Torchlight 2 Review

The game’s cinematic sequences are animated cartoons, reminiscent of some of the better work that Flash video sites like Newgrounds.com have to offer. While they are by no means unattractive, an underlying hint of amateurism pervades the animation, revealed by simple Flash techniques recognizable by anyone who has created digital cartoons.

However, the cinematics in no way detract from the game or the story, which follows the simple narrative of “chase the bad guy through several environments before finally killing him.” The bad guy in question is the Alchemist from the original Torchlight, corrupt by Ember Blight and transformed from hero to villain.

The plot is barebones, and that’s by design — Torchlight 2′s story has no delusions of grandeur. It exists solely to propel the action forward from quest to quest, act to act, without ever getting in the player’s way or slowing the pace of the game. In that sense, it succeeds in accomplishing its goal. I won’t spoil anything, but the final boss fight is suitably epic.

Bosses, mini-bosses called Champions, and even regular monsters provide a spectrum of challenges to overcome. Monster variety is solid, and Runic’s attention to detail with the way monsters “spawn” in the world is appreciated: some creatures are found napping by a campfire, others crash through stained glass windows, and still others fly out of nests in swarms. It’s all very organic.

One particularly fun class of monster has shielding, which can come in the form of an organic carapace, sturdy armor casing, or just a plain old shield, depending on the type of monster. Your first few blows will be absorbed by the shield, before the protective element is visually destroyed and blown off the creature.

Rarely, you’ll come across a Phase Beast, a monster that, when killed, spawns a portal to a side-dungeon wrought with peril — and loot. It’s little touches like this that make Torchlight’s world worth exploring in full.

The game even includes a monster known as a “mimic,” which should be familiar to veteran tabletop RPG players: a creature that looks like a treasure chest, but opens to reveal a mouth full of teeth. It’s adorable, and you’re never sure whether that chest you’re about to click on will turn out to be a mimic. Of course, the mimic itself is filled with the loot of a treasure chest, so you’re rewarded for killing it.

That about sums up Torchlight 2′s methodology: reward the player for his time. The loot drop rates and leveling rates are fine-tuned such that you always feel as though you’re accomplishing something, be it finding great items or gaining a level.

After reaching level 46 and completing my first run-through of the game, I had accumulated over 25 unique items and 20 set items, including three complete sets. Guess what? Finding unique and set items is still awesome. Torchlight 2 doesn’t believe in starving a player of these items in order to give them value — it just lets us have fun. My only gripe, if it can even be labeled as such, is that I haven’t changed armor in over 20 levels because I don’t want to lose the fantastic 8% speed bonus on my six-piece set.

If “reward the player for his time” is Torchlight 2′s methodology, then its motto is, “let the gamer play however she’d like to.” Singleplayer, multiplayer, and even LAN options are all available, and several options allow you to customize things like minimap style and opacity, as well as which loot items have their names appear onscreen. At some point, you won’t care to pick up “trash” items anymore — so just disable their names. Given this design choice, it’s only natural that the game has mod tools on the way, which are a tremendous boon to any game.

Once you have TL2 configured to your exact preferences, you’ll find that the game is fast-paced and can be beaten in a couple of days. However, it seemed to me as though there was not enough content to keep pace with the increasing levels of monsters being faced. I felt like I was constantly playing catch-up, delving into regions above my level and never able to get enough XP to attain the level the game expected me to be, despite fully exploring and clearing regions. In my case, this was a non-issue, because I appreciated the greater challenge in taking on higher-level foes, but I still couldn’t help but feel as though I wasn’t playing the way the developers intended.

Once you’ve “beaten” the game, two main options allow you to keep playing with your current character: New Game Plus and Mapworks. New Game Plus has you replay the game with monsters scaled up to challenge you, while Mapworks is an end-game “town” in which you can purchase access to a variety of high-level dungeons to trounce through.

You may feel that whatever negative comments I’ve brought up about this game so far are minor grievances at best, and you’d be correct. My only real criticism of Torchlight 2 is the tendency for attack sequences to “stick.” When I release my mouse button, my character tends to take one more shot, or if I move my mouse to target an enemy in a different direction, he’ll keep shooting in the same direction. This seems to be intended as a feature that allows you to keep locked onto one enemy when there’s a mess of monsters running amok, but in practice, it just felt like the controls aren’t always responsive. While I never died because of this, I very easily could have remained stuck in place at a time that I wanted to flee and take a potion.

But that one issue aside, it’s clear that Torchlight 2 was developed by veterans of the ARPG genre. Every design decision shows the finesse and expertise that only comes with experience, with a myriad of elements that coalesce to create a game that has set a new standard for the genre. For only $20, you’re getting one of the greatest ARPGs ever made.

Pros:

  • Pets conveniently do away with trips to town
  • Fast-paced
  • Tremendous random level generation
  • Evocative music
  • Rewarding with regards to loot drops and leveling
  • Customizability
  • Plenty of end-game options
  • Low price for the depth of content

Cons:

  • Occasionally unresponsive commands
  • Graphics can be higher-res
  • Cinematics could be more polished

Final Score: 95/100

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3 Comments on Torchlight 2 Review

LiNKiN

On September 21, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Pretty sure you nailed that review. :) Long live Torchlight!

Patches

On September 21, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Torchlight 2 is to Diablo 2 (lots of indoor/outdoor with many towns) what Torchlight 1 was to Diablo 1 (one town, unlimited random dungeons to explore)…

I agree that the cinematics are sub-par, but the rest is top notch… Ironic that Diablo 3 is the exact opposite…

I really missed Torchlight Pet, as a fighter and a loot seller (and now potions buyer too!)… And real random maps too, not just where and what monster will appear…

nemoJoe

On September 24, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Thank you for an excellent review. I have played the game for a couple of days and I found your observations to be very accurate. On a personal note – glad you prefer it over Diablo 3.