Five isometric Diablo-style RPGs

In the late 90s, Blizzard was not shy about experimenting, thanks to which the developers almost created a whole new genre of Hack-n-Slash. Not surprisingly, developers have set a new trend, and even after about 20 years, some developers are still trying to repeat the success of the already cult Diablo series. This article will review the most successful projects.

A distinctive feature of Hack-and-slash (from the English hack – to cut and the English slash – to cut, “cut and cut”) is the emphasis on a large number of enemies. Over time, the classic scheme was refined and one of the key elements was introduced into it – a large amount of loot, which motivates players to engage in the extermination of monsters.

Sacred (aka “Prince of Darkness”) has become a guiding star in the world of isometric RPGs for many. How did the German project become so popular? For some, the visual style was the deciding factor in Sacred’s favor. Not everyone liked the gloomy dungeons and the oppressive atmosphere of Diablo 2. Another part of the gamers were repulsed by the graphics in the projects from Blizzard. The original Diablo 2 came out in 2000, while Sacred came out in 2004, and the graphical differences between the two games are quite significant.

Sacred did not offer gamers new game mechanics. But this did not stop the project from winning the hearts of gamers. The principle “Why reinvent something that already works fine” has paid off. But some elements set the project apart from its main competitor.

Sacred is exemplary for the Hack-n-Slash RPG genre. At the same time, the game enjoyed good popularity among Russian gamers.

The project could not boast of the same good balance as Diablo 2, but all the flaws in the leveling of characters evaporated after a few hours of playthrough, when gamers found new equipment and pumped the spell branches. Much of Sacred’s success stems from the fact that the project came out at the right time. Imagine Ascaron a game a few years later (when Titan Quest came out), gamers would hardly have received it with the same warmth.

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Titan Quest (2006)
Платформы: ПК, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

Two years after the release of Sacred THQ, Nordic introduced a new candidate for the Hack-n-Slash genre, Titan Quest. Instead of mystical and in some places canonical fantasy – ancient Greek mythology. In the role of bosses – antagonists from the corresponding legends. Other features of the project include next-generation graphics and modern animation by those standards.

Titan Quest was born at the turn of console generations. Angular 3D graphics have been replaced by smoother, more modern graphics. The graphics in the new THQ project won over. But even behind a beautiful wrapper made of a large number of polygons and textures, gamers were exposed to successful game design solutions, a good storyline and high-quality gameplay.

The main difference between Titan Quest was the lack of a class system. Each gamer started the game with the same character, the developers only allowed to choose gender and name. But after several levels, the user was given the opportunity to choose one of the branches for pumping. A little later – another one. After the eighth level, the gamer could start mixing skills from different branches, thanks to which the game made it possible to choose one of twenty-eight conditional classes.

This freedom of choice in terms of pumping turned into confusion for most of the players. The incorrect distribution of skills could lead to the fact that in the second half of the game the character became weak and ineffective against plump enemies, which caused many gamers to abandon the game. The loot system added fuel to the fire, which made it very difficult to obtain the desired item, taking into account the specialization of the hero. But even such serious flaws did not prevent Titan Quest from winning its army of fans, thanks to which the game is still remembered to this day.

Torchlight II (2012)
Платформы: ПК, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

 

When creating Torchlight II, the developers focused on what Diablo fans love the series for – pumping, countless loot and the same number of enemies. Developers made the right decision with this approach, thanks to which the second part kept the right balance between dynamics and storytelling.

By the way, the plot was given a purely secondary role here. Like Diablo, it was introduced in the form of acts. You should not expect any serious revelations from him, he was created here for show. The main focus of the developers is the gameplay. In Torchlight II, you don’t even have to run to the merchant in order to sell all the items collected in the dungeons. It is enough to summon one of the many companion pets and entrust this task to him.

In contrast to Diablo’s gloomy atmosphere, the game offered a friendlier visual style. From the very first screenshots and videos, it became clear that when creating the interface, the developers were inspired by other Blizzard creations. The style of World of Warcraft was traced in almost everything, from spell icons to inventory with equipment. The same can be said about the animation of characters and enemies, the texture palette.

By the way, Torchlight II was released in the same year as Diablo III. It would seem that the new isometric RPG could not be equal to the third part of the cult project from Blizzard. But for the release of Diablo III, the developers changed the visual style of the game and moved away from the classic “dark fantasy”, which is why they lost some of the fans. Torchlight II is a good alternative to the third part, while the game itself rolls over the already familiar game mechanics, thanks to which it is popular among fans of the series.

 

Path of Exile (2013)
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One

 

After the release of Path of Exile, many players felt that this was what Diablo III was supposed to be. By the release of the third part, the Blizzard project could boast of updated graphics, but lost all the atmosphere. Players loved Diablo for its grimness, and Diablo III’s cartoonish graphics weren’t to everyone’s liking. In contrast, the developers of Path of Exile were able to recreate the oppressive atmosphere that made the game more serious.

The “kill-pump-loot” formula worked this time too. Attention is also paid to the crafting system. Path of Exile requires a patient approach, so hardcore fans will love the game. This also includes the system of seasons, the barter economy, and some elements that the developers borrowed from projects in the MMORPG genre. For example, in peaceful zones, the player can meet many characters who are controlled by other gamers.

Getting familiar with the skill tree for the first time can shock even hardcore players. It’s not just big, it’s huge, and unprepared gamers can even be scared off by such a system, forcing users to go online in search of guides. And there are plenty of guides today. The game has a huge fan base. Due to the fact that the developers still support the project, you can meet a huge number of players in PoE, no less than in any World of Warcraft.

One of the key arguments in favor of Path of Exile is that the game is free to play. But the problem of many projects that are distributed through the free-to-play system is donation. In the case of PoE, the developers managed to find a balance, thanks to which the players who invested their money in the project did not receive advantages over other gamers. Basically, donation was limited to cosmetic items.

 

Grim Dawn (2016)
Platforms: Windows

 

The project was created by the studio Crate Entertainment, founded by a former employee of Iron Lore. By the way, the latter showed the world Titan Quest, thanks to which the developers had good experience in creating isometric RPGs.

Grim Dawn has worked well for the issues that most Diablo-like games face. In pursuit of the perfect balance and grind system, developers forget about the storytelling, which is why such projects cannot boast of a strong plot. There is also a detailed world of the game, an original story that is interesting to follow, a couple of dozen factions and freedom of choice in some quests. This is also worth adding manually recreated locations, no procedurally generated spaces (although in some places in Grim Dawn there are frankly boring places).

And most importantly, dual specialization. There are no classes in Grim Dawn as such. At the second level, gamers are given the opportunity to choose a specialization. After reaching the tenth level, this procedure can be repeated. As a result, the player gets a character with two specializations. Archer-mage, warrior-healer – in general, combine as you want. This gives space and freedom of choice in character leveling. But those who prefer to exhibit a high level of difficulty should approach the specializations wisely. Otherwise, there is a chance of getting a strong rebuff even from standard enemies towards the end of the game.

The visual style deserves special attention. Grim Dawn doesn’t try to pretend to be friendly and vibrant fantasy. The developers focused on the Victorian era, and this is reflected in the entire atmosphere of the game.

The bottom line is Grim Dawn is a typical isometric RPG. A lot of pumping, good grind, an excellent skill tree and the ability to combine classes, a coherent (and even more) storyline and moderately good balance. Isn’t that enough for a good game?