Neither does Torchlight II deviate from the tried-and-true formula nor does it reinvent it, but Runic Games’ latest iteration still offers an engrossing experience that few RPGs can match.
The original Torchlight wasn’t a refreshingly unique game. In fact, it was tremendously derivative, for it took the elements that made Diablo so engrossing and combined those to make a similar adventure. The result was a really well put together experience that, albeit quite derivative, was eminently satisfying and absorbing to play. A lot has changed since Torchlight came out in 2009, including the fact that the third iteration of Diablo has come out. So does Torchlight II have what it takes to compete with Blizzard’s colossal action role-playing game? And more importantly, is Runic Games’ latest title a worthy successor to Torchlight? The answer to both questions is an emphatic and resounding yes.
Torchlight had a lot in common with the first Diablo. In both games, there was a main city and the player was encouraged to go underneath it to annihilate dark creatures that roamed the labyrinthine corridors. Once the bottom level was reached, you needed to fight a menacing creature to bring the adventure to a close. Likewise, Torchlight II shares some similarities with Diablo II.
Those who have played Diablo II back in the day probably remember the adventurer of the first game becoming corrupted by the Lord of Terror’s spirit. Equally, Torchlight II begins with the Alchemist becoming corrupted by the Heart of Ordrack, the evil that had been depraving the city of Torchlight. Now it’s your duty to find the corrupted villain, defeat him and save the world once again.
While Torchlight II’s main gameplay remains pretty much the same as its predecessor, the sequel has lots of inviting additions. First of all, there are four new playable character classes: Embermage has the ability to use elemental spells, Berserker is a brutal warrior who uses beast magic, Engineer is a melee fighter equipped with Ember-powered weapons and Outlander wields ranged weapons and uses powerful magic. For the first time in the series, all characters can be either male or female which adds a more personal touch to the character creation process.
There are also more pets to choose from this time around. Little beasts that fight alongside include a Panther, Bulldog, Cat, Chakawary (a weird looking lizard,) Falcor the Papillon (a black and white dog,) Ferret, Hawk and Wolf. Furthermore, pets have the ability to buy basic items when you send them to town. So if you’re short on items such as potions, scrolls or dynamite and you don’t want to go all the way back to the nearest city, you can instruct your pet to do it for you.
Thankfully, new additions don’t stop there. The graphics engine has received a significant overhaul that allowed for some enticing changes. Apart from the novel user interface designed to make everything more intuitive for new players, there have been lots of changes in terms of level design. For instance, not only are the environments much more expansive and larger in scope than those of the first game, but there’s also a wide variety of exotic locales. These spacious environs, which include lush forests, vast deserts, ruined cities and grassy plains, are riddled with secrets and abundant loot.
In addition, the core quests are much more varied than those of the first Torchlight. Epic endeavors aren’t limited to fetching items or killing specific bosses only. One of the most memorable quests, for instance, encourages you to investigate an expertly designed ghost ship which is teeming with the spirits of dead pirates. It’s great to know that these regular expeditions are complemented by loads of inviting side-quests that considerably extend the longevity of this role-playing game.
The changes in level design are also noticeable in the side-quests. No longer do you need to completely deviate from your main path to undertake a secondary mission since most of these are placed right on your path. Thus, should you decide to accept one of these side endeavors, you never need to go through already explored areas. It’s also worth noting that whenever you complete one of these side-quests, a portal is automatically opened, allowing you to quickly go back to the location of the person who gave you the quest in the first place. As a consequence, this eliminates a lot of unnecessary running.
Torchlight II also features multiple hub cities. There are new people in these towns that cover a wide variety of professions. Apart from the regular quest givers, vendors and merchants, the different cities are teeming with gamblers, transmuters (who allow you to combine items to create new ones,) enchanters, gem savers and gem smashers, among other non-playable characters.
But while all these additions are more than welcome there’s one particular feature that fans of the first Torchlight have been clamoring for all these years: the possibility of playing with others. Apart from the single-player mode, the main campaign can now be played cooperatively either on LAN or online. The multiplayer mode is simply superb and setting up or joining online games is a simple, painless process (note that a Runic Games account in needed to play online.) Provided you have a good connection, the online mode runs really smooth and fighting the forces of evil with up to six friends is eminently satisfying.
Finally, the ability to install modifications is still a possibility, transforming a regular game into a much more versatile platform. From what I’ve seen, the most popular mods include new skins, more pets, additional spells, other characters, extra difficulty levels, new animations and a reduced death penalty. Overall, it’s simply great that the developers allow the community to modify the game and add more content to it.
Sadly, Torchlight II isn’t without a few shortcomings. The absence of netbook mode is a conspicuous one. I don’t know how many people ended up using this feature back when Torchlight came out, but I remember it being quite popular. Therefore, it’s a shame that those who don’t have access to the newest hardware won’t be able to play the game at all. Additionally, a recurring problem is the fact that the pets tend to get stuck in the geometry in the most restricted areas.
In the end, Torchlight II is everything that fans of the genre are looking for. This inspired sequel has evocative visual design, absorbing multiplayer modes, a slew of engrossing boss fights, memorable quests and more loot than ever. Neither does Torchlight II deviate from the tried-and-true formula nor does it reinvent it, but Runic Games’ latest iteration still offers an engrossing experience that few RPGs can match.