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[Review] Torchlight II – Don’t Worry, It’s NOT a Prequel!

Torchlight II is the sequel (I know, right?) to 2009’s dungeon-crawling RPG from Runic Games. This top-down lootfest features randomly generated levels and dungeons that make each playthrough a new experience. I just finished my first playthrough of the game and I’m having issues writing this review. Not because I can’t think of anything to say about it, but because all I really want to do right now is play it. That in itself should be an indication of how good this game is. However if that endorsement doesn’t satisfy ya, I guess I can say some more about it.

Torchlight II is a PC exclusive (suck it console peasants!) isometric dungeon-crawler. If any of that made sense to you, then you probably know what you are in for. Like most games in this genre, the goal is to slaughter hundreds of monsters, level up your character and get mad loot. That’s not to say the story is ignored. The game takes place after the original game, which is great because frankly I’m really tired of sequels actually being prequels. The Alchemist, one of the three playable heroes from the original, becomes obsessed with Ember, which is kind of like the planet’s electricity. He is corrupted by the Ember Blight and steals the Heart of Ordrak; Ordrak being the dragon who caused all of the problems under the town of Torchlight in the first place. The Alchemist then uses the Heart to… destroy… Torchlight.


What an ass.

So now it is up to the player to track down the Alchemist and stop him from opening a rift that would let all sorts of horrific baddies into their realm. The story is simple enough and easy to follow. It takes place in three acts and each act has it’s own unique location. Act I takes place in the Estherian Steppes, which is a lush, mountainous region. Act II takes us to the Mana Wastes, a vast desert sprinkled with ruins and large animal skeletons. Act III takes place in Grunnheim, which is a swampy area containing ruins of ancient dwarven societies. Each act has it’s own hub city where you will find various vendors and quest givers.

I mention the different settings for each act because they’re all really well designed. I’m a huge fan of Tochlight’s art direction. It’s cartoony but not overdone. It’s very stylized. Grunnheim is dark and moody with a really nice fog effect that adds to the atmosphere. In contrast, the Estherian area is lush and colorful and the Mana Wastes are littered with ruins, dunes and sand storms. There are many more settings in Torchlight II, and the designs and special effects for each setting make the game feel like a living thing instead of a scripted, static environment..

The fog rolling under the bridge and the random swarm of bats make environments feel alive.

The gameplay at it’s core is simple. Like most dungeon crawlers, you use the left click on the mouse to move, target and attack enemies. The number keys and right click are for abilities. It’s easy to play which adds to the appeal and addiction. There are four classes in Torchlight II. The Engineer is a heavy melee fighter that can utilize fire and lightning magic to bolster himself and call upon his creations for assistance. The Outlander focuses mainly on ranged attacks with guns and bows. The Berserker prefers getting up close with fist weapons and summoning spirit animals. Finally, the Embermage casts elemental magic and can dual-wield wands.

Each class has three different skill trees, and each tree has a focus. For example, the Engineer’s Blitz tree caters to two-handed weapon users and fire abusers while the Aegis tree focuses more on defensive abilities. The best part is that you’re not forced to pick one tree and stick with it. As long as you have the available skill points and you’re the appropriate level, you can pick and choose abilities from any tree. If you want to play an Engineer whacking things with a massive hammer while enjoying the safety of the Forcefield ability from the defense tree, you’re totally able to do that. It allows for some awesome customizations and caters to your playstyle.

My Engineer build, made me nearly unkillable.

The combat is super satisfying. The sound effects, animations and visual effects really go a long way to make the combat stand out. Melee hits look like they’re connecting and give the appropriate audible cues. If you completely overpower an enemy, or have a high enough Dexterity, your character can perform Execute attacks. There is nothing more satisfying than beating on a werewolf only to have him explode into a cloud of blood and gore. Combat feels great, but it isn’t perfect. There were a few instances where I had positioning issues with bosses. A general rule in video games is to not stand in the fire. However due to the isometric view and using the mouse to move, getting your character to move out of the fire can be a hassle with larger bosses. I would be clicking away from the fire, trying to get to an open spot on the floor, but since the boss’ hitbox was so big I’d just stop and attack him while still standing in the fire. Obviously this was a rare occurrence but it was still frustrating.

The AI in this game is generally pretty good. Bosses will utilize their abilities and normal enemies will normally attack in groups instead of head on. Again, I’m not sure if it was because I was on normal difficulty, but occasionally I encountered some really odd AI behavior. I encountered enemies one on one that wouldn’t fight back. There are also an abnormal amount of enemies that can teleport. If you’re playing one of the ranged characters it’s probably not a huge deal, but trying to kill a teleporting mob with high HP is incredibly annoying.  Perhaps the most frustrating part was your Pet’s AI. I can’t tell you how many times my goofy-ass pet had pathing issues and didn’t follow me down a flight of stairs so now he’s on the ledge above me and he’s just stuck there. Considering that your pet can be a significant source of damage and support, having his dumb ass stuck on a different floor is rather inconvenient.

Dumb animal, I love him so.

Torchlight II has a variety of gameplay modes and difficulties. The standard campaign can be played solo or online with friends or complete strangers. The online seems to work fine; I was able to join games successfully but people always seemed to leave. I played through the campaign solo on Normal difficulty. I’m not sure if it was the class and build that I used, but Normal difficulty seemed way too easy. Most of the bosses just required me to keep my Forcefield up and hold down the attack button. There were a few times where the boss caught me off guard or summoned a bunch of adds to help him out, and that caused me to die a few times. I was only caught off guard because I got used to breezing through bosses. Another thing that kind of threw me off is on normal mode, each enemy has text under their name telling you what kind of attacks to expect. It spoils some of the mystery.

In addition to the various difficulties, Torchlight II offers players a hardcore mode for the truly adventurous. In hardcore mode, you get one life and that’s it. If your character dies, you’re done and have to start a new character. Hardcore mode isn’t a new concept, but it’s definitely nice to have the option available. Bottom line: if you’re an experienced dungeon-crawler, skip straight to Veteran difficulty.

Screenshots don't to the combat justice.

After completing the main campaign, you are given access to the Mapworks and to a New Game+ mode. New Game+ starts your adventure over but you start at level 50, and all enemies are scaled to meet you. The Mapworks is a separate zone that lets you spend any excess gold you have on these randomly generated dungeons. These dungeons can have different effects tied to them; you might have a 10% increased chance to find magic items, but your enemies are capable of dealing 15% more lightning damage. Just cool little modifiers that make the maps a bit more interesting. These two features on top of the multiplayer and the amount of classes and builds you can try, you won’t be bored with this game any time soon. This might be the best bang-for-your-buck the industry has seen in a long time.

Or, you know, something like this.

Overall I could not be happier with Torchlight II. Coming in at just $19.99 you get so much more than you pay for. My initial playthrough took me about 25 hours to beat. I’ve spent another five hours playing around in the Mapworks and trying a new character on the Veteran difficulty. It’s not a perfect game, but I feel like some of it’s perceived flaws regarding difficulty are on me. If you’re still not convinced, you can check out the demo on Steam right now. It’s damn fine game and I highly recommend it. When it comes to dungeon-crawling, monster-smashing lootfests, Torchlight II is at the top of it’s class.

[+Fun & Addicting Gameplay] [+Beautiful Art Style] [+Gorgeous Randomly Generated Environments] [+Customize Characters to Your Playstyle] [+Tons of Content at Launch] [-AI Can Be a Bit ‘Derpy’] [-“Normal” Difficulty Too Easy] [-Teleportation enemies can be Frustrating]

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