Torchlight II

Torchlight-2-Box-art1
9.8 Overall Score

Listened to feedback | Incredible graphics | Co-op play added

Nada

Written by on September 25, 2012 in [, , , , , , ]

Runic Games has brought Torchlight back with a purpose.They wanted to prove that this incarnation of the series is not merely a redo of the first game. Runic Games wanted everyone to know that they truly listened to the player feedback from the first game and their response is Torchlight II. This is a game from the minds of a creative indie team including Max Schaefer and Erich Schaefer, the co-founders of Blizzard North (aka the source of Diablo I and II) This scores major cool points right off the top for me.

The first game was a simple action role-playing game set in a colorful, if somewhat small, steampunk world. It’s a land where magic and machines live in extreme disharmony. It focused on the life and adventures of a hero in a fairly limited world made up of a starting city and the mine/dungeon that borders the town. The dungeon was an extremely deep thirty-five level beast with each level randomized.  This gives the player a unique layout and includes opportunities to open secret rooms filled with loot. This was pretty fun but their travels never took them far from home. It was a single player game with three classes and no character customization. It also had no multiplayer options. If I had to pick the biggest miss by the original game the lack of co-op play was it. This long awaited feature is here with a vengeance but let’s first take a look  at how this game stacks up to the original.

The original game did have some fun aspects to it. There were several ways to add or enhance your loot. They had a fishing mini-game in watering holes and transmuting in the city that gave the player a chance to win or create some pretty cool items. The player could also kill the “Phase Beast” to be transported to a secret area filled with enemies but also tons of loot. Chests of every size, locked or unlocked, littered the land to offer riches to the lucky wanderer. These features all return in Torchlight II.

The player could also attempt to enchant crap equipment for the chance to add stat bonuses. This came with the very real possibility that the enchantment would fail and destroy any stat bonuses of the item. It was a true gamble with very scary consequences. This made for some frustrating moments when I lost some pretty amazing tricked out gear due to trying just one more enchantment. Torchlight II has eliminated the fear of losing all their enchantments from any item. The enchantment will only add a new enchantment or fail and add nothing. This is a very good thing.

Both games also include several ways to manage the player’s loot. This is critical in this kind of game since loot hoarding is almost a requirement. Players can keep it in inventory, keep it in their pet’s inventory, send their pet off to sell crap loot to the nearest vendor, or port or go back to town themselves to sell or store it in their own personal chest. This wide range of options gives the player the chance to grab as much loot as they could possibly need which is a loot monger’s dream.

There are beasts great and small to battle. There are the masses of smaller beasties to wade through that just take a solid hit or two to kill. There are also the ridiculously huge tough demons that have the player sucking down health and mana potions like a kid with Kool-Aid. There are even teeny tiny beasts that the player could simple walk over and squish. The original game is a land of adventure and the potential for riches. Torchlight has a lot of character and fun in it. In other words, it is a good humble beginning to a new RPG franchise.

The world of Torchlight II explodes past their original confines into a  vast expanse of overland areas to explore, several hub cities, and countless dungeons. The outdoor areas now show time of day effects and weather in this version. This is a land alive with even more color and amazing graphics that hold up even when the player zooms in tight to their character. The player will travel from the mountains in Act I to the desert in Act II, and on to the swamps of Act III, and on into the epilogue. The world is not the only thing that has been enlarged. Character choices have also grown by leaps and bounds.

Torchlight II offers four new classes of characters that are available in male and female genders. It allows even further customization for hair style and hair color. These fashion-forward heroes include the Engineer (heavy melee), the Outlander (ranged melee), the Berserker (quick attacks and animal-based powers), and the Embemage (caster). The three original characters (the Alchemist, the Destroyer, and the Vanquisher) all make appearances as NPC characters.

If more customize-able characters is not enough then check out the new line of permanent pets. There are pets in the original game but they have a maximum of three pet types to choose from. Torchlight II has eight different pets types and each can be customized to one of several colors and the player can give their pet their very own name.

All of the aspects of the game return and have been changed to remove the frustration factor and add more fun factor to the game. One example is their new take on enchantment. Torchlight II eliminates the fear factor and makes enchantment a much more enticing option. Another change was made by eliminating the “Retirement” system and replacing it with a system called “New Game +” and a shared storage chest. In the original game, “Retirement” allows the player to switch to a new character and give a single “Heirloom” item from the original character’s loot to the new character. Once the old character “retires” this character can not be played again.

