Published on September 19th, 2012 | by Derek Strickland, Contributor
Torchlight II Review
Developer: Runic Games
Platform: PC via Steam
Genre: Adventure RPG
Release Date: September 20, 2012
Review Notes: A PC version of the game was provided for review purposes.
In Torchlight II players embark on an epic open-world adventure that seamlessly blends everything gamers loved about the first game with great new features like online multiplayer, “new game+” and a huge variety of added loot. Gamers can easily spend hundreds of hours in this fantasy world trying out new characters, classes and taking on hordes of enemies in labyrinthine dungeons. Runic Games brings an incredibly fun and entertaining dugeon-crawling experience with this sequel to the Torchlight universe, reminding gamers how action RPG dungeon delvers should be made.
Torchlight II begins–like many titles of the fantasy RPG genre–with the standard Hero’s Journey archetype wherein a specific character is chosen to battle evil on a grand scale, and eventually take on the antagonist in an effort to purge all darkness from the land. The game picks off right where the first left off, and Syl returns in a cinematic dream cutscene wherein she guides our protagonist to the Enclave in Estheria–this game’s hometown–which is the first step in stopping the evils of the blight-cursed Alchemist.
The Alchemist will stop at nothing to cure the curse of the Ember Blight that has slowly driven him mad, and seeks to harness the powers of each Guardian within the Heart of Orduk in an attempt to rid himself of the vile affliction.
“The Alchemist must be stopped before he attacks any more Guardians! Each time he siphons off our energy, the heart becomes more powerful and he becomes more dangerous…” — The Guardian of Water
The overall story of Torchlight II isn’t revealed all at once but is more progressive in nature, and the mystery of certain plot devices and elements are revealed as players get farther in the game. The story’s structure follows that of a play and is comprised of Four Acts, wherein the plot starts off small in Act I and is completed in Act IV.
The Main Quest takes players across Torchlight II‘s sprawling fantasy world, crossing multiple areas that each have their own specific theme, style and distinct flair. No two areas are the same, and every representation matches their them. For example, the mine areas really look and feel as if players are going through the innards of the earth, with stalagmites and crystals everywhere.
In terms of in-game mechanics, Torchlight II simplifies everything from the HUD and user interface to the skill trees and everything in between, making everything more easy to use and accessible to new players. The sequel to 2009’s Torchlight is a general recreation of everything that the original game was with many new features, keeping the same overall feel and control scheme while improving upon it in various ways. Torchlight II keeps things fresh with a massive influx of loot, five new characters with their own signature skills and abilities, and of course the addition of online play–which is something that the original Torchlight lacked.
Upon level-up players receive the traditional five points to be added to the attributes–Strength, Dexterity, Focus and Vitality–and are also rewarded one skill point to use in one of the three skill trees available. Skills and abilities still have a required level and cannot be changed by other abilities or items.
The in-game HUD is set up much like a combination of both World of Warcraft and Diablo: the WoW-esque skill bar is bordered by the signature health and mana globes which is reminiscent of Diablo‘s spheres. The UI itself is very orderly, efficient and easy to read which is quite important in games like these. It’s easy to get confused if you don’t know how to bring up your skill tree or inventory, and Torchlight II has a convenient on-screen button for every possible character interface. Everything is in it’s place and there’s a place for everything, even the mini-map can be brought up to full-size (which is very helpful considering many of the areas are maze-like).
The best thing about Torchlight II (besides the addition of online play) is the five new characters: the Berserker, Engineer, Outlander and Embermage each have their own signature gameplay styles, skills and character traits that define them as a formidable addition to any player’s team. While the new characters can be seen as somewhat of a blend of the old ones from Torchlight, each class has their own personal in-game skill trees that make up their specific roles.
Berserker – Berserkers are fierce and extremely intimidating, using a variety of skills to eviscerate and mangle enemies. They fairly bestial in their ferocity and can even transform into feral creatures with their Shadow Skills. It’s easy to be entertained while using a Berserker’s lycanthropic abilities as they turn into shadow wolves and rend whole armies of enemies, and they even have many powerful frost elemental spells at their disposal. Their skill trees are Hunter Skills, Tundra Skills, and Shadow Skills.
Engineer – Engineers are quite flexible characters who can fill a variety of roles for a party or in solo play. They feel most at home wielding massive two-handed wrenches to deal maximum damage, and can construct an array of helpful minions like Spider Mines or Walking Turrets to annihilate nearby enemies. Engineers can wield many items, but they are usually sluggish in attack but can dish out high damage. Their skill trees are Blitz Skills, Construction Skills and Aegis Skills.
Outlander – Outlanders are seasoned veterans of battle, and are nomadic in nature. They are roguish and focus on utilizing long-range weaponry like guns, cannons, and bows. They are fast and highly dexterous characters who make use of agility and prowess in battle, utilizing a wide range of leap and dodge attacks. Outlanders can also use an impressive array of curses and debuff spells to cripple enemies, which is very helpful against bosses. Their skill trees are Warfare Skills, Lore Skills and Sigil Skills.
Embermage – Embermages are the traditional spell-casting mage class. Trained in the arcane arts, they wield a vast range of harmful and destructive spells that consume enemies in their wake. Embermages harness the incredible powers of Ember, utilizing their knowledge of the elements to make for a formidable and highly enjoyable character. They have plenty of long-range spells as well as Area of Effect blasts that quickly decimate even the toughest of enemies. Their skill trees are Inferno Skills, Frost Skills and Storm Skills.
Another impressive addition to Torchlight II‘s characters is the Charge Bar system. Each class has their own specific bar that is filled when players attack enemies, and is subsequently drained during inactivity. When the bar is full players receive various bonuses that can range from small additions to incredible helpful buffs. This mechanic is a supreme example of Runic Games’ ingenuity and originality, as it keeps gameplay fresh while rewarding players who jump in the fray and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. The charge bars bonuses can range from extra attributes like dodge chance, critical hit chance, or extra damage to certain skills.
