All eyes might be on Blizzard's blockbuster Diablo III right now, but the action RPG genre still has plenty of room for newcomers. Here are seven upcoming ARPGs that we think all show some real promise.
Developer: Runic Games (Seattle)
Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment
Platform: PC (possibly Xbox 360 later)
Players: At least 4 co-op (max unknown)
Release Date: Winter 2012 (US Summer)
The award-winning action RPG is back, bigger and better than ever! Torchlight II takes you once more into the quirky, fast-paced world of bloodthirsty monsters, bountiful treasures, and sinister secrets - and, once again, the fate of the world is in your hands!
Torchlight II captures all the flavor and excitement of the original game - while expanding the world and adding the features players wanted most, including online and LAN co-op multiplayer. Torchlight II is fast, fun, and filled to the brim with action and loot. Adventure solo or online with your friends!
Diablo and Diablo II developers
Our Thoughts: It’s Torchlight with multiplayer, how could it go wrong? There are more developers from the original Diablo and Diablo II working at Runic than there are on Blizzard’s Diablo III team.
We know from the original that Torchlight’s gorgeous animated style sets it apart from the crowd visually and it’s loot system and there’s little doubt that T2’s general mechanics will once again be right there at the forefront of the genre.
Developer: Crate Entertainment (Boston)
Publisher: Self-funded and published
Players: At least 2 co-op (max unknown)
Release Date: TBA (Alpha expected in 2012)
Grim Dawn is an action role-playing game being created with the tools and technology used to build Titan Quest by a few veteran developers from Iron Lore, including Arthur Bruno, the lead gameplay designer on Titan Quest.
At its core, Grim Dawn strives to perfect the magical formula of fast-paced, satisfying combat, strategic character development and frenzied loot collection that defines the genre. However, we don't know of too many (or any?) ARPGs that let you make meaningful quest decisions and allow you to earn favor or go to war with different NPC factions. Have you ever been able to repair bridges to unlock new areas in whatever order you choose? With so many stylized ARPGs coming out now, we think our gritty art style and realistic world also help to define us. Speaking of realistic world, did we mention that the levels in Grim Dawn are actually stitched together to form a giant, continuous playable world, reflective of natural geography?
Titan Quest developers
Our Thoughts: Like Torchlight, Grim Dawn has a good pedigree. Not only does the Crate team include Titan Quest developers and the experience that comes with that, but they’re building on the same tech, making this a potential TQ successor in everything but name.
Crate Entertainment’s successful Kickstarter initiative has afforded them the ability to remain self-published and offer the game for sale DRM-free. This is indie gaming supercharged.
Developer: Wizarbox (France)
Publisher: Focus Home Entertainment
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Players: 2 co-op
Release Date: 2012
This heroic-fantasy hack‘n’slash (action/role-playing game) takes you on a continent ravaged by a war that raged ten years earlier. The four Kingdoms of Men, Elves and Dwarves lay in ruins, preyed on by raiders and looters. In this chaos, a new, unknown threat is looming... To discover its true nature, the kingdoms sent detachments to investigate, a dangerous mission from which no one returned. But what about you? You, who were in the wrong place at the wrong time...
Swarms of enemies
Incarnation ability to take control of weakened monsters and fight as them.
Our Thoughts: The class archetypes are a little generic and the title is annoying (a name and it’s initialism, c’mon), but of all the games in this list, RAW is the only one 100% committed to coming to consoles, and that has to count for something.
The over-the-top zerg-rush like swarms of enemies and the intriguing “incarnation” mechanic that allows players to take control of monsters could well be enough to make this one worthwhile.
Developer: Grinding Gear Games (New Zealand)
Publisher: Self-published (free-to-play)
Platform: PC (potentially Mac post-release)
Players: many in hub areas, max of 4-8 co-op and possibly more in PvP areas.
Release Date: TBA
As an indie game developed by a team of hardcore action RPG fans, Path of Exile has several unique takes on the genre. It features a unique skill gem system, a huge passive skill tree, extensive character customisation and PvP combat in a persistent online world. The game is free to play, but does not feature ‘pay-to-win’ microtransactions.
Because no particular skill is limited to a specific class, everyone will enjoy tremendous variety and individual customization. Additionally, skills can augment each other in a complementary fashion, to create unbelievably powerful, elaborate effects. Want to set a trap that hurls multiple venomous fireballs? Want a critical hit from your weapon to cause the enemy to fly back stunned and frozen? That's just the tip of the iceberg in Path of Exile's revolutionary skill system.
