By Tom Hooper aka Atomp
Torchlight 2 has been around for awhile now, however the recent release of a fairly important patch has inspired me to review the experience. Torchlight 2 is an Action RPG in a style similar to Diablo 2 and the sequel to Runic’s original Torchlight from 2009 with some significant additions and changes. The glaring elephant in this room is of course Diablo 3; a supposed competitor, a game destroyed by ActiBlizz and their always-online RMAH rubbish. I have little concern for anything ActiBlizz, especially when the company is in full ‘cash-cow’ mode and therefore this will be the last you hear of Diablo 3 in this review.
The original Torchlight was a fantastic ARPG with a simple but attractive art style and addictive gameplay however it had pitfalls: The longevity of the game was limited as the main story could be completed relatively quickly and a good class might take 30 or so hours to level. This doesn’t sound too restrictive as there were three classes to play, however the limited variety of enemies and environments means that by that 30 hour point you’ve seen everything countless times. Torchlight was also single player only, which isn’t inherently a bad move but in the context of its Diablo 2 inspiration represented a fairly glaring feature omission. Despite these problems Torchlight still remained a very enjoyable experience and considering what I paid for it, my 37 hours were absolutely fantastic value.
Runic seemingly took note of the shortfalls of the original in creating Torchlight 2. This is a very wise, rather obvious and occasionally direly underused technique. The gameplay is much like the original Torchlight with all of the colourful flair being present and the effects conveying an appropriate level of power for the level whilst still feeling beefy enough. It’s still going to be a click-fest mind, however unlike the original there is now a good degree of challenge to the game so unless you’re concentrating, it will beat you. There is a still a reasonable amount of mass killing of trash but on higher difficulties the larger mobs and especially the bosses could see a degree of resurrection spamming. This is one point where even in SP the experience greatly differs from the original game, as a degree of tactical thinking and good ability use is required. The abilities themselves are fun and level in a satisfying manner through a levelling system that allows for a huge amount of class customisation and flexibility. The four classes will each give three separate skill trees in which to distribute skill points. This means that the immediately obvious 3 builds per class are supplemented by the ability to essentially customise the class to your own play style. This also combines nicely with an extension of the pet system, with even more pets to choose from and some added combat and non-combat functionality. For example pets can now be given a shopping list of items to buy on their lone adventures into town and back.
There is some contention over the inability to completely respec, instead the game offers the ability to refund the last handful of skill points placed. This potentially punishes experimentation somewhat and certainly restricts the possibility of easy min-maxing, however the move is justified in that it adds a solid sense of permanence to the development of the character. Instead of the character becoming an easily reorganised walking bag of skill points, it becomes a developed entity in its own right.
In addition to the improvements in gameplay and character development Runic added a massively needed feature to Torchlight 2; multiplayer. The Torchlight 2 co-op shines as the ability to have up to 6 players together works brilliantly in creating a sense of class cooperation and overall fun. The online multiplayer is handled within the game engine and requires a free Runic account, however the LAN multiplayer and singleplayer do not. It’s possible to play co-op with random public players, but it’s best to find a friend as the game difficulty scales with the more players meaning harder mobs with a potentially uncooperative co-op partner. Once you’ve gotten a friend on board the game is even greater fun and the sharing and trading of class specific loot helps keep the shared stash clear and means faster levelling for everyone involved.
The first game supported modding in a big way and whilst the modding scene wasn’t Minecraft or Skyrim it was still existent. Runic have continued to prove their dedication to Torchlight 2 with the release of full modding tools and Steam Workshop integration. This is fantastic news and means that the vanilla game I’ve discussed here is really only the beginning, a platform on which modders can build what they like and distribute through the thoroughly handy Steam Workshop. Mod support isn’t all that common nowadays as publishers mistakenly reckon it’ll eat into DLC revenue, to a developer supporting modding is great and will undoubtedly hugely extend the lifespan of an already highly replayable game.
The aesthetic is a refined version of the original Torchlight with somewhat cartoony graphics. This is a simple and attractive look which gives just enough detail and so avoids flooding the screen with detail, making the action difficult to discern. The look has been criticised by some, but generally they haven’t played the game or are just that kind of person, you know them, from every comments section ever. The sounds are a perfect accompaniment to the style and the music is more of the great stuff we heard in the first however with some awesome variation for different environments.
Torchlight 2 is available on Windows only at the moment, the original has been ported to OSX and Linux so there could be some hope for ports however that could take a while. System requirements are not excessive; like its predecessor this should run on just about anything.
In short I struggled to do Torchlight 2 justice in a mere thousand words however I really hope that I’ve conveyed what a fantastic game it really is and the great support it still gets from Runic. It’s currently 50% off on Steam giving it a price tag of £7.49 (approx $11.33) and also a mere £6.59 (approx $9.99) from the game’s website, which is fantastic value for a game with the easy potential for hundreds of hours of play time. So go, buy it now!