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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…

[table]

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+.

[/table]

Jul
18
2012

Armed Heroes Online looks awfully familiar

You can’t plagiarize and expect not to get caught, it just doesn’t work this way anymore. You can’t hide on the internet.  But somehow, Chinese developer EGLS Ltd. (Electronic Game Labs) thought no one would notice that the assets that appear in this free-to-play game were ripped directly from Torchlight, developed by Runic Games.

Currently this is still available on the Canadian App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/armed-heroes-online-3d-mmorpg/id533790395?mt=8, I spoke to Runic Games’ Community Manger, Brian Ward via Twitter:

[tweet https://twitter.com/brianward/status/225287851405881344]

A thread started by Serena Zhang at EGLS, Ltd on TouchArcade went on to discuss the differences between their game and Torchlight – which they have been accused of stealing assets from. Travis Baldtree, who has worked on Fate and Torchlight stepped in to point out some of the things EGLS failed to mention or completely sidestepped.

A comparison image provided by Travis shows the artwork is identical, save for some alterations made by the developer to appear different. Also included with Travis’ post is the fact that misspellings existed in the files used that were never fixed. Having unpacked the files for Armed Heroes Online, he found the exact same misspellings.

Can you spot the differences? I can’t.

It’s deplorable that EGLS expected to profit (through microtransactions) in their free-to-play mobile game. It’s sickening that they defend their position that they did not steal assets and then try to turn the tables on Runic for borrowing from other games.

Hopefully EGLS or Apple will do the right thing and remove the game from the App Store and so the game can be redesigned to be re-released. I just hope they don’t steal from a different game next time. #StolenTL

UPDATE: Armed Heroes Online has been pulled from the Canadian App Store and the developers will be “modifying some things”.

Apr
26
2012

Torchlight II Pre-Orders are now being taken

Runic Games, Inc., a specialized developer of PC and console game software in the United States, launched pre-orders today for their upcoming PC APRG title Torchlight II.

The highly-anticipated sequel is available for pre-order through two platforms, Steam, and Perfect World Entertainment, and retails for just $19.99 (£14.99, €18.99). Players who pre-order through Steam will receive an added bonus, a free download code for the original game, the award-winning Torchlight.

“As we put the finishing touches on Torchlight II, it made sense to start pre-orders after the great response we received at PAX-East,” said CEO Max Schaefer. “Fans have asked us for a pre-order, and we are planning an imminent network test, so the timing was perfect.”

In other news, Torchlight II’s “Friday Updates” are moving to Thursdays. Gamers can visit the official website at http://www.torchlight2game.com/ to see the latest Thursday Features, news updates, game play details, trailers and screenshots.

And of course you can visit the official Torchlight II page for more: http://www.torchlight2game.com/news/2012/04/26/torchlight-ii-available-for-pre-order/

Jul
07
2011

Torchlight sells 1 MILLION units across all platforms

Congratulations are in order, for probably one of my favorite developers today, Runic Games has announced that TORCHLIGHT has officially sold over one million units across all platforms (PC , Mac, and Xbox Live Arcade).

The announcement comes after closing a successful 4th of July holiday sale on Steam, which kicked-off a Deal of the Week promotion on Xbox. This sale also coincides with the simultaneous Xbox unlock of a new spell (spoiler: bees) by the Xbox community.

“We’re very excited to share Torchlight’s success with our fans and supporters. It’s been a great ride so far and we can’t wait to give everyone more of what they want in Torchlight II,” said President Travis Baldree. “It isn’t every day you sell a million games. We’re grateful to be here.”

Torchlight debuted in October 2009 for PC, and premiered on Xbox on March 9th 2011. Runic Games is currently developing the PC-based multi-player sequel, Torchlight II, which was nominated for six awards at E3 2011, including Best RPG and Best of E3.

For more information on Torchlight, gamers can visit the official websites for TorchlightTorchlight XBLA, and Torchlight II to view additional game play details, trailer, and screenshots

Mar
10
2011

Torchlight for XBLA Winners!

The contest is over, and has been for about 8 hours now. We had a great turnout and over 150 entrants. The winners were chosen using RANDOM.ORG.

Winners of Torchlight (XBLA):

  • Patrick McCarron
  • AbysmalSpecter

Both winners have been contacted through Facebook message or e-mail with their redeemable codes. Congratulations to the winners and thank you for participating! Look forward to more contests in the future.

Mar
09
2011

Torchlight launches on XBLA and permanent price drop on PC!

Hot off the heels of the XBLA release of Torchlight, Runic Games has just announced a permanent price drop to Torchlight PC and Mac to $14.95 to match the XBLA price. Now you can get Torchlight for $15 anywhere:

BONUS! Our review is now featured amongst all the others on the official Torchlight page: http://www.torchlightgame.com/gamenews/2011/03/09/happy-torchlight-xbla-launch-day/

Mar
09
2011

Win Torchlight for XBLA!

