March 9 saw, at least for me, one of the most anticipated video game releases this spring: Torchlight, for Xbox Live Arcade. It is a surprisingly well-crafted action RPG featuring tons of fun monster slaughter.

March 10 saw, at least for me, one of the most anticipated video game releases this spring: Dragon Age II. It is a surprisingly well-crafted action RPG featuring tons… of… fun… monster slaughter. Wait a second, where did I hear this before?

First of all, let me say that I’m incredibly happy that we get awesome action RPGs for consoles - even when these days, drawing line between action RPGs and turn-based RPGs is becoming fuzzier and fuzzier. I have to say that I didn’t really consider “damage per second” a RPG statistic before. Now, I got two games that basically use that exact statistic.

But still, this has been really a great huge series of deja vus. When I heard that Torchlight is basically a Diablo II clone, I was excited - randomly generated dungeon crawlers are a criminally underrepresented genre these days, especially on consoles. But my word, does Torchlight ever rip off Diablo II. When I hear the word “clone”, I think of taking the best ideas and putting them in the stirring pot and coming up with something unique and interesting that still seems familiar to the fans of the inspring game. But hell, Torchlight is a clone. Ooh!

There’s a much odder thing in this soup, though: I have trouble remembering which game I’m playing.

It’s funny, really, that both games are essentially the same. Both games feature killing monsters in interesting real-time combat system and grabbing loot that gives you plusses. Yay. Sure, Dragon Age II has much higher production values and every environment has been constructed by hand, as opposed to random generation. Still, Dragon Age II, so far, has also suffered from Mass Effect’s biggest problem: side missions in cookie cutter environments. Yet, these missions are still fun and interesting and hand-made, as opposed to Torchlight’s “Go to dungeon level X and kill monster Y”.

And somehow, I have severe problems remembering which stats I needed to put points in… and which character needed those stats. Which character in which game.

Still, they’re both awesome games, even when my coffee-addled brain can’t sometimes tell the difference. I just have to follow obvious clues. “Oh, this game has a plot. It’s got to be DA2, then.”

Dragon Age II further cemented one odd thought in me: dammit, the west is definitely getting back its coolness. As much I’ve liked Final Fantasy series, Bioware and Bethesda have pulled me back to western RPGs. Why? Fun gameplay. Compelling storytelling. Don’t get me entirely wrong, I’ve sort of enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII so far, but the underlying mechanics still seem fairly antiquated and while the story is definitely passable, it lacks a bit of giveadamnitude.

And speaking of Final Fantasy VII… In Dragon Age II, you can go around whacking monsters in the head with a bigass two-handed sword of epic leetery. And I’ll try to avoid spoiling either game much, but I think one of the characters managed to out-badass Jenova. In the first chapter. Not an easy feat, that.

And before you mention anything about crying in Final Fantasy VII, let me just say that I didn’t. But I did cry in the end of Mass Effect 2’s Overlord. Bioware wins again!