Diablo II: Resurrected Technical Alpha Impressions

Evil has resurrected. But after 20 years, has Diablo II aged like a fine potion, or has is it dated and shrivelled up like a wrinkly Deckard Cain?

Over the last four days I have been almost non-stop bingeing the Diablo II: Resurrected Technical Alpha on PC, which ran from the 10th – 14th of April and gave select individuals the chance to try out this revamped version of Blizzard’s classic dungeon-crawler RPG. Players were given the chance to participate by signing up, however I managed to score a code through fellow gaming website, IGN Australia, who I had the opportunity to play on behalf of.

Remember the South Park WoW guy? That was me over the last few days.

Much to my delight, I soon discovered that Resurrected is truly the definitive version of Diablo II that fans have always wanted. In sticking with the original gameplay Diablo II has become so well-known for, Resurrected adds unmatched graphical detail, finesse, and multiple quality-of-life changes to truly bring this cult classic into the realm of modern gaming.

But what’s so good about Resurrected anyway?
If it’s the same gameplay as it was 20 years ago, is it worth playing again?
Well you might find out if you’d…


What did the Alpha involve?

Though I was hoping for the chance to once again venture all the way from the Rogue Encampment through Hell and into the fearsome Frigid Highlands, the Alpha included only Acts I and II of the game without any option of choosing difficulty. This gave a short snippet of the game: enough to keep me occupied for the few days while the Alpha was active, but certainly left me wanting more. It felt quite jarring to finish Act II without the ability to leave Lut Gholein and sail East towards to Kurast.

Choice of class too was limited. All seven familiar faces stand in front of you around the campfire at the “Select Hero Class” screen, however you only have the option to choose from three: Amazon, Barbarian, and Sorceress. Having played primarily as Paladin and Druid in the past, this came as a bit of a shock, but it forced me instead to step outside of my comfort zone and pick a class I normally would not. Eventually I picked Barbarian, not because of his well-defined rock hard quads that you get to admire each time you boot up the game, but because his emphasis on dual-wielding and melee abilities was more suited to my style of play.

After completing Act II with a Barbarian and dying against Duriel multiple times, I decided to play through the game again choosing the Sorceress class. This came as a massive shock after playing such a resilient melee character. Replayability of the alpha was limited to playing through these same two acts as the three different classes, but still kept me entertained and occupied.

What has changed?

You’d have to have a light radius of 0 not to see the biggest change of all in Resurrected: the visuals. A game that once ran in 4:3 at an impressive resolution of 640 x 480 (and increased to 800 x 600 in Lord of Destruction), now has been brought into the realms of modern gaming in full 3D. Finally you can experience Diablo II in glorious 16:9 without the need for a mod! Graphical options are plenty and can be adjusted to suit your PC – I ran the game at 2560 x 1440 at maximum settings and had a consistent framerate of >60fps, though the game can be run at higher resolutions if you have the capacity.

Plenty of graphical options available to cater to different systems.

What impressed me most about this 3D visual upgrade was the game’s ability to retain the dark, gothic aesthetic of the original’s environment and enemy designs, all while adding a level of detail as if it were a game created only recently. You’ll immediately be able to recognise every single character, item, enemy and small environmental detail from the original game despite the graphical overhaul. Even the game’s UI and menu’s are significantly more detailed while retaining the feel of the original. As an added feature, at any point in the game by pressing “G”, you’ll be able to swap between Resurrected and Legacy graphics, which is a nice touch even through it likely has little functionality.

Press G to travel back 20 years.

Aside from the graphical changes, there are a few other improvements to the interface, options and gameplay that help to update this now 20-year-old game. The character selection screen now feels like logging into World of Warcraft or Diablo III, instead providing a detailed view of your character, their equipment, and an intricate backdrop of whichever area you most recently saved in.

I don’t remember those quads being in the original.

There are also several new settings compared to the original, including accessibility options for those with low vision or colour blindness. One of the most satisfying changes is “Auto Collect Gold” which is set to default, meaning that you won’t have to spend time frantically clicking on coins after they fling out of a chest. Simply walk over the gold and your character will pick it up. A game-changer!

