The highly-anticipated Torchlight II has finally been released! Does the dungeon-crawler manage to improve upon its predecessor or is it simply a missed opportunity that should be ignored? 411's Marc Morrison checks in with his full review!
Title: Torchlight 2
Developer: Runic Games
Genre: Dungeon Crawler/Action RPG
Players: 1-6, online co-op
Rated: T for Teen
Torchlight 2 is finally upon us, rejoice people! While it wasn’t the 12 year, approaching vaporware-status that Diablo 3 was, there was some concern for Torchlight 2 when it failed to hit release dates and some troubling bits swirled around, it was for naught. While there are a few problems with Torchlight 2, it is a masterful game, one that is in many ways a better experience overall than Diablo 3.
Torchlight 2 doesn’t stray too far from its roots coming from Torchlight 1. Combat is largely unchanged, the pet mechanics, questing, and most everything superficially appears to be similar from Torchlight 1. The moment you dive into it though, the upgrades and changes become apparent, answering a lot of criticisms from the first game, which is welcome.
First, yes, Torchlight 2 has multiplayer. Everyone can stop freaking out about it now. Put simply, it works as you’d want it to. You can use your single-player characters in multi-player games, inviting friends to join your game, going into theirs, or just jumping into a random game from the browser window. You can also create LAN games if you want, if you are into that sort of thing. Online play worked well, with no lag to speak of in my experience with it. You can create games with up to 6 people with the game increasing in difficulty and scale with the more people you have. The lack of multi-player was the number 1 criticism from the first game so it’s nice to see that Runic added it, and it works fairly flawlessly.
The downside to the online part is something related to Diablo 3 and that is the lack of the community features. When you started Diablo 3, you had to login to their online service, and had access to your friends list during all times of the game. This let you see where your friends were in the game, and if they had their game open, you could hop into their game at almost any time, and they could do the same to you. Torchlight 2 does have a friends list and some of that, but it doesn’t go far enough. Signing in to the online part isn’t mandatory (which in most respects is good), but it also creates a rift if you’re trying to get your friends into a game, or even where they are. There is also no cross-game chatting (except using Steam chat), and even the process of adding friends to your list is kind of a pain in the ass. It is understandable why they don’t require you to sign in to the online part, but if you do, and you still play a single-player game, it would be nice if you could see how your friends were doing in the game, with an option to join them, without having to bail out to the main menu and select the internet option.
There are 4 different classes in this game, upping it from Torchlight 1’s original 3 classes. The first is the Berserker who at first seems like the Destroyer from the first game. While the Destroyer was a slow and powerful character, the Berserker is someone who is extremely quick and vicious. The Berserker also has transformational magic, turning him/herself into a wolf, and other such nature-derived magic.
The new Outlander class draws a big parallel to the originals Vanquisher class. The Outlander is a ranged specialist that uses different types of ammo and summoning spells to bring death to your enemies. They have various shots like; entangle shot, shadowshot (splits into 3 homing bullets), chaos shot, and so on. With their summoning skills, they can convert slain enemies to bats, or able to summon a brute to fight for you for a period of time.
They split the original game’s Alchemist into two different classes. In the original game, the Alchemist was over-powered a bit, with his ability to summon imps and golems and what not, along with his ability to fling ember (magic) everywhere. Torchlight 2 splits the difference, creating the Embermage being the big magic user and with the Engineer being the one who creates a lot of little minions for him/her to us. The Embermage is really the wizard of the game, using fire, frost and thunder magic in equal parts. They do have one minion ability, but it’s just to clone yourself for a short period of time. The Engineer is a slightly different beast, with it kind of mixing the original game’s three classes into one. It can alternate between using large, two-handed weapons, or guns with equal proficiency with both, at any time. Like the original Alchemist, it can also summon a few minions to help out, notably a “Healing Bot”, Spider-Mines, and the late game skill of “Sledgebot” to kill everything in its path. The Bersker, Outlander and Embermage tend to specialize in one different skill set. The Engineer is more like the jack-of-all-trades type of character, good for any situation.
