I was talking to @BillMurphy earlier today about what he’s been playing lately and we got started talking about action RPGs and how great they are for busy parents, extrapolating into how fantastic they are for anyone with limited time to play. MMOs, while magnificent and are our passion, tend to demand more time to feel as if progress has been made, hence the easy joy that comes out of ARPGs.
To that end, it’s worth noting some of the finest ARPGs out there -- sort of the Chicken Soup Fighting for the Busy Soul -- games that can be played in short spurts or with a baby in one hand. See if you agree or can add to the list!
There are few fans who can argue that the Blizzard’s Diablo series is one of the, if not THE, greatest in the genre. The series is set in a dark and gritty world with the battle for humanity’s little corner of the world, Sanctuary, and the fight rages between the High Heavens and the Burning Hells.
Diablo games offer players a quick burst of satisfying action that can offer progression in the form of levels, experience gains, item drops, bosses defeated, gear crafted (D3 only) to name a few. Played via BattleNet...oh, sorry, Blizzard tech...each of the three games can be shared cooperatively with friends as well.
Diablo 1 is a stand-alone title, though there is the Hellfire ‘expansion’ that was released in 1997 by Sierra (not Blizzard) that adds more locations and a fast walk. Diablo 2, considered by many to be the best in the series, has the Lord of Destruction expansion as well. Diablo 3 and its Reaper of Souls expansion bring the series to its most modern point, complete with hundreds of hours of game time that can be experienced in small chunks.
Grim Dawn by Crate Entertainment carries on a rich ARPG heritage started by most of the original developers of Titan Quest, also a formidable and fun ARPG, and also one of the first successfully crowd-sourced games before the Kickstarter craze came into being.
Grim Dawn is a dark and gritty game taking place in a Victorianesque era of the world in a place called Cairn. As with Diablo, the world is torn between two powers vying for control, the Aetherials and Chthonians. Talk about opposites - one wants to use human bodies as a type of resource, the other wants to destroy humanity to stop that from happening.
Into this gloomy world we step to help the world’s denizens cope with the new reality that they are prey no matter what side wins. This is a gritty game about survival and overcoming hopelessness. It’s a true gem.
Path of Exile
Path of Exile, developed by Grinding Gear, is an online hit with ARPG players. Set in a dark gritty world, there is no denying that it was inspired by Diablo II. But inspired doesn’t mean copied and Grinding Gear has taken online ARPGs to new heights with a wildly passionate community and a steady stream of content updates since launch in 2013.
Players can take on one of several classes - Duelist, Marauder, Ranger, Shadow, Templar, Witch and Scion) - and work to survive in a desperate struggle to survive after washing up on the shores of a penal colony.
For those who prefer a more modernistic, less darkly depressing world without demons and other hell-spawn, Marvel Heroes Online, developed by Gazillion Entertainment, may be just the ticket. It doesn’t hurt that Marvel has come into new prominence in popular culture through its continued success in comics and movies.
MHO brings many of the most iconic Marvel characters to life: Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow -- in fact there are over 50 playable characters from the Marvel Universe have joined up. Players can take the part of a hero or a villain and head out to do those super-hero, super-villain things that every kid has dreamed of at one time or another.
With all the elements of a great ARPG -- multiplayer, leveling, progression, costumes, Team Ups -- fans of the genre will find a lot to like in Marvel Heroes.
Got 15 minutes? Jump in and be someone’s hero!
Runic Games’ Torchlight series is a dungeon delver’s delight. Both Torchlight and Torchlight II feature randomly generated dungeons and a campaign-style game. While Torchlight doesn’t have multiplayer, something that it took quite a bit of heat for at the time, Torchlight II does so it’s another fantastic game to share with friends.
Like any great ARPG, the Torchlight games feature the epic hunt for loot via taking on and taking out the denizens of the game world. Players in Torchlight can take the role of Destroyer (warrior), Alchemist (spellcaster) or Vanquisher (ranged). In Torchlight II, playable classes include Engineer (melee fighter), Outlander (ranged), Berserker (melee DPS) or Embermage (spellcasting with the elements).
With clear roots in the Diablo series due to founders having come from Blizzard, the Torchlight games are a ton of fun and in the most unique feature on this list, Torchlight II comes with a level editor for creating your own dungeons.
On a side note: Torchlight is coming to mobile devices, though when exactly remains unknown though a trailer was released late in 2016.
That’s it! That’s our list of great ARPGs for busy folks. Did we mention your favorite? Did we leave something amazing off the list? Let us know in the comments.