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*Disclaimer - This product is being reviewed on the Xbox Series X and played on the "Hardcore" (permadeath mode) with the code provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review. Gaming Instincts is an Amazon affiliate and does gain financial benefits if you choose to purchase this product on this page.*
Do you miss the days of slaying demons after coming home from school and staying up late at night? Or what about the days when we would say to ourselves "just one more level up before bed so I can use my last 5 required stats points on my strength and my warrior can now carry this new weapon." Well, they are back and that's thanks to the release of Diablo II Resurrected. For those who do not know, Diablo II was a beloved game back in the glory days of Blizzard Entertainment and was regarded as one of the best ARPGs of its time. This was when Blizzard Entertainment actually made good games and was highly respected in the industry. Sadly, those days are gone, but thanks to Diablo II Resurrected, we can relive those precious memories just one more time before we hit the bucket.
Diablo II Resurrected is everything that I remembered of Diablo II but just much prettier and visually updated for the modern era of gaming. What's most fascinating is that it feels exactly the same, but better in many ways thanks to technological advances. Diablo II Resurrected has higher resolution visuals, better quality audio and improved animations that are fun to watch, especially when the demons are slain.
The game features all the playable classes such as the Barbarian who's your typical warrior class, Necromancer who is a summoner of the dead, Paladin, a warrior of the light, Assassin, Amazon, Sorceress, the master of elements, and Druid, a nature-based class with animal companions. During my time with the game, I spent the majority of my time playing as the Barbarian on the Hardcore setting (if you die once, you lose your character and have to start over), which is the way I normally enjoy playing Diablo II. On the Barbarian playthrough, I almost got to Act III before dying, a fault of my tunnel vision and my blatant disregard for my health bar globe. While I was a tad annoyed, it still brought a smile to my face because I remembered what it was like playing Diablo II on Hardcore back in the day, especially how it felt to die to something stupid. This is what Diablo II Resurrected is all about, reliving the memories of what once was.
Is it actually a game that I would play today and enjoy? Yes, but only because I know what it is and I've played the original one and I can appreciate why it exists. But if I've never played a Diablo game before, then I'd much rather play Diablo III despite its crappy art style and poopy storyline. Diablo III just plays way better and has modern mechanics that are easier for people to get into. However, with that same token, if you do not mind outdated mechanics and less engaging gameplay and would rather have a darker, atmospheric experience then Diablo II is for you.
Another cool edition is the ability to switch between the new visuals and the original on the fly. It's like the feature Halo Master Chief Collection has where you can switch between engines, mid-gameplay, without any hiccups or stutters. While this feature is not gameplay-changing, it definitely does make you appreciate the newer visual updates.
The game offers two graphical options on the Xbox Series X: quality and performance mode. Quality mode lets you play at 4K Native but at 30FPS, and the performance mode offers a decreased resolution at a locked 60FPS. This is absolutely puzzling to me. How does a game that's two decades old required to have two graphical options on a new generation console? Maybe there are technical and programming limitations with how the original engine works versus the new updated code, but to me, this just seems rather bizarre. I do not understand why Vicarious Visions was not able to have this game run at 4K Native and 60FPS, it is an ancient game.
Demon slaying in Diablo II Resurrected is an absolute blast. Thanks to the visual updates such as the new and improved animations and better frame rates, the game is even more enjoyable than it was in the past. Druid's and Sorceress's fire and lightning abilities look better than ever. No longer do you have to stare at the outdated spell effects. The death animations of the demons are also fun to watch, there is more detail in the blood and gore, making the game feel darker and brutal. Wrecking a bunch of Fallen as a Druid in the werewolf is extremely satisfying.
The best part of Diablo II Resurrected is that the game is exactly the same in terms of mechanics, numbers, progression, builds and all that good stuff. You can play the same way you used to and run the same favorite builds. But this time around, they just look and feel much better. Updating an old title and making it feel just as good if not better is not an easy task and I can wholeheartedly say that the demon-slaying aspect of Diablo II is, indeed, intact.
Surprisingly, I would argue that playing the game on the Xbox Series X controller felt quite good and more engaging than on a keyboard. There is something gratifying about pressing a button and watching your sword penetrate a demon who cries out in pain versus a mouse where you spam clicks (or your key-binds) to initiate the character abilities. This goes back to the days of playing Diablo III on a console and realizing that the console version of any Diablo game seems superior in terms of the fun factor, not negating the PC's optimal performance due to rapid mouse movements and faster inputs.
At its core, Diablo II Resurrected is a solid product that delivers what it should, a classic Diablo II experience for the current day and age of gaming. Unfortunately, there is one issue that is not helping the cause - the broken online functionality. I was only able to play online a few times and it's been on and off with the server issues. Blizzard is notorious for having server issues any time they launch a new product, whether it's a new WoW expansion or something else.
To this day, I am not able to play with my friends due to constant server issues and not able to connect online, so I was forced to review the game offline for the majority of the time. For a game that is also much more enjoyable with your friends than alone, this is quite a big issue. An issue that is not acceptable in this day and age, especially for a game that's over two decades old.
This is very annoying and quite unfortunate because Diablo II Resurrected is perfectly executed, but issues like these can ruin the entire experience. Consider the frustration when friends keep getting server errors or you are constantly losing a Hardcore character due to lack of server stability. Another issue is that the game is lacking full on cross-play functionality. Diablo II Resurrected supports cross-progression and cross-save but does not support the ability to cross-play with your friends, yet another aspect that is puzzling to me.
If you are going to develop any sort of cross-network or cross-platform functionality then you either do the full package or do not do it at all. I have plenty of good friends who want to play the game with me on the PC but I'm not interested in spending additional money on a product that I already own for a different platform. Yeah, you can maybe say it's my issue, but let's be honest, the game should have full on cross-play functionality from the get-go. Hopefully, this is something that will be added later.
In a nutshell, I enjoyed what I played of Diablo II Resurrected so far and it's a worthy remaster/update to the original classic. As previously said, if you are a big fan of the original game then you will absolutely fall in love with this. If you are looking to get into the Diablo franchise for the first time and are used to more modern-day RPG mechanics and combat then you are better off playing Diablo III: Reaper of Souls. Or, if you are just wanting to learn about the franchise and do not mind the old-school gameplay and have an open mind then, by all means, you should dive into hell with Diablo II Resurrected.
If you are looking to play with a group of friends, then I would strongly advise you to wait until all the server issues are sorted out and the game is stable from head to toe, especially if you are planning on having a Hardcore party with some sweaty friends. At the end of the day, Diablo II Resurrected is a well-preserved relic that deserves a solid 8 out of 10. See you in hell, my friends.