What hasn’t changed?

Literally everything else. This is Diablo II: LoD gameplay almost completely untouched. Every movement, attack, spell and interaction feels 100% as it did all those years ago, and fans of the original will appreciate this far more than newcomers to the series. Every dungeon and encounter has been lovingly recreated in the updated art style, blending traditional gameplay with an attractive modern aesthetic. Most notably, the boss fights still feel exactly as they used to, as I especially noted while facing off against Duriel, trapped in the tiny arena chugging potions rapidly.

The worst boss in the game has not changed one bit. He’ll still mess ya up.

Through my time playing the alpha there were several other elements that had not been changed – the audio including sound effects and soundtrack, while having been remastered, is almost identical, though now sounds crisp and clean. As a massive fan of Matt Uelmen’s atmospheric and ambient score, I’m glad there have been no significant changes made. The inventory system also is identical – same number of slots, ability to swap between two sets of weapons, and the use of your character’s stash (both personal and shared).

More inventory space for all your gems. And Wirt’s Leg, of course.

Reportedly cutscenes have been completely remastered, though in the technical alpha you’re presented with the original cutscenes (which now appear incredibly pixelated!) along with a VISUAL PLACEHOLDER stamp in the bottom right to give you the impression that these are not being kept.

Were there many bugs?

After playing for approximately 20 hours, bugs I encountered were few and far between. In fact, the most common bug I encountered tried to kill me and shot electricity when I attacked it (damn you, Death Beetles!). Though in all seriousness, the game played almost flawlessly. There was the occasional graphical glitch, such as a model popping in or the odd enemy clipping through a closed door. One of the more amusing bugs I encountered was after breaking down the door to Duriel in Tal Rasha’s tomb. After assembling the Horadric Staff, a beam of energy shatters the wall leading to the boss fight. Upon exiting this area there wall would return intact as if to say, “Don’t go in there, Duriel will f*ck you up.

Chamber’s closed, better go home.

Though my experience was mostly uneventful, other players found more interesting bugs, such as one that gave the ability to easily duplicate items. This is the purpose of an alpha test, after all.

Final Thoughts

Although changes are minimal, Resurrected will make you happy to double-dip into what is essentially the same game with a fresh coat of paint. Those who spent hundreds of hours in slashing away in single player or online attempting to climb the ladder will undoubtedly feel right at home. Having played through Diablo II: Lord of Destruction only months ago, booting up Resurrected was as simple as jumping back into the game I already knew so well.

Newcomers to the series may be surprised by Resurrected’s simple, looping gameplay, as in the last couple decades RPGs have become increasingly complex. By today’s standards the game is easily approachable and does well to ease you into a challenge. Hopefully this will also expose a new generation of gamers to an experience often considered as one of the most iconic, influential PC games ever made.

In conclusion, Diablo II: Resurrected is without a doubt the game Diablo fanatics have dreamed of for years. While Resurrected has revitalised the game’s visuals tremendously, it manages to do so while retaining the most important aspects that fans have grown to love: traditional RPG gameplay, and a dark, gothic aesthetic. So, will it be it worth playing? Yes, without a doubt.

The game launches later this year. You can find more info via the official website:
https://diablo2.blizzard.com/en-us/

The Legend of Zelda Turns 35

On February 21st 1986, a brand new game called The Legend of Zelda was released in Japan for the Family Computer Disk System. More than a year later, the game was released outside of Japan for the Nintendo Entertainment System, and became the first home console game to include an internal battery for saving data directly to the cartridge. The game’s directors Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka, both relatively new to creating games, unlikely realised at the time the lasting impact they would leave on the videogame industry.

