Runic Games have once again proven themselves in the ARPG genre, almost three years after the first Torchlight’s release, Torchlight II saw the light of the day, and has proven that it can go toe to toe with ARPG giants, and even take a few steps ahead. Also, it’s only for $20. Yep.
Let me get this out of the way first, Torchlight II’s story is mediocre at best, yes, even more so than Diablo’s, I know it doesn’t seem possible, but it is, I finished the game, started a new game + and still couldn’t care enough for any aspect of the story. It starts out with the Alchemist from Torchlight I being corrupt and destroying everything in his wake, you have to stop him, that’s the extent of it. With that out of the way, let’s get as to how Torchlight II actually surpasses Diablo III in many aspects.
While Torchlight II’s graphical prowess isn’t that outstanding, it’s certainly forgiving and merciful to older machines, such as mine, I run a Core 2 Duo 2.6 GHz processor coupled with 4 GBs of DDR2s and a Nvidia 8500GT, which is all ancient to say the least, however I run the game at 60 fps with everything maxed out except for bloom, anti-aliasing, and shadows. It is very true to its roots, the graphics are still the colorful/cartoonish ones you loved in the first Torchlight, and that’s a really nice thing, the one complaint I have about the UI though is the map layer, not the mini map, but when you press “M”, you get a map overlay on your screen, like the one we had in Diablo II and Diablo I, the thing is, it’s too distracting, too detailed for an overlay even.
Soundtrack wise, the game succeeds on a lot of levels, it has a soundtrack reminiscent of Diablo II’s Rogue Encampment which was nothing short of awe inspiring, the voice acting however, well, that sides with the story, almost as mediocre, but has it’s shining moments here and there.
Now for the more important part of the review, the gameplay! I know you all are probably sick with the comparisons of this game to Diablo III, but it’s inevitable, so here we go. You have four classes to choose from, male or female, you have the Outlander, a gun slinger type class, the Embermage, a, well, mage, the Berserker, a fist weapon using (or any other weapons for that matter) DPS intensive character, and my personal favourite, the Engineer, a tanky behemoth using two handed weapons, a one handed weapon and a shield, or a cannon. My character is an Engineer since he was the closest to my Diablo III’s Monk, and I wanted to make as much of a fair comparison as I possibly could. You then choose between a number of pets who only differ aesthetically, though you are able to change that later in the game through fishing! Each class has a bar above the actions bar that fills whenever you hit an enemy (at least for the Engineer that’s what it did), the Engineer’s is split into five portions, once you fill one, you can use it on your skills to augment them, for example, the Engineer’s starting skill can be augmented by adding explosions to the path of the flames spread from the weapon’s impact.
The game has four difficulties to choose from, along with a hardcore mode, in which death is permanent. The easiest being Casual, and the hardest being Veteran, or Elite, I played on Normal, and I died a few times, sometimes even being one hit by elite trolls. Speaking about Elites, the fame system is still there, up to 33 levels of fame, each one gives you an extra skill point. Elites have random affixes, mostly have just one affix, I haven’t seen any elites with more, not even NG+.
Another thing that makes this game a nice change from Diablo III is the drop rate. The drop rate in Torchlight II is ridiculous! In a good way though, you get rewarded well for the bosses and elites you kill.
Each boss has a golden chest in its room giving you even more loot! The bosses are a lot nicer than Diablo III’s, they use absolutely everything in their arsenal, and not predictably like how Belial would spam his meteorite attack in Inferno and kill you after a 5 minute fight making you redo it all over again, you have to always keep your fingers on your potion buttons and concentrate well in fights.
Potions in Torchlight II, like in Diablo III, have a delay, but only a delay of 9 seconds which is hardly noticeable, since you can learn heal spells and make due with that, you can also teach your pet four skills, I taught mine Heal All, along with three other spells, along with my healing bot, and the potions, I can be pretty invincible.
I decided to build my Engineer with two handed weapons in mind, and since the game follows the same recipe Diablo II had of skill/stat points, everything has to be thought out carefully, lest you end up with a ruined character, I poured my skill points in the starting skill, the stomp, healing bot, physical damage bot, and 1 point in the slowing bot, the rest went to passives, and passives is where the Engineer shines, the more important ones to me was one that increases your attack speed with two handed weapons and cannons, and adds a chance to stun, another is dealing a multiplier of your strength as absolute electric damage to a stunned target, the third passive adds extra armor and less damage from enemies, and the last one increases fire and electric damage by a percentage. As far as stat points are concerned, I did what everyone did in Diablo II, poured almost all of my points in Vitality, and it proved well, I did put a lot of points in Strength, though I have more strength points from my gear, and a few of dexiterity as well to increase critical chances. And this is as far as my build was concerned.
After finishing the main quest line you get a couple of choices, you can either start on New Game +, where you keep all your gear and your level and your skills, and the monsters are upgraded level wise to reach you, making it more of a challenge, you can also go to a new town called Mapworks, and this is how Torchlight II handles the endgame here, in mapworks you can go to a merchant who sells dungeon maps with random properties to both you and the enemy, making it sometimes a challenge. An example would be, for you, 200% increase in damage, with 50% decrease in attack speed, and 50% decrease in spell cast rate, and the enemy would have 10% increase in both attack speed and cast rate, it is a little challenging than it seems though.
PVP is fast and chaotic in Torchlight II, you enter a game online, or with a buddy, open up the chat and you both type “/pvp” and it’s on, anything goes.
Another thing that is absolutely awesome in this game, is how Runic Games gave you the option to use console commands, basically giving you the freedom to play the game however you want. For example, in towns, you can only respec the last three skills, through the console, you can reset all of your skill points and redistribute them however you like, which I will be doing once I hit level 100 on my Engineer to try out another build, instead of making an entire new Engineer and building from scratch.
Anyway, that’s it for my Torchlight II review, in terms of whether you should buy it or not, I would say definitely buy it! Even if you are a die hard fan of Diablo III (I am) but it’s a really nice change. Let me know what you folks thought of the game.