Ten Isometric Action RPGs Worth Trying

Ten Isometric Action RPGs Worth Trying

They have been called many things over the years. Isometric RPGs, hack'n'slash RPGs, ARPGs, Diablo clones. But one thing is certain: They wouldn't exist if Diablo didn't come out in 1996. Diablo and its sequels spawned a whole catalogue of isometric action RPGs. It's a catalogue of sometimes pretty similar games, where finding the best one for our taste can be difficult. Hopefully our guide will help in the selection.

Despite all these games being in the same genre, this is not a ranked list. It's also worth mentioning that while series such as Borderlands, Secret of Mana or Kingdom Hearts (and many more) are often called ARPGs, this time we only focus on the ones with an isometric view, deep character customisation and a loot system similar to Diablo's.

Path of Exile (2013)

Path of Exile is one of the most popular alternatives to Diablo III because of its nearly infinite character build possibilities, extensive endgame, constant updates and similarities to Diablo II. So everyone who wanted Diablo III to be another Diablo II might need to go for Path of Exile instead. The unlimited customisation comes from a pretty cool skill gem system, a labyrinthine passive skill tree and a ton of minor features unique to this title. It's free-to-play, supported by microtransactions that don't really hurt the gameplay (think extra stash tabs, additional character slots, cosmetic items).

You can grab the game on Steam for PC.

Grim Dawn (2016)

The newest game (it came out in February) on this list is also one of the most exciting and complex ones. Grim Dawn's a game for those who like to spend hours figuring out the best possible builds and skills for their characters using the available loot. It has a dual class system, a secondary skill tree based on star constellations, skills acquired via items and a huge amount of rare item affixes. The dark setting might look generic at first, but that won't matter when you've got gameplay with layers upon layers of deep customisation.

You can buy the game on Steam for PC.

Nox (2000)

Ten Isometric Action RPGs Worth Trying

While Westwood's Nox doesn't have random dungeons, the storyline is different for each of the three character classes, even if the main plot is the same (a young guy from Earth is pulled into a fantasy world filled with necromancers, and has to return home). Besides that, it's a fun, fast-paced hidden gem that was overshadowed by other RPGs in its time, but even now it's absolutely worth a playthrough.

You can buy the game on GoG for PC and Mac.

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing: Final Cut (2015)

Van Helsing's theme is a mixture of horror and steampunk elements, set in a gothic-noir version of 19th century Europe. The game has six playable classes that fit into the setting, a labyrinthine skill tree similar to Path of Exile's, and a customisable hideout.

You can buy the Final Cut version (all three games are compiled into one massive adventure) of the game on Steam and the trilogy on GoG for PC. The first game's also available on Xbox One.

Victor Vran (2015)

The Victorian era style might suggest that it's the exact same thing as Grim Dawn or the Van Helsing games. There are a few twists though. Players can't choose between classes, the only playable hero is Victor Vran, the hunter. And we don't have to spam the same skills over and over again to kill enemies, because the weapons and outfits we find along the way decide which skills we can use. It's a bit more casual approach, but not all ARPGs have to be character building extravaganza. Another unique feature is that our character can jump over obstacles and dodge attacks, and on top of that, a sarcastic voice is narrating our actions, referring to our main character in third person.

You can buy the game on Steam and GoG for PC and Mac.

Sacred 2 (2008)

Ten Isometric Action RPGs Worth Trying

It's one of those games where you have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy it, and some tiny bugs might scare a few players off. Still, Sacred 2 is worth a mention since as an ARPG, it possibly has the largest open world to explore, with hundreds of MMO-like quests.

You can buy the game on Steam and GoG for PC, and it's also on PS3 and Xbox 360.

Marvel Heroes (2014)

As Kotaku's Mike Fahey stated, Marvel Heroes is basically Diablo with Marvel characters and Marvel locations. So, Rocket Raccoon and Deadpool instead of Demon Hunters. And it's set in modern times, too, which is quite refreshing. The game's a free-to-play MMO-ARPG with a never ending supply of downloadable content.

You can grab the game on Steam for PC and Mac.

Torchlight II (2012)

Torchlight II's cartoony, steampunk world offered a great alternative in 2012 to Diablo III and that's still true after almost four years. Mechanics and character building is very similar to Diablo II and it has one particular feature the PC version of Diablo III never had: LAN co-op (and fishing).

