Torchlight 2 review

There are times when Torchlight 2 feels like a really fun, slick RPG that’s learned a lot of lessons from other RPGs that came before it…. And then there are times when it feels an awful lot like you’re playing “Iablo-day 2, the Ord-Lay of Estruction-Day.”

That should be expected, to an extent; after all, the original Torchlight came from some of the minds behind Diablo and Diablo II, but added innovations like companion pets and gave the whole thing a new shiny coat of paint. The difference with Torchlight 2, however, is that each of these elements is brought into glaring focus: the innovative portions got improved or added to, while at the same time the similarities between Runic Games’ title and that… other action RPG click-fest were made more prominent.

The end result? Still not a bad use of $20, even if it sometimes feels like you’re paying for a re-run.

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Taking The Show On The Road

One big difference between this and the first Torchlight is that the game no longer takes place in one continuously-deepening dungeon below a home base. Much like Blizzard did with Diablo II, Runic sends players out into the world in an attempt to chase down the hero-turned-villain responsible for destroying the town of Torchlight. Along they way, you’ll meet the different peoples who inhabit the world of Torchlight, kill quite a few of them, and stop an invasion of tentacled enemies from another Cthulu-like dimension.

There are still dungeons waiting to be explored and plundered, though, along with an assortment of new mini-events waiting for players to find, with the promise of loot waiting for those who follow things through to the end. The overland areas take up a lot of the game’s exploration, but there are several nooks and crannies worth exploring and puzzling out the means to access them. More than once these dungeons appear after you unwittingly help a villainous NPC, such as a former king of two warring peoples who says he wants to “unite” the factions, but does so with disastrous results. The mix of story-based sidequests and simple, escalating world events or puzzles is a nice way to break up the tedium of exploring Torchlight 2‘s overland zones.

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No room to maneuver? Let me sing you “The AOE Song.”

Runic’s engine and Torchlight‘s art have both held up well, and the game looked very nice on my rig. I didn’t have the opportunity to try the game’s co-op or other multiplayer additions, one of Torchlight‘s major criticisms that Runic made sure to address this time around, so I can’t say for sure that the many different spells and effects won’t bog down once more players connect to game together. Loot and experience systems in multiplayer are designed for it to be beneficial to group up: monsters are tougher, but all XP is shared, and loot drops individually for players, so there’s no fighting over the orange unique ring that just popped out of a chest.

Too Much Of A Good Thing

My biggest issue with Torchlight 2 came from its class design. The original three classes from Torchlight have been dropped in favor of four new ones: a tank-like Engineer who uses steampunk contraptions, a gun and ritual-wielding Outlander, the Berserker, who is basically Wolverine from Marvel: Ultimate Alliance given a spirit-animal makeover, and the elemental master Embermage. They were all fun to pick up at first, and outside of the Embermage (which felt like a standard magic-user) were somewhat unique in their skills and style.

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Robots that shoot things… and punch things… and heal me? Sold!

The basic skill tree system of active and passive abilities has been tweaked a little: once you spend enough points in a skill you unlock a “tier” bonus, which provides additional power or utility to the skill. While you can respec some skills, you’re limited to only the three most recent skill points you spent, which is nice if you tried out a skill for a level or two and didn’t like it, but not helpful at all if you decide 20 levels in that you don’t like the tree you’ve invested in and want to try something different. This is one area where the development of the Torchlight series and the Diablo franchise diverged, and I kind of wish they didn’t. The skills and rune system of Diablo III provided an immense amount of customization and flexibility for players to try different builds, while Torchlight 2 tried again to improve Diablo II’s old talent tree system with limited success. The only real way to try a different build is to make a brand-new character, which is a little too “old school” for me.

Another new addition is a unique resource bar for each class that is filled as your character does damage. The Engineer has levels that can be spent to power up certain abilities, while the Outlander gains higher sets of passive bonuses. Both the Berserker and Embermage go into an “empowered” state when they max their bar out, which then resets a short time after it’s activated. The bars slowly fade away if you don’t keep throwing out damage, which I didn’t mind as much on the Engineer or Outlander, but found a little punishing with the Berserker and Embermage. I usually wound up with either a nearly-full bar at the end of a fight, or just enough to activate my empowered state as the fight was ending and there was nobody left to use it on. In both cases, the boost was completely gone by the time I found another enemy to fight.

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Don’t make me break out the spreadsheets.

There are also many, many different statistics and abilities players need to wade through as their characters get to higher levels and loot starts dropping with nearly a dozen different lines of text on them. Do I take the gun that reduces enemies’ armor, improves my charge rate, and has a higher crit rating, or the mace with the higher DPS but a third of the secondary bonuses? It got to the point where the only line I looked at was the weapons raw damage numbers and DPS, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the cannon I just started using also froze people in place.

The Bottom Line

There are reasons why Torchlight 2 should and shouldn’t be compared to Blizzard’s Diablo franchise, but there is one area where Torchlight has blown away its bigger cousin: accessibility. When the first Torchlight came out, it was $10 and would run on a potato chip with a keyboard. Now, Torchlight 2 is longer, meatier, has multiplayer support, and doubled its price tag to $20. That probably makes a lot of people who are disappointed with the $60 they spent on Diablo 3 a little steamed. Luckily, there are hordes of monsters in Torchlight 2 to vent your frustration on with your friends.

  • Release date: September 20, 2012
  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Platform: PC
  • Developer: Runic Games
  • Publisher: Runic Games
  • MSRP: $19.99

Our Score: 4 / 5

Reviewer’s statement: A digital copy of Torchlight 2 was provided by the publisher for this review.

About Russell Jones

By day, Russell works in local TV news. By night, he plays and writes about video games for VGW and his personal blog, The Gentleman Gamer. An avid RPG fan, Russell can also be found plotting the demise of adventurers from behind a Dungeon Master's screen. He can be heard weekly on the "Geek In Review" podcast (GiRPodcast.podomatic.com).

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