Diablo II has been resurrected at last. Well, it never really died, there being a community that still plays it and the various mods to this day. But it has been remastered.
And it has been a long time getting there. Much has happened since Blizzard had an ad for developers to work on some remasters they had planned, which was almost six years ago at this point.
We got a remaster of StarCraft back in 2017, which came quickly enough to give hope that the other two titles were on their way soon. They weren’t, but at least we had a slightly better looking/sounding version of StarCraft. A modest update with a modest price that mostly got a modest reaction, but it served an audience.
Then in early 2020 we got Warcraft III Reforged, which was… less good. Broken and missing features along with a draconian licensing agreement that simply proved that Blizzard remained aggrieved that somebody else was getting paid for Defense of the Ancients. It was very much a black eye for Blizz, a company that at least had a reputation for polish and quality until then.
We were left hanging on Diablo II until BlizzConline in February of this year, blowing right past the game’s 20th anniversary. Maybe it wasn’t ready yet. Maybe Blizz learned a lesson. But the company was still in mostly good odor at that point. Shadowlands was still fresh and people were eager for its first big content update, Burning Crusade Classic was keeping the old school Azeroth fans happy, and now they had a classic to update for fans new and old.
And then, of course, Blizzard’s world fell apart when the State of California sued the company based on its two year investigation, which the company denied and minimized, a reaction that just got more people to come forward publicly and tell their tales of the company. The company that could do no wrong for many is now the pariah that couldn’t get a favorable headline if it suddenly cured COVID and achieved world peace.
But you get to sleep in the bed you made. These are Bobby Kotick’s chickens coming home to roost and execs down in Irvine have been jumping onto the evacuation slide… or are they being pushed… with grim regularity. The circus has years to play out I am sure.
But they shipped Diablo II Resurrected. It went live on Thursday. I downloaded it when it became available, having pre-ordered it ages ago, but I didn’t even get around to playing it until last night. I wasn’t in a rush. I didn’t need to take the day off work or spend that night playing. I knew what I was getting.
The beta, as I wrote, tempered my enthusiasm for the title a bit, though not necessarily in a bad way. The title wasn’t going to make be 20 years younger just by playing it and I was reminded, as I have always been reminded when I gone back to play the original, that it is a product of a different time.
Still, I played last night and it was good. It sticks to the original in the important aspects, even the ones that don’t always thrill me. That “one respect per play through” is still a huge penalty if you spec wrong. But I remember Blizz relenting and giving us that respec because it wasn’t there at launch. Things could be worse.
I gather that the launch was less than perfect. I saw one article that called it Blizzard’s Latest Disaster. I kind of want to write in and remind them of the Diablo III launch, next to which the list of issues I saw seemed pretty minor. I know the editorial slant these days is to hit Blizz hard on everything, which they certainly deserve. But given the scope of disasters the company has managed so far in 2021, this launch seems like a non-event by comparison.
Of course, that is a problem for Blizz too. The coverage feels grudging save for sites that have hooked their brand up to the Blizzard name. Sorry Blizzard Watch, that is kind of the path you chose.
For me, last night, things seemed to be working well. Though, child of the original Diablo that I am, I remain dubious of making character on Battle.net unless I have to… as during the beta… and rolled some local characters for my kick off. That shielded me from many problems I am sure. (Something that wasn’t an option for Diablo III as we all well recall.)
The animation, which seemed a little janky and off back when I played in beta looked to be locked down. The “weapon swings, hits mob, makes swinging sound, mob dies, makes striking sound…” audio coordination also seemed to have been addressed. But maybe that was just Battle.net. I remain wary.
As for the critical aspects of the game, which has always been atmosphere for me, that seems spot on. The graphical update managed to enhance the light and shadow movements. Things feel very good, and the old sound track and sounds, tuned up, are all spot on.
Meanwhile, some of the fire and magic effects are huge improvements. When that shaman throws a fireball at you it looks very good.
This isn’t going to be a new obsession. I’ll want to play through and see all the locations redone. But the reality of my history with the game is that I have played through Act I dozens of times, and Act II nearly as many, but my enthusiasm tends to wain a bit with the tepid Act III. If I do get through Act III and generally go straight through Act IV, though its brevity doesn’t make that too difficult. Then there is Act V, which I think I have played through three times top, and once was in my play through of the original last year.
But it is in my library and I am happy to have the option to play it when the mood strikes me.