Developer: Runic Games / Publisher: Runic Games / Played On: PC / Price: $19.99 / ESRB: Not Yet Rated
Torchlight 2 contains just about everything you probably want in a dungeon crawler and action RPG: massive piles of loot to sort though, an array of weapons, armor, and equipment to upgrade and enhance, and more than enough varying quests to keep you occupied for hours into a weekend.
And though it comes with a few minor frustrations, Runic Games’ sequel to 2009’s Torchlight is a refined dungeon exploring experience that offers much in the way of fun and reward, not to mention hours and hours of content.
Torchlight 2 feels like Torchlight – you’re still clicking around on the isometric, top-down world, slaying monsters and beasts of all kinds with an assortment of weapons, skills and armor equipped to your customized character, and collecting pile after pile of dropped gold and loot. You still have your health, you still have your manna, and you definitely still have your far-reaching skill trees. You’re still a hero on a heroic quest.
If you’ve played Torchlight or you’ve played Diablo, you’re not going to experience anything drastically new here – in fact it’s all pretty straightforward and familiar. What you will experience, though, is something equally if not more refined, more fleshed out, and, ultimately, more engaging than the original Torchlight.
From the outset you’re able to select from four preset classes: the gun-toting Outlander, the magic staff-wielding Embermage, the brutish, melee-centric Berserker, and the tech-focused Engineer. Like any good class-based game, each class in Torchlight 2 has its individual strengths, weaknesses and most effective style of play. What is universal among them is the stat point system, which has you dropping earned points into four categories: Strength, Dexterity, Focus and Vitality, upgrading your damage effectiveness, critical hit damage, mana effectiveness, and health management respectively.
You’ll go from quest to quest in an assortment of varied environments like the forest, the desert, and the tundra, and you’ll fight mini-bosses and giant monsters that will make you click your index finger clean off. Like I said, nothing really new here – it’s familiar fun.
I spent most of my 20+ hours with Torchlight 2 focusing on the Outlander, a class that specializes in ranged DPS with weapons like the bow, cannon, and pistol. Though I quickly found favor with the bow, I steadily transitioned to some unique duel pistols, easily swappable since you can now switch between two sets of weapons at any given time on the fly. What I should point out is that, like Diablo III, the game subtly encourages you to try out new weapons, as the random loot spawning system teases you with character bonuses like increased armor, health, or mana. You might think you’ll never turn loose that sweet new axe you just retrieved from a boss chest, but it won’t be long until you find yourself tempted to swap it out for that mana-charging ice staff you see at the local town vendor.
As for the random loot system itself, it’s hit or miss at times. Often you’ll feel over-rewarded, whereas in other instances you’ll feel like the game hasn’t given you anything great in half an hour. I guess that goes to the system’s credit, being that it truly does feel random. When playing with a friend, I found him sometimes disappointed when completing a boss with me, realizing that he received nothing very notable while I conversely received a kickass new helmet that doubled my mana points. Then again, there were times in the random wild where he’d find the greatest thing since sliced bread, and all I could find was rubber boots and other items automatically added to the “sell to the vendor” list.
Every weapon and armor piece is able to be enchanted, which for a certain price can give it a randomly applied bonus. You can swap these bonuses out any time for another random one, but you might find yourself draining gold quickly, as it’s pretty pricey. Like other games in its genre, Torchlight 2 also allows for the insertion of gems and socketables in applicable weapons and armor. Any loot you find has a chance of having sockets for these bonus-adding gems, with the best of the best having upwards of four sockets. Matching bonuses that are specifically helpful to your character’s play style is crucial, especially in the upper two difficulties. For me, I was constantly searching for item bonuses that granted me ranged weapon damage, whereas a co-op buddy was frantically on the lookout for items that made his melee-centric Berserker all the more brutal at close range.
In addition to basic and skill-based attacks, you’ll also find favor in passive skills as you level. Neat bonuses like team heal and defense drain are common among most classes, but certain skills like turning fallen enemies into allied bats and generating skeleton archers are unique to classes like the Outlander. They require a lot of skill point investment, but they pay off profoundly when focused on.
