Torchlight 2 Review:
It’s impossible to talk about Torchlight 2 without talking about Diablo, since both games share a lot of the same DNA. That comes at the hands of Travis Baldree, who designed the Diablo-esque Fate, and Max Schaefer and Erich Schaefer who co-designed Diablo and Diablo 2. Like the original Torchlight, this game also uses Matt Uelmen, who composed the music for Diablo and Diablo 2 as well. In fact, you can download his entire score from Torchlight 2 for free right here.
Although these two game series may look different, at first glance Torchlight is only a skin over the surface of the same gameplay, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, we gave Diablo 3 a 4.5. But it’s not all just about gameplay. If it was, then every Diablo clone would instantly be a hit.
So where does Torchlight 2 fit into the mix? Torchlight 2, like the original, takes the Diablo formula and breaks it down to the core elements. There’s a terrific story, much expanded from the original game, and characters with whimsical design that you feel closer to for some reason. At least I cared more about my Engineer in Torchlight 2 than I did my Witch Doctor in Diablo 3. Especially given his steampunk tech and abilities.
But why is that? Is it the cartoonish design? Is it the fact that you start the game with a pet who stays with you throughout your questing? Or are we just tired of Diablo?
Shedding Some Light On What’s New
Runic Games is probably locked into calling this series Torchlight forever, which is a bit ironic since the Alchemist has destroyed the town of Torchlight, where the first game takes place, at the beginning of this game. But with the destruction of that not-so-quiet little burg with multiple levels of dungeons lying below comes the opening up of the entire world. Torchlight 2 is now a much more open-world experience, and you can travel back and forth between major areas in a very Diablo-like fashion.
On the character level, the game has more big changes in store for you. Gone are the Destroyer, Vanquisher and Alchemist classes from the first Torchlight, replaced by the somewhat similar Embermage, Engineer, Outlander and Berserker. But new to the game is a fairly large skill tree that gamers have had the most to say about. This new tree only allows you to respect (or reassign) the last three skill choices you’ve made by visiting a vendor in town. Prior to that, your choices are set in stone.
But is that really such a big deal? Well, it is if you use a melee weapon, and decide you want to start specializing in hand cannons. But for me, I tend to make that sort of a decision early and stick to it. While it might be frustrating for some that you can’t completely revamp your character on the fly, it seems more realistic. Yes, we just referred to a skill system in a fantasy-based RPG as “realistic.”
But if you think about it, as a character grows and makes choices, those define who they are. They can’t suddenly go “Okay, I want to forget my sixth-level black belt and suddenly become an expert marksman.” Again, I know this is fantasy we’re talking about, but consternation over the respect feels a bit overblown. Yes, the new skill system is a stepping stone and will require time to learn. But it’s not a hindrance to enjoying the game.
It Ain’t Just Cosmetic, Either
Beyond the surface, Torchlight 2 has added a wealth of new material as well. While you’re trekking across some of the vast regions of the game, you can encounter things like Phase Beasts, which will open a portal after you vanquish them. These will lead you to a small quest area, where you’ll have to do something like protect crystals against waves of enemies, or kill everything and then choose a door, Monty Hall style.
There is also a lot of pop culture in the game, with references to Ash from Evil Dead, and The Goonies popping up during our first couple of hours with the game. In fact, in the pirate-themed quest, we found One-Eyed Willy’s Other Eye, a socketable item, and we did battle with the famed buccaneer himself. There are a lot of nods like this throughout the game, both in the quest content and in the items you find.
We All Need Somebody, To Loot With
But even better than the new systems, the new characters, and tons of new loot is the fact that you can now play Torchlight 2 with your friends. Or with complete strangers, if that sort of thing is your bag. The first game provided a solitary experience that was highly enjoyable, but one that you wanted to bring your friends into. Now you can, thanks to Torchlight 2’s cooperative multiplayer that supports up to six players.
You also won’t have to worry about having your loot ganked when you go online for multiplayer, as each character sees their own unique loot. You can pick something up and drop it if you want another player to have it, but the days of loot rolls and clicking as fast as possible to pick stuff up are gone. Plus, you’re always playing the multiplayer game with the same characters you use in multiplayer, so it’s actually beneficial to take a spin with a party every now and then.
Oh, and the game also supports offline campaign gameplay and LAN multiplayer. Take that DRM servers!
If I had to say anything really negative about Torchlight 2, it’s actually the loot fatigue that it brings on after playing Diablo 3 and Borderlands 2 for endless hours. Both of those games instill a hoarder-like mentality in the player, making you constantly crave bigger and badder weapons, while making you constantly juggle the items in your inventory so that you can keep yourself loaded up with the best gear possible.
But, there’s always something better around the corner. Rarely in any of those games will you reach a plateau where you think “Hey, I’m fine with what I have equipped. There’s no need to ever pick up another weapon.” Because just when you start thinking that: BAM! There’s an orange sword that you just have to own. Torchlight 2 is no different, offering up a plethora of weapons, armor, and other items throughout the game. Plus, this time around they actually change the appearance of your character.
Much like Diablo, you’ll have access to a stash and a shared stash, and like the first Torchlight title you can still load your pet up with gear and send them back to town to sell it. That makes it a bit easier to juggle your loot. You can even give your pet a shopping list, so they can come back laden with healing potions and identity scrolls. But in the end, these are all just tools to feed the incredible addiction that is Loot Fever.
Carry The Torch
When you get down to brass tacks, Torchlight 2 is a fantastic gaming experience. But when you add the fact that the game only costs $19.99, you’re getting more gaming value here than most $59.99 titles offer. With a scaling difficulty, New Game Plus (where you can play again with the same character), multiplayer, and the mod community, there’s also a lot of replay value.
Even though Torchlight 2 is highly reminiscent of the Diablo series, especially with the brighter and more colorful palette in Diablo 3, there is just so much to dig into here that you can’t fault it for similar gameplay. When you pit dollar against dollar, Torchlight 2 offers a more refined gaming experience, and a huge step for the series. This will be the best $19.99 you’ve spent all year. Let’s just hope they stretch this out into a Torch Song Trilogy and start working on the long-planned Torchlight MMO.