The weekend just gone was the open beta for Diablo II: Resurrected, which is what you call a game when you're remastering it and want to get cute with me. But in fairness to it, Diablurrected does look very lovely and fresh. It's like when you get a spang new pair of jeans and look at yourself in the mirror. Somehow the new togs really enhance what was already there.
In this case, though, what's already there is pretty brilliant. It's Diablo II, for crying out loud. By my estimate, it's one of the best games ever made, and it's hard to serve me a bad version of it. Admittedly, I was only running about in single player, so can't comment on the lack of decent multiplayer features (and I did actually run into a couple of annoying lag problems even by myself), but by and large, Resurrected is the Diablo II experience we were all expecting. Sort of like pizza, or an ice cream sundae. You put that in front of me, I'm going to derive a base level of satisfaction.
If you're new to Diablo, I will briefly explain that it is an action RPG with a lot of hacking and slashing, and also just an incredible amount of inventory Tetris. I'm not selling it. Look, it is genuinely amazing. Following on from the events of the first game, an unnamed hero has attempted to contain Diablo (Lord of Terror) in their own body, but has become corrupted. As very cool adventurers you and your pals - or just you, if you're not playing PvE in a group - follow along behind this Dark Wanderer to sort of un-screw all the screwed up stuff that errupts in his wake. Think of it as like spontaneous generation, except with demons instead of flies. You could be a big burly barbarian or a sorcerer slinging spells. It is both fun and full of fantasy loot. You will spend a lot of time comparing the relative benefits of different bucklers.
I was surprised how quickly I dropped into my old routine. Since Diablo's areas are regenerated fresh each time, I like playing with the minimap onscreen to help aid my navigation. I was rusty, though, and I ended up playing as the Amazon so that running around and killing all the monsters was a bit easier. Though she isn't my favoured class, it remains satisfying to cleanse the world of sin, if I may take a tone that is somewhat alarming. It's pretty dark and grim in the starting area, which sets a nice tone before you go to an incredibly bright desert later on. I had to muck about with the brightness of the header image so you could actually see any of it.
I also want to note that I really appreciated that they've kept literally all the sounds the same. The weird bloopbloopbloop drip when a potion drops. The sharp TING! of some weapons, and the jingle when you pick up gold. And all the enemy noises too! Including the strange screams of girl demons when their souls exit their bodies as you run them through with a spear. Incredible. I loved this about Diablo III, too.
But even as I was playing I was like, "Ehhh, doesn't look that different. What's the big deal? Could just play the old one still if y'ask me." Time makes fools of us all, and I didn't remember old Diablo II looking substantially different. Except it is! And Resurrected will remind you of this, because if you tap G it will instantly switch back to the old look.
How weird is that? It's like looking 20 years in the face all at once, and I do not like it. Except obviously I actually do. With a tremendous lack of foresight, I only captured myself doing it by the town portal there, but I was hotswapping all over the place. You can do it whenever. In the middle of a fight, or zoomed in while chatting to Charsi the blacksmith (whose forge facility also looks much improved this time around). Even the aspect ratio changes. It's so much fun! Tee hee! And it serves as a way to convince you that this remaster needs to exist in the first place, since playing the game is otherwise basically unchanged.
This isn't the first game to do this kind of hotswap back and forth though. You could do it with the special editions of The Secret Of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2, for example, and some of the Halo remasters. It must be a chunk of extra work for something that most players will only do a couple of times to go "woah, it looks so different!" before forgetting about it. But I really like it! And in this case, because it's a game that I know so well, it has reinforced how useless memory is and how long 20 years can be. Good gravy. The final version of Diablo II: Resurrected is out on September 23rd, if you too wish to remember the 00s.