You all likely know how much I love Action RPGs; I spent my early teenage years playing Diablo 2 and continue to play it every once in a while even now. With Diablo 3 already having been released (yesterday) though, I feel it’s time to offer a cheaper alternative. After all, Diablo 3 is a boxed game so it’s hardly cheap PC gaming, is it?
Torchlight was reviewed by Dan more than a year ago now and, whilst it wasn’t the PC version of the game, I’m happy to link you to the review. Dan’s criticism and praise of Torchlight all carry over to the PC version of the game, barring issues with controls. This lets me fill this CPCG with talk of Torchlight 2, which I was lucky enough to get into the beta for. I should make it clear that all impressions from here on out are from that beta.[drop]Torchlight 2 is, in all honestly, difficult for me personally to fault. It’s an Action RPG along the lines of Diablo 2 and is executed with a level of proficiency that is rare to find. Everything it does in terms of gameplay it does right: the fighting feels fluid, solid and visceral in equal measure; the graphics are reasonably detailed and pretty without a single stutter even on my relatively old PC; and the classes are well put together.
Speaking of classes, the game features four of them: the Engineer, a heavy melee fighter; the Outlander, skilled with ranged weaponry and magic; the Ember Mage is a caster based around elemental attacks; and the Berserker is a fast melee character with animal-themed powers. I chose the Outlander first off as I like ranged characters and magic, selecting the panther as my pet because, quite obviously, panthers rock. After beefing up a bit I suddenly realised how much fun I was having and it was all down to the combat.
This is where Torchlight 2 really excels. Once you unlock a few skills you feel genuinely powerful. The enemies you were previously spending a while cutting through suddenly falling before you like nothing, often just exploding into a red mist at the strike of your new axe or noticeably slowed by an area of effect spell.
With tactical use of your powers you can demolish even the most powerful of enemies – slow him down, drop a trap that deals damage, blinds and has you dodge backwards when they get close, all the time blasting them with another spell and a couple of pistols; that’s the recipe for a boss battle as my (now obscenely powerful) Outlander.
Levelling up consists of placement of attributes and placing a point into a skill every level, as opposed to Diablo 3’s ‘unlock loads of skills and choose which ones you want to use’ approach. Both systems work well but, after trying the Diablo 3 beta, Torchlight 2’s classic approach feels… old.[drop2]That slightly dated feel is a theme that runs through the game. It’s brilliant fun, but it’s really just more of the same in a genre that, whilst having many great games, hasn’t really progressed for a while. Hopefully Diablo 3 will change that, leading the charge into a new age of innovation.
Whilst this isn’t a formal review of the game, I’m happy to say that Torchlight 2 is excellent, it has truly perfected the Action RPG formula of old from what I’ve experienced in the beta. The loot is plentiful, the pets are useful though don’t in any way change the standard pet formula in the genre and, most importantly, the combat just knocks it out of the park. Plus, cooperative multiplayer was the biggest omission from the first game and it’s here in full force with up to six players tackling the game at once.
At £15, not championing Torchlight 2 as a fan of the genre would be a travesty. Considering that pre-purchasing the game from Steam also gives you the original Torchlight to play straight away to help you last until the sequel releases, it’s definitely more than worth the money and quite possibly the last ‘classic’ Diablo-like before Diablo 3 once again shakes up the genre.