I feel I must acknowledge right off the bat that I’m pretty much a series newbie when it comes to Diablo. My experience with the series is limited, though I have played a considerable amount of Diablo III on PS4 and Switch. I blitzed through the campaign and would mess around with rifts, but I’m very much a casual player and if you asked me what breakpoints were, I honestly couldn’t tell you. Diablo III was easy enough to get into, but Diablo II: Resurrected? Well, that’s a whole other beast entirely.
Remastered and re-released for current consoles and PC, Diablo II: Resurrected is a very faithful recreation of the 2000 ARPG. In fact, it’s actually pretty much the same exact game except that it looks way prettier and it has controller support. You can toggle the graphics option any time you want to switch between the modern look and the grungy 2000 look and you’ll see that it’s the same game running underneath that shiny coat of paint. This makes it a total treat for longtime fans and veterans, but for newcomers, you might be inclined to give up after your first hour or so of play.
Diablo II: Resurrected doesn’t bother with extended intros or tutorials; boot up the game, watch an opening cutscene that sets the tone for the story, and you’re in. Almost immediately, I felt like I was completely out of my depth. My character moved so damn slowly, his attacks seemed so clumsy and delayed, and worst of all, inventory management and menu navigation were a complete pain with a controller.
For the first hour of the game, I slowly learned how to navigate the menus a little better. Assigning stat points and skill binds were easy enough, but managing my inventory took a bit more time. You have to hit the A button to select something and then manually move it around in your inventory space. Diablo II’s inventory system is pretty similar to Resident Evil 4’s attache case system, which means you need to constantly organize your slots to make room for other chunkier items. Doing this with a controller feels slow and annoying, and it definitely took me a while to get accustomed to it.
Thankfully, there is a sort function that automatically optimizes your inventory space for you, but it doesn’t solve the issue of your inventory being so damn tiny to start with. After just an hour with the game, the phrase “I am overburdened” in that dull, monotonous voice of my Druid has been deeply ingrained into my brain. Get it out.
It also doesn’t help that Diablo II isn’t exactly an easy game, and being careless or not managing your gear properly will absolutely mess you up. Indeed, I learned this lesson early on when I faced the Blood Raven, the first proper ‘boss’ of the game. She constantly pelted me with poison arrows while her undead horde chased me around a cemetery. Eventually, I died, losing all of my gear and money in the process. I quit out of the game, drank some orange juice, and contemplated the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.
It’s not a stretch to say that my first hour with the game was rough, and yeah, it could just be that I was slow to pick up on its mechanics. Still, I’d say it’s more likely that I’ve just been spoiled by more fast-paced ARPGs like Path of Exile and even Diablo III, which was more lenient with players and eager to reward me for every little thing I did.
I also recalled that Diablo II was known for being the timesink game that hooked everyone back in 2000. This was the game that literally caused students to neglect their homework and stay up into the wee hours of the night just to keep playing. With that in mind, I booted it up again.
This time, I approached the game a bit more slowly and methodically. I also finally figured out that I could run by pressing R3, which made it easier to cover more ground and explore more of the map. Sprinting does consume stamina, though, and moving faster didn’t help with some of the game’s innate issues like wonky hitboxes and how easy it was to get stuck on random debris.
I also became more liberal in my usage of Scrolls of Town Portals, teleporting back whenever my inventory was full and I needed to sell stuff or dump items into my storage chest. I kept a full set of backup armor in storage, along with some gold, just in case I met with another untimely end. I wasn’t afraid of using my potions whenever I needed to because, goddamn, this game throws so many potions at you and they don’t stack. Nothing stacks in this game.
And most importantly, I also learned how to use my Druid’s skills more efficiently. By the time I faced the Blood Raven again, I was summoning ravens and poisonous vines to take care of her undead horde while I just focused on whittling her health down. The fight still ended up forcing me to burn through quite a few potions, but I eventually bested her and moved on. I’ve since progressed a lot further in the game, and my Druid’s only gotten stronger as I’ve unlocked new skills and obtained even better loot.
It only took about five hours of experimenting and dying one very painful death for Diablo II: Resurrected to finally click with me and, well, I get it now. Is Diablo II: Resurrected an accessible entry point for newcomers? Well, yes and no.
The updated graphics certainly make the game a lot more pleasant to look at, but new players will need to be aware that this is still a fairly old game at its core and some of its mechanics are a little outdated. Not to mention the fact that it’s also much slower-paced than a lot of ARPGs.
Put in the time and effort into learning its intricacies, though, and you may very well find yourself completely sucked into its compelling loot grind.