Three years ago a small mining town famous for its abundance of Ember, Torchlight, was saved from total destruction at the hands of the Alchemist Alric and the ancient corrupted dragon Ordrak. A few years later and it all meant nothing. Obsessed with the Ember Blight and the dangers it presented, one of the three heroes of Torchlight became corrupt himself and destroyed the town. Now a new hero must rise and follow the path of chaos and destruction to stop it once and for all.

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Core Components
Runic Games’ Torchlight II is an action role-playing game released to PC exclusively through digital distribution. Former players of Torchlight can rejoice with the addition of multiplayer to their favorite dungeon-crawler! Torchlight II continues the tale of corruption through the Ember Blight and follows the Alchemist, a veteran of the first game, across arid ruins and swampy wastelands in order to stop him from taking control of the Elemental Guardians.

This game has a decidedly steampunk theme within this fantasy world saturated in the magic of Ember and Alchemy. Players can choose between four unique character classes to hunt down The Alchemist and repair the clockwork core; Engineers, Berserkers, Embermages, and Outlanders. Engineers take the heaviest of hits and can spawn a swarm of robots, drones and other mechanical beings to bring foes to their knees. A variation on the original Vanquisher, Outlanders are fast-paced rogues who rely on magic to hone their accuracy and speed or to set elemental traps for their enemies. Berserkers are almost feral creatures who focus on swift and brutal claw attacks to undermine the enemy in the heat of battle. As powerful as a hurricane hammering endlessly and effortlessly against the tide of enemies Embermages assault from afar. Align yourself with one of these fearsome heroes and you’ll be sure to crash over enemies victorious and laden with plunder.

 

Average Price

The Game is available for $19.99 USD from online retailers as a digital download. At this price point it is a steal and absolutely worth the cost.

 

System Requirements

OS Windows XP SP3/Vista/Windows 7
Processor x86-compatible 1.4GHz or faster processor
Memory 1GB System RAM
Hard Drive 1.2GB free space (subject to change)
Video Card DirectX compatible 3D graphics card with at least 256MB of addressable memory
DirectX 9.0c
Input Keyboard and Mouse

Information pulled from Steam

 

High Points

If you dreamed of being able to play Torchlight with a friend online when you were grinding away under the mountain, you can definitely feel secure in the fact you will be able to play with up to five other people in either LAN or Internet play. Rest assured the Runic Games account you’re forced to make is easy enough to deal with and allows you to meet up with friends that may not have purchased the game through the Steam client. The game finder menu isn’t as awesome as it could be but it is functional and easy to understand.

Instead of spending your time underground a la Torchlight, you are allowed to explore as a surface dweller that spends only half their time in caves. A marked improvement if you are familiar with the first game. Evening sandstorms erupt across the seemingly endless dunes of Zeryphesh and the swamp terrain of Blightbogs remind you you’re not stuck in endless caverns and mausoleums. Exploring open air graveyards, vast deserts, and green plains while adventuring helps to amplify the unrestricting environmental design.

When it comes to items in game there are several improvements worth mentioning; first and foremost is the optional stat requirements. Instead of being bound by levels, players will find requirements listed as “Requires Level 30 or Vitality 100 & Dexterity 60.” This small allowance makes playing that much more fun as you do not have to grind deeply to find an armor piece compatible with your skill and character choices. Since you level at a fast pace as well, you’ll find that you’ll be working through new gear sets every five levels and the gear requirements are liberating rather than hindering. You’ll find at level 10 if you’ve spent your points well you may be able to wear level 30 armor with ease.

Runic had some serious fun with known pop culture references like The Goonies, Minecraft and Borderlands, to lesser like Blood Monkey, Silence of the Lambs, and John Carpenter’s The Thing. You’ll wander through areas and see references to these and others, it does break immersion but the whole point of a dungeon crawler is to hack and slash rather than be immersed. Overall the references add humor and enrichment to the gameplay.

Low Points

While adding online play, sometimes it can be hit or miss. Currently if you create a game to be entered by “Friends Only” you can still run the risk of having a complete stranger join you. As it stands, you can add a password in order to close off games more securely. There’s nothing so strange as playing a game and then having a strange character teleport to you and asking you odd questions. I’m sure this is something that will be resolved later on, it is a startling experience to say the least.

Torchlight 2 is available through several online retailers but the majority of players are likely to purchase the game through the Steam client. Steam has a functionality where you can join a friend in game with only a few clicks. Adding a click to join option either with steam functionality or within the Runic friends list would be a huge boon to the system and allow it to make joining up even easier. There was some difficulty a complication with being able to join games that has since been resolved but this second layer of infrastructure would have made an immediate workaround possible. Playing with others seems to be main upgrade from Torchlight and when playing with friends it seems slightly logical that you would be able to resurrect them if they fall while furiously clicking but, alas, that is not the case. Cooperative play is not as much cooperative as it is a zerg rush; this does not diminish the fun but it is worth mentioning. You can coordinate with friends to formulate a battle plan and assume the holy trinity roles, but you can’t truly be a healer.

