I'm sorry if this isn't the place for a post like this, but I'm not seeing any rules in the sidebar, so- here goes.
I really want to learn to enjoy one of these games. Conceptually, they seem right up my alley, but in practice, something keeps bugging me about all of them and it's kept me from really digging into anything.
Looking from the outside in, it seems like the core of my issue with the three of these that I've actually tried (ARPGs? Diablo-likes?) is that there's this mentality that the meta-game is the game. I've tried Diablo III, PoE and Grim Dawn, and each of them quickly made me feel the same way.
I love how complex the stat interactions can get, how gear can shape a character, obviously the fantasy of smashing your way through thousands of enemies, and the general idea of a perpetual dungeon crawl where your only ultimate goal is to become a more efficient killing machine.
When I say that there's a "the meta-game is the game" mentality, I think a good example is a statement I see often on forums like this, which is that if you're looking for a challenging experience, you should look for a different genre. Really? That's one of the core ideas here? The moment to moment gameplay just never feels all that engaging.
I don't mean that a game needs to be extremely difficult or punishing, but that I wish it wasn't just a DPS race. The player hardly needs to do anything past the planning stages of a build, aside from chugging a potion when necessary and running if things get too hot. It's a very passive experience, and a lot of people seem convinced that if it wasn't a fairly passive experience, it wouldn't be much of a Diablo-like, and so this combination of relatively complex loot mechanics, crazy enemy counts, randomized dungeons and flashy skills gets delegated to a very specific type of player looking for a very specific sort of game they can chill out with while listening to a podcast or something.
I mean, in Path of Exile's case, the game's literally built around being able to have a character that only uses one or two skills (or none at all even, so that you just attack once and just… stand there.) Which is a shame, because it really seems quite neat, although it's free-to-play nature was ultimately what turned me off from it. I've also heard that the moment-to-moment combat used to actually be fun, and the community slowly convinced it's developers to turn it into something mechanically far easier, which is discouraging to say the least.
At least Diablo III gives you plenty of buttons to press, but meanwhile, it's… well, you know what it is, you know what new players say about it, you've played it.
Grim Dawn is probably the closest I've come to actually enjoying things, especially with stuff like the achievement "I Was Not Expecting You, Human" (Slay Warden Krieg on Veteran mode with a character under level 11) which actually put me in situations where I needed to really think about what I was doing moment-to-moment, in that case actually avoiding combat and weaving through hoards of zombies, not getting to level 11 before reaching the first boss was actually a legitimate challenge. Ultimately though I felt the same nagging boredom, and the idea that "endgame" in Grim Dawn is so dependent on one set of stats (elemental resistances) was a big turnoff as well.
The thing is, you almost never need to react to anything. You go through the same skill rotation, round enemies up in a ball, press the health potion button when something hurts (which you can rarely avoid). Enemy design is seemingly almost non-existent, at least not in a way that creates interesting situations. Fighting hoards of mooks is great fun, but there should at least be moments where you need to survive some bullet hell, prioritize targets, change up your attack patterns, anything. I almost find myself almost wishing for, like, environmental traps or something.
TL;DR, are there any games in this genre that really expect something from the player outside of the planning stages? Something with enemy design beyond "run at the player, slightly faster than the player", something that messes with your builds in an interesting way sometimes, anything? Even very old stuff would be fine, I'm the sort of person who still plays classic Doom (real classic Doom) and shit like Morrowind, so if the answer is Diablo 2 or even just Diablo, cool. I can't help but think that if anyone actually got past some of these preconceived notions of what a "diablo-like" is, they'd have a massive game on their hands, so I'm not getting my hopes up.
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