The devil's in the details.
"Tʜɪs ɪs ɴᴏt a reᴍᴀᴋᴇ," sᴀʏs Rod Fergᴜssᴏɴ, ᴡʜᴏ's ʙᴇen ɪɴ ᴄʜᴀʀɢᴇ ᴏꜰ ᴀʟʟ thɪɴgs Diablo ᴀᴛ Blizzard sɪɴce ᴇᴀʀly 2020. He's ᴛᴀʟᴋɪɴg ᴀʙᴏᴜᴛ Diablo 2: Resurrected, a ɴᴇᴡ remᴀster ᴀɴɴᴏunced ᴀᴛ BlizzCᴏɴ ᴏɴ Friᴅᴀʏ. It's ʙᴇen ruᴍᴏʀᴇd ꜰᴏʀ yᴇᴀʀs, ᴀɴd ʜᴇre ɪᴛ ɪs ᴀᴛ lᴀst, comɪɴg ᴏᴜᴛ ᴏɴ PC ᴀɴd cᴏɴsᴏles lᴀᴛer ɪɴ 2021. Tʜᴇre ᴀʀᴇ spɪꜰfy ɴᴇᴡ 3D graphics ᴀɴd sᴏᴍᴇ ᴍᴏᴅᴇʀɴ cᴏɴveniences ɪɴ Resurrected, ʙᴜᴛ ᴇxᴘᴇᴄᴛ ɪᴛ ᴛᴏ ꜰᴇᴇʟ a wʜᴏʟᴇ ʟᴏᴛ ʟɪᴋᴇ tʜᴇ Diablo 2 releᴀsed ɪɴ 2000—ʙᴇᴄᴀᴜsᴇ ɪᴛ ᴘʀᴇᴛᴛʏ ᴍᴜᴄʜ ɪs.
"We're not trying to reverse-engineer the game and build it from scratch to look like D2," Fergusson says. "This is D2. This is the same core gameplay, the same story and tone, even the same voices of the same actors."
Still, there's a lot of new in Diablo 2: Resurrected, including the 3D engine, Dolby surround sound, and the conveniences of a shared item stash and integrated Battle.net friends list. You'll be able to try those things out for yourself before Diablo 2: Resurrect is released in the technical alpha that's coming "soon," according to Blizzard. You can sign up for the alpha at Diablo2.com.
Here's what Blizzard is changing in Diablo 2: Resurrected, and what it's preserving from the original.
More Diablo 2: Ressurected coverage: Blizzard explains how it won't affect classic Diablo 2, unlike the launch mess with Warcraft 3: Reforged. And it turns out Diablo 2's source code and assets weren't so lost after all.What's new
The price: It's $39.99 on PC.
3D graphics and Dolby 7.1: A whole new graphical engine which Blizzard takes pains to point out uses "physically based rendering" and entirely new animations, models and textures, and visual effects. Basically, all you need to know is it's in 3D and the dynamic lighting will gel with the new models. Expect 4K and high refresh rate support.
The surround sound mastering is new, but the sound effects themselves are not. "We're taking the atmospherics in the world up, so you can hear the wind blowing through the streets and the rustling in the jungle," Fergusson says. "But we're not changing those iconic sounds, like placing a skull into a socket or putting a potion into your belt. The things you have those Pavlovian response to, knowing it's Diablo 2. Those are the sounds you're still going to hear."
A shared item stash: Say goodbye to mule characters. You'll now have a shared item cache to use between multiple characters, so you won't need to devote other characters to the task of schlepping and storing gear. It's probably the biggest quality of life change over the original game.
Auto-looting and other QoL upgrades are optional: "Auto-gold is a feature we've added that you can turn on or off," says principal designer Rob Gallerani, who works at Vicarious Visions, a studio now under the Blizzard umbrella. "If you want to pick up gold by clicking on it, you can still do that. If you want to run over it to pick it up, you can run over it." There are new hotkeys. There's an auto-party system for automatically joining games and automatically inviting people to your game, but it's optional. If you want to type "pp" in chat the old-fashioned way, you still can.
Completely remade cutscenes: This is the one place where D2R actually is a remake. The cutscenes have been completely redone rather than upscaled from the original files, but with involvement from people who worked on the cutscenes back in 2000. "We wanted to take this really dramatic story and take all 27 minutes of the cinematics... and remake them from scratch with modern technology and CGI," says Fergusson. "So it's going to look fantastic. But again, same performances, shot-for-shot, if it cut from one scene to another in the original it's going to cut at that moment in the remake of those videos."
