Sometimes, it’s best to stay old-fashioned. After all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Many developers, today, feel that it’s necessary to make their games push the envelope in terms of graphics and narrative. As a result, they tend to forget the main reason why people play games in the first place: to have fun. Runic Games’ Torchlight II is a perfect example of how you can focus on primarily the gameplay (with everything else taking a backseat), and still have a quality product that’ll leave the masses satisfied.
Of course, Torchlight II doesn’t look like it was made in the 80’s. No, rest assured that it has graphics that meet this decade’s standards. If you enjoy comic books, storybooks, or anything else cartoonish, then Torchlight II is right up your alley, with its vibrant, sometimes colorful art. Areas in the game varied from dark and gothic to colorful and steampunkish (you’ll see what I mean when you visit some dungeons). Plus, because the game is in a cartoon style, you can’t really say that it’ll look too awful in the future.
Attacks and spells are done well enough that they’ll catch your attention and make you say, “That looks really neat!” At the same time, they also aren’t so noticeable that they distract you while fighting off swarms of undead. If you really want to be flashy, then the Embermage is all about casting stylish. devastating spells; the other classes aren’t quite as focused on flash.
Speaking of classes, there are four possible classes to choose from: the Outlander, Berserker, Engineer, and Embermage. And like many modern RPGs, Torchlight II allows you to pick a gender for your character. The Outlander specializes in using ranged weapons of all kinds (bows, pistols, cannons, etc.). The Berserker is strictly a melee character and does a very fine job at it. The Engineer fights with melee weapons as well, but also makes use of bots. Lastly, the Embermage, like mentioned before, focuses on casting magic spells. I spent most of my time in Torchlight II with a male Berserker, and enjoyed the sheer amount of damage that he could pump out per second.
People of all skill levels can find enjoyment within Torchlight II, thanks to its multiple difficulty settings. Those struggling to slay even the weakest of mobs, are free to choose Casual mode in order to progress at a reasonable pace. I, myself, picked Veteran mode, and found the game to be a nightmare at times, and a joke at others. Elite mode is the hardest mode, and will definitely provide a constant challenge from start to finish. Just don’t throw your computer out of the window when you die for the millionth time.
Pets are a major part of Torchlight II, because you’re required to have one to take care of, no matter which class you play. Not to worry, though, they don’t need feeding (you can still feed them, and actually turn them into other animals), so your precious cat won’t suddenly keel over and die. They may seem useful, considering that they can distract enemies and go off to town to sell any loot on them, but they felt more like a burden to me than anything. Pets have very little health, and you’ll need to constantly feed them potions until you find decent equipment for them, or reach a high level.
As we should all know, one of the major reasons why anyone plays a RPG is for the shiny loot. Seeing orange or purple text (the standard colors for amazing items) always gets a player excited (how or where they’ll become excited, I won’t say). Torchlight II does a fine job at keeping your morale up, by dropping a steady amount of rare and unique items. You probably won’t even be able to make it through an hour of play without finding an upgrade. Now, you’re going to find some items that your character simply cannot use (whether it’s because they require a different class or unusual stats). Not to worry, however, because you can store these items in a shared stash that can be found in every town. The shared stash can be opened to all of your characters, so you’ll never have to sigh at a unique item again.
Now, while the actual gameplay of Torchlight II is fantastic, the story is.. unimpressive to put it simply, like so many other games focused on collecting loot. In fact, if you’ve ever played Diablo II, you’ll see a few similarities in the two games’ stories. We have a character from the first Torchlight, known as the Alchemist, and he became obsessed with minerals called Ember. He eventually stole the heart of Ordrak, an ancient dragon that was the main villain of the first game, and was turned evil because of it.
So you go around, completing quests (which tend to involve you fetching things), trying to find the Alchemist while you’re at it. There are little to no truly important characters, besides the protagonist(s), the Alchemist, and the Elemental Guardians (but even they only receive a few lines of dialogue) that the Alchemist is siphoning energy from. You’ll run into random NPCs for sidequests, but are they memorable? Not exactly. By the way, talking to guards or other characters in towns or encampments is pointless, because they have nothing useful to contribute, besides stating the obvious.
This is the last time Diablo II will be brought up here, but the music in Torchlight II sounds incredibly similar to the stuff in Diablo II. This is due to the fact that Matt Uelmen was the man behind both games’ soundtracks. Actually, one of the tracks you’ll hear in Torchlight II even sounds almost exactly like one of the first tracks you hear in Diablo II (remember the wilderness in Act I?). Anyways, you can expect to listen to loud drum beats and rocking guitar chords to slay countless amounts of monsters to.
Torchlight II is all about the loot, combat, and dungeons. Sure, it’d be great if the story could be on par with one of Tolkien’s works, but it’s unnecessary. Just go with the flow, and let the many characters in the game guide you to wherever monsters are. After all, who needs a story, when you can have tons of fancy gear to show off?
Torchlight II was released on September 20, 2012 for the PC, and is available on many different sites and distribution centers, such as Steam and GameFly. It’s planned to release on the Mac, but the exact release date is unknown at the moment. Visit the game’s official site here.