In Torchlight II, the “New Game +” system is similar to Diablo. Once the player finishes the game they can take that same character back into a new game. This time the levels will be reworked to match or exceed the level of the player’s character. They can also continue playing their current game using the game’s dynamic mapping to continue creating new maps to explore, loot, and level. Instead of waiting to send a single heirloom item to another character you will be able to share items with every one of the characters you create using the “Shared Storage” chest found in every hub city. These changes allow the player to continue playing the same character for much longer while being able to share gear throughout all the characters they create.  The greatest change, however, is the addition of co-op play.

The new co-op mode allows players to carry over their characters back and forth between the single player campaign and the co-op. Players can play the game together over the internet or over LAN. This is old school gaming goodness. Players can set up their game to be private or public and the menus are fairly easy to navigate. I was playing a beta version of the game while setting up co-op and did have a bit of trouble trying to keep my friend connected to the online game I had created. I hope that this is a temporary problem that will be fixed in later updates.

One of the features I did enjoy was the ability to drop in and out of a friend’s game. This was simple and a nice bonus for those with family members as well as friends that may have shorter attention spans. Speaking of family fun, the game options also include the ability to turn off the blood in game, handy for those playing with youngsters. Co-op also features separate loot for each player. This means no more fighting for the good stuff! If the player finds something that would benefit his friend then the game allows players to trade with each other. All of this means family/friend time will be a little less confrontational.

You, dear reader, are probably curious about the plot for this game. There is a plot that helps motivate the intrepid hero to fight on. The story begins by showing what happened to the heroes of the first game. One of the original heroes, the Alchemist, is central to the new plot. The three heroes found the source of the corruption and his name was Ordrak. The three heroes won the battle with the ancient evil creature but may have lost the war to cure the Ember Blight. Ember is the source of power and magic for the steampunk world of Torchlight. The Alchemist, now corrupted by the Ember Blight in the Heart of Ordrak, is attacking the world’s Guardians. This is their fight and I think any fellow action RPG fans are going to find this is a battle they want to fight for a long time to come.

Overall I have to say I am extremely impressed by Runic’s ability to take the concerns of the public from the first game and create a sequel that really shows that they listened to those concerns. Torchlight II has been improved to a level that increases the fun factor by epic proportions. The new features have eliminated many of the frustrations of  the previous game. However, one feature I would love to see is the addition of old school PC game saves. This would give me the opportunity to return to a character at more than one point in the game if I would like to try another plan of attack. It’s a very minor complaint since Runic has done so much to improve the overall game. The LAN co-op seems flawless while their online co-op may be currently experiencing a few growing pains. I have reassurances from  the Network Engineer at Runic that the web site was bogged down to begin with but the bugs have been banished and log in issues should be resolved.

Other game companies should take a page from Runic’s approach to service. I have been amazed by their ability to take feedback and deliver a game that reduces the frustration to nil while cranking the fun up to awesome. All of this they have done in a game that retails for under twenty dollars. What does the player get for their money? They get a game that allows them to play alone or with friends, share loot with all your characters, explore over and play online or over LAN privately or meet new friends, trade loot with friends, and just have a good time hacking, slashing, casting their way to more loot then they can carry. In other words, the player gets action RPG nirvana.

A copy of Torchlight II was provided to The Married Gamers for review.

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Author: Melisa Snyder View all posts by

4 Comments on "Torchlight II"

  1. Spazmat September 25, 2012 at 1:05 pm - Reply

    Any idea when the 360 port is coming?

    • Chris Brown September 26, 2012 at 7:56 am - Reply

      There won’t be a 360 version coming.

    • Melisa Snyder September 26, 2012 at 4:00 pm - Reply

      I am told they are not working on a port to consoles and have a full plate so have no current plans to do so.
      My source tells me that they plan to focus on porting to the Mac, localizing it into other languages and release the editor.
      Hopefully they will reconsider once they have more time on their hands.

  2. Spazmat October 5, 2012 at 12:46 pm - Reply

    Wow, I sure hope they do reconsider. I played Torchlight on both the PC and the 360, and I have to I enjoyed it much more on the console.

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