The loot game effect is a creeping obsession that we all struggle with from time to time. Click. Click. Click. Just a few more enemies. Click. Click. Click. Maybe another dungeon. Click. Click. Click. Might as well go over the whole game again. Click. You understand it. You’ve played games like this, maybe even the sequel and Predecessor, the still wonderful Diablo 3.
Now here is its much touted and famous ancestor, surprisingly titled Diablo 2 – revived and remastered, no less. And the above clicks have of course been replaced by taps. Or thumb, or squeeze, or squeeze, or whatever onomatopoeia you want to use to push buttons – because that’s the lion’s share of what you’re going to be doing here. Approach monsters and then press buttons. When you hit them, they will fall down and give you XP. Blow them up with magic. You already know; we have all entered this area before. Figuratively, or quite literally, if you played the original game on PC.
If you are lucky enough to have done so, you will be right at home with this resurrection edition. After all, this is quite simply Diablo 2 as you remember it, with warts and everything. It has been spruced up in some ways that we will get to, but at its core this is the same game you may have been playing since 2000. That’s a good thing if that’s what you want; an uncompromising and polished port of an action RPG classic. The real question, however, is whether or not Diablo 2 – as much as it is a classic of the genre – is still worth playing in the year of our Lord 2021. And with that question, things start to fog up a little.
In terms of controls, it’s pretty impressive. The user interface has been carried over to a beautiful console and the assignment of skill points (and indeed the skills that are unlocked afterwards) is extremely easy and efficient. The movements on the cards are quick, the attack responds appropriately, and nothing in the meat-and-potato mechanic gets in the player’s way, just like loot games have to be; They are effectively a conveyor belt from Things and the last thing you want is a bizarre design decision that throws a spanner in the works. In this case, some kind of legendary +3 wrench, natch.
The inventory and how it is handled is a bit mixed up. It’s generally okay to manage it, although your allotted space feels a little stingy. We get frustrated selling your gradually obsolete goods. On the one hand, routinely using your portals to get back into town and dump the crap you found creates a pleasantly numbing little loop of admittedly satisfactory stock cleaning, but on the other hand, it’s pretty repetitive.
There are no torchlight-like pets transporting your prey for you, it’s all manual. The ritual nature of this action fits the game in a way, as it is pretty much the same in design. This genre has a real Skinner box feel to it – that’s not bad. It impresses with its ease. That seems like a compliment of sorts – it isn’t. In order to appreciate Diablo 2, it’s important to know that it isn’t much more complex for viewers than the original Gauntlet. It’s in your specs, your builds, your choice of character class that it gets noticed. Not to mention the multiplayer.
Said multiplayer is present and correct here, with online and offline characters being completely isolated from each other. That’s a bit of a shame because it means there is no way you can take this senior offline necromancer online under any circumstances, but that’s fairness we assume. Connection problems didn’t really bother us, apart from some initial teething problems before and after launch. It was easy to get a game to work with friends and any lag or stutter was very little. Indeed, this is a good way to play Diablo 2 – certain classes complement each other very well – but we think its atmosphere is best suited as a lone hero battling overwhelming hordes of darkness.
Visually, it’s a bit brilliant. You have the option to choose a performance mode and we highly recommend enabling it as the locked 60 frames per second make up for any tiny graphical imperfections. We played in this mode the whole time and the game looked like great; it seems that everything we could wish for has been done. Spells look spectacular, environments are ruggedly atmospheric, and most of all, the monsters look appropriately evil. Some will complain that there is little personality loss on some of the choices – Diablo is a combative game, and the loss of certain more vivid hues and some modified monster poses reduces that aspect of the experience a bit. That’s the definition of nit-picking though, as Vicarious Visions did an excellent job here of recreating a classic.
The music is as wonderful as ever, as are the monster’s various “Aargh!” S when they are sent, but the plot is a bit narrow-minded. That may be heresy, but we couldn’t get into it, as good as the voice is. You can skip the text pretty efficiently, and this game is all about the gameplay loop so we mainly went for that Just go on. That’s not a blow to the hard work that went into this work – every single cutscene has been remade and it looks great. We’re only here for the booty.
So it’s a very, very good remaster (remake? When is unclear so much obsolete), so a fairly old loot game that had many subsequent iterations from other developers. Ultimately, is it worth going back to Diablo 2 when games that we claim are slightly superior – Titan Quest, Grim Dawn, unfortunately only available for PCs … even (controversially yes) its own sequel to Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil ? Edition that features brilliant local co-op that Diablo 2 lacks entirely (and understandably given its scope). As good as Diablo 2 is, it’s an unfortunate fact that we’d rather play the sequel on the console, which felt more tailored to the joypad experience. Diablo 2 is a PC game that carried over to PS5 (brilliantly!) But is still held back a bit from its origins.