welcome sight to see. Weather looks beautiful. Whether it is plain raining, or a desert storm. But navigating the Rogue Monastery in search of Andariel is as gritty as it used to in classic, but the dynamic shadows are something I wasn’t expecting. As you move about around the jail, you can see the jail bars cast a shadow that moves depending the angle you walk — same behavior of real life.
In real life, if there was a fixed light source, and you walked in a straight line, the jail bars’s shadows would move position as you walked in different directions. That was something I wasn’t expecting from this AI.
There are things that need improvement, and I really wish Blizzard didn’t support puritans. Yes, we want the same nostalgia of the old Diablo II, but give me a break folks. It is 2021. You don’t want to carry around 30 potions in your inventory. In modern days you can stack them up to 100. That’s quality of life. While we are at that, why not bring the Diablo III Health Potion?
More tabs in the inventory would be really welcome too. There is nothing nostalgic with using a town portal every 2 minutes to empty your inventory. This disrupts gameplay and becomes a unnecessary waste of time portaling back and forth.
How about an inventory tab exclusively for Charms? An inventory tab that only accepts quest items and the Horadric Cube. Again, it is 2021. Quality of Life fixes all the burdens or mistakes of Diablo II. Gameplay first. That would be a welcomed changes so that we use that 1/3 of wasted time traveling via town portal into playing the game, slaying demons, and finding loot.
One welcomed quality of life in Diablo II: Resurrected is the auto-pickup Gold. Just walk near it, and it is looted. No more clicking every single pile of gold on the ground.
Another quality of life: while using the console-controller, you can walk on top of loot, and the closest item on the ground is highlighted. Basically, if there is a bunch of trash loot on the ground, and you only want to pick up the legendary item, walk until the item is highlighted, then press A to pick it up. Your character is the mouse cursor here.
I think Vicarious Visions can do a great job adding some sort of Quality of Life toggle. Are you a puritan who wants the old-school Diablo II experience? Have at thee, by default. Do you want a 2021 Quality of Life experience? Press this setting in Options. Voilá. Everyone is satisfied.
Blizzard already did this in a different way. World of Warcraft Classic and World of Warcraft: Shadowlands. But why have two Diablo II: Resurrected, when you can just enable toggles for Quality of Life improvement? The very fact there is a PC/Console UI toggle that completely changes the original game gives hope for Quality of Life toggles. After all, Vicarious Visions said in the Press Q&A these upcoming tests are to listen to feedback. Things might still be added post-launch. So keep your hopes up.
The Stash now has 100 slots, and there is a Shared Stash tab where you can place items you wish to share with your other alt characters.
The first test of Technical Alpha only gave us the Barbarian, Amazon and the Sorceress. Only Act I and II. Vicarious Visions mentioned there were going to be more tests. One of them we know will cover PvP and Multiplayer. You have to signup for it separately.
We are yet to see what the Diablo II Cinematics will look like. Those will be remastered too. Lord of Destruction will be remastered as part of Diablo II: Resurrected. There is so much to be tested, but if everything goes alright, we might have the game by the end of 2021 to keep us busy until Diablo IV. Plus, there is also Diablo Immortal for those who have a mobile device or tablet.
You can signup to Diablo II: Resurrected multiplayer alpha here.