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Diablo 3 brought many changes in formula to the beloved franchise when it first released, though fans who began in the third installment might well wonder how the new Diablo 2: Resurrected from Vicarious Visions and Activision Blizzard handles story, gameplay, and character progression in comparison to Diablo 3. Each game is similar on a surface level, with fast hack-and-slash combat, deep character builds, and seemingly endless amounts of loot to gather, but the two games share rather less in common upon a deeper examination.
If Diablo 3 was a reimagining of what a new Diablo game could look like after Diablo 2, then Diablo 2: Resurrected is a new vision of what that classic game could look with a modern coat of paint and a few solid quality-of-life updates. With detailed new visuals that overlay what is fundamentally the same game that released 21 years ago – or rather the significantly patched, updated, and improved thing that game would eventually come to be – Resurrected offers a chance for players new to the franchise to see what originally made it so popular, and gives veterans a chance to relive the glory days.
Related: How Diablo 2: Resurrected’s Gameplay Holds Up Two Decades Later
Diablo 3 made some striking departures from the successful formula that the first two games built, and as a result, it strongly divided fans when it first released. Many criticisms eventually gave way to a better game, especially after Diablo 3’s only expansion pack, Reaper of Souls, added a large influx of new content with a darker and more familiar tone. Yet now that Diablo 2: Resurrected has been released, it’s plainly apparent just how much the classic Diablo experience differs from the modern – though which side wins out is ultimately a matter of taste.
Diablo 2: Resurrected & Diablo 3 Have Different Combat Pacing
While both games involve furious mouse-clicking (or slapping controller buttons), combat between Diablo 2: Resurrected and Diablo 3 has a very different tenor. The pacing is much slower and more deliberate in Diablo 2, though it still certainly could never be called slow. Diablo 2 also tends to have more enemies that act as HP sponges rather than because they have particularly elaborate combat routines, and variety and strategic interest tend to come more often through enemy combinations.
Diablo 3 shakes this up via its classes and with enemies that move in slightly more varied ways, and particularly through elite enemies and their packs that require more active movement from players. Many enemies use skills that restrict player movement or force them around the map, making its combat more active on a minute-to-minute basis. Where many builds in both games will require some thought toward defense, Diablo 2’s elemental damage types become a paramount consideration in its later difficulty levels, especially given a character’s more restricted mobility. Diablo 3’s characters tend to be more spry, with more movement-oriented abilities available to them, and some of the abilities granted higher-tier enemies reflect this, asking players to get out of the way of barriers, traps, and damage pools rather than just tanking damage. The usual damage type considerations still apply, both in terms of offense and defense, but don’t get the same time in the spotlight.
Diablo 3’s Character Progression Is More Liquid Than Diablo 2: Resurrected
Diablo 2: Resurrected is different from Diablo 3 in some major ways when it comes to character progression and leveling. Diablo 3 automated the process almost entirely, with skills and Runes for those skills unlocking as a character leveled up, and Attributes being distributed automatically with various distribution biases based on a character’s class. Resurrected has a more rigid system, with players being allowed to distribute their points as they wish, and a single skill point being given to distribute at will toward one of a character’s flowchart-styled skill trees.
Related: How to Fix the Character Already on Server Error in Diablo 2: Resurrected
While it’s possible to respec a Diablo 2 character, there are limited opportunities to do so, and when the free ones have run out (doled out once per difficulty level by Akara), it’s a grind to get more, meaning that players will want to at least have some general sense of how they’d like to start their character after going through the game on Normal difficulty. In Diablo 3, while players will still be stockpiling loot that’s geared toward whatever build they have, this can change fluidly since skill points don’t have to be irreversibly distributed, meaning that a build can change on the fly at any time. It’s a more dynamic means of progression with the advantage of not locking characters down quite so much, but which can ultimately make characters feel less singularly monumental – less like an achievement – as they do in Diablo 2: Resurrected.
Diablo 2: Resurrected Brings Back A Near-Perfect Action-RPG Loot System
Diablo 3 Changed The Diablo 2 Gear Priority Formula
Runewords end up being a large part of most endgame gear for Diablo 2: Resurrected, just as they did when it came to Diablo 2’s endgame items, and gear is emphasized differently than in Diablo 3. Certainly there is a lot of overlap, but Diablo 3 places more emphasis generally on set items, which provide increased bonuses the more items a character can equip from the set, and Legendary items that provide specific benefits to whatever build a player is undertaking to perfect. While that methodology isn’t far off from Diablo 2 in some respects, Diablo 2 places a great deal of significance on Charms held in the inventory to provide passive bonuses, and is generally less focused on set items, with Runewords likely being the lynchpins of most builds.
Diablo 2: Resurrected’s Economy Is More Player-Focused Than Diablo 3
Diablo 3 has a considerable crafting system that overtakes Diablo 2’s Runewords in many ways, but also uses more generic drops for the most part, all of which are Account Bound – that is, players are unable to trade them with each other. Diablo 2: Resurrected brings back a very different kind of player economy, one where barter thrives. Given lower drop rates for many items generally, and the fact that a number of desirable Runes have to be farmed from making specific boss runs repeatedly, Diablo 2’s player economy ends up with a very different vibe from Diablo 3, which often pushed players apart rather than together, generally encouraging the use of its endgame activities for farming Account Bound items rather than allowing players to share the spoils of war. Whether that’s a downgrade or an improvement is a matter for debate, but certainly it gives Diablo 2: Resurrected’s economy a rather different tenor.