One nice thing about this game is that you can now customize your appearance. You can choose from a few different head models, hair styles, and hair colors. There are also now 8 pets to choose from, ranging from the original dog and cat, to wolves, hawks and ferrets. Each pet also has two different color sets to choose from, leading to a little more customization. It’s not the huge breath of customization in some games, but it doesn’t need it. Once the gear starts dropping, people are going to look different from each other, anyway.
I should mention how skills and the charge bar works. Each class has three separate skill trees to utilize, but it depends upon your level. The late-game skills are unlocked once you pass certain level requirements. However, early game abilities can also be upgrades as well. Each active skill has three different tier bonuses to augment the skill, making it more useful. For example, the Engineer’s Healer Bot starts off a little weak, just replenishing your health. If you drop 5 skill points into him though, his first tier bonus is unlocked which replenishes your mana as well. If you drop five more points into him, his second tier bonus is unlocked which gives you, and other party members an 8% bonus to armor. His third tier bonus gives a 16% bonus to armor. Each active skill has different tiers to possibly unlock. It makes the issue of skill points more important because you could either buy a new skill, or spend the point upgrading an old skill unlocking a new tier. Or you could spend the point on one of your passive skills, which don’t have tiers, but are always on and help give bonuses.
The “Charge Bar” is a new addition to this game and a fantastic one. Each class has a bar in the center of the screen that fills up as you do damage to enemies. Once the bar is full, it activates a special state for your character, giving them infinite mana for a short time, guaranteed critical hits, and so on. I’ll break it down here: the Embermage bar gives you infinite mana for a short time with your skills doing 25% more damage to enemies. The Berserker charge bar increases your character’s speed and makes them have a critical hit on any attack on an enemy. The Outlander charge bar is a bit different in that it doesn’t give you an active state to enter. It provides a passive buff though to your stats that is increased the more the bar is filled up, up to a 14% bonus. The Engineer’s charge bar is the most different, with it being segmented into 5 spots. You can store up to 5 charges in the bar, and certain skills will be enhanced using a charge, or using up all the charges at once for a much more powerful attack. Each class has either active or passive skills that can help with filling the charge bar, or decreasing the amount drained. If you’re out of combat for a long period, the bar starts to drain slowly. Stay out of combat for longer, and the bar is gone completely, forcing you to build it back up again. It provides a good motivation for you to always want to be in battle, or to know where enemies are to keep your bar filled. It also can really help get you out of a tight spot if the bar is filled up at the right moment, keeping you from dying.
As in the first game, you still have a pet that is always with you. The pet can attack, cast spells, gather loot, and be sent to town to sell all your junk, just like before. One new addition is now your pet can be told to buy certain things in town, health/mana potions, or identity/town portal scrolls from a shopping menu. The pet can only buy these four things, but it still is a great improvement that helps keep the flow of the game going.
One thing that has been slyly fixed in this game is the difficulty scale. Torchlight 1 was an easy game, especially on the default (normal) difficulty. This game appears like that at first, but the difficulty gradually increases the further along you go. To me, Diablo 3 had some very abrupt difficulty spikes, mostly around Act 2’s boss of Belial, so having a more gradual increase of difficulty, rather than a stark jump in it, is welcome.
As with games of this type, the big thing here is loot collecting. They have added a few new weapon types, notably shotguns and cannons (which are really fun to use). You’ll usually need a minimum of stats or levels to be able to use new armor or weapons, but it gives you a nice choice. Let’s say you pick up a new sword, but can’t use it yet. It will say you need Strength 14 and Vitality 22 or be level 14. This helps with the gearing system because it gives you a second chance to be able to use something good. If you have not a lot of points in focus, the new weapon requires a high focus number, but you’re one level away from meeting the level requirement, you can still use the item, without having to level up 3 or 4 times to get all the necessary skill points you’d need to put into focus.
