At E3 2009, when I stumbled upon the Runic Games’ action-RPG, Torchlight, I knew I was playing something special. Now, three years and millions of copies sold later, Runic Games delivers the sequel both critics and fans alike have been frothing for. Torchlight II is upon us and during a year full of anticipated sequels, there is no question the wait for this gem was well worth it.
If there was one critique of the original RPG Hack-N-Slasher Torchlight, it’s that it did not contain any type of co-op gameplay. Here was an extremely fun game you couldn’t really share with anyone else. Well, co-op was the first addition to Torchlight II and it is a blast. For this review, I played the entire first act (of three) cooperatively with my friend and colleague, Corey Dockendorf. Everything felt right while playing. I experienced almost no latency during any of our sessions together. There were so many little things that made the experience great; only seeing your own loot to being able to trade to even a small notification icon if your partner is currently in his/her inventory. Even setting up a game is intuitive, and with options for local LAN and internet play, you really cannot go wrong.
Besides cooperative play, Runic made many improvements that are simply outstanding. While the graphical style may not have changed much, the developers added outdoor environments which include dynamic weather and changes to time of day. This reveals how much work they did on the lighting and shadow rendering. I know it’s me geeking out on some uber-technical stuff, but to stop and destroy a torch in the environment and immediately see the difference in world is astounding.
Another big improvement is in the skill system. With four classes, each having three dozen or so skills to choose from, it can seem a little overwhelming. Too often in RPGs where you must assign skill points, you find yourself regretting past decisions of where to assign skill points. The beauty of the Torchlight II system is that there are well over a hundred skill points you will receive over the course of the game, leaving plenty of opportunity to have wasted a few skill points here or there. The other beauty of this is that there is no “guaranteed best build” to be had. You can experiment to your heart’s content and create the best build for you and your play style. You need not hunt down the perfect build in the forums just to be successful. And with the differences in the four classes (berserker, embermage, engineer, outlander), you can easily have completely different experiences making for a very robust, stylized game.
If any criticism could be laid onto Torchlight II at all, it is that it is repetitive – you run around, click-click-click, kill things, pick up loot, rinse repeat. This is true of any dungeon-crawling action-RPG. What sets Torchlight II apart from this eternal grind is the way they handle it. Sure, there is the main quest line and there is a lot of pew-pew, but there is also plenty of exploration in the outdoor environments and random side quests that you will stumble into including a ghostly side quest involving an homage to Goonies where you’ll find Chester Copperpot and One-Eyed Willy. Believe me, you’ll be bored.
Overall, Torchlight II is an amazing sequel that absolutely hits on every aspect. Everything is improved and expanded from the original – just what you would expect. I had a blast with this game and will be playing this for months to come. This is an absolute must purchase, especially at its $19.99 price point. Torchlight II is out now as a digital download from Steam, Runic Games, Perfect World, GamersGate, GameFly, and GameStop.
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