May 2012 is the month the action RPG returned
If you were yearning for the days of endless clicking and looting then rejoice, for your time has come! The creators of the genre, Blizzard Entertainment, have returned with one behemoth of a definitive threequel to the game that started it all: Diablo. It seems like every geek on the planet is playing this game right now and with good reason. Does this signal the return of the classic hack-and-slash genre known as “action RPGs”? I think its a resounding “yes” and for more reasons than you may think.
Sure, Diablo’s return is certainly a big deal. Diablo essentially invented the hack-and-slash RPG back in the day and spawned a great deal of imitators and genre spin-offs (the modern MMORPG being the biggest example). But between the years of 2000 and 2012 there wasn’t a whole lot going on in the genre. Sure we got Titan Quest, which for awhile was one of my favorite go-to games to pass the time, but that franchise never really took off for some reason. More recently we got Torchlight, who’s surprising success may have been the biggest signal that action RPG games were still a very viable formula, but at the time it was still lacking a lot of the production values of bigger titles.
And so for a few years a lot of action RPG projects kept simmering. We knew Diablo 3 would be coming out some time, but nobody ever really knew when exactly. Finally in May 2012 all of these projects seemed to hit the tarmac at the same time, showing just how big of a deal ARPGs could have been this whole time.
3 other big events happened in the realm of action RPG news this month that may have easily been missed:
1. Long-awaited sequel to Torchlight, Torchlight 2 finally gets a pre-order and large beta test.
2. Former Titan Quest developers work on their own title named Grim Dawn and setup a very successful Kickstarter round, ending in May.
3. Free-to-play game Path of Exile finally does a large open beta stress test to show its game to many newcomers.
And sure, all of these are independent studios in their own right, minuscule compared to Blizzard, but I think its a sign that the genre now has reinvigorated interest. Perhaps the waning MMO crowds are looking for a good alternative game with lots of loot, who knows? Its only a matter of time before other major studios begin publishing their own well-funded knockoffs.
Could it turn into the next genre-craze? We’ll see. Its a ripe time for a new genre to step forward as FPS games are failing to innovate anymore. Action RTS games, in many ways a distant cousin to action RPGs have picked up a ton of steam lately, but the high learning curve will eventually gimp it. In any case, whatever happens, this month will certainly be remembered as the beginning of a new era for the genre.