With the massacre of the Diablo series, many have been searching for alternatives to fuel their action RPG craving. Some have found solace in the likes of Grim Dawn, Path of Exile, Titan Quest, and many others, but I propose something new; a game that is unparalleled in world design, role-playing mechanics, and sheer replayability. Din's Legacy.
Following the plot from Soldak Entertainment's previous titles Zombasite and Din's Curse (both of which are not necessary for following the plot of Din's Legacy), the lands have been afflicted with zombism causing a schism in the Orc population and creating the Mutated. You are a Mutated under the service of the God Din tasked with unifying the lands and quelling the madness.
Sound simple enough? Well, with the inclusion of many varying gameplay factors as well as a plethora of difficulty adjustments, your quest may come to an abrupt end sooner than you may think. You know your game experience will be difficult when the lowest difficulty is Normal and the highest difficulty is four tiers up at Ultimate.
If you're the kind of person that enjoys making life needlessly more difficult, then Din's Legacy has you covered. There are player difficulty modifiers that can make your experience all the more challenging.
Hardcore, which implements permanent death on your character. Semi-Hardcore, which causes your base health to be lowered upon death - not unlike Dark Souls II.
Then there are difficulty modifiers for each game world you generate.
Exploration, which features less monsters for more exploration of the world. Dangerous Monsters, which also features less monsters, but boosts their health and damage points. Overrun, for those who felt their weren't enough monsters in the world. Raging Hordes, which also includes more monsters than usual, but their health and damage points are lower than normal. And less stress, where harder quests are no longer offered to you, but you will earn less experience points overall.
All of these options are amazing to have, but a novice player will still have a difficult learning curve to overcome in order to progress and enjoy Din's Legacy. To them I give this most welcoming set up: Normal difficulty with the Exploration modifier enabled. While still not perfect for those new to action RPG's, that set up should be enough to keep you from throwing your keyboard through your monitor in frustration.
Soldak Entertainment are no strangers to sophisticated leveling and role-playing mechanics, and Din's Legacy is no different. Din's Legacy features 39 playable classes with 8 of those classes playable from the get-go and the rest unlocked through certain conditions and/or challenge completions. These classes range from what's to be expected from any RPG to classes that are unique solely to Din's Legacy such as Reaper, Black Guard, Minstrel, and many, many more. With each class comes with base passive abilities, special attacks and the type of armor you can wear. This is where we enter mutations.
As you progress and complete certain actions your character will unlock mutations; be it positive or negative. These mutations can either boost already unlocked abilities or grant all new ones. For example: early into the life of my second character, I unlocked Extra Lungs which gave a permanent 15% boost to movement speed. That may not sound like much, but Din's Legacy can be much harder without positive mutations to give you a boost in battle. So here's another tip for the action RPG novices out there:
Pick the Necromancer class for your first playthrough. Once you've gathered up enough experience, unlock the Blight ability and use it as liberally as possible. Couple this with an NPC companion and you will be nigh unstoppable on your quest for Din.
Just as your own character, enemies can also possess varied passive and status mutations and abilities that could even possibly match your own, and these aren't just bosses. Even regular enemy types can possess these abilities and kill you relentlessly until you've leveled up your own abilities to surpass them. Admittedly, this does sound frustrating on paper, but in practice it's actually a genius concept that's even better executed. Having standard enemy types that are genuinely on par with you in terms of abilities and combat prowess creates a natural difficulty curve that encourages the player to continue playing and leveling up in order to progress to the next area.
Once you've created your character, you will be prompted to generate your world. Again, don't let this scare you. Din's Legacy does feature procedural generated worlds, yes, but each world you create is almost indistinguishable from a handcrafted world. There you can adjust pretty much everything to your liking including the world's pacing. Want a slower, more layed back paced game? No problem. Just set the pacing to Very Slow, but you will earn less experience points as a trade off. Are you awake at 3 in the morning on your sixth bottle of 5-Hour Energy and want a fast paced game? No problem. Just set the pacing to Very Fast, and you'll even earn more experience than you would on Normal Pacing.
Many other developers boast about having a dynamic game world influenced by the player's actions, but so far Din's Legacy is one of the few games to actually live up to this promise. Each region you generate comes with unique win/loss conditions, typically being to keep your town safe and to push back the enemy, and your foes are plotting against you just as you are against them. Quests sometimes have certain parameter that must be met in order to complete them. Should you fail to, for example, kill an enemy boss, that boss' army could grow in numbers and make it much more difficult for you to defend your town and continue on your ultimate quest. From fortifying their defenses to initiating raids on your town, your enemies are just as cold and calculating as you are.
War and Diplomacy are crucial to your success. If you are unable to strike up an uneasy cease fire with the enemy through quests, you may quickly find your town burned to the ground from an inevitable raid. Of course, every time one of these events are triggered, you will be notified and given the chance to defend your town, so you aren't completely blindsided when you return home and find only a single NPC left alive.
Your character's world can quickly escalate from bad to very bad in a matter of moments with just how dynamic enemies and quests are. Should the enemies feel like it, they very well could commence a raid on your town the second you spawn into your world while you helplessly try to defend yourself and your town as an under-powered level 1 nobody. While uncommon, this certainly can happen.
While Din's Legacy provides everything I, and many others, want out of an action RPG experience, there are some issues. Namely the difficulty and quest system. With the difficulty, some people will have a hard time getting deep enough in Din's Legacy to become hooked. As someone that played Diablo II to death years ago, even I had issues with constantly dying, failing quests, and ultimately watching my town burn to the ground and the game ending. I had to figure out which class, weapons, and abilities were over powered enough to get me through the difficult starting areas and eventually play the game as intended. While I do not mind a challenge, I can foresee this being an issue for some potential players.
This leads into the quest system. With a procedurally generated world, there are bound to be a few quirks. During my time with my first character, I was handed two quests to complete that were, unbeknownst to me, bugged. I was tasked with the killing of two mini-bosses, but once I arrived where these bosses were located, I realized they had spawned out of bounds and there was no way to get to them or bring them to me. Just to make sure, I scoured the surrounding lands to makes sure I wasn't in the wrong area, but to no avail. Sadly these were the only two quests I could take even with the entire map searched, and with no way to progress, I had to abandon this character and create another. I hope this was an isolated incident, but be wary should you choose to venture into Din's Legacy.
Through the good and the bad, Din's Legacy is absolutely worthy of your time and money. Truly the most unique action RPG in over a decade? Yes, I would say so. Din's Legacy is just another example of just how great a game can turn out when it is made from the love and passion of a dedicated developer rather than for the corporate obligation of a AAA studio. There are certainly issues present, but the good far exceeds the bad in Din's Legacy's case. From the incredibly in depth role-playing mechanics to a truly dynamic world, Din's Legacy is unmatched in pure content for an indie game. The most heinous crime surrounding Din's Legacy is just how underrated it is. Do yourself a favor and check this one out.