Release Date: September 20
Platforms available on: PC
Price: £14.99 / $19.99
Developer: Runic Games
Publisher: Runic Games
The original Torchlight came at a perfect time to reinvigorate interest in loot-fest role-playing games. Following a nine-year lull since Diablo 2, it arrived to fill many fans' need for an action game full of mouse clicks, random dungeons, skill trees and copious equipment to find.
The newly arrived sequel doesn't enjoy the same separation from its better known contemporary, releasing only a few short months after Diablo 3. Comparisons between the two games seems inevitable, which would be a shame, because much like the first game, Torchlight 2 shines its light on further refining the tried and true genre formula.
There are four playable classes this time around, each with their own spin on classic role-playing archetypes. The berserker is your speedy melee fighter and engineer summons robotic assistants while the embermage uses elemental abilities and the outlander specializes in ranged weapons. Of course, those descriptions are gross oversimplifications thanks to three skill trees per class.
For example, while the outlander is best with a gun in hand, one skill tree can further augment the firearms with spells ranging from poisonous bullets to finishing shots that turn defeated enemies into spectral bats that fight for you.
You can just as easily also go down a skill tree focusing on pure damage dealing or another with various hexes to hinder your foes. Abilities are unlocked in all trees at certain levels, not based on progress through that tree, enabling a great deal of freedom to mix and match abilities and find exactly the combination to fit your play style.
Unlike the first game which had players descending level after level into a randomly generated mine, Torchlight 2 features sprawling environments that radiate outward, spanning forests, deserts, a snowy tundra and more. Each area is large in its own right, but also plays host to numerous dungeons and hidden caverns to explore for side-quests and the ever-valuable loot.
Speaking of loot, Torchlight 2 smartly scales the items you find based on your class. Seldom will you get stuck with equipment you can't use, as enemies will conveniently drop the armour and weapons best suited to your class of choice.
Of course, that doesn't mean the equipment's stats will always be useful, and for that the pet from the first game makes a much welcomed return. Your constant companion will not only fight alongside you, but can serve as a pack mule to sell unneeded loot without disrupting your adventure by constantly returning to town.
The pet can now also be assigned to purchase basic goods, like recovery potions and item identifying scrolls, further streamlining the game to cut out busywork and keep the focus squarely on exploration and combat where it belongs.
However, Torchlight 2 fights with itself, as it attempts to simultaneously adhere to traditions of the genre, while simultaneously pushing the genre forward.
This control scheme still works, but is beginning to show its age as it straddles the line between classic and archaic. This is especially noticeable when it comes to ranged classes like the outlander or embermage, where a missed click can accidentally send your hero charging into a ravenous enemy mob instead of attacking from afar as intended. Holding the shift key can plant your hero in place, which helps the issue, but is far from an ideal solution.
Considering the fantastic work Runic did in adapting the first Torchlight for controllers on Xbox Live Arcade in 2011, it is saddening to not see a similar control scheme, either through a controller or a WASD-like layout, as an option in the sequel.
Genre purists will see this point of contention as utter blasphemy, and are free to read it as a strong endorsement for the game's adherence to convention. But those who weren't weaned on Diablo may be puzzled by the lack of direct control over their hero.
Though there are still the occasional server connection issues, the multiplayer experience is fantastic overall, as players bring their customized characters online and find new uses for their skills that can complement each class.
While Diablo 3 is inarguably the bigger name in dungeon crawling action this year, it would be a mistake to write off Torchlight 2. The deep class customization and richly detailed world give Torchlight 2 a personality all its own, with the compulsion to explore and find new loot as strong as ever.
Make no mistake, Torchlight 2 is nothing revolutionary. It favours a remix of genre conventions over any true evolution of the action RPG formula, but it is a pitch-perfect execution of those traditions that remains satisfying from start to finish and beyond.
Copyright: Runic Games