Torchlight 2 Review
A complete experience.
September is a great time to be an Action-RPG fan with Borderlands 2, Torchlight 2 and Realms of Ancient War all being released this week. The first one we got our hands on is the sequel to Runic Games 2009 smash hit, Torchlight, which is still one of our favorite games to ever be released on the Xbox Live Arcade. With Torchlight 2, Runic Games went back to where it all began and are releasing the sequel only on PC, so Xbox 360 owners are going to need to dust off their mouse and keyboard if they want to get in on the loot this time. I didn’t care what platform I had to play it on, I was more than ready to slap on some armor and hack and slash my way to that sweet, sweet loot all over again.
If you didn’t play the original Torchlight yet and plan on doing so before playing the sequel you may want to skip the next paragraph as there are going to be some story spoilers first.
Torchlight 2 continues the story from the original, with the Alchemist harnessing the power of Ordrak, he destroys the town of Torchlight and starts on a quest to corrupt the ancient Guardians. The other heroes from the original, the Destroyer and Commander Vale, are seriously injured following the opening fight and now it’s up to our new heroes to stop his evil plan. Through a series of quests, the story is split across four Acts as you work to save the Guardians and the rest of the world from suffering the same fate that Torchlight did. I’m not usually overly concerned with the story in hack and slash games, but Torchlight 2’s was much better than I was expecting, which is always nice.
When you start a new game you will pick between four character classes to play as: the Embermage, Engineer, Berserker and the Outlander. Each have their own unique skills to learn and upgrade, and while each character can use any type of weapon, their unique skill sets make them more proficient with different ones. I used the Berserker in my main play through, but I did start a new campaign with each one to get a feel for them and all of them bring something fun and different to the table. My second favorite character was the Engineer, mostly due to the awesome Bots that he can summon from his Construction skill set.
Whether you want to use more magic as the Embermage, use guns and kill from a distance as the Outlander, get in close with melee weapons as the Berserker or go Steampunk and use bots and heavy weapons as the Engineer, there’s something for everyone in Torchlight 2. You can still grab a sword, gun, bow or staff to engage in combat with and your trusty pet still has your back, but the real power comes from your skills. Each character has three unique sets of skills to learn, with both Active and Passive skills available. Each time your character levels up, all the way to level 100, you can increase your stats and upgrade your skills. Once I had upgraded both Frost Breath and Wolf Shade a few levels, I could almost put my Sword and Pistol away and just use those two skills in most fights.The first thing you’ll notice after starting a game is that the environments are much larger, more detailed and more alive than before. There are over six times as many areas with 44 of them and almost three times as many room pieces with over 5664 that make up the 1200 different room layouts that you may see. Each area and dungeon are randomized in each game so you’re not going to be exploring the same layout very often. Size and scope is the name of the game in Torchlight 2 with everything from the number of areas and dungeons to enemies and weapons increasing substantially. It’s a lot easier to look at the picture on the left which compares the numbers between the two games to really get a sense of just how much bigger this game is. All for the same price too, which is the icing on the cake.
I’m not saying that other developers don’t play games, but Torchlight 2 has so many awesome little features that you can tell Runic play a lot of games and wanted to include as many things that they’ve wanted in games as they could. Some of my favorite examples of this are how you can send your pet to town to sell your unwanted items just like in the original, but now they can also bring back items such as Health Potions and Identity Scrolls. How awesome is that? I also really liked the one button sorting of your inventory and one button to open and close all of your panels, instead of multiple buttons for each one. Torchlight 2 is a very accessible game and Runic must have been just as tired as these trivial tasks in games as we are and aimed to make this a much more user-friendly experience. Also improving the experience is a brand new user interface which is divided into two panels with tabs on each for your Pet, Stats, Skills, Inventory and Character progression. It’s so much easier to use compared to the clunky interface in Torchlight and it’s another example of Runic listening to feedback and making changes that the fans wanted.
Fans of the original will also be happy to know that everything they loved about it such as fishing holes, socketable items, enchanting, earning Fame to get extra skill points and looting are all back in Torchlight 2. Looting is one of my favorite things in all of video games and Torchlight 2 might have the most loot in any game besides maybe Borderlands. Everywhere you go there’s loot. Enemies drop tons of it and chests are full of it. It seems like every time I turn around I’m sending my pet back to town to sell off as much of it as he could hold, almost to the point where it got annoying but in the end I’ll never argue with more loot. If that doesn’t sound like much fun then you can actually control what types of loot to show on the ground so you are only seeing items that you want, which is another really cool feature.
Runic have previously announced that Torchlight 2 will launch with Steamworks support, to let us create our own mods and content for everyone to enjoy. They will be releasing some of their own modded content early on and will then provide us with more tools to make it ourselves. Of course this can’t factor into the review since it’s not live yet, but whenever a developer includes Steamworks and mods, it’s never a bad thing.
My main complaint with Torchlight 2 is the with the controls, and the fact that it doesn’t support using a controller. Now this is a PC game and the majority of gamers are probably not going to mind this, but I played the original Torchlight on the Xbox 360 so it was a little disappointing to see the sequel not support it. I don’t mind using the keyboard and mouse, but I would hands down prefer to use a controller. You can use third-party programs to enable this, but it’s not nearly as smooth as if Runic had built in controller support. I know it’s not much of a complaint but I had a really hard time finding anything that I didn’t like about this one.
There is easily enough content that Runic could have charged full retail price for Torchlight 2, so getting it for $20 is a steal. Even if you were to rush through the main story line, not do any side quests or replay any dungeons, you’re still going to be at least 15 hours in before you’re done. If you do all of the optional quests and dungeons and explore every inch of the game then you’re looking at well over 50 hours. That doesn’t even include playing as another character, the New Game+ option after you beat it, Nightmare mode where death is permanent or jumping online with some friends, which could easily put you over the 100 hour mark.
The worst part about the first Torchlight, in my opinion anyway, was that it was a single player only game. Loot filled, dungeon crawling Action-RPG’s are definitely best when played with some friends, so you can only imagine how excited we were when Runic announced that Torchlight 2 would support up to six player online co-op throughout the entire campaign. It appears I wasn’t alone in my disappointment of the lack of co-op and Runic have heard our cries.
At any point during the Campaign you can choose to play your game online in either a public or private session and invite up to 5 other players to join you. Each player can bring their single player character and all progress will be carried back to their game when they leave. One of the things that I love about the co-op is that whenever loot is dropped, whether it’s from a fallen enemy, a boss or a treasure chest, all players see their own loot, so there is no sharing required. I’m a bit of a loot whore so this feature is great and now Adam and Scott can’t get mad at me for stealing everything in sight.
I’ve talked a lot about how accessible Torchlight 2 is and it doesn’t stop with the co-op. Things like having a Shared and Private Stash in each town so that you can store items, regardless of who you’re playing with and how at each Portal you can choose to teleport right to your friends if you’ve gotten separated from them. They may not sound that great on paper, but once you’re playing, all of these little things come together to create a seamless co-op experience.
When it comes to Action-RPG’s, Torchlight 2 is as good as it gets, with its massive amount of content, online co-op, new skill system, new and easy to use interface, beautifully created areas to explore and four great character classes to mold. Runic were on to something special with the original Torchlight and have managed to update what was so great about it and create a truly complete experience with so few flaws that it’s as close to perfect as you can get in my opinion. The best part of all is that you only have to pay $20 to experience it.