Torchlight II (PC) Review

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.

What makes video games memorable?

A few days ago, I started wondering, what made all those games I remember from my childhood and teenage years so good and memorable! And taking into the consideration that I have the attention span of  a gold fish, something REALLY impressive must have made a big impression on me back then for me to still remember exactly where the NPC positions were in the first Diablo, how Griswold’s shop was next to Ogden the tavern owner’s, right in front of Cain which was in turn in front of Peppin the Healer’s hut, or how that one extremely frustrating Terran campaign mission made me quit playing Starcraft altogether (it was one with a 30 minute count down timer where you had to defend your base against hordes of Zerg), then I realized, it was all about the music, it’s always been all about the music! And when I gave it some more thought I came to the conclusion that video games have some of the best musical scores you’ll ever listen to, and I’m going to list some of my favourites, and some which some friends recommended.

To the Moon is a game that has not been released for so long, yet is probably one of the most incredible games in terms of story telling and soundtrack, one of the few games that actually made me tear up.

Diablo has always been known for it’s dark, grim music, and here are three fine examples from the three Diablo games spanning a development duration of 16 years! And it’s all still dark now, that’s why I love these games.

Torchlight II may be a Diablo clone, it may have taken an idea here, and idea there, maybe even waited long enough to be released just so Runic wouldn’t make the same mistakes Blizzard did, but that definitely does not make it a lesser game, or have a lesser soundtrack, by all means, this is a fine example of how Torchlight II is reminiscent of Diablo II while keeping it’s own identity.

Bayonetta was one of the fastest, most intense, weird hack n’ slash I’ve had the pleasure of playing, ever. EVER. Ever. Ever. Now that we have that out of the way, let me show you exactly why I loved this game so much.

Assassin’s Creed II was hands down the best of the Assassin’s Creed series so far, ask anyone and I doubt they’ll argue, the story was engaging throughout, the cliffhanger was as irritating as it could get, and it wouldn’t have been that good without the good guys at Ubisoft making an epic soundtrack for it.

Another Ubisoft marvel was Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within, it was my favourite of the trilogy (Yes, I don’t consider the last one part of the franchise, it was THAT awful), and for good reason, it had an amazing score behind it! Being a bassist myself, I especially loved that one track.

Now who in their right mind would make a blog article like this and not post The Elder Scrolls in it? At least Skyrim, I mean, it had one of the most epic soundtracks in a video game!

If you own a Playstation 3, you must have at least played one of the three Uncharted games, if not all of them, and you might have also noticed how the menu theme is persistent in all three games, and for good reason, it’s freaking awesome!

What sets a certain game apart from the pack though is how the development or distributors decide to go about the soundtrack, and thankfully, Valve are saints, proving time and again how Portal 2 might very well be the greatest puzzle based game to be ever made. (P.S.: Science IS fun.)

MAG has taken quite some time from my life, this game has 3 separate soundtracks for each faction, I personally have played both Valor and SVER, never Raven, so I don’t know much about their music, but here you go.

Now for a game that had me practically in awe for how amazing its music was, I would honestly just start Dark Souls, and leave it in the load screen, and listen to the music for hours on end, the load screen music, Gwyn’s music, and Dark Sun Gwyndolin’s music.

I haven’t yet played Killzone 3, for OCD-ish reasons (I absolutely need to play the first two before this one), and I’ve heard all sorts of rants on how bad the story is, but this, this here, more than makes up for it.

Without mentioning how purchasing Gravity Rush justified my Vita purchase (No sarcasm there, it actually did, game is fantastic), or how hot Kat is, the game has one of the jazziest tracks you can here in any video game out there!

Rayman Origins on the other hand, takes another route from anything you’ve ever heard before, the music is actually extremely funny that you find yourself hysterically laughing over it, or just have a wide smile on your face, which made this game an amazing platformer! (Also better played on the Vita than console or PC!)

Continuing on the Blizzard glory, we have Starcraft! That irritating son of a bitch game that kicked my ass so many times over the years, yet I always remembered that Terran theme and how it made me just want to go slaughter more Zerg.

Now for something truly old, the first Mortal Kombat’s soundtrack, who didn’t love that? Seriously?

