Saturday, October 27, 2012

Torchlight II (Review)

September 20, 2012

Developed by Runic Games

Published by Perfect World

The four heroes: Embermage (top), Engineer (Left), Berserker (Right), Outlander (Bottom). Torchlight II (2012)
Finally, a "loot-fest" that can compete with Diablo.

In the action-RPG market it is very difficult to differentiate one game from another, especially when one of those games is Diablo III. The people over at Runic Games have done just that in spite of it all. Torchlight II establishes it's own identity in an otherwise static genre. 

Torchlight II opens up years after the first game's events. The Alchemist (one of the three heroes from Torchlight), has been corrupted by the Ember Blight coming from the heart of Ordrak, who was the antagonist that destroyed the mining town of Torchlight in the first game. The role of the hero is to follow the Alchemist's trail through the world over the game's three acts and undo the corruption caused by the Ember Blight and eventually overtake him.

Character creation has been very simple in these types of games: Choose a class, gender and a name, then click play! Torchlight II allows the player to choose from four classes: The Embermage, a powerful magic user; The Engineer, a steam powered melee class; The Berserker, an animalistic powerhouse; and The Outlander, a rogue like gun toter. Subsequently the player can customize the appearance of the characters right from the beginning with different faces, hairstyles and hair color. In addition, the player chooses a pet to follow them on their adventures and these vary from a dog or cat to a hawk or ferret. Each level earned awards five attribute points and one skill point which can be allocated however the player wishes. The only drawback is that only the last three skills learned can be refunded to the player for reuse. 

The world of Torchlight is a very colorful, detailed and simple world to behold. The randomly generated maps littered with normal monsters and powerful champion creatures keep the player on their toes as they explore and complete quests. Unlike the first Torchlight, the game takes place on the surface spanning four different themes; calm highlands, snowy mountains, scorching deserts, and dense swamps. Each act has its own hub city where the player can purchase general goods as well as weapons and armor. The game begins to show its genius here with the players pet.

The pet chosen in the character creation can be loaded up with junk and sent to town to sell it all as well as pick up items from a shopping list! On top of this stroke of brilliance, the player can teach the same spells to their pet that they can to themselves, allowing for a whole new level of customization.

The pet tab open with shopping list. Torchlight II (2012)
The pacing the game offers is something that opens itself up to a wider audience. Diablo III offers a painfully slow character progression that feels too "grindy" for a casual player and quickly looses momentum after only a few hours. Torchlight II is much more fast-paced. With levels being gained like candy on Halloween and a specialization system that is very simple. Of course, none of these specializations are skin deep. The hardcore players can create the perfect powerhouses if that's what they want.

The first Torchlight was a lonely experience with its lack of a multiplayer function  After hearing the cries of many fans Runic Games added in multiplayer functionality! Unfortunately, it is difficult to navigate and isn't sure what direction it wanted to take resulting in a less than satisfying experience. During online games the player can basically play the game however they wish. Want to help a friend quest with your level 40 Embermage? Have fun! Want to play solo in a game filled with your friends so you can chat away as you hack and slash away? Go right ahead! It sounds amazing on paper, but the resulting addition is much less something desirable. When trying to play with friends, the open "do whatever" feel that Runic Games is going for leaves the player not sure what to do. In this day and age of action role-playing games Torchlight II lacks the basic functionality that other games like Borderlands 2 and Diablo III spoils us with.

Ugh. What you don't see is that you have to jump through some hurdles to even sign up for online play on top of the horrendous navigation problems of this menu! Torchlight II (2012) 

Overall Torchlight II is a wonderful addition to the action role-playing genre. With some almost ingenious functions and fast paced leveling system, players may find themselves ten hours into the game in what feels like much less. Consequently, as a gamer becoming more and more fond of games I can enjoy with friends, the lack of a solid multiplayer is a bit disappointing.


Words by Casey "Baby Gorilla" Holt

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