Ambitious PvP component.
Free-form passive skill and broad item system
Our Thoughts: We know that as Australians we have a patriotic obligation to rip on New Zealanders at every opportunity we get, but in the world of videogames we’ve spent far too long together in the same geographically remote trench to be able to maintain that grudge.
While numerous studios this side of the Pacific have closed their doors, the team at Aukland’s Grinding Gear games are managing to create a full-featured ARPG that can stand up there with the best of them, and then some.
It won’t be finished for a while yet, but having spent some time with the beta, we’re already incredibly impressed with what they’ve accomplished. Path of Exile’s freefrom skill system is a fresh direction and the intended free-to-play-not-pay-to-win model seems incredibly appropriate. Definitely another one to look out for.
Dungeonland is a cooperative action game where players take control of a group of adventurers in their visit to a crazy and dangerous medieval theme park.
Playing as The Rogue, The Warrior or The Mage, players will loot, level up, customize their hero and acquire new skills as they work their way through waves of monsters and traps leading all the way through deadly dungeons. From deadly jungles, to lush magical gardens and a dragon's lair, players will adventure through meticulously crafted themed environments all the way up to the tower of Dungeon Master himself.
Co-op focus with collaborative attack bonuses.
Dungeon master mode
Our Thoughts: The thematic concept alone piques our interest in Dungeonland -- it’s an action RPG in an amusement park! Most of the mechanics look to be a little more basic than some of the others on this list, but the abilitiy to coordinate and combine attacks with your teammates is nice.
We don’t know enough about the supposed Dungeon Master mode to know if it’s something really worth paying attention to yet, but the notion of adding a bit of tower defence into the ARPG soup could be special.
Developer: Fatshark (Sweden)
Publisher: Lace Mamba Global
Platform: PC (Possibly Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 later)
Players: At least 2 co-op (max unknown)
Release Date: June 12th 2012
Krater is a lush post-apocalyptic top down RPG, based on gameplay elements such as crafting, exploration and consequence. Extensive crafting (craft unique abilities, weapons and items) and character persistence where both injuries and experience work in conjunction are key elements to evolve the player’s team over time. Krater combines combat mechanics of action-RPGs with top-down tactics of classic old-school dungeon crawlers.
Krater is Swedish for crater. The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic world around a gigantic impact crater where cities have been built on and even whole nations emerged from the rubble and aftermath of a huge bomb explosion. The center of the crater is an abyss that stretches deeper into Earth than anyone has ever been able to dig.
One of the players’ main goals is to build a team and try to get as deep as possible into the abyss. The game world offers several joinable factions and groups, such as the Free-diggers, for example, bands of fortune seekers who compete with each other to excavate valuable pre-armageddon technology from an endless system of tunnels, caves and bunkers, called the Underside.
Squad-based strategy in an ARPG.
Crafting mechanic for weapons, items and abilities
Permanent injury and death mechanic for characters
Our Thoughts: There’s a lot of things to like about Krater’s concept: It boasts influences from old-school tactical RPGs like syndicate and X-Com with it’s multiple-character squad system and the game’s story (detailed above) offers a novel and rather awesome justification for dungeon crawling.
The idea of intense character persistence, where the hardships of spelunking gradually take their toll on your party of adventures, with the threat of permanent injuries is also very tasty. Let’s hope they can pull it off.
Developer: UmbraGame (France)
Players: At least 2 co-op (max unknown)
Release Date: Q4 2012
One hundred years ago, human race almost extinguished. Since that time, only a few survivors remains and fight for their lives. You are on of them.
Find ressources, items, allies and exploit the powers of the Umbra to survive. But be careful, you are their prey.
Gritty horror fantasy theme; mature story
CryEngine 3 tech
Our Thoughts: Given that Umbra is also the name of a widely used rendering technology, we expect that the usual trademark violation dance will see a name-change for this game before it makes it to our PCs, but CryEngine 3 as a base with macabre mature themes are the reason we’re still keeping our eye out for more on this one.
Since the game’s reveal last October, the French developer has not shared many details, but the wishful feature-list includes the likes of time of day and weather effects, heavy survival horror elements and a freeform class system.