Duke Nukem. Megadeth. I don’t think I need to say more.

Back in my Playstation 1 years, I loved Megaman X5, absolutely adored this game and it’s main menu music, I loved it so much I actually recorded it on my old (yet extremely cool at the time) Nokia 3650.

My cousin owned a Dreamcast, and Sonic Adventure on it, and before he forsake gaming, he actually had the potential to be a hardcore gamer, anyway, him and I would play Sonic Adventure all day long, and sing along to this track, it was awesome back then, it still is now!

Bastion is one game that took the Diablo formula, and twisted it in its own, marvellously addictive way, it does not have dark gritty music, instead it has some very memorable fight music that will make you really wanting to go back and play it some more.

Last in my recommendations is a game that I have mastered, and wasted SO many years of my life playing, Red Alert 2, I loved that game so much! And it was mostly because of the Hell March track!

Last but definitely not least, some recommendations by my Facebook pals.

ATV Offroad Fury:

Trine 2:

Zone of the Enders 2:

Shadow of the Colossus:

Metal Gear Solid:

Let me know what your favourites over the years were, or if I’ve missed an absolute essential 😉

Diablo III (PC/Mac) Review (Updated)

Hello, dear readers! I have only recently been able to get my hands on Diablo 3, why this late? Because I had finals and I didn’t want to fail them, that’s why! And it’s good that I waited this long because trust me, this game is addictive as all hell! (Pun intended)

I installed this game on my Mac since my PC is not nearly powerful enough to run it, but don’t let this scare you off from buying the game, it doesn’t actually require, say, a Battlefield 3 gaming machine, not even close, my mac is a 2009 Macbook Pro (the one with the 9600M GT and the 2.8 Core 2 Duo processor) sure it runs the game on the lowest widescreen resolution possible, with absolutely no eye candy present, but it runs! At almost 40~50 fps too! Okay, it might need a bit of a powerful PC…

Anyway! Diablo! So I’ve been waiting, heck we’ve all been waiting for this game to release for what, 12 years now? Let me tell you this, it was worth the wait, though I believe it could have been slightly longer, the game is a bit too short, and WAY too easy for a Diablo game, I used to get slaughtered at bosses in Diablo II, Duriel would literally rape my Paladin, what Diablo did to my Necromancer was unspeakable, and that was on the normal difficulty! In Diablo III however, I managed to finish the entire game, solo, on normal in 14 hours with exactly one death, and that death wasn’t at a boos, it was a very stupid death at a moment where I have been playing the game for almost six straight hours and lost comprehension of all human interactions, it happens when you play this game for long periods of time. The game on Nightmare difficulty however, totally different story.

I played a Monk, a level 37 Monk now on my Nightmare run, the story of Diablo III stacks up to that of Diablo II’s and I’s in terms of consistency, you’ll feel like you’ve seen this all happen before, you know what will happen next, there’s no awe-inspiring epic moments, heaven is still as beautiful as it looked in Diablo II (or what we’ve seen of it anyway), hell is still the same as Diablo II’s, come to think of it, the game areas are a LOT like Diablo II’s, which brings me to my next point, basically the first act, in terms of environment is exactly like the Rogue Encampent, second act, Lut Gholein, third act, well, not like Diablo II’s third act (Man, I hated that act) but still a lot similar to Lut Gholein, and that is a positive thing in my opinion, you get to see these areas re-imagined in Diablo III, sure they’re not the same towns, but it makes sense that the environments should be similar, they’re near each other, Caldeum is a bit to the east of Lut Gholein, which means, almost similar monsters, and Blizzard doesn’t disappoint the Diablo fan at this point, you do get similar monsters, and in hell, you get monsters from the first Diablo! Which reminds me, the butcher is back, from the first Diablo, I’m sure you all remember the “AAAAHHH, FRESH MEAT.” except this time, he skips the “AAAHHH” and cuts to the chase. As to how the Butcher is there, I’ll leave that to you to discover.

