E3 2011: Torchlight 2 Hands-on — Berserker Class Reveal
Torchlight is not about reinventing the wheel. Runic Games’ Steam-powered 2009 smash took Diablo’s timeless gameplay and swathed it in an inventive, colorful new package. Torchlight 2, like Diablo II before it, expands the scope and scale of the original game. Instead of Torchlight’s ever-deepening caves and catacombs, the sequel allows players to traipse through massive, above-ground environments, full of quests, lumbering boss mobs, and, of course, plenty of loot.
The Runic devs I met were funny and self-deprecating, cracking jokes about their bouts of indecision — a lot of the explanations they provided ended in the phrase “at least, for now.” Sitting down to give their pre-alpha build a test drive, I was confronted with a trio of important new features.
See James’ Torchlight 2 adventures and more on the Game Front Youtube Channel.
First, the Berserker class, whose presence is Runic’s big E3 reveal. Focused on fast, dual-wield meelee, using claw and fist weapons, the Berserker furnished a fun, brawling playstyle. When his Wolverine-style claw attack falters, he can call upon the spirits of various animals to do magical damage. By experimenting with the buttons in the hotbar, I summoned the spirit of a ghostly dragon to roast my enemies, then sicced a spectral wolfpack on them, resulting in a neat, multi-target homing spell.
Along with the game’s other two classes, the Railman (bruising, two-handed melee) and the Outlander (ranged), the Berserker is now fully customizable — players can control their character’s appearance and gender. This is all due to Torchlight 2′s second important new feature: multiplayer. The sequel will feature a full suite of online, LAN, and direct-to-IP multiplayer modes, enabling players to clear out the game’s sprawling areas together. Increased customization means that no two Berserkers will look exactly alike. It also has a fringe benefit: the game will be easier to mod. Runic were enthused by the modding community on the original game, and want to throw them a big bone this time around — a full dev kit will be released eventually.
You’ll be able to drop in and out of multiplayer Torchlight 2 games on the fly — enemy HP and spawn ratio will adjust automatically. Each player will receive his or her individual loot, so there’ll be no need for squabbling. Paired up with a dev at the helm of a Railman, I took my Berserker on a trip into the world.
It was at this point that Torchlight 2′s third important feature came to light: the world itself. Realizing that the initial game had a simple story and levels somewhat circumscribed by limited tile-sets, the Runic team hired a full-time story editor, commissioned some cinematics, and began work on an ambitious open world. Players will traverse frozen taiga and sun-baked deserts, contending with weather and time-of-day effects, dangerous “valley” areas with special content, and various instantiated dungeons. There are also a number of randomly spawning boss encounters and player-activated, monster-powered events.
Warping into the gameworld from a tranquil, lush quest hub, the hallmarks of Torchlight were immediately apparent. We were immediately swarmed by all manner of imaginative, lovingly-rendered enemies, who fell like wheat before the scythe. By opening a particular sarcophagus, we were able to follow a spectral being to the entrance of the “Sepulchre of Sorrow,” an instanced dungeon full of skulking skeletons and wraiths the color of blue cotton candy.
Eventually, we reached a giant hole in the floor, from which emanated a giant ogre in surprising and captivating fashion. After much travail, he hit the floor. Before surrendering control, the doughty Berserker and his Railman buddy (who had begun wielding a cannon, a ranged AOE weapon) warped to another area and bested another triggerable world event, interrupting a fell ritual and putting paid to the toothy demon it was summoning.
There’s no doubt that Torchlight 2 will be a bigger, deeper game than its predecessor. It remains committed to it’s bargain price point — no less than $20 and no more than $30,” the devs were fond of repeating. Convince a friend to shell out for the bargain, and the two of you can wear down your mouse buttons together.