Two budding young game developers: Shigeru Miyamoto (left) and Takashi Tezuka (right). (Source: Super Mario World interview, 1990)

Now thirty-five years on, the series truly has become a legend. With 19 main entries to the series spanning decades of home and portable consoles, multiple spin-off games, an animated TV series, novels and manga, and even a live-action Netflix series (which has reportedly been cancelled). Certainly Zelda has become one of the most widely-celebrated video game series of all time, and more recently the legend continues with the announcement of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD for Nintendo Switch, and the continuing development of Breath of the Wild 2.

It’s a series that has definitely had a profound impact on me; the first game I ever played and completed was Link’s Awakening for the Gameboy. Without this series I don’t think I ever would have been quite so passionate about games, and I’m sure the same goes for many of you reading this.

So what are some of your favourite memories of The Legend of Zelda? I’d love to hear from you!

Here are some of mine:

Please leave some of your favourite Zelda memories below, or reach out to me on social media.

Diablo II Returns!

After months of speculation and rumours, Blizzard have finally officially announced the release of Diablo II: Resurrected for PC, PS4/PS5, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox Series S|X. The gameplay looks like it stays true to the original, while offering updated graphics and widescreen gameplay. It will have an RRP of $69.90 aud on launch, or $80 bundled with a copy of Diablo III.

Will you be playing through Diablo II again? It’s easily one of my favourite games of all-time, and I only just did another playthrough last year, but I’m still pretty keen to get my hands on this! Pre-registration is open now:
https://diablo2.blizzard.com/

Atelier Ryza 2 PS5 Review

A surp-Ryza-ngly thrilling JRPG!

The Atelier series of games began over 20 years ago, with the first game in the series, Atelier Marie: The Alchemist of Salburg, releasing all the way back in 1997 for the Sony PlayStation. An “atelier” is a workshop or studio, and this title is definitely reflected in the series, which have a heavy focus on alchemy, collection and creation of items. Thanks to their cute characters and unique gameplay, Atelier games have gained quite a cult following over the last couple of decades.

Atelier Marie Playstation 1 PS1
Atelier Marie, Sony PlayStation, 1997 (Japan only)

Developed by Gust, a division of Koei Tecmo, there are now 22 games in the main series, and numerous spin-offs, remakes and ports. And yet, this is the first time I’ve ever played an Atelier game. What have I been doing wasting my life without these games!? Well weep for me no longer, because I have finally seen the light, and experienced the sweet charm that is cute girls doing alchemy with Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy for Nintendo Switch and Sony PlayStation PS4/PS5.

A direct sequel to Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout, the game centres around the peppy and spirited Reisalin “T̶h̶i̶g̶h̶z̶a̶ Ryza” Stout: a budding alchemist, teacher, and a friend to absolutely everyone she encounters. In typical JRPG fashion you control Ryza as the main character, and recruit several party members during progression of the game’s story, many of whom are characters from the previous game. Despite not having played the original game, I still managed to gain a decent understanding of who all the characters were and what they meant to Ryza and the game’s story. If possible I would recommend to play the original game first, but if you’re in my situation, I don’t think it detracts much from your overall enjoyment of the game.

Atelier Ryza PS4 PS5 Voluptuous Thighs
Main character, Ryza, known for her voluptuous… personality.

Gameplay is fairly straight-forward: collect items for alchemy from different areas of the map, take them back to your Atelier and use them to craft various items. The more you are able to craft, the more areas of the map you can explore, the more efficient you can become in combat, and the further you can progress the main story and side missions. It’s a very simple concept but incredibly satisfying – coming across that rare item out in the field and bringing it back to be thrown in the cauldron to create something completely different becomes very addicting. There’s also quite a bit of skill needed to synthesise high-quality or complex items, as each ingredient has a particular level of quality and various skills that might be transferred to the synthesised item. This is an essential gameplay mechanic, and certainly enhances other aspects of gameplay such as exploration and combat.

Atelier Ryza PS4 PS5 Synthesis Screen
The synthesis screen, allowing you to add materials to create an array of items.

So the game is completely peaceful, right? No fighting, just strolling around picking flowers and creating items to gift to townspeople?

Wrong. Ryza LOVES to fight.

