For the past week, Elly and I have been running around classic Diablo 2 to get up to speed as it’s been a little while since we played the original. This was a great refresher for this weekend’s Diablo 2 Resurrected Technical Alpha test.
Diablo 2 Resurrected Technical Alpha Launches
This first Alpha dropped on Thursday evening UK time and it kicked off a little later than expected due to some issue at Blizzard. Thankfully it was quickly resolved within around 30 minutes. With the technical gremlins sorted out, the download began in the BattleNet client.
Having watched all the earlier footage from BlizzCon which looked impressive, you never quite know what you’re going to get in an Alpha. I’ve taken part in Alpha test for lots of games over the past 20 years and they can be real hit and miss affairs when it comes to quality. I need not have worked because once the Alpha loaded, I was in for a treat.
After playing Diablo 2 classic this week, the visuals were simply outstanding even on the menu screens. The amount of polish that had gone into the UI is fantastic. The team has managed to keep the game feeling like Diablo 2 but fully modernised to today’s PC gaming standards.
The old campfire scene looks brilliant now, it almost feels like it’s a game that could have been released today for the first time. Picking a character is all handled by adding your name and then selecting your class from the avatars around the fire and then it’s added to the list of characters on the right. These can be deleted by clicking the small red trash icon next to the character slot. Here’s a pic of the imaginatively named character RushSorc. Yes, yes, I know.
The first thing I wanted to check out was the customisation. What could be changed and what couldn’t in the options. How far exactly has the dev team gone with settings such as key bindings and visual options. New ones added etc. I was pleased to see that any key of importance can still be changed to whatever you want. Having the skills on the F keys always really annoyed me but it was just the way I got used to playing it but they can be changed as before. You can also switch back to the legacy key binds easily. There are obviously a few new additions to the keys for zooming and toggling graphics mode.
With some key changes all sorted out, it was time to hit the Rogue Encampment and immediately you realise just how great Diablo 2 looks now in this modern PC gaming era. The essence of the Rogue encampment has been completely maintained but now with more atmosphere including driving rain. It really does feel like a miserable place to be which is how I always imagined it.
I Killed Elly
When I play Diablo 2 and get to the mercenary hiring in Act 1 I always go for Elly as my Rogue companion. It didn’t work out too well this time however because for some reason I did the quests in a weird order. I forgot to kill Bloodraven and marched on to the later quests. This means by the time I hit the tower I was slightly underpowered.
Sadly Elly took the brunt of the monster onslaught and was quickly overpowered. The real Elly was sat across the room also playing D2R when the disaster happened but I kept the demise of rogue Elly to myself. I would not have been popular.
Quality of Life
With my Sorceress primed it was out into the field to undertake the Act 1 quests. Nothing has been changed or messed with. This is Diablo 2 at its core but the small quality of life improvements such as auto-gold pickup is a massive plus. No more frantically clickety-click on piles of gold and with the ALT key you can just grab what you need from the highlighted loot.
One thing that makes a difference is the map overlay positioning. In Diablo 2 classic it overlays the complete game screen by default or minified to top left if selected in the options. A lot of the time you’d forget it’s toggled on as full screen and play with the overlay covering the gameplay if you didn’t make the map change, especially if you’ve not played Diablo 2 in the past decade. I actually preferred the map full screen in Diablo 2 Classic but I am probably in the minority.
In D2R you can either minify the map to the top left or top right of the screen in the options settings. Once you’ve had the map in either of the top corners I would see no reason to have the full overlay on anyway (apart from PvP as mentioned by Maxicek below). Having not played the game for a while, it’s easy to forget what was there by default and which previous Diablo 2 Classic patches added more to the options.
While playing I had forgotten about a lot of the quality of life improvements even though I have written about them extensively here on the site. While out gathering items, I forgot there was now an item compare by holding shift. When I did rediscover it existed via the tooltip it was a major relief and just made life so much easier, especially in the early game where your scavenging around to improve gear.
What I really did appreciate was the fact that they have not messed too much with the inventory screens. You still need to manage it carefully and that has kept the essence of the original Diablo 2 intact. You still have to think hard about what to keep and what to ditch because space is still somewhat limited.
I was also intrigued by the graphics overlay where you can switch back to the classic look. The switch is seamless. You’re instantly transported back to the classic game with the push of the button. This makes you realise the rather clever approach the team has taken to remaster the game. There are some changes, however.
While down in one of the caves, can’t remember which one in Act 1, in the classic game there as stalagmites. In Diablo 2: Resurrected, there are now small cave camps with tents and boxes where these stalagmites are positioned. What they appear to have done is make these zones a little more visually interesting and you can see the difference when you toggle between D2R and Classic with the push of a key. Look close enough and you’ll see lots of subtle additions like this.
So how stable is the Diablo 2 Resurrected Technical Alpha on day one? We have 2 PCs here of identical spec and we had everything cranked up to the max. We tested in both 4K and 2K. On one PC the Alpha was flawless with no crashes at all in 2.5 hours of continuous play. On the other, we had one crash to the desktop but we think that was down to some streaming software we were experimenting with being active. Once that was disabled and switched to another piece of steaming software we had zero crashes on that second PC.
I have literally just come out of the game but I wanted to share some initial thoughts before the Alpha kicks off in earnest tomorrow. What I can say is I am very impressed with what I have played so far. Blizzard appears to have approached this remaster with care and attention. Not going too far with the changes/additions and have kept the game as any Diablo 2 player would expect, a classic. The difference now is that this game looks visually excellent.
More to come
Both Elly and I will be playing over the next few days so watch out for notifications on our live streams and videos which will be added to the Youtube channel. We’ll also post up more thoughts when we’ve dug deeper into the Diablo 2 Resurrected Technical Alpha. If it wasn’t 2AM right now I would still be playing. Now I just need to get a few hours of sleep then back in for more action!
Update: We are live streaming today via our Youtube channel.