Diablo II Resurrected Should Be a Great Way for Blizzard to Redeem Itself
20 years later, a modern remake is a reality
With the long-anticipated and rumored Diablo II remake finally being revealed at Blizzcon 2021, it is a great time to be both a Blizzard faithful and an action RPG fan. The upcoming title will be called Diablo II: Resurrected and the name is fitting because the game will not just be a simple port job.
Diablo II Resurrected is coming out later this year to all modern consoles and the PC. It will offer a brand new 3D physics-based engine running on top of the old engine and allow gamers to seamlessly switch between the old and new graphical prowess at will. It will also come packed with Dolby 7.1 surround sound, widescreen support, and support for modern resolutions. Its expansion, Lord of Destruction, will also be included.
The visuals look truly impressive from the presentation, and the speed and gameplay do not look like they will miss a beat. Keep in mind that this will be the first time the now 20-year-old game will be on consoles.
Diablo II was a game I remember fondly from my teenage years, but I always assumed it was inferior to the original, which is still one of my best gaming experiences to date. I loved it so much I even completed its expansion called Hellfire. Maybe this second time around I will change my mind and complete it finally.
The sequel directly followed the original with a storyline that picks up after the head demon Diablo is killed, showing the aftermath of the event. It played in a similar manner to the first, being an action RPG, and even referenced events from the original. This includes things such as the former town’s blacksmith (from the former game’s main town that was burnt to the ground in the sequel) being killed and possibly his body showing or someone talking about him. There were many such references even though both games were self-contained and could be played independently.
The original game was all based on a single town, with the many layers and captivating characters that inhabited it. It also had one main dungeon you as the player had to navigate, further and further into its depths. This focus on a single town truly made it interesting and unique: from the witch being across the river with her own spells and magic as tomes to sell to the player alongside potions to the hunchbacked teenager murking in a clandestine manner on the other side of town near the dungeon with unique and expensive items such as rings or weaponry to sell. It truly had everything for a 1990s game: originality, presentation including a musical score that soothed the ears every time you loaded the game up to a very addictive mouse-driven combat system that allowed the player to experiment with being a rogue, mage, or a warrior.
The first game just had this atmosphere of being new and different from anything else on the market. It was dark; it was grimy… but it was also an RPG and an action one at that. There was lots of action to be head in slaying skeletons, and other baddies, in the dungeon while looking for valuable loot. Despite it officially being called an action RPG, it has many adventure game elements that would later be exposed more fully in The Elder Scroll series.
The addictive nature of Diablo and its sequel paved the way for competitive gaming across Blizzard's Battle.net service. The original had supported online multiplayer and players from around the world were able to play the game’s campaign in a cooperative manner this way. However, it was not until Diablo II that this form of gaming really took off and Blizzard focused a huge portion of the development on its multiplayer.
I recall it was huge, with the player base dwarfing most other games on the market for years, but not without its controversies. The big thing about it was players trading in an in-game auction house system and selling loot amongst themselves. There were bugs and bad design decisions made at first causing players to cheat or exploit the system. Either way, it proved to be a very addicting and captivating experience players remember fondly about the game.
Blizzard has recently released a revamped version of Warcraft III, which is another game that had a strong multiplayer component and was supported across Battle.net, however, it was not met with a stellar reception. The game received a poor reception with a Metacritic score below 60 points as of this writing.
Blizzard just did not listen to its fanbase and instead settled for a quick cash grab. It also released a game that did not really need a revamp nor was anyone asking for one while taking out the older version for those who wanted to play it on its online distribution store. Let us hope Blizzard learns from this lesson and does a better job for the Diablo II remake.
From the looks of what has been announced and the gameplay videos shown, it truly looks like Blizzard will redeem themselves this time around. It looks like the graphics are updated to 3D, but not changed in the sense the art style was not altered to follow suit of the popular modern style games like WoW or Fortnite use with their bright and colorful characters. Instead, it will offer the same layout and content as the predecessor as well as the same top-down gameplay perspective.
Blizzard has a great opportunity here because many people never moved on from the game and are looking for more of the same, but in a newer and more dressed up package. Many players did not move onto Diablo III a game with its own controversies. This is due to things like it being simplified for consoles and changed in art direction from the grimy old-school 2D aesthetics into colorful and 3D environments. Apparently, the Diablo III expansion changed much of that game and redeemed some of the criticism, but it is still a much different experience than playing any of the original titles.
I was hoping that the game would be updated when first hearing of the rumours, but not so that it is unrecognizable from the original version. By keeping the engines running concurrently and the same layout of rooms in the dungeons or towns, Blizzard is onto a great start. I was actually a bit surprised Blizzard touched the engines by making it 3D and physics-based instead of simply offering a game with modern resolution options, anti-aliasing, bloom, and maybe some other basic retouches. From the looks of it, the game can almost be seen as a brand new experience, but faithful to the original vision.
The remake will be faithful to the original in this regard, but also offer some gameplay additions, such as gold being auto-picked up unless the player turns this option off in settings. This is nice and really a muse for console players that will be experiencing the game using controllers.
Even though the title will be faithful to the original game, it would be nice to get some new additions like weapons or a dungeon. However, we cannot rule everything out just yet and there is always the hope for additional expansions or DLC in the future.
The most interesting aspect of the game will be how Blizzard handles the online multiplayer or BattleNet portion of it. The company will have to balance out making it as friendly as possible for newcomers but not dubbed down to the point veterans will not want to come back to it and reminisce their years in the auction house.
Let us hope it focuses more on satisfying the old fans vs just making it as accessible as possible for a new audience. When companies tend to do this and make their games more accessible, it often ruins the experience or turns the games into shadows of their former selves. However, the original online portion of the game was not without its shortfalls and controversies that were mostly fixed through patches, so Blizzard should take what it learnt and apply it to the new title from day one.
With all of that said, I am excited for the remake and will be playing it once it is released on PC like I did the original title that unfortunately I was close to finishing, but never completed. Seeing the game in action truly made me realize that this is the game we remember fondly brought to the modern era.
I also want to add that if the game succeeds, I see something much bigger here for Blizzard. I see a whole Diablo storyline taking place as a Netflix animated series similar to Castlevania. I see this take us multiple seasons and go through the events of the first game, but in a reimagined way and up to the sequels. I think Diablo could make for an amazing animated series and do something similar to what Castlevania did if it is done right.
I would also love for more content to be added to the game expanding it even beyond the original vision of the game and its original expansion. Maybe even add another chapter and city to the storyline, but that may be just wishful thinking on my part as the company has a lot of resources right now pegged on making Diablo IV a reality as well. If it does succeed, however, a similar remake to the original title should not be too far behind.