A lot is riding on Blizzard’s next remaster project, Diablo II Resurrected.
After successfully spit-shining StarCraft Remastered in 2016, the Blizzard Classic team followed with the unforgivable milkweed that is WarCraft III: Reforged—and I say “unforgivable” because we’re currently eight unfulfilled months beyond that game’s last tease of highly demanded features. That’s harsh stuff for anyone who chose to spend $30 (or more) on Reforged, so it still needs fixing before we can pretend the company’s shaky reputation is anywhere near restored. (Representatives for multiple Activision and Blizzard projects have still yet to respond to my ongoing questions about WC3R. After a no-show at BlizzCon 2021, the developer blamed “the nature of the world today” in March for a lack of updates, even though fans had created their own grassroots WC3R solutions in that same span of time.)
Having said that, there’s arguably a larger audience in the world that has moved on from WarCraft III yet still has a soft spot for one of Blizzard’s most enduring classic games: Diablo II. Twenty-one years later, Diablo II‘s gameplay core holds up remarkably well and certainly more so than the original, genius-yet-clunky Diablo. I love Diablo II, and I love the idea of a refreshed, allegiant Diablo II.
Its refresh was a terribly kept secret up until its formal February 2021 announcement. Surprise or no, it’s a welcome chance at Blizzard semi-redemption. The company sure seems to think so, having reportedly ripped the project from its original Blizzard Classic team and handed it to Vicarious Visions. (Vicarious Visions’ last game, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, proved some serious game-remake chops.)
The abbreviated road to hell
Thus, I’m absolutely curious how D2:R will turn out—and in roughly 24 hours, I’ll get to find out by diving into its first public technical alpha test. Starting at 1 pm EDT on Thursday, April 8, we’ll be among the first in the world to test a limited chunk of the game’s remake, ahead of the demo’s wider public launch starting Friday, April 9. (Should you want to join that test, sign up here and cross your fingers.)
Blizzard is also letting me stream my gameplay with zero restrictions, so if you don’t want to wait for my typed impressions, you can tune in by returning to this very page at 1:30 pm EDT on Thursday, April 8. I’m adding a half hour of buffer time just in case. Should we run into technical difficulties for any reason, I have the original D2 client installed, and either way, I’ll be here streaming via the Ars Technica Twitch channel for three hours, until 4:30 pm EDT. We’ll embed the video here, but you’ll need to click through to Twitch if you want to use its chat functionality. (On the flip side, if Twitch chat sounds awful to you for any reason, our embedded livestream will protect you from it.)
The D2:R single-player demo includes the game’s first two acts (out of the four in the primary retail game and a fifth act added via the “Lords of Destruction” expansion pack), and it will let players go hands-on with three of the final game’s classes (Barbarian, Sorceress, and Amazon). I’ll only be able to stream a 1080p signal at 60 fps, despite sales pitches like ultrawide support and 4K-friendly assets. But I’ll do my best to break down what I see on my end while rapidly clicking through demons and marching east toward Lut Gholein. I’ll also take my sweet time breaking down the remaster’s biggest sales pitches, particularly quality-of-life touches and the promise of swapping between old graphics and new with a single button press.
The remaster’s multiplayer tests will follow later this year, Blizzard says, so this week’s test will only be “multiplayer” if you pile into chat on Thursday and send very specific gameplay requests.