Blizzard Entertainment and Vicarious Visions, the former Activision-Blizzard subsidiary that was recently folded into Blizzard proper
, have announced Diablo 2
Resurrected, the long-rumored
remaster of the 2000 action-RPG classic
. It’s due out in 2021 for PC, PS5, Xbox Series X, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo SwitchResurrected will include all of the content from the Lord of Destruction expansion pack
, including the Assassin and Druid player classes. The announcement was the climactic moment of BlizzCon 2021
, aka “Blizzconline,” Blizzard’s virtual celebration of its company’s games and community after the COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation
of last year’s event.
“It’s a great time to bring back Diablo 2,” Diablo franchise executive producer Rod Fergusson told IGN, referencing last year’s 20th anniversary of Diablo 2 and this year’s 30th anniversary of Blizzard itself. And, he was clear, “it’s a remaster, not a remake. We wanted the
game.” Diablo 2 Resurrected has a modern 3D layer on top that features particle-based rendering, dynamic lighting, and, where appropriate, upgraded visuals and sound. On PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X, the remaster will run at 4K and 60fps. PC will also support ultra-wide monitors and gamepads. On the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 families of consoles along with the Nintendo Switch, it will run at lower resolutions. Cross-progression will be supported on any platforms that choose to enable it, according to Blizzard.Underneath, though, is the original game, at 800×600 resolution. And like Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary and LucasArts’ Special Editions of Monkey Island 1
, you can press a button to switch back and forth between the original game and the remastered version. Cinematics, however, can’t simply be up-rezzed. Blizzard and Vicarious Visions are “fully remaking every minute” of Diablo 2’s cinematics, which amounts to roughly 27 minutes of pre-rendered video.
You can press a button to switch back and forth between the original game and the remastered version.
“It’s like video game archaeology, learning how these things work,” said Vicarious Visions design director Robert Gallerani. “Because we’re using that old system to drive things forward, we keep everything the same. Since it’s not a remake, we don’t have to rebuild [anything]. It’s basically like we’re changing the oil, making sure it runs smoothly, but we’re not rebuilding everything. We are literally combing every single piece of code.” And, he noted with a smile, “when we do fix a bug we have to be very careful because everything is interconnected.”
What he means by that, Fergusson explained, is that the Diablo 2 Resurrected team is “embracing the quirks.” That means some of the now-antiquated (read: goofy by modern standards) animations are still there. But some quality-of-life additions have been made. Some are just baked in, such as new ambient noises like wind rustling the leaves in trees and a shared stash so that you no longer have to make a mule character. Others will be opt-in, such as auto-pickup for gold and loot drops for those that don’t want to have to click on every single piece of loot on the ground.
Blizzard has added a shared stash so that you no longer have to make a mule character.
On PS5 and Xbox Series X, the team is “taking advantage of what’s there” on the new consoles, such as the aforementioned higher framerates and resolution as well as the faster loading times the SSD drives afford. Blizzard is looking at adding things like raytracing effects, but Fergusson was clear about not promising anything and suggested that if any specific next-gen upgrades are added, they’ll come along after the game’s release later in 2021.
Finally, with regard to multiplayer, couch co-op hasn’t been added – Fergusson called it “a bridge too far” for this faithful remaster effort – but all of Diablo 2’s original eight-player online functionality is still here. And you’ll now have the option to store characters on Battle.net for dedicated-server play. “It’s more secure” when it comes to bots, item duping, and other cheating-related issues that ran rampant in Diablo 2 back in the day, Gallerani said.
A technical alpha test is planned for the near future on PC only. Sign-ups will happen on the official Diablo website, and testers will be randomly chosen – not unlike how it went with the original Diablo 2 beta back in early 2000.
Ryan McCaffrey is IGN’s Executive Editor of Previews. Follow him on Twitter at @DMC_Ryan, catch him on Unlocked, and drop-ship him Taylor Ham sandwiches from New Jersey whenever possible.