Most videogame RPGs cite Dungeons & Dragons as their primary inspiration, but few directly adapt its rules. In a world of cooldowns and mana bars, D&D’s dice rolls, bonus actions, spell slots, and long rests can feel clunky and restrictive when applied to a videogame. Even Baldur’s Gate 3 makes many notable changes to make D&D more user-friendly, while indie RPG Solasta wears the 5e ruleset as a badge of honor, warts and all.
This is a game where combat is on a grid, where every d20 rolls on screen, and where jumping away from enemies is a sometimes-treat rather than a regular part of every meal.
While it may forever lurk in the shadow of Baldur’s Gate 3, its crunchy, dice-heavy combat is just what I want in a lean adaptation of the tabletop RPG.
My knowledge of Ancient Indian culture doesn’t extend much beyond the names of Final Fantasy summons Shiva and Ramuh. But if indie brawler Raji: An Ancient Epic had existed alongside Tolkien, Dungeons & Dragons, and Jason and the Argonauts in my formative years, I would have been just as absorbed by the fascinating, culturally rich world of Ancient India it presents.
Raji: An Ancient Epic explores the woefully underused world of Hindu Mythology, an intriguing setting of warring gods and grotesque demons that creates a fantastic backdrop for a hack-and-slash brawler. Unfortunately the early level demo is plagued with serious framerate issues and performance bugs.
Desolation? Check. Old Gods? Check. ‘Souls’ literally in the title? Check. Eldest Souls isn’t shy about its influences. It’s a pixelated souls-like with nothing but large-scale boss battles. I play a cloaked figure called the Crusader who carries a sword so comically oversized it would make Cloud Strife blush. The world has gone to absolute hell, and it’s up to him and his sword to kick every Old God’s ass up and down the Ancient Citadel.
At least that’s the plan. In reality I get my butt handed to me again and again by the very first enemy. The Watchdog is at least three times my size with a canine face, a jagged sword, and a ribcage shield, and it murdered me in a matter of seconds. The Watchdog leaps, slashes, and charges with frustratingly quick reflexes, every hit shaving off a third to half my health.
Deep in the laboratory, a new enemy that looks like a Bane cosplayer teleports next to me, slamming into the ground and knocking out half my health in a single strike. I scramble to unload a quick series of sword strikes before he disappears. I roll to the side this time when he warps back, finishing him off with a shotgun blast. Unfortunately I rolled too close to a pair of sword-spinning goblins, forcing me to jump into a stream of bullets from a nearby minigun-wielding soldier. I curse as my body is vaporized, showering the ground with hard-earned gold and crystals and sending me back to the outpost to try again.
Death is a frequent and frustrating occurrence in Foregone, a challenging 2D action-platformer out on the Epic Game Store’s version of Early Access this week.
My mage and rogue creep through a patch of tall wheat fields before stumbling into a gigantic steampunk soldier, who brutally cuts my team down in a hail of machine gun fire. Instead of grunting through a Game Over screen or reloading a save, I enter Trance Mode and slide back in time several seconds, just before my terrible blunder.
“It’s like Save Scumming: The Game,” says Antti Kemppainen, game designer for Iron Danger. The tactical RPG, from Finnish developer Action Squad Studios, is built around a unique form of quick-loading that’s more interactive than mashing F9, thanks to a little time magic. It’s like editing a video of your game while you’re playing it.
Clicking on monsters until they explode in showers of shiny loot—over and over again, for the promise of a slightly better pair of pants—is quintessential PC gaming. Most action-RPGs benefit from long lifespans thanks to a steady treadmill of refining skills, acquiring better loot, and endless dungeon crawling. But even the best action-RPGs aren’t immune to the ravages of time, and genre go-tos Diablo 3 and Path of Exile have been around for years now. As they grow older, several plucky newcomers have emerged in 2019, eager to gobble up weeks of your life. Some cling tightly to the Diablo tradition while others fearlessly blow it up to take a different path.
If you’ve stayed more than awhile in the world of Diablo, and made your way through Path of Exile‘s massive skill tree, these are the action-RPGs you should be playing in 2019.
There are ten different Pagan Online classes, each of whom encourage wildly different playstyles. In the beginning you can only unlock a single hero, but each additional character costs one hero soul from the increasingly challenging list of assassination missions.
Knowing which heroes you want to unlock first makes a major difference, so we’re here to break down each class in Pagan Online, including their strengths, difficulty, and their best moves to help you hack-and-slash through the endless enemy hordes.
I adore Gloomhaven, the tabletop game. It’s a tactical RPG in board and card form, and has been the best board game on BoardGameGeek since 2017. Gloomhaven captures the turn-based combat and progression of Dungeons & Dragons along with unlockable hidden classes, a huge campaign of nearly 100 scenarios, over three dozen monsters and bosses, and a Choose Your Own Adventure story with multiple avenues and choices. I’ve completed dozens of scenarios and sunk well over a hundred hours, and now I’m starting over with the new digital version on Steam.
Killsquad looks and loots like the lovechild of Diablo and Destiny and plays like a co-op MOBA. It hit Steam Early Access this week as an action-RPG for up to four players, drenched in a hellish sci-fi theme that could almost be a Doom spin-off with some of its demonic alien creatures. The fast-paced action is easy to jump into, with gorgeous art design, fun attacks, and, refreshingly, zero microtransactions.
I was surrounded on all sides. I’d managed to rescue the prisoner, but now we had to fight our way back out of the dungeon. Reinforcements poured in from the south, so I sent my beleaguered party north. When we made it to a room with pressure plates and fireball-spewing statues, more reinforcements spawned at the entrance and quickly closed in.
What followed was a harrowing, tense turn, as I carefully positioned my warden for a whirlwind strike, blasted out a fireball with my acolyte, and tried to figure out what I could do with a useless unarmed prisoner. That’s when I remembered the pressure plates, and smiled as I noticed the bad guys were standing pretty close to those statues. He may have been unarmed, but his legs were working just fine.
That wasn’t the first dungeon escapade I just barely scraped through in Druidstone: The Secret of Menhir Forest, a new tactical RPG from the creators of Legend of Grimrock.