The Diablo 2: Resurrected Technical Alpha was the first chance for many to play the remaster of a classic action RPG. I spent a good chunk of the weekend exploring if it lives up to the original.
Diablo 2 first came out more than 20 years ago. It was later followed by Diablo 3 and its upcoming successor Diablo 4, but the second game in the franchise holds a special place in the hearts of many — myself included. I probably have well over 4,000 hours in the original and I was skeptical to say the least, especially after the mediocre Warcraft 3 Reforged port.
Tiny Improvements for the Better
Obvious graphical improvements aside, Diablo 2: Resurrected has made a number of small improvements in useful ways. These tiny changes cut down on some of the more annoying quirks of the original while still preserving the core of Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction.
Let's start with gambling. Gambling is a mechanic where you can buy unidentified items from certain merchants for an absurd amount of gold; all you would know is what type of item you're buying and not much else. If you didn't like what was for sale, you would have to exit out of the store screen and talk to the merchant again to get a fresh set of items.
The Diablo 2: Resurrected Technical Alpha introduces a "Refresh" button that allows you to rotate the available items without having to exit out of the dialogue. This is a welcome change that will save a lot of time in the long run. Unfortunately, there's no such option for the regular merchants, and rotating their stock is even more annoying — you have to leave town and come back. I think a Refresh button would be useful on those merchants, too.
Cash in the Stash
Another welcome improvement is a healthy increase in the stash size. Your stash is where you can store items outside of your character's inventory and it was capped out at 48 inventory spaces in Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction. On the other hand, Diablo 2: Resurrected includes a much larger stash with 100 inventory spaces.
What's much more interesting, however, is the introduction of a shared stash that lets you easily transfer items between characters. This is a great quality-of-life improvement; previously, you would have to go into a multiplayer game, drop items, and pick them up on a new character.
My only concern comes from the perspective of someone who liked to do a lot of collecting. At my height in multiplayer Diablo 2, I had dozens of "mule" characters whose only purpose was to hold onto the massive collection of items I had. I would like to see an ability to expand this shared stash somehow with additional tabs to satisfy the people who like to collect as much as I do. There shouldn't be a need to create mule characters in a modern premium game.
Gameplay is as Good as Ever
Obvious improvements aside, the core gameplay is as good as ever in the Diablo 2: Resurrected Technical Alpha. It genuinely feels like I'm playing the original Diablo 2 with better graphics.
Sadly, my experience was limited to three of the game's seven classes. Amazon, Barbarian, and Sorceress were available to play for the duration of the Technical Alpha, essentially serving as easy, normal, and hard difficulties. The Assassin, Druid, Paladin, and Necromancer classes were not available. That was particularly disappointing to me; the Necromancer and Assassin are probably my favorite classes.
It genuinely feels like I'm playing the original Diablo 2 with better graphics.
I was restricted to progressing through the first two acts of the game. I managed to beat Duriel with a Level 21 bow Amazon and I also took a bit of time to get a Barbarian and Sorceress up to Level 6. Duriel remains as challenging as ever, and it was only the use of Full Restoration potions that allowed me to actually defeat him.
All of the janky bits remain, too. I've occasionally gotten stuck on objects just like the original. The mercenary A.I. is as braindead as ever. I'm fine with this — as frustrating as it can be, removing these issues wouldn't quite be the same experience as the original.
My gripes about the art style change aside, every other aspect of Diablo 2: Resurrected's graphics has been a massive improvement. All of the characters look fantastic and the environments look great, too.
The level geometry is exactly the same where it matters — in fact, you can press G to toggle between the classic and Resurrected graphics on the fly. The look of these areas has improved, though; the walls and floors are not as bare as they used to be. It's a serious improvement in detail that makes the environments look more realistic.
Item models have had a bit of an overhaul. Longtime fans of Diablo 2 know that there were only a handful of item models and different item types often shared the same model. It looks like the variety may have been expanded in this sense, too; I can't say for certain until I get to play the later acts and see all of the item models in the game.
Some enemies look much better than the predecessor. The giant spiders from Act 1 and the lightning-enchanted beetles of Act 2, in particular, look much cooler and much less janky than the original game.
[The] walls and floors are not as bare as they used to be. It's a serious improvement in detail that makes the environments look more realistic.
The Diablo 2: Resurrected Technical Alpha showcased a largely faithful recreation that improves on the original in many respects. I'd be wholly content as a veteran Diablo 2 player If they can bring the remastered Amazon a little closer to her original design. This was the first of what will be many such pre-launch tests; I'm genuinely excited to be a kid again and explore the world of Sanctuary with some old friends.
TechRaptor previewed Diablo 2: Resurrected on PC using a copy provided by the publisher. The game launches later in 2021.