It’s been a long time since the classic Diablo II launched. I should know, I was there, two decades ago. And now a remaster is upon us. Diablo 2 Resurrected launches on Xbox with a dizzying array of tweaks and improvements that modernize the game for new players and returning fans. There’s a lot of stuff that you might not know about this remaster.
Diablo 2 Resurrected is the first major game release from Activision Blizzard ever since it has had to reckon with allegations brought up by a lawsuit from the state of California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The suit accuses the company of fostering a frat boy culture of harassment and discrimination against women.
Playing Diablo 2 Resurrected isn’t an endorsement of Activision Blizzard’s behavior, but it can feel a bit distasteful to heap any amount of excitement or praise to the game and by extension the publisher. It’s not uncommon for the company to hide behind excitement for their new games and other positive press in an attempt to distract from scandals like the lawsuit as well as 2019’s Blitzchung controversy.
However, ignoring their games means passing up the opportunity to supply criticism where it will be read. If you’re only here to know more about Diablo II Resurrected, that’s fine, but it’s important to be mindful about the context that this remaster is releasing to. The impact of the lawsuit has been profound and Activision Blizzard has adopted numerous tactics to combat the scorn and contempt that they so richly deserve.
Chief compliance officer Frances Townsend called the lawsuit “meritless and irresponsible.” Blizzard president J. Allen Brack feigned ignorance while denouncing the described toxicity as “unacceptable.” CEO Bobby Kotick declared that “people will be held accountable for their actions,” adding that “we will be the company that sets the example.”
While thousands of Activision Blizzard workers were empowered by the lawsuit to condemn their employer, as well as participate in protest walkouts, the various teams and studios continue to work on their respective projects. In a world where capitalism sucks and the job you have is the job you need, it’s no one’s right to demand anything else from them.
Diablo 2 Resurrected is a total remaster of the complete Diablo 2 experience, overhauling the base game and its 2001 expansion, Lord of Destruction. It features a new visual style that though incredibly faithful, presents the game at up to 4K resolution and up to 60 fps via a performance mode and a stunning quality mode at 30 fps. It runs on a new 3D engine and all the 2D sprites have been redone.
The game’s cinematics have also received a do-over, allowing us to behold the tragic story of Marius and his travels with the Dark Wanderer in much richer cinematic flair. In effect, this is the idealized form of Diablo 2 you remember from inside your head and not the one you might have played all those years ago.
Diablo 2 Resurrected brings the classic sequel to consoles for the first time ever. Using lessons from learned from Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition to adapt what has historically been a point and click hack and slash experience for controllers. You can use your thumbsticks to pilot your character and map various spells and skills to the face buttons as if they were hotkeys.
It doesn’t change the gameplay but adds improvements. There’s auto-gold pick up and some more helpful tutorialization and tooltips to ensure you never forget to put in your skill and attribute points when you level up. The stashbox now has a shared tab that lets you make items you store available to your other characters. Found a cool weapon you can’t use? Stash it!
Diablo 2 Resurrected doesn’t replace classic Diablo 2. Blizzard has hopefully learned its lesson from Warcraft III: Reforged which controversially forced in some changes to the original Warcraft III even for users who did not purchase Reforged. The original Diablo 2 and Lord of Destruction will remain intact on Battle.Net alongside Resurrected.
The game features a legacy mode which lets you switch back to the game’s original pixelicious graphics with the press of a button. If you want to compare how far we’ve come graphics-wise in twenty years, you can and thus enjoy up to 800×600 resolution dungeon crawling on your 4K TV screen. You haven’t seen the original necromancer until you’ve seen him as a one-foot tall pixel blob.
It doesn’t support ultrawide 21:9 displays. It’s not a terrible compromise but it’s worth mentioning as its contrary to what was previously promised. During technical alphas, it was discovered that ultrawide support broke the game, allowing players to attack enemies at greater ranges than in the original game, and monsters would not react to those hits.
Online multiplayer will support up to eight players. New cheat and hack protections should ensure a safer online experience, but TCP/IP connectivity is gone, and you will be required to connect to Battle.net servers to play online. Security risks are cited as the reason behind this change. Disappointingly, there will be no cross platform play.
Diablo 2 Resurrected was developed by Vicarious Visions. This is the New York-based studio that has developed over a hundred games across multiple platforms. They were acquired by Activision in 2005. Since then they’ve made several Skylanders and Transformers games for the publisher. They most recently worked on Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2.
It’s difficult to determine whether the toxic culture at Activision and Blizzard extends to Vicarious, but so far no such accusations or allegations have emerged. In recent developments, several departures have been made from Activision and Blizzard, including former CEO J. Allen Brack, Overwatch 2 director Chacko Sonny, chief legal officer Claire Hart and global head of human resources Jesse Meschuk.
Many of these departures make little reference to the controversy and scandal of the lawsuit and protests. Some of these exits have occurred quietly either with no official statement or corporate official speak that minimizes the lawsuit’s impact. For example, Brack was said to be “[pursuing] new opportunities,” while Sonny was described to be “[taking] some time off after 5 years of service.”
Video games are made by whole teams and not the twerps in leadership and managerial roles that harass people and foster a toxic culture. But that doesn’t mean that coverage of games is apologia or punishment for corporations. Corporations may be legal persons but they don’t have feelings. And yet Diablo 2 Resurrected exists, plays fine and Activision Blizzard hopes you forget anything else but that.