Torchlight II – Review

Platform | Release Date
PC | September 20, 2012
Developed by Runic Games
Published by Runic Games

The Pitch:

Torchlight II captures all the flavor and excitement of the original game – while expanding the world and adding the features players wanted most, including online and LAN co-op multiplayer. Torchlight II is fast, fun, and filled to the brim with action and loot. Adventure solo or online with your friends!

I played Diablo III until the second Act and quit. The final straw was a connection error that reset some progress, but my issues started long before that. I bored rather quickly of the game, but I started to examine why that was the case. My primary takeaway was, “I guess I just don’t like dungeon crawling ARPGs anymore.” If Blizzard couldn’t rope me in, I was sure no one else could either. This was pretty depressing, considering the Runic Games created Torchlight II was just around the corner and until this realization, one of my more anticipated games of the year.

When the review keys came in for TL2, I asked our writers who wanted to review it, masquing my own trepidation with the genre in my willingness to give it out. While everyone was eager to play, it turned out that they all had a full plates. I didn’t. With several reservations and a sprinkling of hope, I began.

It wasn’t me afterall, Diablo III. It was you.

Much like their original Torchlight, Runic has refined the very loot-centric formula again. You still get a pet to act as a true companion in your journey; one who fights by your side and sells your trash loot for you, but now he’ll take a rudimentary shopping list back to town and buy common items. This simple streamlining approach means that instead of having to warp back to town for an identify scroll, you’ll remain in combat while your Hawk or Bulldog does the time-consuming grunt work for you.

That’s where much of the success stems from in the Torchlight series: everything here has been done in service of the player. You’ll rarely pick up an item that you can’t use. If you’re an Engineer and decide you want to use one of the Embermage staves to bash One Eyed Willy’s head in with, you can. In a co-op session with Adam Bash, he decided that he loved my cannon so much that when he found one, he wanted to use it as the Berserker. There are certainly items you’re supposed to use with the classes, but considering the sheer volume of loot you’ll find, allowing you to equip just about whatever you want is a simple yet important change to the typical ARPG.

While plenty of trash loot exists to sell through the pet courier system, you won’t just assume that everything sucks unless it comes as a boss drop. Random items found around normal levels are often better than what you’re currently equipped with, so you’ll be comparing slots, stats, and enchantments for days while wandering around an extremely varied, dense landscape.

Instead of focusing on a single dungeon, you’ll head out into a living, breathing world. Landscapes are varied with day/night cycles and weather systems, and while you’ll hit on many of the ‘typical’ ARPG settings, Runic’s art direction ensures you’ve never truly walked these paths before. Critical death blows can quite literally paint cavern walls with blood while sand billows over dunes majestically. It’s easy to take a look at a single screen grab and write Torchlight II off as a colorful fun-fest at the amusement park where you’re just trying to win a happy Kewpie doll, but that’s simply not the case. There’s plenty of atmospheric grossness to go around. I hope you like cockroaches!

And that Matt Uelmen (Diablo, Diablo II, StarCraft, Torchlight) composed soundtrack kicks major ass.

The single bit of disappointment comes in relation to cooperative play. While Runic has thought of just about everything, including graceful host transition if they leave the game, they missed the part where multiplayer level differences are a hurdle. There’s no ‘sidekicking’ or temporary leveling system that will bring low- and high-level characters together. If you want to fight with someone instead of just be in the world together, you’ll need to be near their level and have progressed in the story to their Act. I understand this limitation, but when everything else is so accessible and lovely, it’s the dripped hotdog ketchup on a brand new Polo shirt.

Since starting Torchlight II, I’ve found it very tough to play anything else. Where Blizzard’s auction house simulator left me uninterested, Runic’s true-form ARPG has certainly remained faithful to the genre and ignited my long dormant loot lust intrinsic to the experience. Full of winks and nods to days gone by, killing legions of bad things with friends at your side has never been so satisfying.

About Jim Hunter

Jim Hunter is Editor-in-Chief of Splitkick and host of the Rocket Jump podcast. He has three kids and is constantly cranky, but also highly awesome.
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