Adorable sheep, sludgy slimes, rare dragons, immortal suits of armour, Ryza slaughters them all with ease to collect their contents and throw them into the boiling alchemy pot. This is done with the assistance of two other active party members, and another party member that can swap in during combat. You have the option to swap between characters and perform attacks, blocks, special skills, and use items to defeat the helpless creatures. Combat also utilises an “active time battle” system, which makes fighting much more engaging than traditional turn-based JRPG battles. Performing particular skills at the request of your allies will trigger your party’s skills and cause a chain of attacks for massive damage. It’s quite satisfying when a single attack ends up becoming a barrage from all of your characters at once. This means most of the time combat will be an absolute breeze and you won’t even have to consider your actions, but scattered throughout the world and as you progress the story are various bosses, and these can be a bit more of a challenge.

Atelier Ryza PS4 PS5 Combat
The dynamic combat screen, which allows you to swap between characters at any point.

It’s not all about crafting and killing though, as a large component of the game involves exploring ruins, unravelling mysteries, and revealing the truth around a mysterious character who hatched from an egg known as Fi (no, not the talking sword). These essentially acts as “dungeons”: separate areas with a unique visual style, specific enemies to fight and items to collect, and a boss at the end. While exploring the ruins, fighting enemies, and using various crafted items, your goal is to piece together fragments of each area and discover the history of the location through snippets of text. Ryza is also in possession of a magical compass that guides her towards points of interest in each location. How convenient! Overall I found collecting and piecing together these fragments to be a little bit tedious, but the reward is worth the hassle as it allows you to gain points needed to synthesise new items. Exploring these ruins is not an optional part of the game, and is required in order to progress the main story.

Atelier Ryza PS4 PS5 Exploration Underwater City Ruins
One of the game’s ruins: an ancient underwater city. Doesn’t look very ruined to me!

In addition to the main story there is plenty of extra content to keep you hooked on Atelier Ryza. Numerous side quests involving the game’s main characters and townspeople, levelling up the shops located in the town, unlocking new parts of the skill tree, upgrading weapons at the local blacksmith, and befriending and sending out an adorable Puni (slime) on missions to collect alchemy items. There’s even a screenshot mode where you can pose Ryza, other characters and enemies and take some amusing shots (pictured below) – an essential part of any modern video game! I had a thrilling time with all these optional parts of the game, and they definitely add much more gameplay value than just powering through the ruins and main story.

Atelier Ryza PS4 PS5 Photo Mode alchemy pot
Ryza only uses the finest ingredients in her alchemy.

With a crisp anime art-style, 4K resolution on the PS5, vibrant colours and lighting, and detailed character models, Atelier Ryza is one of the best-looking JRPGs I’ve seen yet. Some of the environmental models can look a bit jagged up close, and animations during character interactions are noticeably robotic, but overall it’s a very visually-pleasing game. Combine that with a brilliant acoustic score from composer Kazuki Yanagawa, who has composed music for almost all the main Atelier games, and you’ve got an incredibly charming aesthetic for the game. His music has a refreshing, calm, folky sound with plenty of acoustic instruments and catchy melodies, and the occasional intense upbeat song during the game’s combat and boss fights – it’s a perfect fit for the series.

After playing Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy on PlayStation 5, I’m intrigued by the rest of the series and will certainly be playing some of the earlier titles for more alchemical action. And if you’re like me and have never played an Atelier game before, don’t hesitate to try out Ryza 2, even with it being a direct sequel.

So why should I play it?

  • You enjoy JRPGs, particularly those with a focus on collecting/crafting.
  • You’re an anime fan and enjoy series with cute characters.
  • You’ve never played a game in the Atelier series.
  • You want a decent JRPG to play on the PS5.

But why shouldn’t I play it?

  • You don’t enjoy games with a focus on collecting/crafting.
  • Cute anime girls might make you embarrassed.
  • If you don’t have the time to commit hours to a lengthy JRPG.

A review copy of the game for PlayStation 5 was provided for the purpose of this review.