Enchanting world delivers GOTY contender
What Torchlight II Got Right
- + Gameplay is constantly fresh
- + Pets are fun and useful
- + Single-player campaign is fun
- + Randomly-generated means unlimited fun
What Torchlight II Got Wrong
- - Equipping loot can be cumbersome
It's hard to avoid the comparisons between Torchlight II and Diablo III; the original Torchlight was there to fill the void while Diablo III was lost in the ether, and now Blizzard's juggernaut is facing off against Runic's little engine that could. The joke is on Blizzard however as Torchlight II not only goes toe-to-toe with their release, but comes out on top in almost every battle.
Check out the official trailer!
Torchlight II presents a story that isn't exactly interesting; without any spoilers the basic gist is that someone from the original game has turned into a mega evil dude, running across the lands and murdering everyone who gets in his way. Naturally people are appalled by his behaviour, turning to you and your heroic charms to restore peace to the world. It's stock standard, it's a catalyst for the 30 or so hours ahead of you, but if you wanted a life changing story for the ages, you won't find it here.
It doesn't need a golden globe worthy story however because Torchlight II is all about the gameplay. From the very first moment you step into the game you'll be drawn into a mystifying world that is full of stunning environments, horrifying dungeons and of course that sweet, sweet loot.
Each and every environment comes to life with the visual style painting a picture that is truly magical. Rather than relying on story and lore to setup your location and enemies, the developers allow the environments do all the talking for you. Entering a dark and dank cave you'll pick up the visual cues that the cave trolls are slow when in the open, but when in an enclosed location they will be devastating. The open snowy hills will quickly show you that wolves attack in packs and will do so from multiple angles. The environments are truly varied, colourful and are an important indication of the challenges ahead in each and every area.
The enemy design on the whole is rather impressive. You'll face off against hundreds of different species of animals, skeletons, bugs and thugs who want to rip you apart at any given chance. As you move through the many, many dungeons on offer however, you will soon learn that their attack patterns will adapt to your playing style, offering a sense of randomness to proceedings. It's harder to work out a strategy, keeping combat fresh, exciting and intense at all times.
Pets offer a sense of companionship, who doesn't want a ferret named Peter Nincompoop by their side?"
Torchlight II introduces multiplayer for the first time in the series, allowing you to hit the dungeons with up to five of your mates as you collect an abundance of loot. There are no limitations on what you can do together either - want to head alone to the other side of the map? Not a problem. Want to trade a level 30 item for a level 2 cap that looks super sweet? Go for it! Multiplayer adds an exciting new element to the franchise, one that will ensure the game is played for month and months to come.
That's not to say that the single-player campaign isn't much chop. Unlike that other dungeon crawler, Torchlight II delivers an exciting experience that doesn't leave you feeling isolated when playing it solo. Perhaps it's just a better quality experience with more variance to keep you interested, but I can't help but shake the feeling that pets have something to do with it.
Every adventurer will have a pet join them on their epic quest, ranging from a majestic wolf to a nosey ferret. These pets don't just look awesome but they are down right useful too. They will attack and defend you when enemies arrive, you can send them to pick up loot while you're fighting off attackers and when you're full up you can send them to a city to unload your unwanted items to a merchant, leaving you to continue on your merry way without having to travel back every ten seconds. Pets offer a sense of companionship, who doesn't want a ferret named Peter Nincompoop by their side?
I don't want this review to turn into a "what does Torchlight II do that Diablo III doesn't?" argument, but there are some very important things worth noting. Skill point and attributes are gained with each level as you progress, allowing you to create a truly unique build that will suit your playing style. It opens things up for the more hardcore audience yet it keeps things basic enough that any newcomer won't feel overwhelmed by the options on offer.
Torchlight II also allows you to play the game on your own terms - without an internet connection and via LAN for example. Setting up an online multiplayer match is quick and easy, allowing you to spend more time playing and less time waiting for server maintenance, authentication issues and drop-outs.
Peter Nincompoop is such a bad ass!
I've sung the praises of the game so far, but there are a few niggling issues that are certainly worth pointing out. One of the biggest is the loot system; while items are colour coded to show how rare and powerful they are, most items look almost identical, making it quite hard to have a quick glance at what you have equipped and what you could be swapping it out for.
Weapons and armour are particularly hard to distinguish as they have so many different attributes to consider. Poison damage, attack speed, damage resistance, gold find, magic find, speed. There are just too many options to consider, creating a counter-intuitive system that is completely overwhelming at first.
Once finishing the main quest you can keep going with a NewGame+ option. This mode ups the difficulty of all enemies by one each time you complete the game, along with the chance of extra rare loot drops. Considering each dungeon is truly random you will always have a fresh experience awaiting you. If that's not enough Torchlight II has full mod and Steam Workshop support so you will always have new user-made content waiting for you.
The Final Verdict
Runic Games have stepped out of the shadows and delivered the premier dungeon crawler of 2012. With so many dungeons to explore, an endless supply of loot, enchanting environments and solid single and multiplayer experiences, Torchlight II takes the series from an indie Diablo clone and carves a name for itself as a force to be reckoned with. Anyone who doesn't regard Torchlight II as a game of the year contender should have their eyes checked because you'll be hard pressed to find a better experience this year.
By Stephen Heller