You can buy the game on Steam (and on Origin too) for PC and Mac.

Titan Quest (2006), Titan Quest: Immortal Throne (2007)

Ten Isometric Action RPGs Worth Trying

Following Diablo II's release in 2000, an incredible number of clones and similar games came out. Some of them were bad, some were mediocre, but Iron Lore's Titan Quest, and its expansion Immortal Throne, were just as good as Diablo. The only drawback is the lack of randomised maps, but otherwise, its mastery system offers dozens of classes to play, we've got really satisfying boss battles, a setting with an ancient mythology theme (Egypt in Act II for example is quite memorable) and something all ARPGs should have: ragdoll physics.

You can buy the game on Steam for PC.

Dungeon Siege 2 (2005)

Ten Isometric Action RPGs Worth Trying

The Dungeon Siege series started basically as Diablo, in 3D, with a party, and after all these years players usually pick the second game as the best one. Sadly the Steam version has no multiplayer, but the scenery and an engrossing story makes it a great single player experience. Also, raising pets by feeding them armour pieces and weapons sounds funny enough.

You can buy the game on Steam for PC.

Bonus: Diablo I & II & III

That's ten games, all worth a try, if you're into fast paced action RPGs, clicking a lot and making Excel sheets. And since all these ARPGs were inspired by Diablo, it's not a complete list without mentioning Blizzard's series. The first Diablo from 1996 might feel limited and short compared to modern games, but it aged pretty well and it's still easy to get lost in its universe. Diablo II still has a small, dedicated player base, and Blizzard still supports it with patches so people can play the game on newer PCs. Diablo III had a rough start with online issues and a controversial Auction House, but currently, the game's in a good state, and constant updates make its endgame better than ever.


    Has anyone here tried Grim Dawn or the early release for Wolcen : Lords of Mayhem (Named Umbra from a kickstarter a long while back) Would like to hear your thoughts!

      I have Grim Dawn, and it is Titan Quest set in a post-eldritch horror apocalypse 18th century Europe. It plays similarly, there are a few progression systems on top of the aforementioned double class system. It feels good to play, although the lore and story takes a bit to get going.

      I was playing Grim Dawn, and to be honest, once I got to around the mid 30's in levels (ish), it got a little 'meh' to me. I found I was basically mashing one skill, and AoEing through the content without fun.

      The early game was fun, and there is surprising depth in character development, but in the end you settle into a routine, and that gets lost in the background.

    Victor Vran is currently in a Humble Bundle [and in the 'average price or more' tier at $6.32].


    I still haven't tried it, but it's a good option for those that are interested after reading this article I suppose.

    Last edited 11/04/16 3:37 pm

    The Dungeon Siege series started basically as Diablo, in 3D, with a party
    Hardly!.. I mean the classless system where your stats were distributed based on your actions (and eventually leading to the skill trees in the sequel) was pretty distinct compared to all the 'pick a rogue, wizard or fighter' openings. The party angle was also notable since at that stage party-based games were generally the more serious narrative ones like Baldur's Gate, where DS let you go solo, employ literal pack mules, or set up tactics with a loose behaviour system borne from Total Annihilation. Structurally it also proceeded more like a beat-em-up than an adventure game (though this did change somewhat in the sequel). I mean if you're going to strip back the differences so much then Diablo is really just a Gauntlet clone!

    Torchlight 2 also had another particular feature that Diablo III was lacking in - more of the original Diablo 1&2 developers working on it :p (also the pet system developed in their earlier FATE games)

    I would also suggest Spellforce (at least the first two) which have freeform character development, the ability to field a party, and large-scale battles which turn it into a light RTS with some innovative combat management ideas.

    Path of Exile - I lost a year or more to that game and was still thinking up new and wonderful combinations to play. The recent update (still free) adds dual classes as well. You are correct, only paid items are extra stash tabs and cosmetics. No paying to win here. All things you list under Grim Dawn are there for Path of Exile, customisable hideout too.

    You forgot one of the best ones - Hunter: the reckoning.
    Easily my favorite in this genre, such an awesome game.

    What about revenant? Cracking game.

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