Hunting in Vain

I’m hunting the rarest game, something more elusive than the yeti, something richer than all the kings of Egypt- a decent ARPG. Can you find one?

It seems that roughly 10 years ago the best developers of ARPGs were mysteriously wiped out by some kind of plague that only they could contract, or they were abducted by aliens, or they were captured alive to be part of some kind of sick developers museum, or some other highly improbable but possibly believable thing happened. As they just don’t make ’em like they used to. Climb up on grandpa Moggie’s knee and let him tell you about the good old days of ARPGs. Back when we had wild hair, big shoulder pads, electronic music, and everything was “rad”- oh wait that was the 80s. I wasn’t even alive for most of that.

I have a no squashing policy when it comes to spiders- I prefer to cleave them.

I have a no squashing policy when it comes to spiders- I prefer to cleave them.

The biggest problem I encounter with most new ARPGs is that they’re all action and no roleplaying game.

It’s all about button mashing and drinking potions or some such and it’s not at all about the actual character development. Most developers seem to glide over the fact that class identity should exist and that it actually encourages replaying the story as you’re doing something different, not the same thing, or an incredibly similar thing, over and over again. Take Titan Quest for instance. The dual class system allows you to try any number of combinations of classes. Also, while Sacred is a bit more concrete with their class selection, the individual talents of the classes can be tailored to different ends. It’s a good thing!

I’ve recently picked up (and the award for the longest game title goes to) The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing. Being completely honest I didn’t think I would enjoy this title as it looked like another button mashing senseless lack of class identity ARPG but I was wrong about that. I’m not often wrong but I can admit when I am and I was this time.

The developers thought of great new ways to spice up old recipes. In particular I’m quite keen on the Rage system as it doesn’t fundamentally alter your skills (as in you can still use the base versions) but it does give you a burst-y bonus to your skills to make them do wonderfully gruesome things. Like, in the case of some skills, you can literally turn everything in the near five mile radius into monster giblets. It’s quite cool and it’s not massively overpowered either as you can only do it so many times as your Rage needs time to build. While there are equally a number of skills to either recover health, protect you from danger, and a number of passive skills to enhance certain aspects of your build that you don’t need to mash the potion button ’til your finger is raw and bloody.

Fun fact: I got forty achievements in the first four hours of play. That’s one every six minutes!

There’s a demo available on Steam (and likely other places) which doesn’t cover much of the first chapter of story but is long enough to get a taste for the three classes and the way the game works. For those of us who have played many an ARPG in our time you’ll probably notice the opening sections to be notably difficult. Not incredibly difficult but difficult enough that you’ll need to think about how you’re using your skills, weapons, and talents to survive. (Which also makes a nice change.)

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie.

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