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How Diablo 2: Resurrected Differs From The Original

The original "Diablo 2" was a foundational action RPG which, along with "StarCraft," helped establish Blizzard as one of the most important videogame developers of the early 2000s, even before the company released "World of Warcraft" in 2004.

So when Blizzard announced at BlizzCon 2021 that a full remaster, titled "Diablo 2: Resurrected," was on the way, fans got excited. However, there was some wariness in the community, because while Blizzard's 2017 release "Starcraft: Remastered" was generally well-received, the more recent "Warcraft 3: Reforged" was not. That remaster caused an uproar upon its release in 2020 when it arrived riddled with bugs and with gameplay alterations to the core "Warcraft 3" experience.

However, it seems that both Blizzard and the support studio that has taken the lead on the project, Vicarious Visions, have learned from that lesson. In an interview with Polygon, executive producer Rod Fergusson said, "This isn't a remake. We're not reverse-engineering it; we're not rebuilding it and trying to make it look and sound like ['Diablo 2']. This is ['Diablo 2']." 

However, the remake will have some notable upgrades to the original. Here is how "Diablo 2: Resurrected" sets itself apart from what came before.

Diablo 2: Resurrected provides significant visual improvements

The most immediately noticeable improvement that gamers will recognize in "Diablo 2: Resurrected" is the revamped visuals, which have been upgraded from 2D sprites to 3D models. The game's new look, complete with atmospheric shadow and lighting effects, was one of the first things that Blizzard president J. Allen Brack highlighted in the Blizzcon reveal, and the facelift gives the game a much more modern feel.

However, the original "Diablo 2" was a game whose mechanics fans have memorized, and the developers worried that changing the game's graphics engine too much could have an impact on the way the game played. To avoid that, the game's 3D effects are merely run on top of the original "Diablo 2" code. Vicarious Visions' principal designer Rob Gallerani told Eurogamer, "[U]nder the hood, all of the logic and the simulation is still being run by sprites. It's still a grid-based game."

Essentially, the game preserves the original's mechanics underneath the spiffy new visuals. While the game may look completely new, it feels and plays the same as it always has. This level of preservation also means that if players would rather play using the old 2D sprites, that can be toggled back on at the press of a button.

Subtle gameplay updates make "Diablo 2: Resurrected" more accessible

Another important new feature coming to "Diablo 2: Resurrected" is support for a variety of modern gaming systems. The game will be available on PC, Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox devices, including the new PlayStation 5 and the Series X|S, with full controller support. In addition to being playable on various consoles, the game will feature full cross-progression, so gamers can level up the same characters across any device they wish.

While "Diablo 2: Resurrected" is designed to preserve the gameplay mechanics that made the original a classic, for better or for worse, the developers have made some concessions for small quality of life improvements. To show these advancements off, the developers invited "Diablo 2" speedrunner MrLlamaSC to a panel to discuss some of the new features in the game, including a shared stash, which eliminates the need for mule characters to transfer items. Other improvements that have been teased so far include subtle UI improvements and an advanced statistic readout.

The game will also have some new features that players can opt out of if they would prefer. For instance, new auto-gold feature, which automatically grabs the piles of coins that litter the ground after an encounter, can be toggled off if players prefer old-school manual gold collection.

Core elements of the "Diablo 2" experience will remain unchanged

While Blizzard and Vicarious Visions have plenty of exciting changes coming to "Diablo 2: Resurrected," there are also many elements that will remain the same. For instance, the developers are updating all 27 minutes of the game's original cinematics, but are doing so, according to Blizzard president J. Allen Brack, "shot for shot, with the explicit intention of preserving both the look and the pacing of the original movies."

The developers also considered adding quest markers to the transparent map that many gamers keep open while they play classic "Diablo 2." However, as designer Rob Gallerani told Polygon, "We looked into doing something like that ... And it totally changed the vibe of the game." Despite the possible expectation from modern players for just such a change, the difference was too stark, and the developers cut the feature.

Overall, "Diablo 2: Resurrected" looks like a genuine effort to modernize the authentic gameplay and spirit of the groundbreaking original, all playable on the modern systems in 4K. While there is no specific release date set for the game's launch, the official website allows fans to opt-in for the upcoming beta, and the game is expected to arrive sometime in 2021.