The Diablo 2 Resurrected Alpha concluded on Monday 12 April after four days of testing. So how was it?
After the early showcase of the game at this year’s online version of BlizzCon, the game was looking really promising. I mean, we had been told it would incredibly hard to remaster the game by original creator David Brevik. Perhaps that dampened expectations slightly leading up to this Alpha test.
Just how good a job could they do with this classic? The answer is, they have done a brilliant job.
Alpha Finally Begins
Elly and I got stuck into the Diablo 2 Resurrected Alpha right away on Friday with Elly opting for the Amazon which was the first character she ever played in Diablo 2 classic. I on the other hand decided to start with the Sorceress.
There’s no doubt we were both rusty when it comes to Diablo 2. We had both restarted playing D2 classic about a month ago, both playing characters that were not in the Alpha so we were a bit unlucky on that front.
Both of us took things slow, the intention was to not only soak up the atmosphere and look for small changes but also see if we could spot the bugs to get reports in. Blizzard may have treated this as a marketing exercise to some extent but the real reason for playing was to find bugs where we could.
I’ll break this down into sections…
The Diablo 2 Resurrected UI is a lot cleaner. Every part of the interface is less cluttered looking. In my opinion, I think what they have done with the different UIs, while minimal in places, is the right move. We have to remember that there will be a lot of players who pick up Diablo 2 Resurrected may never have played it.
The character selection screen is simple enough and the campfire scene looks better than ever. Once selected, the player’s avatar for each character really shows off the new visuals, especially on items and armor. I think this really helps the player connect with their character. When you see how everything looks close up in detail, it almost urges you to want to go out and find even better gear to see what it would look like.
The Diablo 2 Resurrected menus, such as the quest windows, have been stripped down slightly and they’re less fancy. While some may dislike this, it’s actually a lot easier to read. It’s a decluttering of parts of the interface.
The now larger stash and shared stash system is easy enough to understand and it’s designed so it’s instantly familiar with tabbed windows. Of course they are larger now and that’s a welcome improvement. It’s not too large that it stops you having to make difficult choices. After all, this is a core element of the Diablo 2 experience.
Skill windows again are a little tidier although the positioning of the points available to spend indicator on skills is at the bottom instead of the top right. It’s a little too hidden down there and perhaps that’s something that should be moved to the top left of the skills interface as there’s space on all the trees to do so.
The bottom action bars have also been tidied up and I have no issues with what’s been changed. In typical modern-day Blizzard fashion, the level-up bar is a lot more visible now designed to keep you playing and keep leveling.
Overall, there are no real gripes with the new UI. It’s clean, easy to understand, and similar enough to Diablo 2 Classic.
I have already written a piece on some of the Diablo 2 Resurrected environmental changes (read the article) but it had to be said the dev team has done a fantastic job. While some of the art has changed, the essence of the original is very much intact. On top of that, what would have been empty spaces in places have now been filled with some gorgeous artwork to improve the environments.
Everyone wants to see how the skills have changed and thanks to super new lighting effects and visuals they look better than ever. Any skill that should have a light radius really pops. Fire and ice are the most impressive in the alpha. I have to say though, the Barbarian’s skill effects felt a little muted, but then again, they never were that spectacular. Probably one of the reasons I never really played the Barb in any of the Diablo games. I like shiny things and less of the bash, bash, bash.
On the subject of the Barbarian, the leap attack is absolutely mental. Right now the Barbarian can leap an extraordinary distance, it’s almost like watching the Hulk leaping about. I think this needs a little more work and they need to figure out the best way of reducing this distance.
While there are distinct colour differences on some spells such as lightning which is now a bluer, most of the changes, I don’t have a problem with as they show the skills off better. I imagine they will be easier to see when there’s more than one person in the game.
That said, freezing effects are a little odd with an almost neon-like teal colour which doesn’t sit quite as well with the rest of the colors. Overall though, things do look great and these could be considered minor gripes.
The Diablo 2 Resurrected reworked items make a huge difference to the detail in the game. Many have new and improved interpretations of the originals and they improve the game’s look overall. Picking up an item and slipping it on to see it actually look like you’d expect it to is now is quite satisfying. It certainly drives you to find gear that looks great together.
Item tooltips are also cleaner and a little easier to read. Like other elements in the UI, everything is crisper and more legible. There’s definitely been some cleaning up of the font and I do welcome these simple changes. No point just trying to copy everything from the original if it’s not quite as good as it can be by today’s standards.
