Thursday, 3 January 2013

Review: Torchlight 2 (PC)

Yesterday I said I was going to write a review of Torchlight 2, but I was sidetracked by the stupidity of Sergey Titov.  What I did mention though was that Torchlight 2 is a game well worth the money and a really enjoyable game, so here is why I said that.

Torchlight 2 takes place a short time after the end of the original game in which the Alchemist character has become desperate to cure himself of a magical malady and takes Ordraks heart to begin a quest to heal himself.  Unfortunately this has had the side effect of making him a super powered badass who destroys any and all in his path.  It is up to four new heroes to take down the Alchemist and save the world from the terror he has released from the darkness between dimensions.

It's all pretty standard fantasy game really, but it works well enough to act as a jump point for the story.  We have the former hero now fallen to darkness due to his desperation to live, while the other previous classes make cameo appearances in the early stage of the game.  The story really isn't any different from it's peers such as Diablo and it's world ending demon hordes or Baldur's gate (the console versions) and it's inter dimensional threats.

The four new classes can be customised alot more than the original games characters which had no customisation at all.  You can choose between either a male or female version for each class, and now armour and weapons change as you equip new items, something that is a big step from the original Torchlight but nothing new for these games I know.

Torchlight 2's new classes are:

Engineer - A good support/tank class capable of spawning numerous robots and doing massive area of effect damage.

Embermage - The sorcerer of the game throwing high damage spells and acting as the games main damage dealing class, but obviously quite fragile compared to the other classes.

Outlander - The replacement for the ranger class, now wielding dual pistols or rifles.  This class can do alot of damage very quickly to single enemies, while being able to support attacks with powerful throwing glaives.

Berserker - The barbarian class which tanks and tanks some more.  They utilise knuckle dusters of varying types.  Berserkers can perform stunning attacks or quick flurry of blows against groups of targets.

The game world is broken into several Acts which make up the story and run the gamut of grassy hills, deserts, swamps, ancient forges, forests, catacombs, dungeons, crypts and numerous other locales.  Enemies are abundant and scale accordingly to the number of players in the game, sometimes being in larger numbers or simply becoming tougher.  Each act also has a hub town which allows you to stash gear, sell items, pickup quests and upgrade your current equipment.

Torchlight 2's combat is very similar to Diablo with simple mouse controls for attacking, moving and interacting with the environment, while keyboard hotkeys access skills, spells and inventory items such as potions.  The controls are so simple you can get into the game very quickly without having to worry about memorising controls your first time through the game.  Combat can become very chaotic though and sometimes you can lose your character in the mass of explosions, gibbed enemies and spell effects.

Every class has a pet which you can choose during character creation from dog's, cat's, Owl's, Badger's, Ferret's and many others.  They have a basic level of customisation in as much as you can choose their fur colour etc.  Your pet is an invaluable tool throughout the game.  They are capable of storing loot in their own backpacks which they sell in town for you while you continue to hunt.  They can fight alongside you, becoming one of the most effective fighters in the game as they level.  When I played I picked a ferret called Eric who could summon Zombies, skeletons and Imps.  During dungeon crawls I was moving around with a small army of undead.  Alternatively I could have set Eric up as a healer or ranged spell caster, the choice is yours as soon as you start picking up spell scrolls.

One of the main reasons to play Torchlight 2 is the loot.  Loot is the driving force behind killing monsters and raiding dungeons.  The random nature of the games loot means you can run the same dungeon multiple times and get completely different items every single time.  The rarest loot isn't measured in the same way as say Borderlands 2 where certain characters always drop unique weapons, instead the stats represent the best drops.  There are probably millions of combinations of drops in the game and there is alot of visual variation between items so you won't be seeing the same weapon skins repeatedly.  If you are looking for a different set of dungeons in your world you can re-roll it before playing which completely alters the layouts and monster composition in each.

Multiplayer is one of the big features of Torchlight 2.  Runic being a much smaller developer at the time of Torchlight couldn't afford to add it with their original title but it makes a big part of the social experience here.  You can join a game that people are already running or create a friend list and invite them to your game for a maximum of four players.  As I mentioned earlier the monsters scale to the number of players, but so does the loot so the risk is worth it.  You will need to make a Runic account to login and also link your steam account o the runic website which I wasn't too happy about personally, but after that it's relatively simple to login and play.

Post game you can start a new game plus which allows you start over with scaled mobs, all of your current equipment, money and skills.  The mapworks also allows you to buy random dungeons to play through repeatedly.  These dungeons are set by level and have the same loot drop chances as normal dungeons.  Finally Torchlight 2 has or will have a map editor which will allow players to create there own worlds and dungeons to share online.  I assume this will also lead to new content from mod teams who may want to add entirely new monsters and the such.

Now it does have a few issues the main one being game synchronisation.  Sometimes online play will go out of sync with other players and you will see them attacking invisible monsters you have already killed, or they will appear to stop moving on your screen or vice versa.  The sync issue can be fixed by going into another dungeon level or exiting/entering a dungeon but it's not a perfect fix.  Another issue is the lack of gold key drops if all players are not in the nearby area.  If you go too far away from the rest of the group then the gold key won't spawn, leaving you with a locked chest for the rest of the game.

The game is also relatively short with a player able to complete the game within a day on casual and a little longer on higher difficulties.  The replayability of new game plus and the mapworks helps with this and playing online can make previously easy sections pretty hard if you aren't careful.  It's also a game you may get tired of sooner than say Diablo as official support beyond patches seems unlikely as the mod tools are there for players to keep the game alive.  I found this a little disappointing as a few DLC expansions would have been great.

Graphically Torchlight 2 is by today's standards a little lacking, but it does have a very charming art style that evokes the fantasy styles of cel shaded titles of the past.  The game still looks good in it's own right and has some pretty interesting looking locations.  The graphics engine allows the game to run on a wide range of systems and eliminate the need for an expensive upgrade to be performed on your system.  The combat can be quite manic with all the spell effects and explosions from attacks, but this is also where the game looks great.

Audio wise Torchlight 2 is passable.  Character dialogue is wooden and not really delivered with any feeling, while the sound effects are generic.  They do the job but it's not like they convey the power of your attacks or spells all that well.  The soundtrack is pretty good though with a nice mix of haunting guitar strings and fantasy orchestral battle music to accompany combat. 

Overall Torchlight 2 is a good game for a good price at £14.99 normally on steam.  It might be viewed as a budget title but you will get your moneys worth and the experience is worth having if you enjoy Diablo style loot hunts with friends.

SCORE: 7.5/10


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