I’ve been playing the surprisingly good but incredibly blandly-named Last Epoch.
I mean, I read that name I’m struggling to remember what game it is, and I was just playing it!
But it’s an ARPG, in the Diablo 3, Grim Dawn, Titan Quest, Path of Exile sort of arena. It’s actually better than a lot of those, at least at the beginning, in terms of design and execution, though the graphics are definitely at the “low budget” end of things (by the same is true for Grim Dawn, and was for PoE when it launched, and hell, Diablo 3 now looks like the 2012 game it is). It’s definitely more accessible than any of those except D3, which is interesting - I didn’t expect it to beat Grim Dawn there.
A couple of notable things:
It’s not one of these games where you’re drowning in loot and need to pick it all up. It’s closest to Diablo 2 (not 3) actually here. Most loot you don’t need, and if you take it back to town, it’s just to sell for gold (which you can buy items or gamble for items with, D2-style). It also drops identified, so there’s no need to haul loot back to down to ID it. No elaborate PoE-esque currencies here either.
Class-based which makes everything a lot more straightforward than PoE, and no complicated combining of classes like Grim Dawn - there are five classes each with three subclasses (you unlock the latter later in the game).
The specialization system is a lot more straightforward than most, but manages to combine some of D3’s flexibility with more in-depth modification of skills. Basically you can “specialize” in up to 5 of the what, 16 or so skills each class/subclass can learn. Each skill has a unique skill-tree that’s unlocked - which sounds threatening but it’s actually pretty straightforward - you can usually see there are immediate 3-4 branches and it’s pretty obvious what you’re going to want if you pursue certain approaches - like you can specialize your necromancer’s skeletons to be specific types, or there be more of them, or less but more dangerous, and so on.
It’s almost offline! Almost. You have to log in at the beginning. But after that, you’re not constantly connected to a server like you are with D3 or PoE. This means it’s playable when you have ping issues or otherwise have a poor connection. Not sure why they went that way, but it seems okay.
The way the forgettable title comes into things is that the game’s plot revolves around time travel, so you visit roughly the same areas at four points in history (there’s also an endgame area that’s basically “after time”), which is how they do the usual difficulty increases/acts and so on.
It started off rather easy for me, as a long-time ARPG veteran, but that’s pretty common, and by level 20 or so (which doesn’t take long, maybe 5 hours), things have got considerably tougher and I’m actually having to make an effort to stay alive (up until like level 15 I don’t think I’d even used a potion!).
I love ARPG mechanics and could be here all day describing the precise approaches they took, but I think keeping it simple, it’s a very solid game of this type, despite being clearly low-budget (most obvious from the animations). I think a lot of people who find Path of Exile off-puttingly over-complex, and Grim Dawn either decent or ho-hum would probably like this a lot. The main caveat is that it’s currently in Early Access, though from their detailed and well-presented roadmap they’re like 70% of the way to 1.0. It’s actually so well designed that I’m quite excited to see what they do with it.