It isn’t too often that Blizzard is beaten at its own art, but Torchlight 2 takes the spotlight in the top down, hack and slash, dungeon-loot genre. To clarify, I am not saying that Diablo 3 was a bad game, nor am I going to compare the two in this article. Speaking specifically for the genre, Torchlight 2 does a great job in story presentation, extra content, and gameplay diversity. Building upon its predecessor’s success, Torchlight 2 expanded the series in all the right areas.
Built upon the same engine used in Torchlight 1, Runic Games improves the successor in a multitude of ways. Most notably is the ability to play with friends cooperatively online on Runic’s servers or through a LAN connection. It is great to see some companies still using this functionality since most of the industry seems to be going away from this style of cooperative play. In my opinion, it is a much different experience playing side by side with your friends, than through the internet.
The most obvious factor about multiplayer is playing with friends. There is no better way to enjoy a game than with a friend. And if you don’t like playing with your friends, at least you get more access to loot through loot trading/sharing. Also, you can explore any area in any act without affecting other players. This luxury means that you don’t have to move through different areas which in turn moves all the players. In games like Borderlands 2, moving all the players to different zones can get annoying quickly when one player wants to speed through everything.
Quests in multiplayer are unique because each player needs to complete their own objectives. If player 2 isn’t present when killing the boss for the quest, he’ll need to enter the cave, and fight his own boss. This concept is a little tricky to do because player 1 will have needed to leave the area containing the objective for it to respawn correctly for player 2. However, should this concept not work, player 2 could complete the objective in their own game.
For the purposes of farming a boss or the like, the ability to reroll the world is a great feature for internet games. It resets the world as if you were entering it for the first time allowing you to find some of the randomly generated dungeons.
Torchlight 2’s story takes off where the first game ended, the hero known as “the alchemist,” is corrupted by Ordrak’s Heart, which he received from killing Ordrak in the first game. Powered by siphoning the essences of the Guardians of the world, he attempts to open the clockwork core and release the Netherim, which will end all life on Ember.
The story’s narration moves along smoothly throughout the game. Between major acts there are cut-scenes that help progress the major events taking place, while story quests are narrated by the NPC’s. The story of Torchlight 2 isn’t long, but there are plenty of side-quests to keep an adventurer occupied. Side-quests aren’t voiced like story quests, but some humor can be found for those who enjoy reading the personal stories of random NPC’s.
One of the things I personally enjoyed about Torchlight 2 is the difficulties. Difficulties are only there to create a challenging experience for the player. The reward you get for beating the game on Casual, Normal, Veteran, or Elite is purely for the satisfaction of the challenge. You don’t get better loot or experience, and you don’t see more named creatures with ridiculous “powers.” No, they are stronger and harder to kill, making an obvious difference for the player and his or her play-style. If they are bored because the game is too easy, they can bump the difficulty up. Vice versa, if it is too hard, they can then bump it back down. Even in elite mode, skilled players won’t find the game impossible. If you know what you are doing, there’ll be time to run away shrieking as you spam your health potion hotkeys.
Making use of waypoint portals is crucial, especially in harder difficulties and end game content. By placing portals frequently, should you die, it will be cheaper to go to town for free, rather than paying a percentage of your total gold to go back to the start of the current level or resurrecting on the spot. It should be an easy decision to invest in the 400g scroll, rather than resurrecting for easily 10 times that.
Finishing Torchlight 2 offers some fantastic options for the player. The “New Game +” feature is something that I think should be included in every game, no matter its content. The ability to start fresh with your skills, level, and weapons makes for an obvious replay-ability factor. What’s great about Torchlight 2’s New Game + is that it starts at a scaled level dependent upon your character, meaning that new items and the game’s difficulty scales with the strength of your character.
The other option you have in the New Game + is the Map Works. Similar to Torchlight 1, you can play through randomly generated maps that have different bonuses and penalties. The bonuses may be increased loot drops, and the penalties might be that enemies are much more resistant to a specific kind of damage. These maps are set to level ranges such as, 96-100, so you can guess how difficult something would be for your character. Maps are obtained through a vendor, allowing you to peruse their various pros and cons.
The last feature of Torchlight 2 is the skill and stat system. For fans of this genre, it can be a bit misleading. Each stat is helpful to every character, no matter the stat; however, some stats are more helpful than others. Yes, strength helps the Embermage, but not nearly as much as Focus. You can play your character however you like, but the primary of your four stats should be your priority.
The skills are a different story, and require some finesse. You can sort of respec your choices by taking back the last three points you’ve spent. What I found to be the best method is to start with passive skills, and always making my most recent stat an active spell for extra damage attacks. Before spending new points, I would remove that active spell point so that I could place a new point into another passive skill. You prevent yourself from wasting points in lower level skills through this manner. Some of the beginning spells might stay with you for end game, but with this method of trading skill points, you can replace those spells with powerful end-game spells.
Overall, the game was a blast. If you enjoy this style of game, you’ll really enjoy Torchlight 2. Whether you are like my friend who just wants to run through the game and “kill things,” or if you are like me who likes to read everything, you’ll have fun both solo, and cooperative. Most surprising about this game is its $20 price tag. Seriously, if you and a friend in mind haven’t played this, but enjoy co-op games, you can buy two copies for less than most new games on the market.