Torchlight II Switch Review
The action RPG battle from 2012 has been reignited on Nintendo Switch as Panic Button, the people that handled Doom, Wolfenstein II and Rocket League ports for Switch, has ported Runic Games’ Torchlight II to the system. Torchlight II was initially released September 2012 on PC, a few months after Diablo III had released on the same platform. While the game enjoyed the spotlight and gained a few fans in the process, the support for the game was ended after a couple of years and it was soon left behind by the constantly evolving Diablo III. This time around, with such a gap between the release of this game and Diablo III: Eternal Collection on Switch, this is a perfect time for fans of the genre to pick up another great action RPG and enjoy killing, raiding and looting in a more lighthearted take on the genre.
This is a straight port, so there are no new additions to the story, remaining exactly the same as before, meaning that I feel this aspect is the weakest part of the game. Torchlight II follows on a few years after the original game, where one of the hero classes, the Alchemist, from the first game has become corrupted by the Ember Blight and destroys the town of Torchlight before moving on to the Estherian Steppes. It is the player’s job to track down and put a stop to the Alchemist’s plans of destruction.
The problem I had with the game’s story was that the entirety is spent chasing the Alchemist through the three major acts as he corrupts the elemental guardians of the world. I just never felt engaged with it, since the story serves more to push the heroes from one setting to the next and accomplish the tasks set in those acts. Luckily, this is a genre that does not need a great story to be entertaining to play, and Torchlight II gets a lot of the core elements right.
Controls are important for an action RPG, since being able to quickly access skills and items are vital for staying alive. Torchlight II never had official controller support on PC, but there is nothing to worry about with the move to console, as the people at the current porting power house, Panic Button, has made the move from keyboard and mouse to controller without any issues. Movement is assigned to the left stick, while right stick controls the camera zoom and the D-pad can switch between map views. All actions are assigned to the main face and shoulder buttons, where skills and items can be bind to any of those eight buttons. It’s not quite the many buttons available on a keyboard, but what matters is that using a controller feels good and responsive, and there is something devilishly enjoyable about obliterating thousands of enemies on a controller in a isometric dungeon crawler.
And as for the genre goes, Torchlight II is exactly what you would expect from a isometric dungeon crawler. If you have never checked out Diablo III: Eternal Collection on Switch or ever played a game similar to this, then the best way to describe it in simple terms is the player runs around exploring the environments, attacking enemies to make them explode into a mess of gore, picking up loot, traversing randomly-generated dungeons, and killing huge bosses. This never changes throughout the game; however, the core gameplay loop is what makes it entertaining and addictive. It is a simple gameplay creation that is wrapped with a smart progressing level-up system, good design choices and nice presentation.
On the topic of presentation, this a game that has managed to age well over the last seven years. The game’s comic cartoon aesthetics was jammed full of colour and simplistic details, and that has helped it to continue to look charming, with wonderful environments to explore and great enemy designs to pummel. Being an old game means that ideally it should run like a dream on Switch, and Panic Button has done a solid job bringing this across with most visuals intact aiming at a 60FPS in both handheld and docked modes. There is certainly slowdown with the frame-rate during high enemy rate accounts, which happens quite often, so it is not a perfect experience, still, it never gets to the point where the slowdown is enough to cause gameplay issues.
Four classes are available to pick for a starter character, which all have bespoke skills and upgrades. The Engineer specialises in using steampunk bots, the Outlander uses ranged weapons, the Berserker has mastered speedy attacks with animal based powers, while the Embermage is the magician of the group, coming with three different elemental based moves. 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 one I played the most with, gains unlimited spell casting for 12 seconds, allowing for maximum spamming abuse with their devastating skills – in my case, massive homing lasers of lightning that would seek down enemies on screen and hit them for critical damage.
Another choice in the beginning is to decide which pet will follow your character into battle. All the original pets are here, which was to my shock, since this means the head crab from Half-Life 2 is available (Half-Life 2 confirmed for Switch… Hah.). A new pet is exclusive to the Switch version, the unicorn, which is a little disappointed, since it was initially held as a secret, so there was a small hope it could have been a Nintendo character, such as a small Toad or Yoshi. Pets are more than just cool looking sidekicks, since they have an ability to morph into beasts after feeding them items found in fishing wells. Pets can be sent to town to sell unwanted gear and 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.
One thing that Torchlight II excels at is that it manages to enthral the player with its speedy level-up system (maximum level is 100). It never seems more than 10 minutes before you level-up again. Hitting a new level offers 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. Classes are usually not limited to what weapons, rather, limitation with weapons is level or stat based. This means my Embermage could use guns, while a Berserker could do long range with bows. The choice is all yours, but this will change how you build your hero. One thing to take note is that you can only re-spec the last three skill points spent, so choices in skills are permanent, making them more important to get right.
A critical area where the Switch port fails is the ability to have same console local cooperative play. Unlike Diablo III: Eternal Collection, where up to four can play on the Switch, Torchlight II completely abandons this, meaning that everyone needs to have their own Switch and a copy of the game. Ignoring that fault, the rest of the multiplayer is solid. No matter if you are playing locally or online – access to online needs a Nintendo subscription – both modes work well, with online seemingly alive with players happy to join into other people’s games if the session is left for public access. Friends can join through the friend’s list too, giving a streamlined access to online games.
The publisher, Perfect World Entertainment, has given the game a price of £17.99 for this port, which isn’t that far off what it originally cost for the PC version back in 2012. While there might not be a discount due to its age, the game is easily worth the asking price, as there is plenty here. The main campaign lasts around 20 hours, with most optional dungeons explored. Once the main game is completed it opens up the New Game+ elements. 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 random generated dungeons with random modifiers, able to be both good or bad to offer a varying degree of challenge. I don’t think the end content is as good as Diablo III: Eternal Collection, since that game does a lot with its adventure mode to give newly random objectives to offer some degree of variety, but Mapworks does give Torchlight II some legs, since the ability to gain experience and better loot to use on the harder new game+ difficulties, up to a maximum of New Game +5, can be done here.
Torchlight II was a great action RPG back in 2012 and it still remains it to this day. Everything I enjoyed about it still holds true now, and of course, that is also the same with the negatives, plus with the lack of local same Switch cooperative play is a bummer. Still, this is a superb port by Panic Button that the minor niggles should not put you off, because Torchlight II‘s addictive dungeon crawling action is a wonderful fit for the Nintendo Switch, even if you already own Diablo III: Eternal Collection.