There are rumblings of a Diablo II Remake, but Blizzard might want to think twice.
Diablo II is an incredible video game. I played more hours of D2 than I care to admit, and I have fond memories of waiting for the ladder resets to race to the top of the rankings. Not that I ever got there.
I always thought D2 was the video game equivalent of The Empire Strikes Back. Diablo 2 built on the story and gameplay of the original Diablo and expanded it in all the right places, adding memorable areas, great characters, and an improved multiplayer system into the mix. New classes were added and the combat was vastly improved.
Now, there are rumors that a Diablo II remaster is on the way, and I honestly don’t think Blizzard should bother. This isn’t just some hot take, either. While they wouldn’t be the first company to try using nostalgia to make some money, they don’t have a lot to gain from this remaster. At least, that’s the way I see it. While I’m far from the kind of purist that insists we keep all the old games pristine by never touching them again, I think it’s best to leave D2 alone.
When Is the Diablo II Remaster Coming Out?
According to all the rumors, the Diablo II remaster is set to appear sometime in Q4 2020, and the title is supposedly Diablo II: Resurrected. However, nothing has been confirmed by Blizzard regarding the game. It seems at least somewhat likely that we’ll see a delay in production from the pandemic, too.
If it’s like typical remasters, then it’s likely that we’ll get improved graphics and textures along with some other minor changes. I know the fandom has been clamoring for increased party sizes, some bug fixes, increased stash size, and some general QoL stuff. I could see some of these things appearing in the game, but we’ll have to wait for Blizzcon or whatever they decide to do this year to find out more.
Remasters Are Not Blizzard’s Strong Suit
I trust(ed) Blizzard to make great games, but I don’t know if I trust the company to remaster them. I don’t mean that in a “how can you improve on a perfect game” sense, either.
Blizzard has had some trouble in the past when it comes to their remasters. While the Starcraft remaster went well, Warcraft III Reforged was disappointing. Blizzard didn’t exactly do the game any favors when they under-delivered and then tried to stop people from getting refunds for the game when customers realized the product was poor. Eventually, the company relented under pressure from its player base and offered refunds despite “standing by the quality” of their games.
It’s not like they could admit that they did a bad job, right? Anyway, the point that I’m making is that Blizzard’s track record has been a little less than perfect. Sure, we can argue that one game is not the other and an entirely different team could be on the project. There is still a chance that the remaster could be handled poorly.
But when I look at the best and worst case scenarios, the best case for a remaster is a slightly improved game while the worst case is Warcraft III Reforged. That is a game so screwy that it deleted old campaigns and maps from players’ profiles for the original game. Now imagine that happening in Diablo II where the stakes are quite a bit higher because they include very rare, hard-to-get items. I’m not saying it will, but just noting that any screw-ups are going to be costly to the players.
The bottom line to me is that we might get a game that is moderately better, better in some areas and worse in others, or a lot worse. Based on Blizzard’s past, I don’t see the company pulling off the delicate balancing act required to find success with the remaster of this game, and it might be better to rest on their laurels.
If I can borrow the Star Wars analogy again, we could either get the new Mos Eisley entrance scene and go “neat.” Otherwise, we can get a Greedo shoots first fiasco and shake our heads.
The Half Measures of a Diablo II Remaster Aren’t Enough…
When you consider what is typically included in a Blizzard-style remaster, it doesn’t add up enough to improve Diablo II a lot. After all, the game is a masterpiece, and that makes it harder to go back and change things in a significant way without distorting the core game.
Blizzard can add some sleek graphics, fix up the resolution, get rid of bugs, fine-tune soundtracks, and add quality of life adjustments.There’s no doubt that these changes would be nice, welcome even. They would have been even better 15 years ago and minus a new game’s price tag.
I don’t see these half measures having enough power to motivate people to spend money on a game that’s similar to the one they most likely already own and enjoy. Especially when modders have already handled many of these issues on their own. More on that in a little bit.
Diablo II wouldn’t even see a major benefit from improved cutscene graphics like Warcraft III Reforged, where a major selling point was the redesigned FMVs. It might be cool to see Marius lose his mind in HD or Baal storming the barbarian stronghold, but I don’t know if I’d buy a game because of it.