Anyway, back to the story line, you arrive at this town, New Tristram, where the guards are fending off a wave of zombies, you help them, and you go in the town where you meet Leah! Leah is Deckard Cain’s niece and she was with Cain when the “Falling Star” hit the chapel at the old Tristram’s location where Cain has fallen in the debris of the chapel, and you, brave warrior, will help Leah find her uncle! After rescuing Cain, you discover that the falling star was a man and that his sword was shattered, and he lost his memory, you bring the sword pieces together and the man gets his memory back, I won’t say who he is, it’s a nice surprise, anyway, you find out that the evils are trying to take over the world again, and generic Diablo story.

I can’t really comment on the graphics since I was running the game on the lowest setting possible, but it looks like it might have nice graphics!

The soundtrack though, is as what you can expect from a Diablo game, wonderful! The new Tristram theme is really amazing, and the music throughout the game is really nice as well, so is the voice acting in the game!

Now that we’re through with this stuff, let me get more in game specifics.

Diablo III is not offline… Yep, it sucks, but you’ll adapt, with that out of the way, the game has five playable classes, with both male and female, there’s the barbarian, the demon hunter, the monk, the witch doctor, and the wizard, I have only played the monk so far. Each character has a nice set of skills, two of which are assignable to your left and right mouse buttons, four to your number keys, and three passives. As you level up, you unlock a new skill/rune, basically, with each level, you get something new so you’ll never feel bored, and you’re never stuck with your build forever, you can always change your skills, which is really nice, especially for someone like me, since I’ve never been into very specific builds, I usually like to go with the flow of the game.

The last thing I’ll talk about here is the auction house. Now I thought at first that the auction house was a really good addition, but after actually having purchased something from it, I’m inclined not to think so, or I think that it should be accessible by people who have beaten the normal difficulty, I bought a legendary weapon off the auction house, at a ridiculously low price, mind you, and it had made me extremely over powered, beating Diablo was a walk in the park with my gear. So it can be a little game breaking. Anyway, there are actually two auction houses, a gold based one, and a real money based one, and I’ve actually seen something being sold at 120 British pounds! Not sure if anyone actually bought it or not, but it was there. Anyway, the auction house is a nice addition, if you won’t use it in your normal game run, trust me, it can be game breaking, or I’m not sure if the game was just THAT easy.

Well, let me know what you folks think of the game, did you like it? Did it stack up to your expectations?

 

*UPDATE: The game actually runs beautifully on the aforementioned setup! I tried maxing out everything, just to see how my laptop would hold up, and I’m getting what I’m assuming is 25~30 fps! With absolutely everything maxed out! And the game looks terrific by the way!

Diablo III open beta impressions

You guys must have seen that Blizzard were kind enough to test their servers on us, right? Of course you have! It’s fucking Blizzard! Well, a couple of days ago, I saw on IGN an article saying that the Diablo III open beta will begin on Thursday (the couple of days ago) and end on Sunday, and I was so excited about it that I stuck a soul stone to my forehead and called upon the dark lord of terror in celebration. (read: ordered a pizza).

Now that we’ve established the amount of excitement I had for this beta, let’s venture on to the review!

First of all, I should mention that I was running it on my 2009 Macbook Pro (2.6GHz core 2 duo CPU, 4GB DDR3 1333MHz, 9400M + 9600M GT Nvidia GPUs) and based on these specs most of you can already tell that it wasn’t running as Blizzard have intended, but it was playable. I had all the visuals on low, no anti-aliasing, the only thing I had set to high was the resolution (1440×900) but there were frequent frame drops, sometimes even complete freezes, but I think the freezing was from the servers, not a fault of my hardware.

Anyway, I’ll start with the bad stuff about the beta since they’re very few. You have to be always connected to the internet, I don’t know if that’s only for the beta, or if it will carry over to the actual game come the 15th of May, but if it did, it would suck. I personally love to game when I’m in the bus going to college, or if I’m in a plane, or hell when I don’t have my laptop charger and don’t want to open the WiFi. What you see is a login screen, very similar to that of World of Warcraft’s, you sign in with your battle.net ID and password, and you’re in after a couple hundred tries

Another thing is the new leveling system, while I’m okay with the new skill system, I used to love assigning stat points after each level, it made leveling up all that much sweeter, now all you get is some unlockable skills/runes. It’s not a big issue, certainly not experience breaking, but it used to be nicer.

