Torchlight 2 Review
This game was reviewed on the PC
Editor’s Note: In celebration o’ “Talk like a pirate” day, feel free “Or Not!” t’ head o’er here t’ g’t a pirate’s take on th’ game. With thanks from translate-pirate.com!
The world of Torchlight has once again fallen into peril and it is up to you to save it. Disease is spreading amongst innocent folk, soldiers are fighting hideous beasts on the battlefront, and an Alchemist – the once valiant hero from the first Torchlight – is at the root of it all. You will take control of an unknown hero and step up to the former protagonist. Once you’ve picked one of four classes, you can also select a trusty companion to fight at your side. Together, you’ll plunge into the deepest and darkest of dungeons, making you progressively more powerful and famous. How will you choose to fight? What skills will you nurture and which ones will you ignore? What sort of hero will you become?
Torchlight 2 is from Runic Games, a development company that boasts some impressive qualifications and employees, such as the co-founders of Blizzard North and the creators of Diablo I and II, Max and Erich Schaefer. The company is headed by Travis Baldree, creator of Fate. In 2009, the first Torchlight came out and was a critically acclaimed and commercially successful game. However, there were nagging flaws in the first game – mainly the loneliness of the single player experience caused by the lack of co-op gameplay, and the very limited amount of customization afforded to players. Despite the issues, Torchlight thrived due to its strengths: great art design and impressive gameplay. Torchlight 2 showcases some of the best strengths of its predecessor, fixes the glaring problems and major complaints in addition to improving other aspects of the rest of the game to a startling degree.
When you begin the game and create your character not only do you choose the class, but you also select a gender and appearance options. The character creation options are surprisingly robust in regards to the face structure, skin color, hair color and haircut. I’ve created several unique-looking and surprisingly attractive characters with very little effort on my part because of the variety of choices. Not only can you customize your character but you can also modify your companion, choosing between eight different species, ranging from the ordinary cats and dogs all the way up to hawks and little dragons. Pets play an important role through helping you in battle, selling your junk in town and returning with consumables, so I was glad I could adjust the way mine looked. The first Torchlight lacked the vast majority of these options, and they are now a welcome addition.
As mentioned, you get to choose your class out of four options: Embermage, Engineer, Beserker and Outlander. The original classes from Torchlight are now powerful NPCs who aid the new protagonists in their quest. The new classes take familiar archetypes and add interesting twists: the Engineer carries a giant clockwork weapon and fights in melee; the Outlander is a wandering nomad who combines guns and small amounts of magic to become a potent fighter; the Beserker has quick flurries of attacks and animal-based powers; and even though the Embermage seems to be like your stereotypical glass cannon elemental mage on the surface, they can fight at close range and don protective armor in a pinch.
As soon as the game is loaded up, anyone who’s played a Diablo game will feel right at home. The UI, mini-map and skills bar are arranged so that people who have played an MMORPG such as World of Warcraft will also be able to find their way around easily as well. The result of these influences means that Torchlight 2 is very accessible and easy to play. No tutorial is required to get right into the thick of the game. This ease of play continues throughout the game, and there are many small quality of life features scattered throughout the UI; for instance, loading screens will show your unspent resources so you never forget to upgrade.
The graphics of the game are stunning, vibrant and clear. The style of the game is cartoony and exaggerated; these features remain consistent throughout your journey and it’s tremendously easy to get immersed in this world. The colours are bright and vivacious and each class is satisfying to play because of the brilliant and incandescent spell and weapon effects. Embermages send bright streaks of flame and vivid spikes of ice streaking across the screen; Engineers smash foes into explosions of bright blood and crack the earth beneath them; the Outlander’s pistols blast in a brilliant burst as they shoot, and their spell effects are more subtle and understated in comparison with a glowing glaive here and a weapon buff there. This leads to intense spots and lines of colour with a smaller scope but equal radiance.
