Diablo 2: Resurrected — 5 things Blizzard needs to nail for this remaster to succeed
A remastered version of the legendary ARPG Diablo 2 is in the works at Blizzard. It's time to start thinking about what will really make this game a success.
Blizzard has officially announced Diablo 2: Resurrected about 20 years after the original was released in 2000. This isn't the first remaster of a classic game undertaken by Blizzard, as we've seen StarCraft and Warcraft 3 get the same treatment. Like the other two games, Diablo 2 is beloved by fans and is still played regularly by many online and offline, with myriad fan-made mods.
I originally created a wish list a couple of years ago when the first rumors of a Diablo 2 remake began circulating. Since its release all those years ago, I've been playing the game, so I should have an accurate view of what works and what doesn't work with the original game. With what we know now following the Diablo 2: Resurrected BlizzCon 2021 announcement, many of the points have already been realized.
Still, with a release date not yet set further than "2021," things can change in a hurry. Here are five major things Blizzard and its Vicarious Visions development team must perfect for this game to be deemed a success in the eyes of long-time fans.
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1) Graphics overhaul must keep the original feel
This one is a no-brainer and undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges for the Diablo 2: Resurrected team. The original game was built around a maximum 800x600 resolution, with monsters not seen on-screen lying dormant. Boosting the resolution reveals a lot more of the world, which — as we've seen with some FHD mods — has monster packs sitting idly by in the corners since they technically can't see your character.
With what we've seen from the short gameplay trailer released at BlizzCon and from information gleaned from developer interviews, Diablo 2: Resurrected has been upgraded to 3D with new lighting, effects, models, and cinematics. It also supports 4K. If anything, the game has a darker look with the improved lighting, and the effects shown off are clearly recognizable for any long-time fans.
Much attention to detail has been paid to the original (there's garlic hanging in the shop where Atma hangs out?), and you can immediately tell this is Diablo 2. In Windows Central Freelance Writer Samuel Tolbert's Diablo 2: Resurrected developer interview, it's stated that both Robert Gallerani (Principal Designer) and Matthew Cederquist (Game Producer) agree that the new graphics are essentially a puppet controlled by the original game.
That's exactly what most people want, and though there are some grumblings about character models not looking perfect, reception seems to generally be quite positive. And for anyone who prefers the old graphics, the original Diablo runs below the remake; it looks like you'll be able to swap back to the 2D pixels fairly easily from an in-game menu.
As long as the release version of the remake holds true to the dark, dingy atmosphere of the original Diablo 2, this point should be an easy victory.
2) Quality of life improvements must not go too far
Veteran players of Diablo 2 will all undoubtedly say the same thing: the remaster needs to make our lives easier without ruining the original chores of the game. Perhaps most importantly, some accessibility issues are being handled that will allow more people to enjoy the game. Low vision and colorblind modes will both be in at launch, as well as controller support on PC.
The developers have stated that they're mostly interested in tweaking the parts of the game where there are already workarounds. For example, storing items or moving items back and forth between online characters in Diablo 2 required mules and permanent private games. It was entirely possible to share and store items across characters, but it was a true chore and one that could go wrong, resulting in loss of items. With a new larger stash shared between characters, it will be much easier to keep track of your gear. Most people will agree this is a great change.
Some smaller QoL changes will also add up in the long run. For example, automatic gold pickup will make life easier for everyone. There will be a toggle for manual pickup, but again most people will agree there's no reduction in-game quality by not having to click on every little coin.
By the looks of the gameplay we've seen, potions, arrows, and bolts haven't been tweaked. Dealing with three or four rows of potions can be tedious, but striking a balance between replenishing potions and a mana-hungry Sorceress would likely change too much of the game. Unlimited arrows and bolts might be a lot easier to patch up since running back to repair a quiver doesn't add a whole lot to the game, especially when all arrows and bolts are the same.
Stamina was another factor I thought might disappear in Diablo 2: Resurrected, but the bar is still present in some screenshots I've seen. It's also unclear whether or not runes and gems will stack when in a player's inventory or stash.
3) Diablo 2 core gameplay must not be changed
I'm among the people that claim changing the core Diablo 2 gameplay would be heresy. There's got to be some reason we're still playing it after more than 20 years, right? Keeping PVP as a viable playstyle while not going up against hordes of monsters is crucial (there's a significant PVP community still active), and leaving the skills and synergies as they are is no doubt a smart idea. And by all means, it seems like Diablo 2: Resurrected is mostly the same game with a great new look.
It will have unlimited FPS, but everything should continue to run at the same tickrate and with the same logic as the original game. That means your character breakpoints for faster cast rate and faster hit recovery will remain the same. Loot drop tables should be the same, as will monster spawn rates and difficulty. If you loved making a hammerdin back in 2001, it seems like you should be able to make the same hammerdin in 2021.
Part of the charm of playing Diablo 2 online is the private and personal servers that can be created instantly, and keeping this feature around would serve the game well. Jumping into a series of Baal runs or a trading room is core Diablo 2, and I'd hate to see it go. Finally, doing away with the character expiration countdown that has claimed more level 99 Hammerdins than any hardcore playthrough is a great choice by the developers.
4) Microtransactions must not be added
This one doesn't need much of an explanation. Diablo 2 wouldn't benefit from microtransactions, and being able to buy items with real money (looking at you d2jsp) would harm the in-game market that can be quite fair and exciting. And adding cosmetics and pets really wouldn't do much for the game that already has beautiful artwork updated for the remaster.
A transmogrification system like in Diablo 3 would be quite cool, allowing players to don different styles of dress without actually changing gear. Still, it would also change a lot of the player experience. Veteran players can often tell what a character is wearing just by outward appearance.
Adding in the ability to see another player's gear (as we've seen in some of the best Diablo 2 mods) when clicking on them would likely be welcomed by many people.
5) Add cross-platform play as well as cross-progression
Developers have been careful not to mention cross-platform play, though it doesn't seem to be ruled out entirely following launch. We do know cross-progression between PC, Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch will be included, meaning you can leave off on one platform and pick up again on another.
But what the game could really benefit from is cross-platform play, available as an option to toggle on or off. I have plenty of friends without a PC who are interested in Resurrected, and I'd love to show them the ropes without having to buy the game on console. I'm sure there are plenty of others out there who would agree.
What do you want to see from Diablo 2: Resurrected?
What's your take on Diablo 2: Resurrected? What would you like to see change, and what would you like to see remain the same? Be sure to let us know in the comments section.
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Cale Hunt is formerly a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He's been reviewing laptops and accessories full-time since 2016, with hundreds of reviews published for Windows Central. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.