Game Name: Torchlight 2
Developer and Publisher: Runic Games
While attempting to start this review, I found that I would just blather on about Diablo 2 and how much that game impacted me and the gaming industry itself. Or I would talk about Diablo 3 and how it compares to Torchlight 2. But that’s already been done to death. Yes, the games are very similar. Yes, Torchlight 2 was created by many of the same members that created the original Diablo games. Yes, Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2 were released around the same time. Does any of that matter? Not especially. I don’t want to hold Torchlight up to other games and see how it compares. That’s not fair to the game. I want to talk about how it stands up on its own merit as a video game.
Torchlight 2 is an action RPG that was developed and published by Runic Games in September of 2012. To date, Runic has only released the two Torchlight games. There were plans to release an MMO set in the Torchlight universe, but upon the release of Torchlight 2 those plans were cancelled. I can’t say I’m terribly saddened by this as I personally don’t have a high opinion of MMOs, but I know some people were a bit peeved.
The setting for Torchlight is a magic-y, steampunk-y amalgamation filled with guns, goblins, and giant wrenches wielded by mustachioed gentlemen. The original Torchlight was set in the town of…Torchlight. Well, to be more specific it was set in the deep dungeons to be found under Torchlight. Torchlight 2 takes you out of the dungeons and exposes you to the great wide world. Don’t be fooled, there are still plenty of dark, dank dungeons to dive through, but you’ll also have wide, open area maps to traverse as well to get you out into the sunshine (you’re far too pale).
While the original Torchlight was received quite favorably by critics and players alike everyone had one question that they tied to rocks and hurled through the windows of Runic Games: Where’s the multiplayer? Now there are some games that really do not need a multiplayer mode in order to get by (looking at you Bioshock 2), but Torchlight just screamed for it. Runic listened to the outcry and responded with Torchlight 2.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not much of a multiplayer person. I prefer the solitude of the single player experience allowing me to really play through the role given to me. But for this review I did dip my toes into the pool. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the game takes advantage of the loot sharing system so that each person gets their own customized loot drops. Though one thing that players might find frustrating is that online play requires you to have a Runic Games account and for you to log-in each time. Signing up for an account wasn’t troublesome, but some people might be put off by this. After logging in you can jump into the online lobby (or play LAN like they did in olden times) and search through for a game that looks good, or create one of your own. I was surprised that after nearly a year out the lobby was still filled with a variety of games to choose from and players willing to host. For an indie game, that’s pretty damned impressive.
In April of this year, Runic released the GUTS editor which allows players to go in and create custom content according to their (always tasteful) imagination. Torchlight was quickly added to the Steam Workshop and the modders have been busy little beavers. Though the selection isn’t quite as impressive as say Portal 2 (which currently has nearly three hundred thousand items) it’s still nothing to sneeze at. New classes, animal companions, texture packs, combat tweaks, or even entire mechanics are all there at the click of a button. You don’t have to worry about ruining the vanilla experience of Torchlight with the mods either as there is an option to play the game with or without the mods you’ve installed upon starting up.
One of my more favorite aspects of the original Torchlight was the inclusion of animal companions. These furry little buddies could be taught spells, equipped with special gear, fed transformative fish, or even loaded with equipment and sent to town to sell it off while you continued exploring. Now, while sending them to town, you can even have your pets pick up a few handy items as part of their shopping list. Torchlight 2 greatly expanded the variety of creatures you could have as your companion. Freshly starting up the game I felt spoiled for choices. Should I have the ferocious badger? The wily ferret? The…headcrab? Yes, there’s a headcrab.
I love loot. I really do. Any game that manages to give you a variety of goodies to sort through automatically increases its value in my book. Torchlight 2 delivers extremely well on the equipment front, both in the variety of appearance and stats. You can freely dress and customize your character’s appearance through their armor to an incredible degree. I’ve put a good thirty hours into the game and I’m still regularly finding weapons and equipment that make me ooh and ahh. If you look closely you’ll also see some nice little pop culture references that might give you a chuckle or two. Brawndonian gauntlets that have electrolytes (what plants crave), or the “Buffadon Bill” hide mask you receive for putting some curious lotion in a basket. The game has its share of easter eggs and rewards players who take the time to explore.
Combat-wise, Torchlight 2 plays much like its predecessor and many other action-RPGs. Hack and slash, hack and slash, hack and slash. Of course there are guns. So it’s more like hack and shoot, hack and shoot, hack and shoot. This is a very simplistic analysis of the combat and a bit unfair, I will admit. The skill trees for each of the classes are quite vast and do add some variety to the combat. But, as is the case with many action-RPGs, you could play through much of the game by simply using a single, or pair of skills, and leveling them constantly. I’ve found this to be more of a fault more with the genre itself than Torchlight in particular.
Perhaps something more to do with personal taste and experience, but I found the combat itself to be extremely fast-paced and cluttered. Enemies and environments crowded the screen and flew by before I had a chance to take the time to stop and enjoy them. I want to see the things I’m killing, not just remember them as “that blue smear”. I would try and read the names of a boss I was fighting to find out what exactly it could do, and before I knew it either my health was completely gone or his was. I probably wouldn’t mind this too much, but the monsters of Torchlight are so intriguingly varied (names, descriptions, abilities) that I really felt like I was missing out. This also could just be a criticism of the Berserker and Engineer classes I favored. After playing through with some of the other classes I did notice that it seemed much more evenly paced.
Something I try to look for in games before I buy them is how replayable they are. Games like Bioshock Infinite tell beautiful stories and look amazing, but once the story’s been told there’s not much left to bring you right back to hear it all over again. Torchlight 2 has more than its share of aspects to bring you back for more. Four classes each with their own groups of special skills, mods to add in large amounts of new content, different difficulty levels (including Hardcore mode where you die you lose), and even a shared stash where you can store equipment for your other characters to pick up and use. The game’s story isn’t much to talk about, but in this case that’s actually a plus for it as it allows you to put down and pick up the game at any point and not feel lost.
At the end of the day, Torchlight 2 is a game that worked its hardest to deliver to the fans exactly what they wanted. And I would say they succeeded. The combat is a bit rushed and feels cluttered and some of the added mechanics are of dubious use, but it is still an extremely solid game filled with interesting aspects that manages to deliver hours upon hours of entertainment. Torchlight 2 is a breath of fresh air to the genre and I hope to see more of its kind.
Torchlight 2 for the PC: 5/6
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