The last bad thing is the potion delay, gone are the days were you put a belt full of potions and just spam those numbers like there’s no tomorrow, they added a delay to the use of each consecutive potion, and a big delay at that.

Now for the good stuff, the beta gave us access to 5 classes, the Barbarian, the Witch Doctor, the Demon Hunter, the Monk, and the Wizard, out of those five I played the Monk, the Demon Hunter, and the Witch Doctor, I’ll start with the Monk since that was my initial solo play through. The Monk class, while I hadn’t unlocked any “auras” at level 9, is supposedly very much like the Paladin class from Diablo II, he’s more of a melee type of guy, attacking with his fists and feet, not so Paladin-like, if you ask me, but it’s not the same character after all! His skills were neat, the couple of ones I unlocked were lightning shooting out of punches, a piercing type of punch, a flame kick, a healing skill and a blinding skill, his healing skill was actually the most beneficial because of the potion delay, it basically gives you an extra potion to use without the delay, and that came in handy a LOT during the last part of my solo run. The Monk’s reserve of move power is called Spirit, unlike Diablo I and Diablo II, not all characters have mana, spirit regenerates slowly by itself, or faster when hitting monsters with non spirit consuming attacks.

The Demon Hunter is a crossbow/bow wielder who can place traps, with some other neat skills, a piercing arrow shot, throwing knives, a machine gun like stance where the demon hunter holds his/her ground and just go nuts on the bow, the demon hunter had two different power reserves for the skills, one was called Hatred, that was for the offensive skills, the other I can’t really remember the name of, was for the tactical skills, such as the traps and what not.

The last character I tried was the Witch Doctor who was a lot like the Necromancer from Diablo II minus the skeletons and the ravens, instead, his first skill was a poison dart, the one unlocked after that was called Jar of spiders, it looked pretty cool for those with no arachnophobia, the Witch Doctor throws a jar, and out comes three spiders to attack your target, he also summons three hounds to fight for him, and he can summon some hands from under the ground to slow and damage your enemies.

That’s about it for the characters I tried, I used the Monk for my solo run, the other two characters, co-op, and the co-op was really fun in the game, no body rushes over loot since every person has his/her own set of visible loot that no one else but you can take, which was a very nice move, also the co-op has some of its own achievements to unlock along with the campaign achievements.

Onto some of the details I forgot to mention up there, skills are modifiable, instead of having a big skill tree, you get some skills, for each skill you get 6 or 7 runes I think, and these runes change the effect of said skills, for example, the lightning punch of the Monk’s, with the first unlockable rune becomes a teleporting punch, the piercing shot of the Demon Hunter can slow two enemies, and the hands from the ground of the Witch Doctor becomes some cracks in the ground and it slows enemies even more.

Also, in the beta there was a smithing skill that you upgrade, not for yourself though, but for the smith himself, each upgrade gives you more weapons/armors to create, and everything comes with some magical attributes attached to them. You can also destroy some of the magical equipment you found along your travels that you have no use for, you destroy those for materials used in creating new gear.

There is no identification scrolls now as well, all items are identified except for rares and the other higher value items, you simply identify those by right clicking on them. And speaking of scrolls, there are no scrolls of Town Portal, it’s a skill to all classes now.

For those of you wanting to know what the beta actually had, story-wise, you basically started your characters along the gates of New Tristram, which is being attacked by zombies, and you (being so heroic), decide to fend them off, the captain guarding the gates lets you in, you wander around a bit and meet Leah, Deckard Cain’s niece, and surprisingly enough, Leah’s mother, is Adria the witch from the first Diablo! Well, you go to tristram, find Adria’s hut, and you find a trap door that you open, kill some dude, go back up, kill some more dudes, and go get Cain, once you get Cain he tells you about the Skeleton King (yep, from Diablo I as well) and how you must kill him and how he was awakened by “the falling star”, so you go back to the cathedral in which you fought in the first Diablo, after a couple of quests, you find the Skeleton King, kill him, and you’re done with the beta.

Last but definitely not least, the music, New Tristram has some nice guitar music to it, you’ll feel right at home listening to the music, the rest of the beta had some nice audio as well, which is really not surprising since Blizzard make great soundtracks.

Anyway, that’s it for my blabbing for one day, if you tried the beta, let me know what you thought of it down there.