evil is back and it feels good

Diablo 2 Resurrected is the remastered version of Diablo 2, released in 2000. The Vicarious Visions studio wanted to give a second life to the legendary Blizzard game while scrupulously respecting its original gameplay. A perilous job, closer to the remake than to graphic smoothing, for a result that meets our expectations.

Is there no worse false friend than nostalgia? This notion is very personal, it is anchored deep inside us, comforts us and reminds us of the good old days. However, she also takes great pleasure in distorting our memories, embellishing them to the point that they often have little to do with reality. So when a game remaster relies on nostalgia while managing to give us the same emotions as at the time of the original release, we can speak of an achievement, even a small miracle. This is what happens with Diablo 2 Resurrected.

Before getting to the heart of the matter, a word about our test conditions. We played on a PC equipped with Windows 10, with a relatively recent config (Ryzen 5 3600, 16 GB of RAM and RTX 2070) in 1440p: we had no problem with framerate. We were also able to survey the game before its release, so without worrying about servers. We also recall that Diablo 2 Resurrected is also released on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Switch.

Diablo 2, a legendary game brought up to date

We are in June 2000. France explodes all its opponents at Euro football, Gladiator a hit in theaters and Yannick is number 1 in the Top 50 with his hit Those nights there. It is during this sunny month that a video game is released on PC that will change the face of hack and slash and medium in general. It is Diablo 2.

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A marvel of precision and action, the game quickly becomes a classic, a model for the competition to follow. It is a hit that has marked players with a hot iron as much for its time-consuming gameplay as its darkly delicious atmosphere. A real monument to which Blizzard wants to give a second youth in this year 2021. For that, the company entrusted its remaster to Vicarious Visions, already at work on Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy and Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2. A studio which therefore knows its subject, but which must face the greatest challenge in its history with this project.

Its mission is not to release a “simple” smoothing in 4K, as was done by Bioware for Mass Effect Legendary Edition for example, but to thoroughly review the initial product. Diablo 2 has endured the ravages of time and we are actually more in front of a real remake than a remaster.

A remake for the graphics, a remaster for the gameplay

Nostalgia is tricky, but the studio has successfully avoided the trap. Diablo 2 Resurrected is a brilliant reinterpretation of the base game. Here, the whole graphic aspect has been taken from scratch. The technical limitations of the time have obliged Vicarious Visions to embroider a whole visual universe around what he had. The developers have reimagined all the settings, the monsters, the armor… for a result that is as magnificent as it is striking, but also extremely respectful of the original Diablo 2. The creepy and bloody atmosphere of the first game is there. Before our eyes, the universe of Sanctuary is as it was in our memories, while paradoxically it has nothing to do with it. Even more, it gains in readability. A total success.

If graphically, Diablo 2 Resurrected isn’t amazing, a huge amount of work has been done on the effects of light, magic, shadows. You only have to compare with the old game to realize it. Easy operation, since it suffices press the G key to go back twenty years with Legacy mode. An instantaneous and above all fascinating manipulation, since it makes it possible to measure the distance traveled. Old players will no doubt spend a lot of time juggling the two modes. This also allows to appreciate the higher framerate of today, the base title being limited to 24 frames per second.

Note that if you have a low-power PC (such as an ultraportable with a simple eGPU) and you just want to install Legacy mode, this is not possible. The two versions run simultaneously, which makes it possible to switch from one to the other. They are inseparable, even if they each have their own graphics settings.

It’s not just the graphics that have received a hell of a lot of polish. The (magnificent) music, the sound effects… all the sound design has been remastered. This is felt once again by switching from Legacy mode to version 2021. Finally, have the cutscenes also been reviewed. It is a real pleasure to rediscover the history of Marius through the various videos which, even if they do not reach the usual standard of Blizzard quality, are pleasant to watch.

All is not rosy in the wonderful world of Diablo 2 Resurrected, however. We can still evoke some graphic bugs that are a bit stain, like the mini-map which shifts when it suits him when it is placed on the side. We also regret absence of display 21/9. Instead, we have a sober fade to black that is a bit annoying. A choice assumed by Vicarious Visions, who explained to limit the field of vision for the sake of fairness between the players (an archer could then kill enemies from far away). This is understandable, but we cannot help but be disappointed.

Successful bet for Diablo 2 Resurrected, therefore, which really manages to plunge us back into Sanctuary as if it was the first time. Meticulous, careful work that does justice to the legendary hack and slash.

The modernized form, not the substance

The real challenge for Vicarious Visions for Diablo 2 Resurrected was to completely revise the form, but not the substance. The gameplay is as it was then. We find the same environments, the same progression, the same way of playing. Nothing has changed, we are at home. Nevertheless, welcome adjustments have still been introduced. Here, the goal is not to change the way of approaching Diablo 2, but to make the experience more fluid, to correct some flaws in the base game. For example, gold is now collected automatically (but not items) and the chest in your camp is larger.

Corn these are the menus that benefit the most of this modernization. It was not possible to keep the old ones and an ant work was done to bring them up to date. The ones in Diablo 2 were already an example of clarity back then and they still are in this new version. The inventory, the character sheet, your stats… everything is clear, intuitive, tidy. Even if you’ve never played a Diablo in your life, you immediately understand how everything works. A real treat.

It is possible to create a character locally on your PC, but also online, an essential condition for playing with friends. In this case, it will be necessary go through the BattleNet servers, and therefore suffer any worries. No game over TCP / IP like back in the day. A decision that made people cringe at his announcement, but which is justified by security concerns. Our multiplayer experience was absolutely enjoyable.

The title is available on PC, but also on consoles. Diablo 2 Resurrected introduces cross-save, which means that by starting a game on one platform, you will find your progress on another by entering your BattleNet ID. A practical feature on paper, which we weren’t able to test.

Gameplay improved by small touches, but which remains the same

Finally, let’s talk about the heart of the game: its gameplay. This one hasn’t budged an iota. We find this good old Diablo 2 as it was twenty years ago. We’ve of course touched on a few tweaks that are supposed to make life easier for the user, but other than that, it’s the exact same game (with its Lord of Destruction expansion).

You should know that this is the cornerstone of hack and slash, that it has imposed a style and codes still used today. Diablo 1 had marked the path, but it was this sequel that changed everything. The principle is simple: at the controls of a character (among seven proposed) the player walks through a randomly generated world to kill the monster in packs of twelve. The more he progresses, the more experience and quality equipment he gains to face increasingly strong enemies and so on … an endless circle.

In 2021, Diablo 2 could look a bit outdated. We can point the finger at its rigidity, its archaic progression or its levels with antiquated architecture. One might even be surprised at the simplicity (only apparent) of its gameplay, at a time when hack and slash multiply the skills to be used … it is clear that even after so long, the mayonnaise still takes.

Diablo 2 is like all Blizzard games, easy to learn, difficult to master. He still manages to achieve this feat to escape the player for many hours, whether he is layman or not. Everything is frightfully precise, enjoyable. The punitive aspect, which can seem frustrating in 2021, actually adds an incredibly pleasant grain of salt to the experience. In short, Diablo 2 is still the king. If you haven’t played it in years, you will quickly find your bearings. You can even import your save from the original game! For those who have never tried the experience, it is a perfect gateway to the genre. A classic in the first sense of the word: it never gets old.

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