In addition to your character, you’ve also got a pet to accompany you on your heroic journey. My cat, Mr. Pickles, provided ample support in combat, but provided the most use as a secondary backpack, with not only the ability to hold extra items for me, but also the ability to take any items I don’t want back to town, sell them for me, and bring back any profits while I continue dungeon fighting and loot snatching. I can even put items on a shopping list that he’ll buy from the local vendor and bring back alongside my pile of gold.
This mechanic, which has been successfully carried over from the first Torchlight, proves just how invaluable of a feature pets are in Torchlight 2. Heck, anything that makes managing all my loot easier and less time-consuming I’m completely supportive of.
Best of all though, I could turn Mr. Pickles into a mole beast, spider, or any number of more-powerful combat-ready helpers using fish caught from a well. Yes, that’s pretty much all they’re used for. And with three slots reserved on Mr. Pickles’ person for armor and damage-increasing tags and collars, he only became a more formidable sidekick as I progressed.
If I have a general complaint about Torchlight 2, it’s the number of health draining, annoying, and overwhelming hordes of small enemies, many of which are difficult to see attacking you when you’re fighting some of the dungeons’ bigger baddies. I’ve died more times from being smacked at the ankles by a group of rats than by a giant sand hulk, and that’s an annoying, frustrating problem to have.
And though I found myself frustrated multiple times when dying on the higher difficulties, it was never enough to make me want to stop playing – it actually made me want to dive back in and keep fighting. That, to me, is when you know you’ve nailed down a great difficulty curve in your game.
Multiplayer co-op in Torchlight II is single-player with your friends, plain and simple. There’s no sequences where you flip switches together or stand on buttons simultaneously to open a door or anything, it’s just good old killing and looting with up to six of your friends over Internet or LAN.
The ability to select the difficulty, re-roll a world and set personal server settings for you and your party is a nice touch, and the fact that you can do it anytime and with a click or two is great.
Loot is individual to each player, so you don’t have to worry about your buddy running over and stealing all your sweet drops. Trading between each other is an absolute cinch, and showing items to your friends mostly to share in the fun of finding an awesome weapon or headpiece is as easy as two clicks.
And hey, if you don’t want to play with others, that’s fine too. At least you don’t have to be connected to the Internet to do it.
I could spend all day telling you just how similar Diablo III and Torchlight 2 look, but I think it stands out fairly clearly. No, I’m not referring to the art styles and visuals of the two games – they’re certainly worlds apart in that regard – but what I’m referring to is the menus, the town layouts, the loot comparison system and the overall interactions you’ll have with characters. The item descriptions and layouts are extremely similar, even the sections for socketing gems and attachments are nearly identical.
Whether you consider all of this good or bad is your own decision (it’s not in my book), but it makes sense, given that Runic Games contains some of the folks who worked on previous Diablo games. However you may feel about the similarities, there’s no doubting that it’s an extremely effective and accessible setup, and it makes the micro-managing of loot all the easier – something I think anyone who spends ample time with Torchlight II will agree with.
As for the style of the game, it’s really stunning. Where most games focus on gritty, realistic environments with vicious, bloody monsters, Torchlight 2 opts for a cartoony, colorful style. Environments and characters are rounded out and brightly colored. Couple that with some exceptional music and reasonable, albeit rare voice-acting, it’s all pretty easy on the eyes and ears.
With most games of this caliber retail at $60, it might sound ludicrous that Torchlight 2 only costs $20 – because it is. And while that price is variably high or low depending on who you ask, there’s simply no debating that it’s one heck of a steal for how much time, fun, and challenge you’ll get out of this game.
Torchlight 2 might not turn the genre on its head or delve drastically into any unexplored territory, but it is a fantastic action RPG and overall a blast to play, especially with friends. You’re going to get hours and hours out of this game, no problem. You’re going to get excited time and time again when you find that sweet weapon you weren’t even expecting with bonuses you didn’t think possible.
If you like hunting for loot, powering up your character and spending long hours into the night taking down big bosses with your friends, you have absolutely no reason to avoid picking up Torchlight 2.
Just make sure you pick out a good mouse before you do. Poor thing will be in pieces when you’re done.
9 / 10