The cordial folks at Runic Games have given us TWO codes to giveaway their newly released Xbox Live Arcade game: Torchlight. I was able to review the game last week.

Give the demo a try, and before you buy – enter here and you may be selected to win 1 of 2 codes for FREE! The full game costs 1200 Microsoft Points (or $15 USD). If you don’t win, buy it for yourself, you won’t regret it.

How to Enter:

  1. Comment on this story.

That’s it! Just leave any comment you wish (be nice though) and you’ll be entered to win 1 of 2 codes for Torchlight. It’s that simple!  Please ensure you have a way for us to contact you if you win.

We will not accept Facebook comments or Twitter replies. But please feel free to ‘Like’ us on our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter.

To spread the word on Twitter: RT @savingcontent Win #Torchlight for XBLA! Two chances to win: http://bit.ly/eFFyVV

CONTEST ENDS AT 11:59PM PST, MARCH 9TH!

CONTEST HAS ENDED – WINNERS WILL BE ANNOUNCED LATER TODAY!

[pro-player width=’530′ height=’253′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_KdhCTrTVo&feature=player_profilepage[/pro-player]

Official site: http://www.torchlight360.com/

Mar
04
2011

Torchlight (XBLA) Review

– Scott Ellison

Our Score: 5 / 5 – Incredible

To read my PC review of Torchlight for comparison or as a companion, go here

If you’re returning or just coming into Torchlight for the first time, enjoy your stay – you’ll be here awhile. Torchlight for the Xbox Live Arcade is an in-depth, addictive, action RPG that you haven’t seen since the likes of Diablo. And for good reason, Runic Games was formed by Max Schaefer and Erich Schaefer – the original creators of Diablo.

Before you begin your journey, you start at the character creation screen. Notice I didn’t say customization, because there isn’t much. You get three templates to choose from: Destroyer (male, melee class), Alchemist (male, mage class), and Vanquisher (female, ranged class). Once you give your character a name, you can move onto a Pet. Pets are companions that will fight and loot with you through the dungeons of Torchlight. You can choose between a Dog/Wolf, Lynx/Cat, and a new exclusive pet just for XBLA, the Chakawary – which was seen in the Torchlight II announcement trailer (for PC). Pets can be sent into town to sell your gear for money while you continue fighting and looting in the dungeons. After you assign a name for your Pet, you decide on difficulty. There are 4 difficulties and a toggle for each difficulty: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Very Hard. For Diablo or even returning Torchlight veterans, you should AT LEAST start on Normal, but I recommend the Hard difficulty. The toggle I mentioned is a Hardcore mode. When on, death is permanent. There is no save file you can load back up. Once you die, you must start over. You can view the ethereal former character at the character select screen.

The story is unchanged; you arrive in Torchlight to help fight the blight that is cursing the town. You meet Syl and Brink where the creatures have reached the surface and must help push them back underground back to the reveal the source and who is behind it. The rest is for you to uncover and explore. If you ever played Diablo, you’ll be familiar with the way Torchlight plays, which is a “one town, one dungeon” system. As you battle downward deeper into the dungeon/mines, every 5 levels is a new tile set and is vastly different from the last. Every dungeon is randomized, so the layout you play on will likely never be the same. You’ll fight through Ruins, Mines, Caverns, and even a Prison – with a few other surprises along the way.

Combat is in real-time. Attack is mapped to the X button and you can assign spells to the triggers and Y and B face buttons. As you level up, you’ll be given attribute points to invest into Strength, Dexterity, Defense, and Intelligence. Skill points are given per Level and Fame Level that give you passive and active abilities and spells. Quests are acquired in the Torchlight city hub. You can have many active quests at any time. Once a quest has been completed, you may use Town Portal scrolls to go back and complete the quest to gain an item and also sell some of your loot. You don’t have to do it right away, but you could start another side-quest that may have a reward you may now meet the requirements of.

Your view of the action is in the isometric view. The right stick can be used to zoom in and out, but not around. The camera stays locked in a certain position where it can never get in the way. The major difference and improvement to Torchlight has been direct control of your character. For reference, on PC/Mac you click where you want your character to go and who to attack, and what to pick up. Included is controller rumble effects for heartbeats when you have low health, quakes, and strikes. It’s a good to feel those effects in addition to the sound. One of the worries I had in the transition, was the UI. It’s completely redone and designed for the Xbox and works as it should. There are no longer any grid squares or slots for gear, just a 50-item carry limit for your person.

The game looks great. Simply put, the art design and animation look smooth. The wide range of colors used creates a vibrant landscape and looks amazing when battling tons of magic-wielding monsters. Sound effects are wonderful and powerful throughout. The main characters you interact with have voice acting, but the rest of the random quest givers, traders, and merchants you run into do not. The music features the composer of Diablo: Matt Uelmen. He provides a positive, yet dark and moody atmosphere that fits the world of Ember.

