The latest top-down dungeon crawler from Runic Games is here and fans of the 2009 cult hit have been waiting 3 years for a successor. Built by numerous industry veterans who worked on such titles as Diablo, Mythos, and Fate, Runic hopes to continue the promise of quality, action, role-playing games with Torchlight 2. With the inclusion of multiplayer, a feature dishearteningly excluded in the first, this might be a gamer’s golden opportunity to relive that Diablo magic from over 10 years ago. Might.
There are four classes to choose from at the beginning of your adventure: Embermage, Engineer, Berserker, and Outlander. Engineers are skilled in melee combat but specialize in using their mechanical prowess to construct devices that heal you and do a little combat themselves. Berserkers come down and dirty out of the box and can’t wait to glide past enemies with a little good old fashioned brute strength. The Outlander class allows you to kill enemies from afar with a collection of guns & magic and the Embermage is well equipped to cast a few deadly elemental spells.
After selecting a gender, name, and appearance, you have one more important member of your party to choose: your pet. This little animalistic accomplice will follow you everywhere on your journey killing enemies, holding items, and going on shopping sprees (more on that later). The choice isn’t so simple because you’re not just limited to a dog like in Fable 2. You can have a panther, bulldog, hawk, wolf, ferret, Papillion, or a Chakawary (cute little dinosaur-looking biped you’re glad to be friends with).
Your options for difficulty are casual, normal, veteran, and elite, with a sovereign check box labeled “Hardcore mode” available on all of them. The four levels of challenge are self-explanatory as each one simply makes the game more difficult, while Hardcore Mode is a twist that makes death permanent with no respawn. This is obviously for the incredibly dedicated/insane.
The opening cut scene briefly details a character known only as The Alchemist and beating inside his chest is the heart of Ordrak, an ancient evil who operated under the town of Torchlight. The Alchemist has set off on a campaign of destruction and it’s time to gear up and do everything you can to protect your land against his oppression.
The journey begins
The game only features a few cutscenes (about one between each act) and don’t provide a great deal of narrative. Most of the story is told through the text at the beginning and end of in-game missions and, even then, don’t concern themselves with an over complicated plot. Keeping things simple isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but in this case the simplicity sacrifices depth. Given the length of the game, it would have been nice to have a story that was a little more fleshed out to give your actions context. New plot information usually just informs you of a new Alchemist raid and a hint as to where he’s going next.
As with any dungeon crawler, you’ll take quests, gain levels, and loot the dead, all in aid of becoming as powerful as you possibly can be in the fight against the enemy. Plenty of ghouls and goblins will be waiting for you along this trail to superiority, but every creature killed is just a new opportunity to pick up his equipment and benefit from the level growing XP. Every new level gained provides you with five stat points and one skill point. Stat points can be divided up to improve defense, strength, focus, or dexterity. Defense and strength will provide a strong resistance to attack with a powerful swing, but if you want to increase your chances of a critical hit (dexterity) or your ability to wield magic (focus), you’ll need to spread out your points more evenly.
Skill points are used to learn or improve abilities that are often class specific. This is where the Engineer learns how to build those helpful robots and the Berserker learns how to punch people harder. Some skills can even passively upgrade your characters basic functions in combat for those who like to keep things streamlined.
The heat of battle
Items found on your fallen foes range from new weapons, armor, health potions, spells, and sometimes an enchanted collar or two for your furry friend. Some items can be augmented with stones to increase effectiveness and anything can be sold to a merchant in town if you see no use for it. Nowhere near a town? Send the pet! Every pet has the ability to take a certain amount of items and leave the action for a few minutes to sell them in town. Furthermore, you can also give your pet a list of things you need to buy and your little errand runner will buy them for you. This allows you to clear your inventory and stock up on some essential items while still out in the field.
Unfortunately, sending your pet into town with a boat load of items is something that needs to be done all too often. Over 90% of all the items you find in combat are junk. Scavenged goods are rarely better than what you already carry on your back and with a limited inventory, you’re stuck stopping every 20 minutes to sift through piles of items you don’t want. The only weapons and armor that ever seem to be worth your while almost always require a higher skill level to be equipped and by the time you reach that level, finding armaments exactly like it is commonplace. The amount of loot dropped should have definitely been reduced to prevent players spending hours scrutinizing hundreds of items on a just-in-case principle.
Speaking of the untamed wild, all the environments, items, and enemies in Torchlight 2 are generated procedurally so the game is different every time you play. Even if you start a new game and accept the same quests, the aesthetics are similar, but every path is redrawn for a fresh feel. This provides quite a bit of replay value, especially now that you can hop online and explore with friends in multiplayer co-op with up to 6 people. Some kind of matchmaking would have been nice, but the system works well enough for anyone hoping to jump in, help others beat the campaign, and score a little experience.
The game will last you around 30+ hours, which is not terribly long, but is detrimentally lengthy for this particular title. Without the intrigue of an engaging story or the prospect of finding cool gear around every corner, the game quickly wears into a rinse and repeat of killing enemies and organizing inventory. The environments are also so enormous you’ll find yourself roaming back and forth like a dot matrix printer finding there was nothing worthwhile there anyway. Collecting gold is nice, but due to the enormity of some of the maps, you don’t get the chance to spend it in town that often and your pet can only purchase certain types of items for you.
One of many procedural environments
Torchlight 2 satisfies the nostalgia for old isometric dungeon crawlers but does very little to separate itself from the titles that were so popular over a decade ago. Almost everything works how you would expect it to and doesn’t innovate much at all. In a way, it reminds us why the formula was so good in the first place but also instills a feeling of deja-vu and leaves a lot to be desired from a genre that would have hopefully evolved a little more by now. Teaming up online is still as satisfying as it ever was and if you’ve been waiting to play the tried and true formula you fell in love with years ago, go for it. For anyone else, there just isn’t enough here for gamers of 2012.
Classic dungeon crawling formula | Procedural content for replayability
Not much has changed in ten years | Most loot is junk | Too lengthy without motivation
Little David Galanter grew up in Orange County, CA loving videogames and anything else that repelled girls. After getting his Bachelor's Degree in Theatre Arts, David decided to start contributing his soft silky words to the world via online media. He currently owns a website with a weekly podcast (www.drgman.com) and is a reviewer for Default Prime!
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The latest top-down dungeon crawler from Runic Games is here and fans of the 2009 cult hit have been waiting 3 years for a successor. Built by numerous industry veterans who worked on such titles as Diablo, Mythos, and Fate, Runic hopes to continue the promise of quality, action, role-playing games with Torchlight 2