- Berserker’s Bonuses: Enters a sped-up frenzy state where all direct attacks end up in critical hits–and all other attacks have increased critical strikes.
- Engineer’s Bonuses: Certain skills (like Flame Hammer) have added bonuses and are made more powerful dependent upon the number of charges.
- Outlander’s Charge Bonuses: Percentage raised on each of the following based on the accrued charge: Cast Speed, Dodge Chance, Critical Hit Chance and Attack Speed.
- Embermage’s Charge Bonuses: When the charge bar is full, the Embermage gains total concentration for 12 seconds where skills cost no mana and all skill damage is increased by 20 percent.
As you can see, players are highly encouraged to keep the action going and attacking as many enemies as possible. At times there will be no enemies on the screen, so the charge bar slowly drains…yet enemies are quite frequent so there’s no real worry about having an empty bar. This addition is quite possibly one of the best in-game mechanics I have seen in an action RPG dungeon crawler, and I honestly believe it makes the game 10 times as fun.
The skill trees in Torchlight II are dynamic and progressive, providing a diverse foundation for all playing styles. Whether you’re the type of gamer who loves using mages to annihilate everything on the screen with fireballs or you enjoy slicing and dicing baddies with a melee character, mastering certain skills can be the difference between having a great time or having a mediocre experience. All of the skills have their own useful in-game functions and often it can be difficult choosing certain abilities, as each leveled skill seems great.
All of the skills in the game have three tiers, each offering different bonuses–including increased damage, added elemental damage, or augmented attribute bonuses–to the skill itself. The third tier combines all the bonuses of Tier I and Tier II while adding those of Tier III, making an incredibly powerful spell or passive ability. The Tiers are built with every five levels invested into a specific skill and sometimes will have level requirements.
Torchlight II‘s combat is fast-paced and rife with action. Players take on hordes of different enemies, each with their own specific strengths and weaknesses–many of which have their own resistances and elemental affinities. There are many mini-bosses that have Purple health bars, along with quest bosses that have Orange health bars. The main boss battles are quite epic in scale and can be quite challenging on higher levels, and it helps to have extra players on your side as well.
The loot is another favorable aspect of any dungeon crawler, and pretty much makes or breaks your gameplay experience. Torchlight II keeps that standard mechanic where slain monsters drop items, which is something all PC gamers are pretty much used to by now. This sequel also keeps the item grades the same: Normal, Enchanted, Rare, Set and Unique. With some 80 percent additional items that are randomized in a seemingly-infinite array, every dungeon has the chance of dropping that super-rare and awesome staff or platemail that will complete your character.
Items are also scaled to character level and have their own Item Level as well. Requirements are still part of the game, however the items aren’t as strict as players can meet a level requirement or a stat requirement to wear or use an item. This opens up a whole new range of eligibility that was closed off before and allows players greater accessibility to the loot they want to wear. Socketables are still in, as are socketed items–and there are even unique gems and socketables to add in to your gear to provide impressive bonuses.
Players can have their very own pet companions who not only help in battle and can cast certain spells assigned to them by scrolls, but also offer their services as a walking inventory to store items. Pets can be equipped with two tags and a single collar, and are helpful in innumerable ways and sometimes can be the difference between life and death. They also go a long way in defining a character’s personal style and offer another chance to customize a player’s gameplay experience.
Torchlight II keeps the same signature visual style that has defined the series, building off of the original look and streamlining the in-game graphics and visuals. Every area is dynamic and flows perfectly, reflecting its location and designation adequately while keeping the overall fantasy-world feel. While playing the game you truly feel as if you are in an epic far-away world that’s infused with magic and is threatened by the mayhem of a blight-cursed arch-villain.
Everything from the shadows to the atmospheres and environments has been perfected, providing an engaging and visually entertaining gameplay experience. Every frame feels and looks like a piece of art, making Torchlight II a visual masterpiece that excels in many ways. The vivid colors blend so well with the dark overtones of the game that players are imbued with a sense of magic, as if the screen itself permeated the essence of Ember.
The soundtrack is another area where Torchlight II excels leagues beyond many games. Right as you jump into the game and attack the first enemy, the musical score brings you into a mysterious land of majesty and magic. With that distinct fantasy sound that reminds this gamer of Lord of the Rings crossed with Diablo, the compositions are so fantastic that you feel enchanted just by listening to them. I sometimes run the game in Windowed mode so I can listen to the tracks while I do other things–it’s that good.
Interacting with other players online is the heart of Torchlight II. Whether you enjoy playing solo or with a full team online with friends, this game offers the chance to do either at any time. That’s one of the best things about the game’s functionality: that you can choose between playing online co-op or singleplayer at any time, with the same character. In many games you have to make a separate character for each online and offline, but not in Torchlight II.
Take on hordes of monsters, trade with various players, or play co-op via LAN–all of it is possible with online play. Also, the online interface is very simple and easy to use and isn’t cluttered or complicated. Things are very straight-forward and it’s very easy to find other players to play with.
Torchlight II truly is an awe-inspiring title and provides hours upon hours of action-packed dungeon-delving RPG greatness. With new game mechanics, online play, and four new characters each with their own unique skills and abilities, Runic Games has provided an epic sequel to an already impressive game. It’s very easy to lose yourself in this magic-infused fantasy world with the incredible visuals found in the environments and the amazing soundtrack that brings a sense of wonder and majesty to all players.
+ New game+ offers huge replay value
+ Authentic RPG dungeon delving action
+ Fantastic visuals, graphics and musical score
+ Online co-op
+ Wide variety of in-game items
– Long-ish loading times