Torchlight 2 Review
With the recent catastrophic fail of one of the most highly anticipated dungeon crawling titles of all time the genre has been split wide open. This is a perfect time for a new title to come and steal the throne and after a hugely successful launch with the original Torchlight title back in 2009, Torchlight II already has the foundations and the following to do exactly that. So does the second title in the Runic Games franchise live up to its predecessor? Or are dungeon crawling fans staring down another long road of disappointment? Follow Captain Camper on his journey through Torchlight II and find out.
Character Creation & ClassesIf you're going to sink hours and hours into a game such as Torchlight II, you're going to want the tools to be able to create a character you'll enjoy playing with. The game does feature 4 playable classes, a small improvement from the 3 available in the original title, and all classes can be played as both male and female genders. Firstly you have the steampunk themed Engineer, a powerful melee class that uses ember-powered technology and weapons. Secondly is The Outlander, a pretty cool class that has access to range weapons and a limited selection of magic. Next up is the aptly named Berserker, slightly crazy individuals that use up close and personal melee attacks and animal themed abilities. And lastly is the Embermage, a powerful mage class that has access to a devastating arsenal of elemental abilities.
The character creation does feel a little short winded in regards to the physical aspects of your character. The majority of the classes, especially males, have only 4-5 different options in terms of face, hair and hair color, quite heavily limiting the amount of options you'll have. Females, although still somewhat limited, do seem to get a few more choices as a couple have access to 10 different facial styles and hair colors. It seems a bit strange to favor one gender or the other during character creation but I was quite happy with my male Embermage so it's not all bad.
The final aspect of the character creation is your pet. It's basically an extension of the pet system from the original title, vastly improving on the previously limited option of 4 unique pets. One of the better aspects of the pet system is the balance, no pet is more powerful than the others, leaving players with personal preference as choice. Over that of choosing a specific type of pet because they're stronger or have access to more powerful abilities. The original 4 from Torchlight are available, but they've also a few more into the mix to create a bit more variety.
Character & Pet Progression
Character progression feels a little lackluster to begin with as you’re stuck with very basic abilities and even branching into other skill trees doesn’t feel very rewarding. However, this lackluster approach doesn’t last very long as once you’ve reached level 10 you can start sinking skill points in various abilities and spells. I was playing as an Ember Mage and by level 11 I had a selection of abilities that made me feel almost god-like. Practically every skill I used either burned or froze an enemy, and on occasion sent their insides flying around the environment. There’s no restrictions placed in terms of investing in other trees other than your level and available skill points, meaning you don’t have to invest heavily into any one area in order get some of the strong abilities. As well as the skills and abilities you learn through progression you can also find and purchase Spell Books. These items can be used to teach either your character or your pet a new spell. So while I was splashing the intestines of my enemies on the statues of past deities, my pet was running around healing me and keeping me alive with a simple click of a button.
The pet system works in a similar way to the original but with a few new added features. One of the best aspects of the pet system is the ability to return to town to sell your goods. It’s simple and fast to trade items to your pets inventory. Torchlight 2 is about as loot heavy as you can get, so it’s a great way to allow players to continue through the fast-paced action without the mundane return to town and sell mechanic. Other features in the pet system include items, spells and consumables.
Loot, Loot And More Loot
As with any dungeon-crawling or loot-driven game, the item system is one of the most important aspects of the player experience and Torchlight 2 does not disappoint, not even for a second. Every class/player has 12 different slots that can be filled with a variety of items, from weapons and armor to accessories and trinkets. There’s literally thousands of different items, adding for an almost infinite amount of character customization possibilities. This is complimented with more depth thanks to the Identify, Augment and Sockets features. Various items you can find will be Unidentified, prompting the use of a scroll to reveal the items stats and abilities, almost identical to the system featured in the not so popular Diablo III. Sockets follow a typical style of weapon and item improvements as players find gems and other trinkets that can be added to items, adding an enchanted effect, and finally the Augmented items. Augmented items are usually quite powerful but they can be improved, including added statistics and effects, by completing certain objectives attached to the item. So by slaying a certain number or level of creatures, your weapon actually grows alongside your character.
There are also NPC characters that are able to Enchant your weapons and armor, adding new effects and statistics. It’s expensive but certain NPC characters can Enchant your item several times, increasing the power even further past Augmentation and Sockets. Combine this with the absolutely huge amount of loot that you’ll discover after every fight and you have one of the most in-depth character customization systems ever seen in a game in this genre. It’s just one of the many areas that Torchlight 2 excels in, cementing its place in the dungeon crawling genre.
Exploration Is Rewarding
Personally one of my favorite features in Torchlight II, Phase Challenges are an instanced area that usually involves a difficult combat situation or puzzle. They’re discovered by exploring certain maps and finding phase beasts, apparitions of monsters that, once defeated, open a phase gate to a Phase Challenge. The first Phase Challenge I came across had me destroying a small group of Necromancers before being attacked by hundreds of spiders. Under the constant harassment of these 8-legged fiends, I had to collect a bottle of poison to close each nest. Simple mechanics but it was a total blast, destroying dozens of spiders with every fireball that left my palm.
Another great reason to explore the various maps within Torchlight 2 are the Golden Chests. These chests are usually guarded by an elite level monster but as you would expect, they contain some pretty nifty loot. Unlocking a Gold Chest involves finding the key which is usually held by a Sprite located somewhere on the map. Covering each map to find both the Sprite and the Gold Chest is highly rewarding, adding an inventive based exploration mechanic similar to that of Guild Wars 2.
The icing on the cake for me was discovering the other eye of One Eyed Willy, on a dead explorer called Chester Copperpot during a side-quest. If you don’t recognize this reference I suggest you go back and relive your childhood, this time making sure to watch The Goonies as you progress through your inevitably misunderstood adolescence.
My experience in Torchlight II was incredibly fun. Although there’s an easy to use multiplayer feature, I was quite happy just slogging through the maps with my pet. Everything feels streamlined, the effortless activation of abilities, the ease of the item and inventory system, even the quests require very little input outside of destroying the various monsters that block your path. You can say what you want about Diablo III but Torchlight II deserves more recognition than simply outmatching the giant that is Blizzard. Priced at £19.99, Torchlight II is a must for any avid gamers collection.