Since Burning Crusade Classic launched there have only been two titles in my sights for 2021, both of which are also remakes/remasters; Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl and Diablo II Resurrected.
I am sure it makes some game dev sigh deeply that I am only really on board to replay titles I was playing actively twelve to eighteen years ago, but that is where I am at. But when they announced Diablo II Resurrected at BlizzConline back in February I was hyped.
So of course I jumped on board when it was announced that there would be an early access event for the open beta. I wanted to see what was going on with Diablo II right away. So I downloaded the 30GBs that make up the beta client on Friday night and gave it a look.
And I was almost immediately underwhelmed.
Seriously, my first thought was, “That’s it?” as I walked out onto the Blood Moor with my first character. I just couldn’t figure out WHY that was my response. It was an emotional response and perhaps the natural reaction of the build up the game has in my head, though I played the original through less than a year ago.
I had to stop and consider that for a bit. I am sure some of it was just too much build up and the weight the game carries in the titles I have played over the years.
But when thinking about it, the game is just kind of dark, especially in the beginning. Oddly, though people went on about how dark Diablo II was when we started seeing previews of Diablo III, the remastered graphics are even darker.
Thanks to the magic of the remaster, which lets you hit the G key to swap between original and remastered graphics, I could see how much brighter things were in the old days. I was down in the first set of caves with an amazon and the original graphics looked like this:
That still seems pretty dark, especially when compare to Diablo III. That is just a crop of the middle of the screen, which fades off into an inky blackness in all directions outside of the pool of light around my character.
It isn’t really darker, but the brightness of some of the items, her armor, her hair, her skin tone, are all much less vibrant and flashy. The world is even more subdued and, I suspect after some of the bright and flashy demos they were showing, I was expecting things to be brighter rather than following the darkness vibe.
Once I figured where I was coming from, I was able to get into the new look more readily. And I will admit that in a lot of places it does look very good. The animations of movement and combat are especially good when compared to the roughness of the original.
I flipped back and forth between original and remastered graphics quite a bit when I started off. Both fill up my monitor in full screen mode, though the remaster only goes to 2560 x 1440, shy of my ultra-wide monitor’s 3440 x 1440 resolution, but the boarders fade to black, which works well enough in Act I. That might be a little more stark in contrast when I get to the desert of Act II.
The original graphic don’t even reach out to 2560 in pixel width due to it being done in 4:3 aspect ratio back in the day, but it too fades to black as it gets out to the edges.
Eventually I kept playing with the new graphics, popping back into the old once in a while just to remind myself what one mob or another looked like.
And the other thing I… and anybody coming to the game for the first time… should remember is that this is a remaster of twenty year old title. There are a few niceties that have been added… some shared storage across your characters and that you can pick up gold just by walking over it now… but it is otherwise trying to be true to the original.
I did not get a ton of time to play this past weekend, but the real open beta starts this coming Friday, so I can return for another look. What I saw so far makes me keen to play, though it was not without problems. I didn’t run across anything game breaking, but the animation and sound were excellent… except when they fell out of sync. There were a number of times when I would swing, see the blow hit, see the loot drop, hear the blow land, then hear the loot sound.
I am not sure if that was Battle.net lag… a constant problem back in the old days… or that they just haven’t gotten things screwed down tight enough, but there is clearly a bit more work to be done.
I’ll see how it looks next weekend. They have until late September to get it ready for prime time.
Summary: True to the original in vision and execution, just remember that the original came out 21 years ago.