Fans have been screaming at Blizzard to remaster Diablo 2 for an age. This year, it’s finally happening — and as an added bonus, you’ll be able to get that classic Diablo 2 experience on your PS5, Xbox Series X, and the Switch.
Diablo 2 Resurrected, which is being built by the same team behind the Tony Hawk Pro Skater remasters, was formally announced this morning at BlizzConline. There wasn’t an official release date beyond 2021, although Blizzard did announce that players could sign up for a PC alpha test through the Diablo 2 website.
A big change is that Diablo 2 will be coming to consoles for the first time, with “cross-progression” between platforms via Battle.net. Kotaku Australia was told during an embargoed interview that cross-play won’t be supported, but cross-generational play — PS4 and PS5 users, or Xbox One and Xbox Series X users — will be.
Robert Gallerani and Rod Fergusson both explained that Diablo 2 Resurrected would exist as a standalone product to Diablo 2, avoiding the problems and subsequent backlash that plagued Warcraft 3: Reforged.
“One of the early [lessons] was that the original game is there for those players who want it,” Fergusson said. “That was one of the first decisions we made going into this; we weren’t going to replace [Diablo 2] original. D2 original is going to live on, and Diablo 2: Resurrected is going to be a separate game.”
A key benefit of this approach is that it’ll ensure that existing Diablo 2 mods and total conversions will still work, while newer players will have the benefits of Battle.net’s more modern backend, including its updated anti-cheat protections. “We love the mod community and we love what they’ve done in the 20 years since. The mod community is what’s keeping Diablo 2 vibrant today,” Fergusson said.
“But some of those mods are quite invasive to the game, and can cause those situations [like] hacking, cheating, bots or exploits. And one of the things we want to do is have a place where we could have a safer, a more secure ecosystem with modern Battle.net on [Diablo 2 Resurrected]. But if there was a mod that somebody truly loved, we didn’t want that taken away from there. So we left it, it still works with D2 original. If you still want that experience, that experience is there for you.”
To accompany the official reveal, Blizzard also released a string of assets showcasing the updated textures, ultrawide support, effects and more. Those with 21:9 monitors will be real proud — Diablo 2 looks very nice when you’ve got that extra real estate for your inventory tetris.
All seven classes from the original Diablo 2, and the Lords of Destruction expansion, will come with Resurrected at launch. Fergusson and Gallerani, however, stressed that Resurrected would have mod support of its own, but it won’t support “the same types of mods” you can access today.
“We’re not going to have — like when you open the game, there won’t be a tab that says ‘Load your mods now’,” Gallerani explained. “We’re cleaning up the data, making it easier to understand how things work, but we’re not creating mod tools or a mod browser for [Resurrected],” he said.
Resurrected will have a string of quality-of-life changes outside of that — shared stashes are a major inclusion, easier item comparisons, item linking in chat, easier drop-in, drop-out invites for multiplayer and the ability to toggle auto gold collection. But principally, Diablo 2 Resurrected will be the same Diablo 2 experience. (And like other remasters, including StarCraft and Command & Conquer: Remastered Collection, players will be able to hit a button and toggle between the classic visuals and the modern style.)
And being on consoles doesn’t mean the classic Diablo 2 experience is being rewritten for that sphere. Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls famously added a dodge roll. That isn’t being added into the console versions of Diablo 2 Resurrected, partially because the developers felt it was already easier to dodge incoming attacks on a controller.
“We don’t want to change what is core to Diablo 2, but we do want to get more people to appreciate it,” Gallerani said. “When you look at Diablo 3 and the differences between PC and console, there’s a handful of different mechanics, different balance. Because we have cross-progression, we really need to stay within a lot of confines.”
“In addition, certain changes would make it not Diablo 2 anymore. So doing something like, OK, you’re not going to have inventory tetris, you’re going to have a list of items. Regardless of the fact of how you would play on your console and then bring it back over to PC and see what state it was in, it just didn’t feel like Diablo 2 anymore. So under the hood, it’s still Diablo 2 — it’s still the original game, you’re on console on PC. You can use the controller on console or PC if you like. So that’s where a lot of our effort was done, still playing the same game but now you just get more options of how you play.”
Blizzard stressed that all of Diablo 2‘s cinematics — around 27 minutes — have been rebuilt from scratch. Some of the original 3D art assets were also rebuilt from the ground up, with Gallerani explaining that some of the original files had been lost over time.
The studio worked on what Gallerani called a “70/30 rule”. “70 per cent of the look and feel had to be dead on nostalgia, exactly what you remember. But 30 per cent is a more modern take, more flourish, more fidelity, things like that,” Gallerani said.
We’ll have more on Diablo 2 Resurrected when it’s officially released and when the PC alpha goes live sometime later this year. I’d be surprised if this doesn’t go gangbusters for Blizzard: fans have been screaming at Blizzard to remake Diablo 2 for years, and it looks like the lessons from Warcraft 3: Reforged have been well and truly learned.
If you’re interested in the Diablo 2 remake, it’s currently retailing for $69.95 on PC; no word on Switch or console pricing for now, or whether it’ll get a physical release.