Modding: There are 20 years of Diablo 2 mods out there at this point, and Diablo 2: Resurrected will still allow modding. But it won't work exactly the same way, since modern Battle.net is stricter and more secure. Gallerani pointed to .DLL injections as something you could do with classic Diablo 2 that you can't do with D2R. However, he also said that many parts of the game that once required those kinds of invasive mods to modify have been shifted into easily modifiable data, so modders will still be able to access them despite Battle.net's tighter security.
Battle.net friends lists, dedicated servers and security: Gallerani says Blizzard is "actively discouraging" exploits like item duping and botting, things the modern Battle.net client helps prevent. It also offers the advantages of just being able to click on a friend's name to invite them without typing in an IP address or scrolling through a list of game lobbies. Hosting games now means you're hosting a dedicated Battle.net server for people to join.
Cross-progression with consoles: Diablo 2 is being released for PlayStation, Xbox, and Switch, and Blizzard is supporting cross-progression with PC. I asked which consoles, but Fergusson says that's still in discussion (the smart money says Nintendo and Xbox are locked down, but Sony remains up in the air).
Controller support on PC: It's there.
It's a fully separate game: Diablo 2 classic remains untouched. Diablo 2: Resurrected is a separate game. The multiplayer ladder board is now global, but how everything works will be mighty familiar.
Accessibility features: Blizzard added a colorblind/low-vision mode and made changes to how text is displayed to make it more accessible. Blizzard also pointed to controller support as beneficial for accessibility.What's staying the same (Image credit: Blizzard)
The content: Resurrected includes Diablo 2 and the expansion Lord of Destruction. Same seven characters, same campaigns, no new modes or story. It's Diablo 2. Blizzard's developers said they were tempted to add more material, but decided to focus on nailing the remaster.
The original graphics and game code: You can switch to Diablo 2's classic graphics on the fly and swap the new dynamically lit 3D for the classic 2D sprites. That's because Resurrected is running on that original code.
"The logic of the game and all the sprites and pathing and data of the gear, your drop rates and your hit chance and percentages, and whether or not this monster chooses to bleed because you hit them, is still driven by the old game and it still runs at 25 frames per second," said Gallerani. "So all of your breakpoints for your stats are still also going to be the same as they were. On top of that, however, we have much more granularity with framerate, with directions that we render stuff out, with how lighting works, because it's essentially a 3D engine running atop. Think of it like a marionette: the person pulling the strings is the 2D game. But in this case it's a blockier [puppeteer] and a very lifelike puppet."
Original Diablo co-creator David Brevik pointed out on Twitter that they may need to make "small modifications in the AI radius and skill ranges" because the original game was built for 4:3 displays.
The inventory size: Blizzard considered changing this as a modern quality of life update, but decided against it. "One of the things that's really different in D2 compared to contemporary [action-RPGs] is you're not pulling 70 weapons out of your backpack at any point in time," Fergusson said. "You had a very limited inventory. We had lots of discussions about: Should we increase the inventory size? It's one of the places where we felt that that was a bridge too far. It was part of the makeup of the game. The fact that you collect charms that make your character stronger but are eating up your inventory space, it gives you this tension of 'do I want that +15% magic find at the cost of three slots in my inventory?' Those were interesting and meaningful decisions while you're playing. The idea of, 'this will be great for quality of life' became 'no no, we're actually breaking the game mechanics.'"(Image credit: Blizzard)
Smaller, non-game-breaking exploits: Gallerani and Fergusson said that they wanted to preserve things that impacted the flavor of Diablo 2, as long as those exploits weren't being used for things like item duplication. If you knew exactly where to stand in a certain boss fight where the boss couldn't manage to hit you, that'll still work in this game. You'll still be able to play a character in Classic mode and then switch to Lord of Destruction to skip part of the game. Speedrunners rejoice.
Battle.net chat lobbies: "You can totally go into a lobby and do your chat and see your avatars along the bottom just the way it used ot be," Gallerani said.
Ladder is still called ladder: "We don't call it seasons," Gallerani said.
Hell, you can still set up online games over TCP/IP: By default online play is now hosted on dedicated servers rather than locally, but you can still host a game locally and make it finadable through Batlte.net. "You can even go back to TCP/IP connections if you want," Fergusson said. "Because it was there in D2, we're going to keep it there in D2R."