Torchlight 2 Review
Loot. It’s long become a staple of the action RPG, but recently it appears to be everywhere in videogames.
Borderlands 2 has turned the acquisition of things that go bang and boom into an art form, Darksiders II had an unhealthy obsession with collecting ever more outlandish weaponry, while Krater was just… Well, it was rubbish.
It’s arguably Blizzard’s Diablo III that has set the current standard for loot-drop games, however, delivering a polished experience that has turned grinding and endless loot cycling into a higher purpose for millions of gamers.
So surely, with Blizzard’s game still turning heads there’s little room in the action RPG genre for another upstart? Runic Games would beg to differ, and after more hours than we can care to remember, we do too. Torchlight II not only successfully builds on its enjoyable 2009 predecessor but takes the franchise in all manner of exciting new directions.
While Torchlight was a bunch of former Diablo developers cautiously testing out new ideas, its sequel is bold, brash and fully confident in its ability to take an established genre in interesting new directions. The most obvious of these is Torchlight II’s ability to finally let you adventure with a party of other players, either online or via LAN.
While it initially suffered from numerous matchmaking issues, games for the most part are stable and a hell of a lot of fun. It can certainly get hectic when six players are all scrapping away at the same time, but it never descends into outright chaos.
For a budget price, Torchlight 2 creates a surprisingly pretty world.
Runic should also be commended for ensuring that players receive their own loot while playing together, meaning players should be able to team up with total strangers without the fear of having their goodies stolen.
While there’s nothing to compete with Blizzard’s online auction house, the entire system is extremely robust, and in the weeks since Torchlight II’s launch, we’ve never had problem playing online. The real beauty of Torchlight II is that as good as cracking skulls with friends is, the game is just as satisfying when playing on your own.
This is largely down to Runic’s experience within the field, as well as your ever-present pet, who has been significantly enhanced since the original game, fighting more intelligently than before. It’s also possible to give them a shopping list of useful items, saving you a trip. One interesting aspect of Runic’s sequel is that none of the character classes from the original game return.
Instead you now have four new classes to get to grip with: Engineer, Outlander, Embermage and Berserker. The Engineer is a multipurpose fighter, able to mix heavy weaponry with the ability to create a number of useful constructs, while the Outlander relies on speed and ranged attacks and dabbles with magic.
The Berserker takes on the role of tank, and has access to all manner of heavy duty weaponry and the ability to summon animal spirits, with the Embernage excelling at flinging spells and specialising in elemental magic. All four characters have three distinct skill trees, meaning that Torchlight II offers a satisfying amount of customisation, as well as an extremely generous level cap that takes you all the way to level 100.
While the included skills and attributes don’t feel as well-balanced as those in Diablo III, they nevertheless allow you to take your characters in all sorts of exciting directions, as you work out what best for your current style of play.
It’s worth noting, though, that you’re pretty much locked on the paths you choose, and although it is possible to reselect the last three chosen skills for a price, the skill tress lack the flexibility of Diablo III. For the most part, many will not care, as the sheer breadth and variety on offer in Torchlight II is genuinely pleasing.
Love loot? The you’ll love this. It’s that simple.
The ever-deepening mine of the original game has been replaced with a variety of exotic, randomly designed locations. New weather and night and day effects add to the variety, while Torchlight’s distinctive-looking world scales beautifully, regardless of your system.
It’s not graphics-hungry by any means, but the distinctive art style and beautifully designed enemies will have you constantly zooming in with your mouse wheel so you can better savour the distinctive and exciting world that was first hinted at in Torchlight.
Yes, it can be argued that Torchlight II adds little to the genre, and yes, it feels a little rough around the edges compared to Blizzard’s super-slick loot-conquering behemoth, but it remains an impressive achievement in itself, and is a massive improvement over the original game.
Quests are better structured and there are plenty of nice little touches like being able to turn off low-level loot – handy on later playthroughs when you want to avoid worthless junk – while the combat remains meaty and endlessly satisfying. It’s also a keeper, offering plenty of replay value via new game restarts, and that’s without fully exploring each distinct class.
It’s something of a shame, then, that Torchlight’s story rarely digs into you in the same way that its combat and customisation does. While it ties in with events from the original game, it’s a largely bland affair, filled with predictable moments and stereotypical characters.
It’s an admittedly weak link in an otherwise strong chain, though, and proves that you don’t need to be a multimillion-dollar colossus in order to make a memorable impact on a well-trodden genre.