Review: Torchlight 2 – Shining Bright

Does Torchlight 2 live up to its predecessor?

Torchlight 2

Review: Torchlight 2

We’ve decided to write a review of Torchlight 2 based on the twin perspectives of a player who’s never played the first Torchlight, and one who has. We’ll start it off with the newbie’s perspective. 

The Newbie’s Perspective, by Christopher Scott

I had never played the first Torchlight. It may have been from a lack of personal time, but more than likely it may have been from a visual bias. I thought it looked too simplistic. I told myself my time would better be spent with large, more “realistic” looking games. After playing through Torchlight 2, however, I can report that my former self was an idiot.

As a new player to an existing franchise and starting the game for the first time, the story left me a little lost despite its introduction. It dropped names, places and events I was not familiar with (Heart of Ordrak what?), but this is an action role-playing game. A bad guy is on the loose doing bad things and must be stopped before the world is irrevocably damaged. The plot is instead an excuse to travel the world slaying hordes of enemies, and my confusion was quickly forgotten as I exploded them into red mists with each click of the mouse.

Torchlight 2 continues the proud tradition of its genre by worsening my carpal tunnel. It’s an addicting game. In fact, the tips of my fingers go numb just thinking about it. One such reason is of course the quest for loot, which the game does rather well by allowing the player to equip gear either by level or by attribute requirements. “I only need three more points in Strength to wear that belt!” But there are three features or designs of the game that stood out for me more, the first of which is the depth of its classes.

Torchlight 2 Screenshot

There are four classes to choose from — the Embermage, Engineer, Berserker and Outlander. They fit within classical archetypes, but Torchlight 2 allows for a great deal of character customization through its skill trees. There are three per class, and each skill tree has seven active and three passive abilities and multiple tiers. It takes 15 points to fully max a single skill. Aside from player mods, there’s no way to max everything.

That gave me a lot of choice in how to build my Outlander. I could have focused on close-quartered engagements with a shotgun, party buffs, enemy debuffs, keeping my distance with a bow, glaive abilities, or any combination. I chose akimbo pistols for their speed and suave looks – I am a little vain – with a healthy investment in enemy debuff spells and skills. The dilemma of choice was always present, of which I always appreciate in role-playing games.

That relationship with choice wasn’t entirely perfect for me, however. Aside from the last three spent skill points, there is no option for a full character respec. This caused me no small amount of agony as I spent more time during the first few hours of the game attempting to plot out my build than actively playing. It’s a design decision I don’t agree with, especially in a game with so many options, as I feel it punishes greater exploration of character builds for those of us with limited amounts of time. But once I exhausted myself and later discovered I could earn extra skill points by increasing my fame – earned through defeating mini-bosses, bosses and various quests – I started to have fun again.

Torchlight 2 Screenshot

To my surprise, the same visual identity I had mistakingly dismissed with the first game kept me coming back in its sequel. Runic Games decided to go for a style that looks as fun as it plays and succeeded wonderfully. It’s simple yet exaggerated and full of color, which drew sharper attention to its character, item and enemy detail. It all comes together to make a charming, warm game to behold and play. That simplicity does extend to the environments, making some locations somewhat uniform, but they thankfully never over-stay their welcome. It doesn’t take too long to clear a dungeon or an area before moving on to new, different locations.

Lastly, I really appreciated the pet system. There are several too choose from, including various skins. The panther I chose became a great ally in combat, often outdealing me in damage and attributes — I sometimes felt I was the pet — but he also could act as a storage mule. They can then be sent to town to sell any items given to them or to purchase general goods for the player, such as potions and scrolls. This kept the action for me going instead of breaking it up for town runs. Suffice to say, I’ve grown rather attached to Mr. Muffins.

Torchlight 2 proved I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Its deep class customization, visual style and pet system kept me playing well into the night, even as my fingers screamed at me to stop. It absolutely does not feel like a twenty dollar game. It’s a worthy investment for anyone looking for their next Diablo, Titan Quest or Dungeon Siege.