Posted on September 21, 2012, CJ Miozzi Torchlight 2 Review
A titan has dominated the action RPG genre for the past 15 years, so much so that it has effectively defined the genre and led the community to label all similar games as clones. Yes, we’re talking about Diablo. But with Diablo 3 not quite living up to fan expectations, all eyes have turned to Torchlight 2 as the new hero of the ARPG genre. Can this sequel deliver on these expectations, or will it be a victim of its own hype, like its diabolical competitor?
After spending 26 hours with Torchlight 2, it’s clear to me that it was created by veteran ARPG developers that improved upon a tried and tested formula. With the right balance of action, story, and reward, TL2 knows how to keep players engaged and may just serve as the new bar against which ARPGs are measured.
Note: This is a review of Torchlight 2, not Diablo 3, and as such, I will not directly compare the two titles. Check back next week for an article that does just that.
See James’ Torchlight 2 adventures and more on the Game Front Youtube Channel.
Developer: Runic Games
Publisher: Perfect World, Steam
Released: September 20, 2012
The Torchlight 2 experience kicks off with character creation, which has you select one of four classes, a few appearance customization options, and a pet that will accompany you on your dungeon delving adventures. Torchlight 2′s pets, which include cats, wolves, hawks and much more, help you out in combat but can also be used to venture back to town with a stash of items you want to sell and a shopping list of items you’d like to buy while you continue your dungeon crawl uninterrupted. This added convenience, in and of itself, sets this game off a step ahead of other ARPGs.
Every class has three skill trees and a good variety of active and passive skills, although I found myself using the same primary attack skill throughout 40 levels of play. Additionally, every class can learn up to four spells, found via scrolls in-game, which range from healing to summoning skeletal archers. This allows for a great deal of build diversity — the odds of running into another player with the exact same setup seems few and far between.
Upon loading into the game, the very first impression that struck me was the movement speed — it’s fast, and I love it. Retracing your steps through an explored environment to turn in a quest isn’t a tedious endeavor; it’s a short jaunt, regardless of how expansive the environment is. That movement speed sets Torchlight 2 off on a good pace — fast and furious, the way an ARPG should be.
You’ll be doing a lot of running, and Torchlight 2 takes players through a variety of environments, from mountains, to deserts, to swamps, to all manner of dungeons. The game makes use of random level generation, a concept ubiquitous to the ARPG genre but so well-executed in this sequel that I could not even find a trace of “seams” between “tiles.” The environments are so intricate that I could hardly believe they were randomly generated.
The levels even achieve something I haven’t previously seen in an ARPG: a true feeling of three-dimensionality. While it’s not uncommon to go up and down steps in this genre, the ground itself tends to be flat. Not so in Torchlight 2, with one segment, specifically, having you walk up and down rolling sand dunes.
Further, the environments are dynamic, sometimes just aesthetically, and sometimes including in-game effects with the added atmosphere. Geysers vent magical energy that replenishes your mana; dungeons quake and rumble as though they’re about to collapse; staircases magically slide into place at your approach. Then there are the dungeon traps, which range from your standard timed fire spouts to giant statues that shoot lasers from their eyes.
These environments help establish Torchlight 2′s setting, which is a blend of fantasy and steampunk, with machines and mechanical monsters powered by magic standing alongside genies, dwarves, gargoyles and sphinxes. The cartoonish art direction plays up the fantasy aspect and almost gives the impression of playing through a fairy tale.
While I’m not personally a fan of the cartoonish style that has become prevalent in isometric games of late, it’s well-executed in TL2 and gives the game a cohesive feel. I would, however, have liked to see higher-resolution textures.
But visuals don’t make up the entirety of the experience, and Torchlight 2′s atmospheric music is pivotal to creating a captivating ambience. The iconic style of composer Matt Uelmen, whose works include the soundtracks for Diablo 1 and Diablo 2, brings a hauntingly familiar feeling to the game. (You can download Torchlight 2′s soundtrack for free right here.)