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Game Review: Torchlight 2 221

CowboyNeal writes: "Last week was a big week for gamers, with the release of both Borderlands 2 as well as Torchlight 2. I already shared my thoughts on the former last week, so I got to playing the latter over the weekend. Torchlight 2 is the follow-up to Torchlight, the 2009 point-and-click ARPG created by Runic Games. What's new that the first game didn't have? And, the big question, how does it stack up against Diablo 3? Click the link below to learn my impressions of the game."

A Testimonial, and a Confession

First, I have to admit some bias here. When Diablo 2 came out over a decade ago, it was my favorite game for quite some time. Its expansion pack only cemented its position as the best game of all time, for me. It's key to note here, that Diablo 2 was only the best game ever in my opinion, and eventually it aged and got to the point where it was nigh unplayable on modern computers. I even tried going back several times in the past few years, and just found it too archaic to function properly on modern hardware. It desperately needed either some patches or a successor to bring it up to date.

When Blizzard Entertainment announced Diablo 3, I couldn't have been happier. At last, an updated version of the best game ever would be available. However, something felt odd about Diablo 3 even before I ever played it. Blizzard kept reviews at bay until after release via a restrictive NDA. That's fairly common, and not enough to raise suspicion alone, but still odd that there weren't more early peeks allotted to the usual media channels. Even after its release, the demo was only available by invite. I couldn't even download the demo for Diablo 3 unless someone who had already bought the game gave me a code. Now something smelled fishy. So I held onto my sixty dollars, which while would be a small price to pay for the best game ever, it seemed like Diablo 3 wouldn't be that game. Eventually I was able to wrangle a demo code from someone who had bought the game and wanted to lure me into playing it. I didn't get very far into the demo before I got a quest just to use a waypoint. Perhaps they didn't realize that I have killed Diablo and his brothers dozens if not hundreds of times already. I know how to work a waypoint. I need monsters to kill. Out of respect for the franchise, I kept on. I even finished the demo, but by the time I did so, it was clear to me, that Diablo 3 was going to be a giant let-down for me. Whatever fun I had with Diablo 2 was done and gone, and would stay in the past.

I had had the good fortune of playing Torchlight, and like just about everyone else, my biggest complaint was that the game had no multiplayer. Other than the lack of multiplayer, I thought it was just about perfect. Given my previous love for Diablo 2, this shouldn't be any sort of surprise. So now at long last, Runic has released the multiplayer-enabled Torchlight 2. Similar to the old "Open Battle.Net" games of Diablo 2, you can play the same character in single player, LAN, and internet games. This proved to be key, as on release day, Runic's servers melted from the onslaught of players. Internet games were finally enabled a couple days later, but in the meantime, plenty of single player and LAN games were had. Through the creative usage of some VPNs, I was even able to play LAN games over the internet.

Once More Into the Fray

The game starts off in the ruins of the town of Torchlight. Wait a second, didn't I save the town from Ordrak at the bottom of the mines and whatever else was down there? Well, it turns out that I did, so long as I wasn't playing an alchemist. The alchemist, on the other hand, was corrupted by the heart of Ordrak and immediately knew that he had to burn down the town, and leave a path of death and destruction across the land as he began his new plot to destroy the world. Okay, so the plot isn't Hugo Award caliber stuff here, but neither was "Diablo lived somehow, and you have to go kill him again," nor was "Hey, why don't you just run on into this dungeon and fetch me the Amulet of Yendor." Really the plot is just a means to goad me into venturing into areas that I haven't already taken it upon myself to go explore and kill everything in.

That brings us down to what the real fun in any point-and-click ARPG is. Taking on and killing hordes of enemies at once, securing an area, and then reaping the immediate rewards in the form of experience and loot. The Torchlight series has traded in the grimdark setting of Diablo for an art style that's a bit more cartoon-like, but the core gameplay survives. This is a feature that Torchlight 2 recreates flawlessly. Combat is fast, frenetic, and visceral. Enemies have a chance to explode into a pile of gibs, leaving bloodstains on the ground. Frozen enemies can be shattered into chunks of ice. Often the action happens so fast, that creatures can be slain before I'm even aware they exist. It's exactly the opposite of the first act of Diablo 3, which comparatively felt like drudgery.

Building the Perfect Warrior

There's four classes to choose from in Torchlight 2, and while they follow some archetypes, they're also rather configurable in how they're played via skills and weapon choices. The embermage is a classic spellcaster who uses staves and wands, and can learn many different spells to put down his enemies. The outlander is a ranged class that excels at nearly every sort of ranged weapon. The berserker is a melee damage class that can gain bonuses from using two weapons of the same type. And last but not least, is the engineer, a versatile class that can use shields, two-handed weapons, and even cannons, or some combination of those, depending on skill set. It's important to note here, that every class can wield every weapon, there's just not always a bonus for doing so. You're free to make a berserker who uses shotguns, for example, there's just not many skills for the class to support it.

