Torchlight 2 (or expecting the expected)
While I'm sure they didn't bear ill will, there must've been at least a thought floating around in one of Runic Games' members when Diablo 3 was released. Seems that long development times and endless hype doesn't equal unanimous acclaim but unlike the travesty that was Duke Nukem Forever, Diablo was not an atrocious game, just one reeking of disappointment for many. So with Torchlight 2, the more fully fleshed-out sequel and including many new and better features, the action RPG player must've hit the jackpot right? Not quite since Torchlight 2 is sort of what you'd expect from a game of this type: best at what it does but that's all it really does.
Taking place a few years after the first game, the Alchemist, who was a playable class last time, has been corrupted by the Heart of Ordrak, the villain from the first game. With the destruction of the town of Torchlight, 4 new heroes arrive to go after the Alchemist and defeat many (and I mean many) enemies to save the land once again.
If there's one thing that at least Diablo 3 did right was continue exploring its more interesting universe and setup. Characters, places and concepts have a lot of lore and many of it was intriguing enough to warrant finding out more. Torchlight? Not really. Plot is either not that engaging or just simply poorly told and while it's not a case of story being non-existent, it's just what's on display isn't exactly the reason to keep going. But sidequests do pop up to help you at least explore the world and having a wider open field to play in makes it a bit more memorable than the nondescript floors from the first game.
The real reason of course is loot. These games always have that nice breadcrumb trail of loot where the more you explore, the more you replace and get more powerful. Having different effects which helps when you're making your build from life steal to critical hit to elemental damage, the treadmill is always present, urging you to keep going. If there is one negative thing to say is that sometimes weapons can be a tad strange on the item side. Whether it's through stat point allocation or just simply oddly designed quest rewards, I find some loot is either 5-7 levels up or in need of stats that I've all been neglecting. Can't tell if its my fault or game's odd reward structure but it does pop up now and then.
One cool element I'm starting to notice a bit more with RPG's lately is being able to customize not only what skills you want but how they can be changed to your liking. Whereas Diablo 3 had the rune system, Torchlight 2 is a bit more simple: put enough skill points into one and it'll alter its effects to be more powerful. Increased radius, lower mana costs or longer reach meter, it's a welcome customization option which helps you decide how exactly you'll be contributing in fights.
The fights themselves, meanwhile, are a bit tougher than they were in Torchlight 1. It's certainly welcome since the game never really gets overwhelming...until you get to the dungeon bosses. While they tend to have unique tactics, the usual rule applies: focus on the boss but kill off the minions while you're at it. And there tends to be a lot of em which can make actually fighting the boss a more intense affair than before yet also ones that feel long. This is alleviated some by the introduction of the much requested co-op. And there's no mandatory servers either so hurray. Choosing from single player, internet or LAN, Torchlight 2 makes for a much better experience than that solitude the first game had. And like Diablo 3 (but not Borderlands 2, grrrr), loot is tied to you specifically so you'll never feel like people are stealing your stuff. If there is one complaint about the online is that it can get very heavy on the framerate. Even with just one other player, the amount of stuff onscreen made for some very choppy gameplay so it's a strange dichotomy. Game on its own is fine yet not especially riveting yet in co-op, the experience goes up tenfold yet the actual playing of it can be hit by the technical stuff.
While it's unfair to constantly refer to Torchlight 2 in reference to Blizzard's outing, both offer their own unique version of how to make an action RPG. With Blizzard, re-doing many systems and introducing new ones makes for one that tries to evolve yet stumbles a few times. With this game, the game is not doing anything out of the ordinary yet what it does, it happens to do very well. A long campaign, a level cap of 100 and 4 character classes, not to mention the internet option makes this quite a bargain for 20 bucks.