Related: Diablo 2: Resurrected – The Best Druid Class Builds
Diablo 3’s Structure & Difficulty Have Far More Nuance Than Diablo 2
One of the biggest ways that Diablo 2: Resurrected and Diablo 3 are different from one another is in terms of how the games are structured. Each has several acts and multiple difficulty levels, but these ultimately lead to largely dissimilar outcomes. Diablo 2: Resurrected is generally more difficult as far as the game’s standard difficulty goes, and it only has three difficulty levels total – Normal, Nightmare, and Hell. Each of its five acts needs to be played through and beaten in linear fashion in order to get to the next difficulty level. Diablo 3’s difficulty system is far more nuanced and complex, with Normal, Hard, Expert, and Master difficulties giving way to Torment, a series of levels that ranges from Torment I to Torment XVI (though the console versions of the game feature some variations to this ranking). These are far more fluid, and players are likely to swap between them in different circumstances depending not only on their character level and equipment, but depending upon what activities they plan to undertake. Diablo 2 instead presents a more stiff challenge, with more specific complications that players will have to deal with as they progress through the game, though after getting through a particular difficulty, it can be returned to as well in case players are attempting to find an ideal grind for gaining experience or are farming specific drops.
Diablo 3’s Endgame Content & Seasons Are Different From Diablo 2’s Ladders
Diablo 2: Resurrected doesn’t have an endgame in the same way that Diablo 3 does, and consequently, high-level play between the two can feel wildly different. Where Diablo 2 asks players to spend time in its core game environments and structures, making different runs for a chance at particular drops, Diablo 3 has an entire post-game setup for players to enjoy. This largely consists of its Adventure Mode, introduced with the Reaper of Souls expansion pack, that offers a more open version of the world where players can choose where to go, picking up Bounties on elite monsters or bosses, or running Nephalem Rifts, randomized dungeons of varying depths with random monster compositions and bosses. It also features some unique zones that don’t feature in the story, and dispenses with nearly all of the game’s story-related content.
Diablo 2 originally had Ladders, which allowed players to start from scratch with fresh characters to climb leaderboards. 27 of these Ladder seasons ran from 2003 to 2020, and are expected to shortly make a return in Diablo 2: Resurrected. Diablo 3 followed suit with Seasons, a similar but somewhat more fleshed-out idea. 24 of these Seasons have run, with a variety of gameplay mutators called Conquests, offering various and sundry item-based and cosmetic rewards to players completing a Season’s challenges. Diablo 2: Resurrected is set to have a Ladder system that is expected to mimic its original incarnation, though the exact details (such as the length between Ladder resets) have not yet been revealed, and the Ladders still haven’t made an appearance since the game’s launch.
Diablo 2: Resurrected Recalls A Dark Storytelling & Visual Style Than Diablo 3
Finally, Diablo 2: Resurrected is more faithful to the Diablo 2 visual style most believed Diablo 3 should have – and failed to – adhere to. With a more horror-centric tone that focused on the darkest parts of the original Diablo’s themes and visuals, it also tells its story in a much darker and more serious way than Diablo 3. Despite the latter game’s stellar cinematics, its demonic figures had the dialogue and tone of caricatures, endlessly taunting the player like a cartoon villain. Combined with a visual style that felt a bit more like World of Warcraft, and a doubling-down on its general thematic fantasy elements, Diablo 3 ended up a narrative disappointment. Diablo 2 sidesteps this with far less focus on its story, a less verbose script, and limiting most of its major story beats to the stellar cinematic sequences Blizzard is known for.
These differences make Diablo 2: Resurrected and Diablo 3 quite different in terms of tone and gameplay, despite the fact that they’re part of the Diablo series and have strong multiplayer components. Certain players may gravitate toward one or the other based on some of these nuances, but each game remains compelling in its own right, with interesting character progressions and vivid environments culminating in a loot-driven endgame focused on epic characters and the perfecting of their builds. Exactly what lessons Diablo 4 will learn from the trials and tribulations of Diablo 3’s tricky launch remain to be seen, and the many positive reactions to Diablo 2: Resurrected may have given Activision Blizzard some things to consider when fine-tuning Diablo 4’s systems before release.
Next: Diablo 2’s Best Builds For Every Class
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About The Author
(21 Articles Published)
Michael J. Riser is an author, freelance writer, and a gaming features editor at Screen Rant. His work has appeared in such varied publications as Goomba Stomp, IGN Pakistan, UNC Charlotte’s Sanskrit, and print anthologies from Despumation, Solarcide, and Pantheon Magazine. He has formerly been the managing editor of Alloutgames.com and the indie games editor at Goomba Stomp. An Asian Studies and Religious Studies graduate of CSU Chico, he has lived in Japan, hunting through the narrow aisles of game stores from Osaka to Tokyo, and has lived in the cloisters of a Buddhist monastery in Ningbo, China. He now lives in California with his wife, a rescue dog, and a mischievous Hallowe’en cat.
You can find him occasionally ranting at Bookruptcy.com, and can email him directly at michael.r(at)screenrant(dot)com.
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