Review: Torchlight II

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In 2009, Torchlight, by Runic games, took the world by storm.  At the low price point of $20 it stood toe to toe with any action-RPG in the genre and introduced some much needed innovations and style.  As much fun as it was, fans clamored for co-op.  Well, after a long anticipation, Runic has answered the fans and given us co-op in Torchlight II!  Is this just Torchlight 1.5 with co-op, or does the sequel hack ‘n slash it’s competition to bits?

30 Second Review

(+)  More of everything–loot, pets, environments, monsters, etc.

(+)  Vast world and lore to explore, exponentially expanded after completing the game

(+)  4 new classes with new skill trees

(+)  SIX PLAYER CO-OP!!!

(-)   Not able to respec skills

(-)  Some connection bugs in co-op

(-)  Limited social options, which are not available once you are in-game

 

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The Story

The first game saw The Destroyer, The Alchemist and The Vanquisher tasked with vanquishing the evil Ordrak, who has corrupted the powers of ember.  The entire game takes place under the once quiet little town of….you guessed it-Torchlight!  Now, in the opening of the sequel, we find that The Alchemist has been corrupted by the Ember Blight, thanks to his exposure from Ordrak, in the first outing.  With more cameos from the original classes, you find that the world is now threatened by corrupted ember and the powers it has bestowed upon The Alchemist.  Your journey begins in the town of the Estherian Enclave, located in the lush woods of the Estherian Steppes, amongst the Vanquisher forces.

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The Gameplay

If you weren’t familiar with the first game, Torchlight II is a point and click hack ‘n slash RPG, in the vein of Diablo and other popular titles.  You start by creating a character-one of four classes; The Engineer, The Outlander, The Berserker and The Embermage.  Unlike last time, you have a few more customization options and a choice of male of female characters for each class.  Likewise, the options for creating your pet have increased drastically, and now offer multiple skins for each pet.  Once the formalities are out of the way, you and your pet take on massive amounts of quests and dungeon crawling.  The game is no longer bound to a single town and a single dungeon, across three acts and an epilogue, you will be found in multiple towns and varied environments.  Your loot chests, for character specific and shared loot, will still be found, from town to town, fishing holes not found in towns now have a rarity level and fishing limit, and multiple other changes have been made-like the brilliant idea to send your pet into town with a shopping list!  Not only can your pet be your attack dog(or cat), but they can hawk all of your unwanted loot AND now bring back as many potions and/or scrolls as you can afford!

As you progress, each area has a Gold Chest, which requires you to find the key, in that area, to open.  Some areas have even more than one special item loot drop, like the Gold Chests.  Side-quest dungeons are sprinkled throughout the large area maps, as are Champions for you to defeat.  Champions are the more difficult monsters you may remember from Torchlight, that boost your Fame rating when defeated.  Each class has a Charge meter that fills as you defeat enemies and rewards you with bonuses like decreased casting costs, when full.  The environments and characters have the same whimsical charm of the first game, but appear so much more beautifully rendered.  The, of course, there is the limitless well of loot that you will acquire throughout the game.  Torchlight II boasts more unique weapon models, more unique armor sets, more rare loot, and you will easily be addicted to clicking through the game in search of a new favorite weapon or armor piece to complement your character and play style!  Just in case a roughly 30 hour campaign ins’t enough to satiate you, there is a New Game Plus mode, allowing you to restart the campaign at your current level, with all of your skills and loot, and the crown jewel of Mapworks.  Mapworks is an area accessible from any town portal that allows you to purchase treasure map, of varying difficulty and setting, and dungeon crawl to your hearts’ content in search of new and rare loot.  Both of these additions just blow the doors off of the game experienced during the initial campaign.  All of this comes together for a fantastic experience that was certainly worth the wait for the game and the seemingly fraudulent low price to purchase the game.

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The Co-Op

Of course, everyone knows that the game, itself, will be a quality product, but the million dollar question in – How is the co-op?  Well, I have to admit that it’s a bit of a mixed bag.  Co-op play requires the creation of a Runic Account, via their website.  Sadly, this feature was experiencing some launch bugs, but has been fixed.  Now, in-game, you must login with said Runic account to play a co-op game, which will then present you with a server browser window, including your friends list, after you have chosen the ‘New Game’ or ‘Load Game’ options from the main screen.  Take a good look at the social window and your friends list because this is the last time you’ll see it!  Sadly, the social options for the game are nowhere to be found after you have started a co-op game.  Should a player disconnect, or drop out, they are tasked with getting themselves back in.  Should new friends come online while you are playing, you’ll have to rely on Steam to notify you that they are online because the friends list in Torchlight II will not be visible or accessible from in-game.  Oh, and if you do happen to disconnect (and you will), you will be faced with a ‘Duplicate Login’ error, for a few minutes when trying to re-login with your Runic Account, while the server resets.  The nice bonus about the server browser is that you can filter it to show only those servers run by or containing friends on your friends list, so jumping back in will not force you to skim through the full server list.  Minor squabbles with the social options out of the way, the co-op in Torchlight II is absolutely fantastic!  Only your own loot is visible in your game, so there won’t be any fighting over the +10 Sword of Dominion between players!  As if that wasn’t a brilliant enough addition, the chests located in towns for your shared and character loot?  Those will also be specific to whichever character opens them, so no one will be able to join your game and loot your chests!  The maximum player count for any server is 6, and you can completely go off and explore on your own, ignorant of other characters in the server, yet still sharing in the experience earned.  Of course, you can trade items and loot with all of your friends, so co-op can be a great way to increase your chances of finding elusive items and new weapons.  Dungeons are still randomly generated and bosses actually seem to vary their attacks randomly-so an encounter you’ve had in your offline, single-player campaign may not go the same as it will during a co-op match!

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The Verdict

Torchlight II is not a perfect game, and I can think of a couple criticisms.  I have already mentioned that I’m not fond of some of the decisions made regarding social options.  In addition, I would kill for a chance to respec ALL of my skill points, not just buy back the last 3 I’ve spent at a town vendor, which is the only current option.  I don’t quite have the time on my hands to make a new character and playthrough for each type of character/skill build that I’d like to try.  I do think that while the three Acts are massive in size, they offer less aesthetic variety than I had hoped.  I think I liked the more bite-sized maps, from the original Torchlight, that seemed to be a bit more varied in appearance.  With all of that being said, Torchlight II is still a brilliantly amazing game that is required playing for anyone who owns a PC.  The environments, the quests, the loot grabbing, the quirks and features of each character class and pet, all make for the most fun I’ve had in an action-RPG to date.  Take the game online, play it by yourself, either way the amount of combinations for characters, pets, loot and skillsets is mind boggling and limitless.  I’ve already created three characters, I am sure to jump on the fourth, and I am planning on getting my feet wet in the ultra difficult Hardcore Mode, where all deaths are permanent.  The humor is fantastic, the writing and new cutscenes are great, the soundtrack is fantastic and easter eggs are awesome!  All in all, you will not find a better action-RPG on the market, certainly not one for the budget price of $20.  I cannot recommend Torchlight II highly enough, Runic Games has exceeded expectations!

[starreview tpl=14]

Differences

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