Torchlight II PC Review

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The first Torchlight was a surprise hit for Runic Games back in 2009. This was helped by the generous price of the game and the fact that two of the designers were co-designers for Blizzard’s Diablo and the fanatically praised sequel, Diablo II. These guys knew how to make a desirable loot-based game. Even with the success, the game itself was limited to single player and featured one massive dungeon that took place over 35 floors. An infinite, generated dungeon did open up after completing the game, but even so, gamers wanted the game to be fleshed out more. Runic Games assured fans that the sequel would be bigger and better, so is Torchlight II the game we were promised?

I have a lot of praise for Torchlight II, but before I speak about that, let’s get its weakness out of the way first: the story. The plot of Torchlight II follows on a few years after the first game, where the Alchemist has become corrupted by the Ember Blight disease that came from the Heart of Ordrak, the evil that was under the town of Torchlight in the first game. The entire game is spent chasing him through the three acts as he corrupts the elemental guardians of the world. The story is sadly not engaging, serving only to push the heroes from one environment to the next or to give players objectives to accomplish. Thankfully, everything else about the game makes up for the gibberish of a plot.

Let’s be honest here. I am not going to make it through this review without mentioning Diablo III at some point. It is inevitable, because the Diablo franchise is huge on the PC, and when anything similar is released it automatically gets put up against it. I honestly do feel that Torchlight II will please anyone who was unhappy with the changes in Diablo III, because this game plays comparable to Diablo II. And for Torchlight fans? They will love this sequel because everything those fans asked for is included.

Torchlight II’s gameplay is similar to any other isometric dungeon crawler. That means you run around clicking on enemies to smash them into exploding, gory pieces, pick up dropped loot, explore randomly-generated dungeons, and kill huge bosses. This never changes throughout the game; however, it is entertaining and addictive to the point that time flies past, and before you know it, you have been clicking for the past five hours and your finger is about to drop off. It is a simple mechanic that is wrapped with a smart, progressing level-up system, good design choices and nice presentation.

Improvements first come with Torchlight II’s new classes. This time there are four to choose from. The Engineer, who likes to use steampunk bots; the Outlander, who uses ranged weapons; the Berserker, relying on fast attacks with animal based powers; and Embermage, a class that comes with three different elemental based skills. Every class has their own specific set of action and passive skills. Skills are important to staying alive, and you will use them often, if not more than regular weapon attacks. Each one of the four classes also comes with an ability bar that offers a bonus in some way. The Embermage class (the class I completed the game with) gains unlimited spell casting for 12 seconds, allowing you to spam devastating skills – in my case, massive spikes of ice that would travel along the ground, causing serve damage to anyone touched by it.

The game enthrals the player with its speedy level-up system (maximum level is 100). It never seems more than 10 minutes before you level-up again. With each one comes five stat points that can be put in strength, vitality, focus or dexterity. In addition to that, you also gain one skill point to put into one of three talent trees for your selected class, putting you in control on how your character grows. A class is not limited to what equipment can be used, so you can use guns with a mage, bows with a melee character, or daggers with a range class.  The choice is all yours. One thing to take note is that you can only re-spec the last three skill points spent, so choices in skills are permanent compared to Diablo III’s predetermined growth, skill swapping system.

Exploring Torchlight II’s three acts covers traversing the mountainous and snowy region of Estherian Streppes, the deserts of the Mana Wastes (what is it with deserts always featuring in act II of dungeon crawlers?), and the haunted swamps and forests of Grunnhiem. Every area contains many enemies to destroy – skeletons, undead, wolves, robots and dragons to name a few – with loot and gold raining out of them after you simulate hitting a bad guy like a piñata. Side quests are planted around the maps, and as you progress further into the game more optional dungeons open up, hidden away in the game’s vast areas. In fact, I prefer how the side quests are done in this compared to Diablo III, where they felt limited and restrained with its small constructed maps.

Let’s not forget the multiplayer, which can either be done online or through a LAN, and can feature up to six players at once. Enemies scale up to compensate for the extra players; however, I do recommend playing on a higher difficulty than normal, because that felt too easy for anyone who has any experience in this genre. If there is one thing that Torchlight II fails on, it is its interface for multiplayer. There is no way to share quests or post items in chat. If you want to show someone a loot drop you are going to have to request a trade with that player. When the game gives every player their own loot drops, it can be awkward to keep requesting trades to see if an item is better than your friend’s currently equipped gear.

No doubt people will be happy to hear that there is no online DRM. The only requirement to play online or create online games is a Runic Account – an easy sign-up process on the website. Apart from the initial hour of launch, there were no problems accessing the multiplayer rooms available. This unrestricted design leads the game open to modding once the TorchEd software is released. I can see this being a fantastic inclusion when combined with the Steam workshop. Just imagine the limitless amount of maps and content that could come from fans.

I have gone on about all the great additions to the latest instalment of Torchlight, but let’s not forget that the original had a fantastic art style and some neat ideas too. That comic art style remains for the sequel, and it continues to look charming, while at the same time creating beautiful, stylish environments.  The pets return as well, coming with more than just three choices. They also retain their ability to morph into beasts after feeding them items you find from the fishing wells. Pets can be sent to town to sell unwanted gear, but now pets can also buy basic items – like health potions and scrolls – from the vendors and return them to you. No longer do you need to interrupt your dungeon raiding with a trip to the shop for more potions.

For the content you get with Torchlight II the price of £14.99 seems ridiculous cheap. The main campaign lasted me 18 hours, with most optional dungeons explored. Once the main game is completed the option to proceed to New Game+ opens up. In this, all the enemies are at least level 51, but that means the loot drops are also better. On top of that, you can visit the Mapworks hub, a place where a shop sells dungeons with buffs and negatives effects. For example, one of the first ones I bought was a map that gave me 5% increase in experience points and -25% damage received, but every enemy after death would explode with a trap, causing damage to my hero if close-by. The shop was jammed with these maps, creating opportunity to keep playing if you want a change from playing the story content.

I still often play Diablo III from time to time, and to say that Diablo III and this game are the same genre, their gameplay manages to be different. I found it fine switching between the two games, so no one should refuse to buy Torchlight II because they are already playing a similar game. If you do, you will be missing out on a fantastic title. The only real negative with Torchlight II is it does nothing new to the genre. Even so, Torchlight II is one of the best examples of a dungeon raiding, isometric loot game, and should be in everyone’s Steam list if you even have the slightest urge to play an action RPG.

9/10

by

Version tested: PC

Developer: Runic Games

Publisher: Runic Games

Genre: Action RPG