Skills aren't tied to any sort of tree structure like they were before. You only need to be of a skill's required level to unlock it. Active skills such as spells, will also confer a bonus after investing five, ten, or fifteen points into them. Leveling up a character also isn't the only way to gain skill points. As you gain in fame from killing bosses and random named mobs, you acquire a skill point for every level of fame you've achieved as well.

Keep Going Back For More

It took me a little over 20 hours to save the world, on my first trip through on normal difficulty. Normal difficulty was still rather easy, and I think my next trip through the world will be at the veteran level. There are however, still a number of activities for my first character to do. Completing the game unlocks the Mapworks, a robot-run area where you can load custom maps to complete. It's also possible to create a new world that begins at your current level, so I could start a new game with that character where the first monsters would be around level 50. Because the dungeons and open areas outside towns are randomly generated, a second playthrough manages to still feel somewhat fresh. Combine that with a character class that you haven't played before, or a new set of skills for one that you have, and there's lots of reasons to keep replaying.

But is this the new best game ever?

In short, yes. I've spent time reading people's meager, whiny complaints about this gift of the gods that has been put on sale for a mere twenty dollars. Sure, you can only reallocate the last three skill points you've spent, and you can't redo all your stats and skills once you're leveled up. That's so that you learn from your mistakes and go back and play the game again. There's no one to hold your hand to find the area where the quest is at. There's a marker on your map for you to aim for, and that's more than any player deserves. The quests are still rather simplistic, and of the form to go kill someone or a group of someones, or to collect a thing, or a group of things. Again, the quests are merely a vehicle to get you into new areas. If you happen to kill the guy that advances the plot, that's a bonus. If you stop to talk to an NPC, the world does not stop for you. Enemies will continue to attack you as you choose your quest reward, because you were too stupid to clear out the area of any possible threats before sitting down to talk. I think I've now sufficiently debunked any negative points I've read in other reviews. If you don't like point-and-click ARPG games, you're not going to like this one. No one is going to change the entire genre to enable someone's crazy ideas. Well, unless it's Diablo 3, and look how that turned out. Sure it sold well, but I would now have to waterboard my friends into admitting that they fell for purchasing it.

My biggest complaint about this most perfect game, is that there's no Mac or Linux versions, yet. I say yet, because three years after the first game was released, we even have a Linux version now. You can pick it up, DRM-free, right now for a limited time, for the price of whatever-you-want, as part of the Humble Indie Bundle 6. You can donate some or all of the price to the EFF as well. Shameless plugs aside, it may take a few years but eventually Torchlight 2 should make the rounds as well. Runic Games has a lot in store for the game yet, such as console versions, as well as Steam Workshop integration, which will enable easy mod installation. Mod support will presumably let players redo their skills and stats, and cheat if they want to.


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Game Review: Torchlight 2

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  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @02:32PM (#41480615) Homepage Journal

    Since Diablo 3 is a DRM'd monstrosity, I'll give this a try, just to help show blizzard why they aren't getting money.

  • Linux support (Score:4, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Thursday September 27, 2012 @02:41PM (#41480753) Homepage Journal

    I had hoped that the Linux release of the original meant that the sequel would have it from the beginning. Unfortunately, this is not the case, which means I won't be purchasing this game now, I don't want more Windows software. Hopefully they'll do a Linux port of this game before it becomes irrelevant. Too bad they don't have one now, or they could have my twenty bucks, too.

  • Re:No Crafting (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 27, 2012 @02:41PM (#41480757)
    Right because crafting was totally awesome in Diablo 3 ... er ... World of War ... er ... Star Wars Galaxies?
  • Re:Linux support (Score:4, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Thursday September 27, 2012 @02:47PM (#41480869) Homepage Journal

    It probably would have cost more than twenty bucks to make a Linux port.

    I know you think you're funny, but most people spend more than I do on the humble bundles (well, most linux users) so clearly there's a paying linux games market out there, and given that most people are willing to spend more than I am, if I'm willing to buy this game, there's probably a bunch of other people willing to do the same. The engine probably didn't have to change dramatically between games (though what do I know?) and if it didn't then there's no excuse for there not being a Linux version right now.

  • Diablo 3 is fine. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Petersko ( 564140 ) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @03:05PM (#41481071)
    I got my $60 out of it, and so did almost everybody who's bitching about it. I don't know where anybody got this idea that their one-time payment (that has become progressively cheaper as it failed to increase with inflation) should give them hundreds of hours of entertainment.

    If you check your played time and it's over 100 hours, maybe you should stop whining about how crappy you think it is, because clearly your bitchy brain and your gaming brain are having an argument.

