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Torchlight II (Network) Beta Impressions

Happening right now is Runic Games and thousands of players worldwide stress testing the servers for the upcoming summer release of Torchlight II, an action RPG sequel to the PC and Xbox Live Arcade smash, Torchlight. The reason we’re seeing a Network Beta, to aid the developers wrangle any and all issues with the netcode, addressing the complaints of the first game not including any local or online co-op. Runic heard those complaints and made it the primary focus. But what else is new?

Pretty much everything. They threw in everything but the kitchen sink. As mentioned above, the inclusion of multiplayer co-op is now present. You and up to five other people can drop into the world and work together, or go off on your own ventures in the same world. The network in my experience was easy to play on and I didn’t experience any lag. That may not be the case for everyone as people mix and match various internet types, which is the whole purpose of this Network Beta.

The game includes Act I of Torchlight II. I’m not sure how many total acts there are, but Runic Games is generous to allow you to play a large majority of the game to help them test out any networking bugs while you hack n’ slash and claim victory and loot. The overworld was something you never got to experience in Torchlight, and is now present here. You have the Etherian Ruins as a hub for vendors, trainers, etc and as a central waypoint location. From there you can leave through several exits that lead to diverse locations that have rain, snow, and other improved location weather effects.

As before, the game anytime you play it – whether you create a new game or join someone else’s, the worlds are randomly generated. New dungeon types starkly contrast from the previous area. All of which I think improve on the prior game ten-fold. Torchlight II is very promising in exploration and allowing you to experience something new all of the time. It’s highly unlikely you’d see the same path twice. In doing so, you’ll click on a wide variety of enemies that was lacking in the first game, ranging from the game’s enemies to feral animals that just don’t like you.

Torchlight II features an improved graphics engine, dynamic weather, and spectacular particle effects that are vibrant and a spectacle to behold. You’ll see the improved UI that makes it minimal when you don’t need it, but when you are using it, it is easy to understand and follow. Everything you’d expect is laid out before you, allowing you to customize your hotkeys and transfer items from your inventory to your pets and so on.

The most outstanding and wonderful feature of Torchlight was the pet system. You could have a cat, dog, or in retail versions of the game – a ferret to travel with you and defeat monsters. You could outfit them with armor and spells allowing them to heal you or spawn skeletons to aid in battle. What truly made the game, was that you could put your unwanted gear and items into the pet’s inventory and send him to town to sell it for you. Then would return minutes later with gold.

This time, there are more pets to choose from, I chose the Hawk (obviously). The pet system also got an upgrade, as you can send pet to shops with a shopping list for health and mana potions and other basic necessities like identify scrolls. That is, until you learn the Identify Spell. The pet will return with the gold from selling your items and bring you the items you requested.

Torchlight II features the same, great action you’d expect from the Action RPG genre. In the network beta, there was no import feature or anything that rewarded you for playing the first Torchlight, but perhaps that’s a feature that will make it into the final game. The musical score sets the tone wonderfully and gives you a whole Act to explore. The most depressing thing while playing Torchlight II Beta, was realizing that all my hard work and effort is going to be wiped away at the end of this network stress test. My engineer and pet hawk will be no more.

Torchlight II is expected to release Summer 2012.

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