The town has been subtly improved, adding a few new vendor types and taking one important one out. The big new vendor is the one that is a transmutation lab. You can give him items and combine them to form new items, either going from the recipe book, or trying new things on your own. You can combine four regular health potions into one big health potion. The other vendors from the first game are also there, like the blacksmith, the general goods, the gamble vendor, the “enchant item” vendor, the “destroy a gem in an item” vendor, and the “destroy an item to get the gem back” vendor. The big one that is missing is the “combine lesser gems to make more powerful ones” vendor. The game claims that “the knowledge to combine gems has been lost”, but that’s garbage. I can almost guarantee that within a week of the game being out, some modder will put the gem upgrading system right back into the game. It’s funny how Diablo 3 has the gem upgrading vendor, but not the “enchant your own items” vendor. Go figure.
Along with the town improvements, the world itself has undergone a shift. In the original game, you would do about 5 levels in one setting, take on a boss, go down some stairs, and enter a new setting with 5 more levels and a boss to take on at the end, over and over. This framework never really was changed during the game, and once the main quest was completed. Aside there being multiple towns in this game, there are a much greater variety of dungeons locales and huge outdoor areas to explore. If you are obsessive about exploring every nook and cranny that a map has, expect to spend at least a half hour on certain levels due to their massive scale. There is also a day/night cycle that changes the world as you play the game.
Graphically, the game is largely unchanged from the original Torchlight 1. It’s bright, colorful, and cartoony but with a definite sense of style. It isn’t the most detailed, graphically intense game in the world, but it can run on a lot of lower end systems just fine. There are some great spell effects that occur, that look really good. The action can get intense at times but the game never has any slow-down and runs steady all the time.
The audio in the game works well but isn’t immediately memorable. The music is solid enough, with good melodies for slaughtering thousands of enemies in dungeons. Eventually, like with any game like this, you’ll put on your own music over the default stuff, but that will take a while. The sound effects are good, with attacks sounding like they hit hard against enemies, and various audio cues telling you when a trap is sprung, or when your charge bar is full. The voice acting is a bit weak, nothing broken, but just forgettable.
There is a HUGE amount of replay factor in this game, just due to the intrinsic nature of it. You have four classes, four difficulties, online play, LAN play, a healthy New Game + option and more. You could spend weeks trying to find every secret, or collect that last armor part to complete a set, or just to kill a 100 more enemies. Add in mod support married with the Steam Community (for easier mod installation), and that prolongs the game’s length dramatically.
The most important part of the game is that it’s simply fun. I found Diablo 3 a good game, but eventually it dragged on and got boring. Especially late in the game where you pretty much had to only pick one specific build to get anywhere in the Hell and Inferno difficulty levels. The deeper you get into Torchlight 2, the more it opens up, giving you different abilities, new enemies, and different worlds to explore.
Torchlight 2 is just a hugely enjoyable game, all the way through. While it doesn’t have the social aspects that Diablo 3 has, it’s a much more cohesive game overall, with great skills, tough enemies, and a difficulty curve that doesn’t fluctuate wildly. For 20$, it is an absolute bargain, one that should be bought by anyone who plays PC games.
A bit weak on the technical side, but artistically brilliant. The look isn’t changed much from the first game, but is still looks great on any computer you run it on.
Superb across the board. A few missing social hooks are the only missing thing. Everything is better, from the new classes, better weapons, more enemies, the list is endless.
The voices aren’t great, but that’s a minor issue. Music is good but will get tiresome overtime. Sound effects help in combat and when you’re just exploring the world.
Online play, mod support, New Game +, multiple classes, multiple difficulty levels, etc. You can (and will) lose yourself to this game for a very long time.
See everything above to see why the game is fun. A much fuller and more robust experience than Diablo 3, that’s for damn sure, at a third of the price.