Friday, 3 June 2011

The Great Genre Expredition: Dungeon Crawlers

Blizzard Entertainment is a company that sticks to its guns. It's well known for ''World of Warcraft'' and ''Starcraft'' series, partially due to the crushingly huge popularity and exposure those titles have, partially since they're the only games they've released since 2006. But they'll be breaking the trend with a long-awaited (by a very specific demographic) third addition one of their other popular franchises - ''Diablo''.
Diablo started out as a more action-oriented spin on the RTS Genre; focusing on adventures and combat for an adventurer and his companions, rather than a full-scale army. But this direction proved to be so incredibly popular that the style caught on, taking the basic idea of top-down hack & slash, and running away with it. Although since Diablo III is dragging its heels in being released, give these three gems a try in the meantime.

For the Online Gamer: Spiral Knights
The internet is filled with free Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs), and many of them are very similar, often taking notes from World of Warcraft. Spiral Knights stands out by cribbing from Diablo instead, but does it in the cutest way possible. From the get go, the art direction and chiptune-nuanced music is immediately charming, and the game play is faithful but much more streamlined than its source material. You control a robotic knight charged with exploring the Clockwork, a forever-shifting maze of dungeons filled with treasure, spike traps, and demon businessmen. The MMO element means you're never short on people to play with, and working as a team definitely improves the experience.
Spiral Knights is a free download for PC. Get it here.

For the Free-Time Gamer: Torchlight 
Torchlight was an Indie release in 2008, and is in almost every respect a big soppy love-letter to Diablo. From the excuse plot of a mining town with a monster infestation, an incredibly similar interface, and a familiar cast of close combat, ranged, and magical characters. What does set the game apart is its cartoonish charm, coupled with the ability to add modifications. In a way the game has been left slightly bare-bones, so you can customise the game to just the way you like it.

That's not to say the game lacks things to do, the compelling and what I can only describe as 'chunky' combat will last you hours, days of your free time. And when you've beaten the game, you can retire your hero, bequeathing your equipment to the next in line. The only real draw back is that Torchlight is a strictly single player experience - an unusual exception for the genre. But don't fear, Torchlight 2 is already in the works, and co-op is a promised feature.
 Torchlight is available on Steam.

For the Comic Book Gamer: X-Men Legends
This one's a little more retro. In an interesting decision from Raven Software and Activision, This retelling of the X-Men universe (of which there are many) is done as a top-down, co-op experience, a surprisingly long string of isolated missions connected by the story of a new X-Men Recruit, Magma. But don't worry, there are plenty of opportunities to play as Wolverine and Cyclops.

Missions let you build a dream team of 4 X-Men, and to make up for the inability to create your own heroes, you can customise everyone's skills. It's a great way to give depth to a game simplified by being a console game. For fans of the series, or those who want to know more beyond what the X-Men movies tell you, there's a whole host of back story, character art and comic book covers tucked away. Although an old game, it's a common find in places that sell second-hand titles.
 X-Men Legends is available on the Gamecube, X-Box, and PS2.

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