What’s also gorgeous is the accompanying music, and it helps pull you into the atmosphere. It manages to hold a precarious position between being beautiful and interesting to listen to while never being repetitive and annoying. The soundtrack really establishes the feeling of a game world with grand heroes, terrifying monsters, and long-abandoned dungeons. However, the music does all of this while also fading into the background. You’ll never be distracted while levelling your skills or fighting off an important threat, but instead your experience will be enhanced by the ambience. The music blends well with the exaggerated graphics of the world to form a cohesive whole. The effects of the music truly make you feel like a hero fighting off terrible dangers, whether it’s the orchestral swell as you are swarmed by the undead or the more subtle, eerie soundtrack of walking through a graveyard of long dead heroes.
The game itself is quite a lot of fun to play. Torchlight 2 is heavily inspired by the Diablo series, and the isometric camera style and dungeon crawling gameplay is straightforward enough to understand almost immediately. Your character uses their base skill and weapon to start but as they level and progress, you get access to more abilities. Classes must manage their resources effectively in order to do well; if you spam your abilities, you’ll run out of mana or health and be left defenseless unless you chug a potion. Each class also has a unique bar that works with their abilities; this bar perches on top of your standard abilities and resources with a different graphic for each class that helps encapsulate their visual theme. Abilities will fill the bar to its brim, wherein special conditions are unlocked. For instance, Embermages can fill a bar up that puts them in a battle trance, increasing their effectiveness and removing the resource concern.
Maps are randomly generated and filled with enemies. The combat itself heavily changes depending on the difficulty setting you play on. The Casual setting is great for low-pressure, highly accessible and simple gameplay; you just click your way through challenges and admire the pretty colours and feel the thrill of victory. I began on Casual and had a complete blast learning the basics of the game, appreciating the graphics and world, and settling into the game. The Normal setting begins to instill a bit of challenge into the game, tactics become a necessary part of survival, and resources become a little more scant. This difficulty curve continues upwards for those who are itching for a fight, and the progression finally ends with the Hardcore option, where death becomes permanent.
Killing the enemies garners you experience which helps you level up. Every level unlocks new points to be spent in base stats or new abilities. Some abilities are passive; the Outlander can become more proficient in long-ranged weapons, the Embermage can manage resources better, and so on. The real fun starts when you begin unlocking active abilities – a giant, glowing magma mace that sweeps in an arc or a hail of sizzling hot bullets that impact enemies with great force. Choosing which abilities to upgrade and which to neglect will dramatically change your play-style, meaning that even two players in the same class can go about combat very differently.
When you level up, you get stat points, which can then go into four categories – Focus, Vitality, Dexterity, and Strength. Common sense might dictate that each class has a corresponding stat. However, that would be boring and Torchlight 2 adds a much more interesting spin: each stat point has multiple effects. As an example, Focus gives you more mana and mana regeneration, but it also affects your skill with duel-wielding weapons. This means that there is never a single path to take with stats for maximum efficiency.
Co-op play allows you to explore these builds together. With so many different classes and corresponding abilities, Co-op allows you and your friends to play and experiment together. The chat system works efficiently so communication between players is rarely an issue. Runic Games recommends you play with a group of two to six players. With multiplayer mode, challenges become less dangerous if you work together and there’s a genuine sense of cooperation there. The game feels easier, but at higher levels you will need to communicate and coordinate or else fall to the various dangers in the world. The game invokes some memories of raiding in World of Warcraft in terms of the way boss fight mechanics work out – whatever you do, make sure you don’t stand in the fire!
Torchlight 2 manages to pull you through the game and interest you in continuing to play via these gameplay mechanics. The story of the game entails finding the Alchemist, who has gone mad from corruption and is attacking elemental guardians. His dark work is defiling the land, spreading sickness and ending lives. You start a few steps behind him and scramble to catch up and stop him. This story serves its purpose well enough, but it lacks the gravitas of games built around telling a narrative. Torchlight 2 focuses on pulling the player in through gameplay and not story, and as a result, the tale being told is a bit thin. Of course, it’s easily ignored for players who have no interest in following the storyline.
Torchlight 2 comes off the heels of a successful game, but Runic Games refused to sit on its haunches. While you play the game, you will feel how much of a labour of love it truly is. The game will be addictive to altoholics and end-game players alike due to its levelling system, while casuals and hardcore players can both rejoice in its difficulty system and options for challenges. Runic Games has achieved the goals they set out to do and then some; Torchlight fans will be overjoyed with the result.
Torchlight 2 earns a 5/5
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