Blizzard has a very small window for success in another respect, too. They would have to do enough to the original game to make it worth picking up again, but they’d also have to think about the potential for messing with the game too much.
…And Too Many Changes Will Be Unwelcome
On the other side of the coin, Blizzard could opt for some major changes to the game and fans would lose their collective minds. The game could be altered so that Hammerdins aren’t as potent, teleports cost increasingly more mana to prevent spam, immunities are removed to make the game easier, and the graphics look like Diablo 3, removing all the charm and grittiness from the original game.
Now, I don’t think for a second that all of those things would happen. Still the point stands that it wouldn’t take many big changes from Blizzard to mess up the game in a way that would be unacceptable to current and past players of the game. Remember, those are the people that Blizz desperately needs to gain approval from to make this whole thing work.
Blizzard isn’t remastering Diablo II just to give fans what they’ve wanted for years. They’re building goodwill and hype for the next installment of the game that was announced last year. (By the way, that trailer was incredible). In light of those reasons, Blizzard would be wise to release a more modest remaster that won’t rock the boat.
If Diablo II Resurrected launched with improved graphics, a new PvP system, made new runewords, and buffed weaker builds to make them more viable endgame, the game could attract some new players and garner interest from the current D2 players.
Getting any positive fan reaction is going to require a fine touch, a good understanding of the fan base, and a little bit of pure luck. I don’t know if Blizzard has any of those qualities.
I don’t see Blizzard altering enough of the gameplay to make a positive impact without messing up something else. It comes down to two reasons. First, the changes that will overhaul the game are more of a remake than a remaster. That’s a very important distinction. Secondly, Blizzard probably doesn’t want to risk another Warcraft III debacle with Diablo IV on the horizon.
Sadly, the developers at Blizzard are stuck between a rock and a hard place. If there aren’t enough changes, nobody is going to buy the game. If they change too much, then older fans of the game are going to feel like Blizzard just screwed up their favorite game and they aren’t going to buy it.
The Fans Already Did a Better Job
Lastly, Blizzard has stiff competition from its own player base when it comes to making an improved version of Diablo II. While the Median XL modification didn’t overhaul the graphics, it made many other quality of life adjustments that people adored. The mod gave new endgame content, provided new skill trees that completely changed the game, provided new maps, and did so much more. By the way, Median XL is free.
Now, I know you’re saying “What the hell does that have to do with a Diablo II Remake?” Well, if Blizzard can’t make a game that’s better than a fan-made mod, then they are setting themselves up for failure.
Now, there are some things that the studio could do a lot better than Median XL like graphics upgrades and refining the music. Is that going to be enough to make people want to buy the game? It might be cool for some people to see their favorite game in better graphics. I doubt that a lot of people want to pay the full game price tag when they have fan mods to play. Then again, I am sitting here with the Halo 2 remake, so graphics might just do it after all.
That’s not even considering the fact that Blizzard has treated modders poorly in the recent past when they release remasters. A lot of modders in the Warcraft community got a bad deal when the remaster launched.
Blizzard has an insurmountable task ahead of them if they expect people to pay money for a Diablo II remaster. If they touch up the graphics and sound files without changing too much, then they can’t expect people to pay full price. If they change too many things, the game will lose its appeal to half of the intended audience.
Can Blizzard strike a balance and make the remaster good? Perhaps, but I don’t see much in their recent work to suggest that they’ll pull it off in a way that will undoubtedly improve the game without taking away anything important.
Maybe I’m just tired of remakes in general and the lack of creativity coming from the big game developers. If they put half as much energy into pushing forward as they did pulling old games from their grave, people wouldn’t be forced to yearn for a game that came out 20 years ago. Maybe we’d have a better version of Diablo III to hold us over until D4 hits shelves.
Anyway, I hope I can look back at the end of the year and eat all the words I’ve written here, but I’m not going to hold my breath.
(Kyle is our resident remake expert. Check out his super sexy opinions on the Final Fantasy VII Remake and a potential Final Fantasy VI Remake.)
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5 thoughts on “Why the Diablo II Remaster is Bound to Disappoint”
Good article and compelling argument. But I would still buy the hell out of a Diablo 2 remaster. Just saying.
You forget the biggest baddest change Blizzard can and probably will make – online only.