Not items per se, but having the new advanced stats screen helps you figure out what is doing what to your stats. Overall this makes item selection a little easier to understand which is great if you’re not a complete stat-head.
Quality of Life Changes
Auto-gold pick-up is a godsend and it’s an improvement. Players still need to get quite close to the dropped pile for the auto-pickup to kick in. As drops are not instant due to the gold dropping animation, you can’t open a chest and just have it auto-pickup, the gold needs to have landed first.
I’m torn on whether you should just pick it up as soon as it’s activated or have to wait until it hits the ground. It’s such a small thing but either way, it’s still an improvement.
The ability to zoom in is a bit of a gimmick but what it does do is allow you to examine your character’s looks. It’s not really a gameplay enhancement but it’s still a cool addition for those who enjoy armor fashion.
The shared stash is a worthwhile addition removing the need for muling. While space is still limited to a fairly large grid, it at least lets you build up an armory for all your characters. You will still need to pick and choose because even though the shared stash is large, with multiple characters all dipping in you will need to be picky.
As some of you may know, a duping bug was found with the shared stash in the Alpha but this was single-player so it has no real impact on online play when it arrives. Still, it will be good to see it gone just to make sure it doesn’t appear later in multiplayer if that was even possible.
Item compare on the SHIFT key is definitely one of the best improvements, it may be a simple addition but it makes life so much easier, especially if you’re carrying around back-up gear or wondering what to ditch from the stash.
The in-game map remains largely unchanged. With more screen space now available to modern gamers, the size of the map when minified makes it completely legible. It’s no longer the blocky mess we got used to in Diablo 2 classic.
Controller support is something we did not try. Why? Well playing Diablo 2 on a controller to me is just so wrong, in fact, you should be sent to the depths of Diablo’s hell for even wanting to try it. It’s not how I would play Diablo 2 Resurrected and it’s not how I would have played the Diablo 2 Classic if the option had been there. You simply cannot beat keyboard and mouse on a PC.
Now I know we should have tested the controller support but time was short and we didn’t want to waste what time we had messing about with controllers.
The Diablo 2 Resurrected quality of life changes are small enough but significant enough to make the game more enjoyable overall.
Hunting down bugs in a game that has relatively few bugs is not easy. One thing we did notice, especially on Elly’s PC (which is exactly the same spec as mine), was crashing in Act 2. Elly had a lot of crashes in Act 2 and she could tell it was about to crash as the game would freeze for a few seconds and then resume. This would happen three or four times until it totally crashed out. I may have had this only twice over the four days. If you watched Elly’s Youtube stream you will have seen this happen a few times.
The loading screen bug where the game is actually active in the background behind the loading screen is a pain and needs to be fixed. This scuppered Elly’s last run on Duriel right before the Diablo 2 Resurrected alpha concluded. There was a lot of swearing going when that happened.
I did notice some graphics glitches like background art would occasionally pop on top of the monsters or characters very quickly with a quick flicker but this only appeared a couple of times in Act 2.
Overall there wasn’t anything glaringly annoying or problematic other than the crashes. I was expecting to see issues all over the place, a lot of alpha tests I have taken part in had real problematic issues. In the case of Diablo 2 Resurrected’s alpha, it was really quite smooth.
The Diablo 2 Resurrected Alpha is Done – Final Thoughts
As far as remasters go, Diablo 2 Resurrected is shaping up to be one of the best I have seen along with Command and Conquer remastered. The development team has taken real care to preserve everything that makes Diablo 2 one of the best ARPGs ever made, and then added the bells and whistles of modern visuals and. At the same time, they’ve taken areas of the game that could be mildly annoying and fixed them to enhance the whole experience with the QOL improvements.
So who is this for? To be honest, I think if you have been playing Diablo 2 from day one and still play it today, buying this will be money well spent. For new players, it looks like it will be a must-have title. Of course, we still don’t know everything about the remaster but this has been a great taste of what’s to come in the complete package.
If you’ve been away from Diablo 2 for a while, looking at the remaster is probably how you remembered it looked back in the day. In fact, the old sprites used in Diablo 2 Classic look very rough in comparison even if they were impressive at the time.
This is why the Diablo 2 Resurrected remaster works. It’s giving you the Diablo 2 you thought you played when you were 20 years younger. That’s the sign of a great remaster, making you think you’re playing the same game as you remember it all those years ago.
Well, that’s the Diablo 2 Resurrected alpha over. Next up, the multiplayer test. We’ll have to wait patiently for news on that, but considering how well the Alpha went, hopefully, it won’t be too long a wait.