Video Games

Hands On with the Diablo II: Resurrected Beta

Diablo has been a long-standing franchise. The first Diablo title released on January 3, 1997. An expansion was released November 24, 1997. A PlayStation version was released March 1998. Diablo II was released June 29, 2000. An expansion was released June 27, 2001. Diablo III was released May 15, 2012. The PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 versions were released in 2013. The PlayStation 4, Xbox One versions were released in 2014. The Nintendo Switch version was released in 2018. Today, Diablo Immortals, Diablo 4, and Diablo II: Resurrected are pending releases after many years of players demanding, clamoring for a new Diablo title to be released. Diablo II: Resurrected is scheduled to be released on September 23, 2021 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Diablo II: Resurrected had a Tech Alpha, and an Open Beta. I participated in the two-day Open Beta, and that’s what this “Hands On” article is about.

Diablo games are played from a isometric plane, a fixed camera angle that hovers over the character’s 3D peripheral field of vision. Diablo II is the sequel to Diablo, and literally takes place right after the events of the original Diablo. Diablo II: Resurrected is officially a remaster, but has changes, which makes it a somewhat a remake of sorts.

Gameplay

As mentioned before, Diablo is played from a isometric plane. Diablo II: Resurrection is an action-RPG, with rogue-like design philosophy. You battle through 3 or 4 or 5 acts, each with at least hundreds of randomly-generated dungeons, where you’ll meet different monsters in your quest to meet “Diablo.” The series debuted on PC, so naturally, the game is meant to be played via keyboard and mouse. However, console versions can work. It’s played in real-time, so all you’d need to do is point your character at a specific enemy and press the attack button. There are slots for varying different actions or projectiles to allocate to. The game is as RPG as they come. If you want pure RPG gameplay, Diablo games is what you want. From top to bottom. You level up, you equip new items as you pick them up from defeated foes. You can also upgrade your character’s stats as you progress through Diablo. You can learn new “skills” (ahem; new magic) as you earn skill points.

Controls

Despite the game being designed to be a keyboard & mouse game, Diablo II: Resurrected does control fantastic. However, it is not without flaw. Sometimes, the analogue stick or the character (sometimes) does not direct itself in the direction of the stick, creating “opps sorry” moments. Sometimes I would direct my character up, instead it directs itself left or behind me. Many times I am in boss battles and I say “I intended to go there, man!” There is no “target” mechanics in the game, you’ll need to accurately point your character. Sometimes, the game thinks you’re doing something else. That’s just my experience.

Graphics

I played the original Diablo, and Diablo II back when they were released. I wish I had powerful hardware to handle Diablo games. I played the PlayStation version that was released in 1998 – Electronic Arts at the time, did not do a good job at the port. But I’ve always loved the entire package of Diablo. The graphics has always hooked me from the day I opened Diablo for PC. I loved the gritty, dark atmosphere of Diablo games. Diablo II: Resurrected does not disappoint in that respect, because the whole game was rebuilt from the ground up. This is not just taking the original source material, and upscaling or upping the resolution. Nope. The game is a faithful “remake” of Diablo II. Every map, every dungeon, every character, every enemy, every NPC (non-player character), every monster, every weapon, every item, every special effect – everything has been rebuilt from scratch. The original games were made using sprites, so Resurrected had to take every piece of sprite, and turn them into 3D models. This is what I meant by the game being a “remake.”

The game looks gorgeous on PlayStation 4, with the added resolution, and horsepower it can output. The game runs at a fluid 60fps with no framedrops (with the exception of a few issues thanks to online connectivity, which I will cover in just a moment.) The graphical fidelity is an impressive improvement over the original Diablo II, everything from the maps themselves, to special effects, to the amount of enemies on the screen it can hold at one time. In the original Diablo or Diablo II, the more enemies you have on the screen, it will lag because of the hardware it’s on. We weren’t at the point of gaming where this is offloaded via doing it differently. It’s either your hardware can’t handle it or bust.

The puddles in the original Diablo or Diablo II was static, in Diablo II: Resurrected, you can see your own reflection as you walk by puddles. And yes, even your magic or other particle effects can be reflected on puddles. You can even see small details like the shine on weapons, armor, helmets, and other background items. In the past, pixels made backgrounds, items, and other equipment look static, but in Diablo II: Resurrected, you can literally see every small detail, even from a distant camera angle.

Online Connectivity

I was testing the private match option in Diablo II: Resurrected for a lot of reasons. To learn just how resilient the servers are even in private matches. And, Blizzard failed. There is no excuse, for a game that is 20 years old by the time I write this, for a game to have 5-10 large brutes or beasts coming at you and lags – in a PRIVATE game, no less! I understand that this is a beta, but having that many large brutes coming at you should not lag. Really. And it sure as hell should not disconnect me from a server just because too much information is shoved down my connection!

I don’t know how the game lagged at some points here in this video. I understand this is a beta build of the game, but c’mon now. The other thing I noticed in the beta, the brute… disappeared in my game. Like…. What. the. hell?

Music & Sound

The original Diablo’s musical score, and Diablo II’s musical score were a masterpiece at the time, and in Resurrected, that is no difference. Hell, with the upgraded sound system available today, I can appreciate the remastered music. If you heard the Diablo II music, and Diablo II: Resurrected music today, you’ll realize they upgraded the music. The music is oozing menacing horror. It wants you to feel a sense of dread as you approach new area. The sound is crystal crisp. It’s obvious, that the developers remastered the sounds to have some kind of oomph to it, with each tink, every drop, every detail with each item interacted with.

Replay Value

Diablo games has always been so addicting. Diablo II: Resurrected is no different. You will spend hours upon hours to slay beasts until you get to the next dungeon and face new enemies in your plight to meet the devil of them all: Diablo. You will waste hours, just mindlessly destroying demons and leveling up to the next level as you face new monsters as you progress. You will enjoy organizing your items, upgrading your character with new items, weapons, and whatnot. Leveling up is the name of the game in Diablo. That is the attraction of the franchise.

In conclusion

Despite the hiccups, flaws, and issues I encountered during the beta, I’m impressed at how well done the game is, even for a remaster. It cannot be easy to take what was a sprite-based game, and remaster it for modern times – all from scratch. After the sour launch of Diablo III, Diablo II: Resurrected is Blizzard’s chance to restore faith in its fans.