Genre: Role Playing Developer: Publisher: Classification: M Release Date: 21st Sep 2012 Platforms:
Average of 2 Ratings
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Let’s not waste any time here: Torchlight 2 is absolutely the spiritual successor to Diablo 2 in a way that Blizzard’s actual sequel, Diablo 3 is not. D3 is very much a post-World of Warcraft creation, with Blizzard sitting in a very different position after the mega-success of their MMO. We are talking at least as much about business model and gamer-as-customer relationships here as we are about technology or game mechanics. The way we as human beings relate to Diablo 3 is very different to how we participated in Diablo 2.
To find that more familiar experience, we can turn to Torchlight 2. Runic Games is largely composed of a team who, by way of Flagship Studios Seattle and Mythos, come from Blizzard North. The fact that Torchlight feels an awful lot like Diablo 2 running on a 2012 game engine is really no surprise.
That said, all these things are in Torchlight’s favor, in my opinion. Having no interest in signing up to Blizzard’s new fantasy-themed slot machine, I was really excited to learn that Torchlight would have co-op play, something the previous version was sorely lacking.
On jumping into Torchlight 2, players will choose between 4 classes: Berserker, Outlander, Embermage and Engineer. These classes represent a refreshing remix of the staid Warrior, Hunter, Rogue, Caster breakdown we see in so many games. That is, the classes don’t map perfectly onto the roles (tank/dps/healer) that one might expect, so pay some attention.
The Berserker is the closest to a straight warrior at first glance but with his dual-wielding fist weapons isn’t your typical knight-in-shining-armour at all. Berserkers are also infused with ‘beast magic’ allowing them to leap like werewolves through packs of enemies, damaging them and healing himself. Further, he can summon an ethereal lupine ally to fight alongside for a limited time.
The Outlander is a ranged DPS class in the main, though it seems all classes can actually deal a fair bit of melee damage. Torchlight 2 features dual-wielding right across the class spectrum, so the Outlander can hold pistols in either hand as well as ye olde “shotgonnes,” which are two-handed.
The Embermage is the caster class, though my wife enjoyed the swinging the huge lava hammer for melee damage more than tossing fireballs from a distance.
The Engineer, finally, is where you will find the most warrior-like skills, including a passive ability actually called Sword and Board. The other skill trees are a two-handed specialisation, and the focused on summoning robotic allies.
There are three skill trees in each class, which do take a little study to work out. I have wasted a few skill points on my Engineer, upgrading his 2-hand melee ability before deciding I’d prefer to haul a huge cannon around, for example. There are 3 passive skills in each tree, one of which seems to be very useful to specs in the other trees, but since these can be learned at any time, its not a problem to benefit from them.
So, while there is a whole lot of inspiration being drawn from standard action-RPG tropes here, the classes and skill trees are a little unpredictable, so it does pay to really think about the way you want to play - especially since the “respec” trainer only allows you to undo the last 3 skills you’ve picked up. So those 5 points into 2 hand melee are going to sit there on my cannon-wielding Engineer forever. More’s the pity.
The world of Torchlight 2 is realised through a cel-shaded art style reminiscent of World of Warcraft combined with Age of Empires Online. I actually quite like this take on the genre--a refreshing lack of melodramatic seriousness in comparison to Diablo’s gothic style.
There are some nice touches to the graphical representation: the game enjoys a day and night cycle along with some weather effects. The various explosions and particle effects do just look nice, like a game from this generation. I’m not usually one to harp on this kind of thing, but this game is all about the gratification from things that go boom, so it is important.
I also don’t want to go on at length about “the gameplay loop” but here that’s paramount. Torchlight 2 is all about that constant fight-and-loot loop, the steady acquisition of skills, statistics and new gear. The developers knew exactly what they wanted out of a 2012 ARPG, and wasted no time in taking us there.
Right out of the blocks, the game gets into a steady momentum--there’s no “collect 5 pieces of driftwood” kinds of quests here, it’s all about squashing monsters right from the start.
Everything is geared towards maintaining that sense of momentum, from the way each class has more than adequate ability to deal with groups of enemies, to the speed at which the characters jog through the world. At times I felt this was a little too fast--I didn’t get very attached to any particular set of gear, since upgrading is so frequent. That took away some of the feeling of accomplishment that having to wait and work harder for a new item might have generated.
That said, players can also take a break and go fishing. Fishing and pets are hallmarks of the Torchlight games, and they are expanded in Torchlight 2. Your character can be the proud owner of a panther or wolf, through to a ferret or papillion. As in the previous game, these are combat pets, and benefit from buffs in the form of strange fish.
On top of fish, I’ve pulled some pretty impressive, rare set gear out of a fishing hole, so it’s worth stopping every now and then to wet a line.
There are a lot of positive things to say about Torchlight 2. I quite like how some of the enemies “wake up” as your character gets near. That is, some of them are literally sleeping around campfires, while others explode out of huge termite-mounds, a bit like the monsters in Pitch Black.
In dungeons, you can usually see the entrance to the boss level from some distance away, by peering over a ledge a few floors up, which adds a sense of apprehension or excitement.
There are lots of random mini-quests that are scattered over the overworld--small tasks that don’t usually require you to move but a few metres away to rescue someone or retrieve some knick-knack.
Finally, the multiplayer: it just works. Runic have included a truly old-school feature, the LAN game, in Torchlight 2. Both LAN and Internet games worked perfectly when I tested them, with one of the players being all the way in Perth (I didn’t even know they had internet out there).
That said, the game lacks some of the more sophisticated multiplayer features that one might expect, such as quest-sharing.
One feature I don’t personally like but you might be perfectly happy with is the way loot works by default - each player in a multiplayer game sees an entirely private set of loot. Of course, this is great when playing with strangers you don’t know, but I feel it takes away from the sense of sharing the quest. There’s no chance to share the experience of seeing that great piece of gear drop, which I feel does the game a disservice.
Two final things to note: hold down your mouse buttons. At least for your main, non-mana-using attack, it just works better than trying to click. Second thing: if you’ve ever played Diablo or any other ARPG dungeon-crawler, play this game at least on Veteran. Normal is really easy, and I can’t even imagine how simple the Casual setting is. Once I flicked it over to Veteran I began to notice all sorts of good spell/ability synergies I just didn’t need to use on the easier settings.
Overall, Torchlight II is a great game. As far as gameplay goes, this is going to bring back memories of the earlier Diablo games. The story is perhaps less interesting, but it certainly doesn’t take itself as seriously as Diablo so I’m happy with that. For the price Runic are charging, this is an absolute gem - and I’ve got an empty socket.
Nice review. However one overlooked criticism of the game, in my opinion, is the absence of a real risk vs reward mechanic. A level 1 character could theoretically beat the end bosses because of the lack of any kind of meaningful death penalty. The fact that mob's (including bosses) HP don't replenish when the player character respawns just leads to lazy gameplay. In fact, it's often cheaper to die and respawn for a paltry monetary amount than it is to stock up on potions and fight tactically. Way too casual for my liking, yet the only other option is the permadeath of hardcore. I feel the middle ground is missing here, and it's the only unsatisfying bit of the whole experience.