    Actually, the old man in me wishes the entire gaming community would benefit from a complete media blackout when it comes to video games. Then they can buy a game without expectations, enjoy it without absorbing the negative crap from other gamers, and be satisfied.
  • by Feneban ( 2740683 ) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @03:14PM (#41481195)
    I don't think the point was getting your $60 worth. D3 was in "development" for 10 years and it ended up having the main feature ended up being the Real Money Auction House. For the time that Blizzard invested in the game, one would expect more than 4 Act's of similar looking tilesets and models. I've only played through 2.5 Acts of Torchlight 2 and I'm pretty sure I've seen at least twice the models that D3 had. I was able to sell $40 worth of gear on the RMAH to at least get some of my money back on D3.
  • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 27, 2012 @03:37PM (#41481427)

    If you or anybody else wants to buy Torchlight because of their issues with D3, send a message to Activision/Blizzard by emailing or sending them your receipt for your purchase of Torchlight (or whatever else you spent your money on).

    Not buying their product is one thing (they might just attribute it as a loss to piracy). Showing them that you had the money *and* inclination to buy something but instead bought a competitors product is a whole other thing.

  • by steelfood ( 895457 ) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @03:48PM (#41481547)

    What? Where did money and hours of gameplay come into this? Sure, you spent $60 (not to mention it used to be $30 for a decent game) and you expect $60 worth of gameplay. But I don't think that was ever the gripe about Diablo 3.

    Diablo 3 cannot be played offline.

    Diablo 3 cannot be played without a account.

    Diablo 3 cannot be played without Blizzard's nod each time.

    Diablo 3 will stop working mid-way through playing if your connection to Blizzard's servers fail.

    What does hours of gameplay have to do with anything when the gripe is about purchasing a product and not be able to play with it whenever, wherever, and however.

    As far as we're concerned, that's not what we define as buying a game, at least not to us pre-MMO generation gamers.

  • by Dins ( 2538550 ) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @03:54PM (#41481613)

    Wait, who's evil? And why?

    Think he meant Activision/Blizzard. And the fact that Diablo 3 requires you to always be connected to Blizzard's servers even while playing single player, while maybe not pure evil, is the reason I will never buy Diablo 3.

  • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @04:19PM (#41481889)

    Early criticism of D3 are valid, but those are a thing of the past.

    No they aren't.

    The core game design is fucking retarded. The gear upgrade path is market based. In some sense its much more efficient to gear up in D3 by playing "auction house trader" than "hack and slash dungeon crawler".

    That's fine if you -want- to play a trading game. But if that's what you want, play EVE or something that actually does a good job of it.

    D3 is a lousy ARPG.

    Its a half decent part time job though.

    larger .... trading market than TL2 ever will

    Well yeah, that's true, but you say it like its a good thing. I don't crawl dungeons so that I can sell things over the internet, to fund buying other things over the internet so that I can crawl dungeons more efficiently in order to sell even more things over the internet.

    I'm happy TL2 will never be that.

    Enjoy your part time job.

    And the new changes around the corner in 1.05 are a vast step in the right direction.

    D3 can't be fixed. They need to start over from scratch.

  • by shaunbr ( 563633 ) * on Thursday September 27, 2012 @04:30PM (#41482019)

    There's definitely a lot of unfounded hate for Diablo 3. It's certainly not Diablo 2, but I got my money's worth out of it.

    The main problem with Diablo 3 is the auction house. Not even the RMAH - just the auction house in general. The main draw to an ARPG, and pretty much the entire endgame, is farming for better loot. In Diablo 2, you had to find all the good gear yourself, or make an effort to seek out other people to trade with. There was an entire rune-based economy that facilitated the trades, but you still had to go to the effort to set prices, find willing buyers/sellers, and complete the transaction.

    With the Diablo 3 auction house, any piece of gear that you could possibly think of - and almost certainly better than any piece you'll ever find on your own - is available to buy with your gold. Some of these items cost next to nothing because the market is so flooded with gear. Why bother grinding for loot when you can get stuff that's so much better so easily? The auction house removed the one major motivator to keep playing like we all did in Diablo 2 - the hope for better loot on whatever you happened to kill next. Without that sense of excitement, there's really no point in playing long term.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 27, 2012 @04:52PM (#41482311)

    One note... I got a friend together to play online and as I was arranging stuff, I accidently clicked this little green magnifying glass icon just to the bottom right of the health globe... it turns off your "loot bubbles" and no manner of going into options to figure out why there were turned off will help. All the "show items" are checked. It was frustrating until my Google fu turned up a link (which wasn't the easiest to find yet as it's not popular enough of a request).

    Hopefully that helps others.