Playing with friends is the main focus of Torchlight 2 while one of the disappointing mechanics that carried over from the first game was the gem and sockets system. Gem upgrading/transmuting is not as rewarding as in the first game as it seems more likely to return a completely random statistic rather than a logical progression upgrade. This system feels clunky and unreliable considering you get mounds of ember specks, chips, and shards and no substantial place to house them without it your storage overflowing by level 20. Combining two blood ember shards will not yield an upgraded blood ember shard but will more than likely be a, perhaps, useless chaos shard. Your only choice is to sell them outright or transmute them and risk getting something terrible from the NPC.

 

In-between

If you didn’t enjoy Torchlight 1, you will not be satisfied with Torchlight 2 as it is a true sequel. The gameplay is improved but is still the same at its core. The story itself is bland and muddled at best; you’re directed on side quests out of a necessity for levelling and it’s never really clear what your motivation is beyond killing everything in sight. The game however is not about the story as much as it is a full dungeon crawler. You click to move, attack, and pick up loot whether playing solo or co-op.

Since the Torchlight MMO has been shelved for now, the addition of emotes gives the game a slight “MMO feel” that veteran players were hoping to get with this release. Most players will not notice them, as they don’t really make themselves obvious. Available emotes are quite standard in variety and are modeled fairly well. Dances change depending on if you’re near a player with another class. For example a Berserker would begin to dance like an Embermage if the Embermage started dancing first. Little touches like this make the game feel like they really spent the time to tweak and make the multiplayer experience as detailed as possible.

When it comes to committing to attributes and skills you may want to do some advanced research. There is a light ability to respec your skills but it only goes back three skill points, so if you find yourself having wasted skills beyond this you will not be able to go back and remedy it. In this pursuit, we recommend researching the class you have selected and using a theorycrafting tool like Torchlight 2 Armory in order to reduce regret in the upper levels.

One thing you should consider when looking at additions to the game, such as mods, everyone must have the same modifications enabled in order to play together. If you’re friends want to kill 500 robots rather than the wandering sandrats you’ll need to agree to it before the game is set up. This sort of preparation is a little troublesome if you were wanting to jump into games at random, but with friends it should be fairly easy to coordinate.

Side Note

Some people like hyper-realism in games, and I can relate when it comes to games that are lush and the environment is crucial, but in games that are steeped in fantasy like Torchlight, the art style should reflect that. Harken back to Okami, Ico or Limbo; the theme helps to reinforce the story and environment to players. Steampunk depths with flame throwing robots let you know that you’re getting closer to The Alchemist and somber underground catacombs drip of the dark, restless spirits you’ll be sure to encounter while searching for vital, ancient components. Its style is very near to the same from Torchlight I but it doesn’t detract from the gameplay at any point.

There is no longer an option to play in “Netbook Mode” as the graphics have been beefed up and the requisite processor is in the realm of x86 compatibility. I’m wondering how people would’ve been able to play without a full-sized mouse in the first place since there’s an overwhelming amount of clicking. These graphic updates are also making the port to Xbox Live Arcade delayed further so if you were relying on that platform you’ll be waiting at least a few months for the adaptation.

The addition of an auction house that players could browse while in game would be exceedingly useful but not necessary as players can barter on the official Runic Games’ forum in order to complete your armor set or sell items of your own. To be perfectly honest, most set pieces seem to appear over time and it’s not likely that you’ll need to trade or hunt very hard to find them.

 

Little Things That I Liked

  1. Squishing smaller enemies with my boots (literally)
  2. Fishing with dynamite
  3. The ability to play with my friends!

 

Conclusion

Torchlight 2 is the cheapest game you’ll run into this year that will keep you addicted and wanting more while you hack and slash through never ending mobs on the way to greater loot and better gear. The incredibly cheap price point gives the game a lot of allure and the flaws we found can easily be ignored to get deeply involved in the game. You’ll love it and lose countless hours before you notice you haven’t slept all weekend.

 

Rating

4 – Critical Hit! Buy it, love it, and kill all the things!

 

Our Ratings:

1 out of 4 – Miss: Disappointing, just like rolling a 1 to hit

2 out of 4 – Glancing Blow: A good attempt that doesn’t quite connect

3 out of 4 – Hit: Solid, but falls short of greatness

4 out of 4 – Critical Hit: So awesome it makes us want to /dance

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