If I had to write a list of the most addicting games ever, Torchlight 2 would most definitely be at the top. Breaking Bad’s Walter White only dreams of concocting something that grabs your attention and free time as much as Runic Games’ latest offering. Hot in the heels of Diablo III’s release, Torchlight 2 manages to be ever better than its older cousin, at a much smaller price point. While it does feature its share of problems, it’s easily one of the most improved sequels I’ve played recently. I was worth the wait.
And wait we did. Torchlight 2 went through a number of delays and information blackouts ever since its announcement. Runic brought the game to E3 2011, where I sat down with Doug and played it for an hour or so. It already showed great promise then. Sadly, it took the relatively small development team an extra year and a few months to finally set this beast loose.
Torchlight 2 picks up shortly after the events of the first game, with former hero turned villain, the Alchemist, tearing the world apart in a quest for power. A new group rises to stop this menace, from which you can “roll” a character out of. Named quite differently from what you’d come to expect, these classes are quite varied, each packing a combination of skills picked out from classic archetypes. For instance, the Engineer can be played as a mix of the hunter and shaman classes from an MMO game like World of WarCraft, buffing him or herself while attacking the opposition with pets, or the Berserker, who not only hits things like a truck, but can take different aspects of the wild, which come in handy depending on the situation. A wide array of class combinations are possible thanks to a vastly improved talent tree system, split into three different avenues, each with its own set of abilities and powers.
In its core, Torchlight 2 plays exactly like you’d expect. Clicking still plays a major role – it guides your character around and indicates which enemy to hit or which item to pick up, in conjunction with making use of the interface, in conjunction to binding abilities and items to your keyboard number keys. The interface is a nice point to bring in how modifiable this game is. Like its predecessor, anyone can use a set of provided editing tools in order to create content for the game. A mere couple of weeks after its release, Torchlight 2 already sports a number of add-ons that complement gameplay. An even cleaner way of applying these mods is promised for a future patch.
Building upon the fan criticism to the first game, Runic added a multiplayer mode to Torchlight 2. Although not as seamless or elegant as Diablo III’s drop in/drop out online component, Torchlight 2′s cooperative mode works as advertised. Unlike Diablo III, the option to simply start a single player game and simply turn on multiplayer is not available, forcing you to login to Runic’s servers and scroll down a few menus before starting a new game. These menus allow you to customize a search in order to find just the type of game you want to join or create. You can choose what level range other players have to be in in order to join you, the number of people in the world you’re about to jump into or the difficulty level your group will attempt to tackle.
Like the original, there are incentives to clicking your way through a higher difficulty setting. The oh-so desirable loot drops are better the more challenging a setting you choose to play in, while in return, monsters are more resilient and hit harder. A lot harder. You can still punish yourself through hardcore mode, where death is permanent, if you so desire. Dying, though, is a major part of the game, as annoying as it can sometimes be. Gold penalties are enforced for resurrection at the last checkpoint you hit, which can become a grind and a money sink if you are not careful. I’ve had more than one occurrence of going from rich to poor in a matter of minutes while in a particularly nasty area of the game. Then again, that’s the penalty for playing the game in veteran mode!
Torchlight 2′s few nasty spots come in the form of gauntlet boss encounters that have the annoying tendency to reset every time you die and leave the area in order to return to town. Being penalized and having to return an area from scratch show up as a blemish to an otherwise amazing game. Thankfully, these instances are rare and with a good group, you probably won’t even have much trouble.
An important aspect of the game, returning to town doesn’t turn into big hassle this time around. It can be postponed thanks to a returning feature from the first Torchlight, which allows you to order your faithful pet to scurry off and sell unwanted items. New to Torchlight 2, your partner in fur and feathers can carry a shopping list in its claws, talons or whatever appendages, containing scrolls or potions you may need, for a cost. Loot comes in ridiculously quick, thanks to a generous drop system which has just about every rock, loose plank or clay pot showering you with golds and items as you click them. Tough monsters and bosses are the source of the very best items, like parts of armor sets that grant you stat and skill bonuses the more unique pieces your character wears. Progression happens so fast, though, that it’s sometimes difficult to discover an entire collection before moving on to something better. Thanks to that, though, tough decisions on whether or not to upgrade are made much easier, because after all, you are bound to run into something much better later on in the game.
The desert is only a slice of what Act II dishes out to you.
New additions like multiplayer, more diverse list of class options and skill sets make Torchlight 2 feel like a much bigger game than its predecessor just by themselves, and the world you explore only adds to that superiority. Gone is the small central hub of the village of Torchlight and a mine shaft that goes down multiple levels. You’re now given multiple different settings to run around and explore, from deserts to poisonous bogs, each with its own motiff and enemy types. Hubs are still present, serving to connect these zones together and change from act to act. You’re free to run back to all the zones once you progress with the story and reach later areas, though, unlike its diabolical brethren. A nifty portal system that connects numerous areas makes travelling around a breeze. In case there are no portals around, you can use the traditional town portal scroll with the added benefit of not having to worry about it disappearing after use, even if you quit out of the game.
I could easily sit around and continue to play this game, delaying this review even further. I could keep talking about how addicting it is, pointing out how colorful the worlds you visit are, love the ever living crap out of my adorably disgusting bulldog pet or curse out and ‘rage quit’ when I die just as I’m about to defeat a particularly tough boss. All as I happily click away ’til the cows come home. But alas, there comes a time as a writer when I have to put thoughts into words and wholeheartedly recommend an amazing game or implore you to avoid a bad one like the plague. In Torchlight 2′s case, it’s the former, by far.