Diablo 2 is still a beast of a game that casts a long shadow

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Diablo 2 is still a beast of a game that casts a long shadow

Posted By hazel wu     October 19, 2021    


We all think about it when deciding whether to watch a Roman Polanski film or listen to a Michael Jackson album, and we all know that the history of art would be impoverished if we removed all of its monsters from the picture. There is never a simple solution. We must now ask ourselves this question in relation to Blizzard games in the wake of the shocking recent revelations about the studio's frat-boy culture.

It was largely created by Vicarious Visions, a blameless company that only recently joined forces with Blizzard earlier this year.(In fact, its former studio head Jen Oneal was recently named co-leader of Blizzard, a new broom presumably intended to lead reform there.) Furthermore, the original 2000 game was developed by Blizzard North, a separate studio from the SoCal-based parent company. Diablo 2 is, at best, an adopted child of the Blizzard culture. But Diablo, with its no-longer-metal aesthetic, kitchen-sink lore, cutting-edge online multiplayer, and endgame of abyssal depth and complication, played a role in setting the Blizzard tone as well.

That can only be a matter of individual preference. Personally, as a fan of the studio's games, I'm torn and still unsure about what to do. But I've decided not to let it influence the rest of my review.

Resurrected for a variety of reasons. After 21 years, Diablo 2 Resurrected Items PS5 is still a beast of a game that casts a long shadow over the development of its successor (a fate that Diablo 4 does not appear to have escaped), as well as over the action-RPG genre that it established. Whatever its historical significance, it's a singular, bloody-minded, almost awkward piece of work that is defiantly anti-modern.

That's an important thing to remember about the game. You'll notice a few minor but significant improvements in the quality of life, such as a shared stash for your characters to exchange loot in, automatic gold pickup, and - now that the game is available on consoles - well-implemented gamepad support. However, this is the upper limit of what the developers have allowed themselves to do for fear of diluting the game's uniqueness too much. You're still squeezing items into a small inventory grid. You're still running to your corpse, empty-handed and with your heart in your mouth, in order to retrieve your armor, weapons, and cash if you're not killed immediately. If you want to play online, you're still looking through a list of public games with muddled titles like Diablo 2 Gold For Sale in the lobby. After all, you're still limited to only one respec per difficulty level, and if you end up with a character build you don't like as a result, that's on you. Examples include local co-op on consoles, which was so enjoyable in Diablo 3, but which was sadly not included here because it would have pushed the game too far beyond its limits. In reality, it would have necessitated a completely different approach.

To understand why, it's necessary to take a closer look at this one-of-a-kind remake. Thanks to Blizzard, you can do this with a single button press, instantly revealing the game as it appeared in 2000 - pixelated, grainy and isometric, with low resolution and a very two-dimensional feel. In the most widely understood current sense, this is not a remaster in the sense of the game's original assets that have been updated or redrawn to run in higher fidelity on modern hardware. It does exist as the latter, but only as a clumsy 3D audiovisual overlay that mimics the output of the original game's 2D game logic running beneath the surface.

The artistic achievement is one thing: it astounds me that the artists, working with clean modern rendering and lighting, have managed to conjure up the grimy, grittily textured, crepuscular atmosphere of the original pixel art, where grim details appear briefly amid the gloom. Every aspect of the original Diablo 2 game, from your character's rapid, stiff-legged run to the whipcrack speed and binary flatness of interactions, has been preserved behind the scenes thanks to preservation of the original game logic.


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