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Sep
28
2012

Torchlight II Review

– Scott Ellison

Our Score: 5 / 5 – Incredible

Torchlight has been set aflame from the now Ember-crazed Alchemist after the ending of the first game. The Destroyer and Vanquisher have fled the little town to where new heroes can now take on the new threat set to conquer everything.

Character creation opens the door for four new classes to choose from. The Berserker is a melee and rage driven character that is your huge damage person. The Embermage is your magical wizard type who is easily crushed by melee attacks. The Outlander is a brazen, gun toting hero willing to put holes in anyone from a distance. The Engineer is a two-handed heavy hitter who can take a bunch of damage. There are bits and pieces from each class you remember from the original, but the skill trees are completely redone here allowing for a fresh experience. A new player will have to try them all out to get a feel for their playstyle, but not one character is bad here.

The game starts you off in the middle of nowhere as you make your way to the Estherian Plains where people have taken refuge. The story then takes a backseat to the action. Here, at least in the first Act is your home to return to from questing to go fishing, access different areas, buy potions, weapons, and other gear. You’ll also find your Stash to store items for your character or the Shared Stash for your other characters to reap the benefits of your looting. Subsequent Acts there is  place to go to as a safe haven from all the danger.

One of the largest complaints about the original Torchlight was the lack of online co-op. It is now, here for you and up to five other people to enjoy. That makes it so six people can join a co-op game.  Runic Games is handling the servers and matchmaking over Steam and it works pretty well. There is some friend and lobby issues still being sussed out and there could be improvements on how to join friend’s games. But I’m sure that’s in a patch coming shortly.

As you gain experience from killing monsters, you’ll eventually level up – as you’d expect. Once you attain a new level, you’ll be given one skill point and five attribute points. With skill points, it has three branches in the tree to choose from. Each character class has something different. The skills come in two forms, Active and Passive. Active means something you actually activate from a click or pressing the corresponding key on your hotbar. The passive abilities are always on and activate based on a certain damage taken or ability charged up. You can do a respec of your character at a Vendor, but you can only refund 3 of the latest skills you’ve invested into.

A big change is your Charge Bar, which gets built up by getting hit and giving damage to enemies. Once you get it full, it’ll automatically activate to devistating attacks. From there you’ll gain buffs to your character given the class you are in. You can spend skill points to increase the charge timer so it lasts longer or make it so it is easier to build up the charge, either way will make the charge more potent against enemies.

Questing is really well done. The main story missions are standard fare and follow a progression, though it is clear you should do as many side missions as you can so you are properly leveled for each area. Even playing the game alone, the difficulty scales quite nicely. And when other’s join, the game adjusts accordingly to keep things challenging. I played through on Veteran and anyone who’s played an Action RPG this year or even Torchlight coming up to the release should play it on this difficulty. Easy and Normal are just far too easy. After Veteran is Elite and that provides the grueling of enemies and something I am not yet prepared for. There’s also the Hardcore mode if you want to play a character with permadeath. I created a character at 5:22pm, got an achievement and at 5:23pm my character died with another achievement.

In Torchlight, you had one town and an ever deeper dungeon to delve into. Here, you you have seemingly a whole world to explore, there are many secrets to be found, from treasures to areas and even secret rooms hinted by a small shimmering piece of cobble on a wall to reveal a trove behind it without a monster in sight. It’s this little nooks of detail paid so much attention that makes this game stand out over the original and the competition.

Killing enemies also drops loot, whether it’s new items or gold. A nice addition is that your your character acts as a hoover for gold and no longer needs to click to pick them up. Some items will auto-equip if you have nothing selected. Items can also carry magical properties and are indicated by colors of green, blue, purple, and orange. Items with no color are usually vendor trash that can be sold for gold. Later in the game it becomes less important to even pick it up as it isn’t worth the inventory space to be sold. The pet system is much improved, no matter if you have a hawk, dog, cat, etc. you can send them with your loot to sell and even give them a shopping list to purchase potions for you. This saves you an incredible amount of time travelling back and forth.

Torchlight II’s graphics and art style cannot be understated. They are far from “cartoony” and “kid-friendly”. There’s plenty of gore and gnarly looking beasts to be found. The framerate is smooth as butter, and will run on nearly any system. The game’s visuals coupled with fantastic weather effects such as thunderstorms and gently falling snow, it is a breathtaking sight and make you feel immersed in this world.

Sound design is roughly the same, but new effects and sound bytes with great voice acting. The music is all-new and returning to compose is Matt Uelman and creating some beautiful music that also has some battle anthems that drive with power and intensity.

Delays be damned, Torchlight II is everything you want it to be and has been worth the wait. It’s full of explorable areas and secrets to be uncovered. At $20, there is no better price you could pay. It’s nearly dirt cheap in comparison to the content contained within and there is a true sense of ownership when playing this game.

Retails for: $19.99, recommended purchase price: $19.99

A download code was provided by Runic Games for review purposes

One last thing…

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Is it better than Diablo III?

YES

Torchlight II has the ability to play the game offline and requires no authentication to access your account. You can also play with up to 6 people instead of 4 players. While Diablo III was one of my more enjoyable games earlier this year. It has since been eclipsed by Torchlight II in it’s complete freedom to mold your character how you please. Diablo III’s methodiology has changed and forces you down some paths with the skill unlocks. Both stories are a bit underwhelming. Torchlight II edges out the competition in better loot drops and it’s New Game+.

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