To be clear, this list is in regards to isometric-styled hack-and-slash action RPGs. If you’ve ever played a Diablo game or anything like that, then you have a pretty good idea. There are lots of games and franchises in this genre, but it also seems to be one of the most under-represented each and every gaming generation. Releases are few and far between, but each successive title seems to always garner praise and success. One of the most iconic franchises in all of gaming – Diablo – basically started the entire subgenre and it’s still going strong to this day. With Diablo III finally set to release on consoles soon, I thought this was a good time to take a look back at all of the best the action RPG genre has to offer this generation.
This is one of those games that gamers around the world desperately wanted to happen – hype was out of control. It had been years since the release of Diablo II and expectations were higher than ever. To the delight of many gamers, Diablo III turned out to be a solid and fun to play game. While it lacked the depth of customization and progression of it’s forefather, it made up for it with style, content, aesthetics and gameplay. The action RPG genre exists within a realm of tried and true formulas for beating shiny objects out of the piñatas that masquerade around as monsters and Diablo III nails that underlying gameplay mechanic. However, with several launch difficulties, always-online DRM, a real-money auction house, poor loot tables and an overly simplified progression system, Diablo III fell flat for many gamers, thus landing it at the bottom of the list.
Check out my review of the PC version right here for more details.
Dungeon Siege has been around for over a decade at this point, with it’s first release a mere two-years after the legendary Diablo II. Instead of focusing on a large-scale battle between the forces of heaven and hell, it takes a much more grounded approach and relies on more basic dungeon delving. The third entry in the long running series saw a large release across PC and consoles alike, bringing in even more fans to the established series. While it lacks a lot of the gameplay variety and depth hardcore action RPG players would have liked, it turned out to be one of the best coop experiences available. The pure fun at hand cannot be denied and it’s surprising reception earns its place above the hype-filled Diablo III.
Released in 2008 as a prequel to the original Sacred from 2004, this action RPG follows in much the same paths as its predecessors. Where other games in the genre use typical RPG tropes for classes and characters like warriors and mages, Sacred 2 takes a bit more creative freedom in their ideas. Classes range from the holy Seraphim all the way to the dark Shadow Warrior. With a unique world, setting and multi-platform release that included PC, PS3 and 360, Sacred 2 is one of the most diverse and enjoyable action RPGs on the market today.
Part personal favorite and part deserving of its spot on the list, Titan’s Quest is a surprising achievement. Coming seemingly out of nowhere, Titan’s Quest was released back in 2006 for the PC and features not only a unique setting and premise, but one of the most interesting and rewarding progression systems in the entire genre. With a backdrop of Greek mythology coursing through the veins of this highly entertaining hack-and-slash romp, it seldom slows down from the fast paced fun to be had. Like everything on the list, it’s not perfect, but it does enough right to really stand out.
Whether you love the game or simply like it, it cannot be denied that Torchlight II is a crowning achievement in the action RPG genre. Runic Games is ran by one of the key designers from the original Diablo team and the game retails for a mere fraction of the price of its primary competitors. Torchlight II sports highly stylized visuals, an incredibly deep progression system, super-tight gameplay, perfect pacing, great loot tables, easy multiplayer integration and one of the best modding communities out there. To this day, I stand by my verdict in my original review and declare that Torchlight II remains to be “the definition of fun”.
Check out my review of the game here for more details, or my interview with Runic Games CEO and original Diablo designer Max Schaefer right here.
What are your picks for the best action RPGs this generation? If you want a direct comparison between Torchlight II and Diablo III, check that out right over here. Comment below with your thoughts on the genre!