There are a few bonuses found in the Xbox Live Arcade version. An old Xbox feature, “Recommend” is in-game which will allow you to send messages to your friends to get them to buy Torchlight. Now normally that would be classified as spam, but when that friend creates a character in Torchlight – they receive a Potion of Respec which their character and can ingest at anytime. They will be able to reassign all attribute and skill points if they made mistakes along the way. Previously that was a mod for the PC game. But you can reap benefits as well – you won’t see that until your next created character though. An interesting, but great inclusion is the Leaderboard. Now you can compare against friends and the world to show where you are, how many kills you have, points accumulated, current level, and difficulty played.

The only caveat when playing Torchlight, is the slow down during some of the more intense battles and particle effects from the magic on display. It’s not jarring, just some loss of frames per second. Just know that it recovers quickly and it is barely noticed as you’re deep in combat monitoring your health and mana levels while using active spells and swinging a sword, staff, or shooting a gun. I will address the lack of multiplayer in this one sentence, it’s fine without it as the game lasts 7-10 hours based on difficulty and there’s an infinite dungeon to explore when it’s complete.  There’s plenty to do without an online component.

There was never a point in the game where I felt, “boy I should just go play the PC version I have”. There has been care and attention given to the console version that makes it stand tall next to it’s PC/Mac counterpart. I highly recommend Torchlight as it is a great version of the game for those who did not get a chance to play it before. Even those who have, I hold strong in that recommendation.

Torchlight is part of the Xbox LIVE Arcade House Party and will be available on March 9th for download in the Marketplace.

Retails for: $15.00, recommended purchase price: $15.00

An XBLA code for the game was provided by Runic Games for Review purposes

Jan
24
2011

Torchlight Review

image

-Scott Ellison

Our Score: 5 / 5 – Incredible

It’s been some time since Torchlight was released, and yet I am STILL coming back to this game using different classes, ratcheting up to harder difficulties, and using different skill trees.

Torchlight is created by Runic Games. The team contains some of the original creators of Diablo from that company that has something to do with a very windy and heavy snow storm. Once you play the demo of Torchlight you’ll see where it’s inspirations and mechanics derive from. This game takes place in the one-town, one-dungeon model that we saw in Diablo. The town is called Torchlight, and the little mining town has some issues with the magical element known as Ember. It has some powerful magical abilities to inject it’s magic into people and items. The town itself is a sanctuary to the horrors you uncover once you enter the Dungeon at Level 1.

Starting the game takes only about 30 seconds. You’ll create a character from 3 Classes: The Vanquisher (female assassin), The Alchemist (male wizard), and The Destroyer (male warrior). Each character has unique skills, skill trees, and spells. Each class can wear any type of armor or carry any weapon as long as carries the requirement to do so. You’ll pick a name for yourself and one of three pets you can have with you. The Pets are: Lynx (Cat), Wolf (Dog), and Ferret [recently in boxed copies of Torchlight and via mods]. The pets have their own inventory, spell slots, and can run to the vendors while you’re in a dungeon to sell your garbage loot. Once you’ve then named your pet, you click START and you’re in the town of Torchlight and immediately thrown into the story.

The story is minimal, but enough to get you into it for the haul. The Dungeons change tile sets every 5 floors and are topped off with a boss battle. The tile sets vary from mines, caves, jungles, prisons, and so on. Each tile set provides a varied and drastic difference as you progress. The final battle occurs on Dungeon Level 35. This will take you about 10-15 hours to get to, depending on whether or not you take on Side Quests. Side Quests are available in the town, allowing you to defeat a certain special boss at a certain level. Once completed, you can teleport back with a scroll/spell or way point to collect. You’ll gain a special item, XP, and some Fame. With each level of Fame, you’ll gain an extra experience point. When you level up, you’ll be able to put points into Dexterity, Strength, Magic, and Defense. Once the main story is complete, you’ll have access to 2 new people in Torchlight to give you quests and be able to enter the Infinite Dungeon.

The graphics for Torchlight are simple, yet effective. The chunky art style is similar to World of Warcraft where the characters and other models are chunky. Though the game is not for kids, plenty of gore and blood to be seen and enjoyable. The game is amazingly scalable, you can check a box to play it on a Netbook and still get great enjoyment out of it. For me, I was able to max Torchlight with full settings and have absolutely no stutter with all the chaos and particle effects going on. Sound goes a long way here as it has the classic Diablo composer Matt Uelmen. The sound effects are great, and sound like you’d expect them to. Controls are classic keyboard and mouse; the mouse doing the killing, looting, and moving while the keyboard is for the hot-keys.

If you love games where you click and loot – you will love this game. The art style I can’t recommend this game more. I purchased the game full price $19.99 and cannot help but feel I didn’t pay enough for it. If you grab the demo on Steam, your save game will carry over WHEN you purchase the full version. And trust me, you will.

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