Review: Torchlight 2
By Frank Hartnett on October 6th, 2012 (8 comments)
Huh? What? Oh, sorry, got a little distracted there. Beating up monsters and stealing all their treasure has pretty much been taking up all my time these past couple of weeks. My mind has become obsessed with all those greens and blues and purples and uniques....gold....gems....quests..... Oh, right, review.
Title: Torchlight 2
Developer: Runic Games
Publisher: Perfect World
Release Date: September 20, 2012 (PC)
Taking place a few years after the events of the first Torchlight, the alchemist (one of the classes from the first game) has become corrupted by the The Void, and is now an agent of evil. It is up to a new hero, or heroes, to stop the Alchemist from corrupting the Guardians that protect their world and stop the evil that would be unleashed as a result. For those unfamiliar with the series, Torchlight 2 is a top-down perspective dungeon-crawler RPG developed by the team behind the first two Diablo games. Now, this was an interesting experience for me since I have never actually played a Diablo game or any game like it outside of the first Torchlight. So, no, I never got the feeling of "reliving" the days of Diablo 2 with this game but, regardless, it was a very fun experience.
There are four classes to choose from: Outlander (wields guns and some magic), Embermage (heavy spell casting), Engineer (heavy melee class with steam punk technology), and the Berserker (fast melee class) all of whom have three skill trees and unique playstyles for each tree. To note, each tree has 7 active abilities and 3 passive abilities that the player can put up to 15 points into apiece; however, there are level caps in place to ensure that no one maxes out one ability and destroys everything by level 20. Each character also gets the choice of an animal companion to take with them on their journey. These companions can carry items, buy and sell items for you, learn spells, and engage in combat. This added utility to pets over the first game makes them much more useful and, like before, you can catch fish to temporarily transform your pet into another creature for added combat damage or abilities.
The biggest change over the first Torchlight is the structure of the world. Before, the player was limited to a single town they could warp back to as they descended further and further into a single dungeon. Now, the game has opened up and is divided into several large and explorable areas with three to four dungeons strewn across each one. The player will have to traverse across these landscapes fighting goblins, the undead, werewolves, dwarves, steampunk mechs, and creatures summoned by "The Void" in order to discover and complete the dungeons each major area contains. On top of fighting and looting the corpses of your fallen adversaries, there will be hidden areas with bonus loot, side quests, or extra dungeons to explore should you choose to trek across the entire map. These areas are, thankfully, quite large, and do take time to fully uncover. Whether or not all that exploration is worth it really depends on how lucky you are with your loot.
Upon completion of the game, you are rewarded the chance to experience new game+; a mode in which enemies all start at level 51 and you are able to continue to the progression of your character to obtain some more gear. You will also have the option to run a series of bonus dungeons ranging in level from 46 all the way to 105. Most of these dungeons apply effects to you or the monsters within to add challenge or positive bonuses. There's also the option of playing through as one of the other three classes and even bringing up to 5 of your friends along for the journey via Torchlight 2's multiplayer system.
The basic formula for this game is very simple: run around overworld, kill stuff, loot, find dungeon, beat dungeon, loot, go back to town to sell loot, and repeat. And there really isn't any clever dialogue or gripping story to immerse the player in. As a result, the random loot, stat customization, and the dungeon crawling are really the driving forces behind Torchlight 2. As you might expect, the game can get repetitive if loot grinds aren't your thing, or if you're looking for each dungeon to have completely new enemy types to fight. The boss fights, for the most part, are underwhelming as they just boil down to giant Fantasy monster with swarms of cannon fodder enemies to attack you with. I have never really been a fan of boss fights designed this way for single player experiences since it just seems lazy, especially in a game like this where mobility is important and having tons of enemies on the screen during a boss fight can make things rather confusing.
Possibly the biggest misstep in Torchlight 2 is a particular aspect of the control scheme. The game is designed where move and attack are bound to the same key or mouse click (left click by default). Yes, you can hold down shift to stand in place and attack or hold ctrl to just run around, but the problem comes from trying to move during hectic situations. If I'm trying to dodge a boss' attack that is about to shave off 2/3 of my health, I'm going to be frantically clicking away to get some distance; however, there are times where you can click, say, the edge of the boss' wing or a pillar it summons up and your character will still just stand there and attack. Even just clicking on one of the dozens of enemies that spawn during boss fights can cause your character to just take one step back and start attacking instead of moving. Like I said before, I've never played a Diablo game, so the I found myself contstantly asking: "why is a modern developer using such an outdated control scheme?" Instead of having three key binds for movement, why not just have two where the left click is move and right click is attack? By default, right click is for using one of your character's abilities, but the game does not seem designed for a control scheme like that. It just seems silly to over-complicate a control scheme and even limit the customization to where the player can not separate the attack and move keybinds.
Despite some questionable design choices, Torchlight 2 is a very solid and well made dungeon-crawling RPG. I really do recommend everyone give this game a try even if they're unfamiliar with games designed in this manner. The colorful art style, large environments, stat and build customization and, of course, THE LOOT make Torchlight 2 a very addicting and fun experience. Add multiplayer on top of all that, and you've got yourself a very solid title that is deserving of your attention and hard earned cash. Sadly, Runic has no plans to release Torchlight 2 for consoles, mainly because of the limitations of XBLA, but I would be willing to bet that we will see a version on consoles eventually. In the meantime, if you have a PC, you definitely should download the game and play it. For $20, Torchlight 2 is well worth it.
(Phenomenal - A fantastic experience that surpasses almost all expectations.)
Frank (Seisan) is a blog contributor and chat moderator over at 4Player. He specializes in analyzing the story telling, immersion, and consistency aspects of video games and also enjoys writing Fiction in his spare time. His favorite genres are RPGs, MMOs, and RTS'. Frank also specializes in having a chat name no one can pronounce correctly; nicknamed Seesaw as a result.
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