    BTW, Torchlight 2 is awesome. But I'm also a huge fan of the original. I'm more than happy to advocate this game. I spent $60 on Diablo 3 and I'm beyond disappointed. Dare I say I wasted my money? I was a big Blizzard fan. I loved the Starcraft 1, Warcraft 1-3 and played WoW for a short time after CATA. Starcraft 2 was fun. I don't feel like I wasted my money there. But seriously, if company's can start pushing $20 games this good, I hope it sends a message to game developers everywhere.

  • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @05:14PM (#41482577) Journal

    $500? After how many total hours of D3 gaming? Is this more than minimum wage where you live?

    Gaming because it's fun is one thing, but as a way to make money it's not at all impressive, at least in most places.

  • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday September 27, 2012 @05:23PM (#41482683) Journal

    Dude I gotta say...TORCHLIGHT 2 ROCKS!!! I pre-ordered for me and my boys, they had a cool deal where you could pay $60 (the same as a single copy of D3) and get 4 copies of Torchlight 1 AND get 4 of Torchlight II on release, what a steal! BTW you can still get 4 copies for $60 [] but I don't think you get TL 1 for free like if you pre-ordered.

    Torchlight 1 is still a blast but to me its not the MP that was missing, it was the challenge. You could save up gems and build a "weapon of ultimate ass kickery" and just slaughter the entire game. Now not only did they fix this but LOOOT BABY LOOOT! The loot is cool but you gotta seriously hunt and fight and you WILL die even on normal level, these bad guys don't play around! There is this Manticore boss out in the desert and when we hit that place it was like walking into hell, just fire and explosions and lightning, and when you are playing MP with friends or family here is some KILLER things about MP..1.-Everyone gets their own loot, no loot snatching, 2.-Trading is simple and easy, if you get something your buddy can use or he gets a cool weapon you need for the set you're building? Swap in seconds. 3.-Bad guys ramp up a LOT when you add players, no going in with your buds and just laying waste, you better bring your A game because they sure do!

    I know everyone is gonna compare to Diablo 3, but I don't think that is fair or right. They built D3 to be an online only MMO style real money market thing, while Torchlight 2 takes all we loved about D1 and D2 and dungeon crawlers and just ramps it to 11, making everything better! It really makes it a community, even going so far as to say "Modders are welcome here, come on in!" so we'll be seeing cool stuff added to Torchlight for years, which is something I LOVE LOVE LOVE to see games do, it adds so much to an already great game!

    So if you like RPGs? If you like dungeon crawlers? If you liked Diablo 1 and 2? if you don't like always on DRM and real money markets? then BUY TORCHLIGHT 2 NOW! The first time we played the boys kept popping up in game "You only paid $20 a copy for this? Seriously? this rocks!" and I have to agree, its the most fun I've had in an RPG dungeon crawler in years, great loot, great sets, great drops, hard bad guys and bosses,lots of secrets and easter eggs (be sure to look for a basket near where you find the lotion for a cute "Silence of the Lambs" riff) its just a fricking blast!

  • Re:Linux support (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @06:16PM (#41483199)

    then there's no excuse for there not being a Linux version right now.

    That statement is a little naive. They will release the Linux version when it is ready. They aren't going to sit on the Windows version once it's done just so that they can also finish the Linux version before starting to sell either one. And there's no reason to split the team into 2 versions doing simultaneous development when they should focus the entire team on making the game great and polished, on whatever platform they want first (turns out they picked the one with the biggest market share), and then refocus the entire team into porting to other platforms. They can be making money on sales while they're working on the platforms with smaller market shares. It makes perfect sense to do that if they happen to be one of those companies that is working with finite resources.

  • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Friday September 28, 2012 @02:51AM (#41485567) Journal

    I refuse to buy Diablo 3 because of the elephant in the room that nobody seems to mention, being constantly connected to their servers for SP means you are gonna deal with la-la-la-lag. I've watched friends with 20MBit cable connections play and they would still get spots where it was obviously jerking and it wasn't their systems, its the thousands of miles between them and Blizzard's servers. Jim Sterling at The Escapist [] made a nice rant about how we should ALL be pissed at them for the DRM, and a big part was the jerking laggy mess he'd find or not being able to get on after buying on release day.

    Compare this to Torchlight 2. it took me and my boys less than 5 minutes to tie our Steam to Torchlight IIs matchmaking service (which is required because they also sell standalone Windows and soon Linux copies as they do TL I) and 3 minutes after that I was hosting a private server on my own system and the boys were in game and joining me in the fun. ZERO lag,no matter how many "super fireballs" the youngest liked to throw or insane supermoves the oldest pulled off, instant trading between us, it all "just worked" and when I had to sit in the doctor's office to get me some antibiotics for my bi-annual sinus infection i was playing my SP character (we agreed to save separate characters for MP and SP so that we'd be on the same level) on my little E350 netbook with no online and just having a ball.

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