Torchlight was a damn fun game. I opted to play as the Alchemist, and I ventured through dozens upon dozens of levels of the Torchwood mines in my eternal pursuit of phat loot. I had so much fun with the first game that I immediately bought the sequel when it came out, only to find that the town of Torchlight was barely in the game, all the classes had changed, and my beloved Alchemist was now the bad guy.
A few years after the original Torchlight, the Alchemist has become corrupted by the evil heart of the Torchlight final boss. He destroys Torchlight and then tries to seek out the six guardians of the elements in order to drain them of their power and destroy all magic everywhere in an attempt to cure his corruption.
The first thing I noticed after booting up Torchlight 2 was that character customisation was seriously improved over the last game, in that there was actually character customisation this time. There were also four classes instead of three and none of the originals from the last game.
The Berserker is the melee specialist who’s always itching for a fight, the Embermage casts spells and hopes that no-one comes within ten feet of them, the Outlander is a speedy combatant that uses guns and knives, and finally the Engineer builds huge weapons that explode with fiery rage when they hit.
You can also pick a pet, whose job is to help out in combat and pop to the shops for you when you can’t be bothered. There’s no difference between the various kinds, you can pick from: Wolf, Cat, Bulldog, Panther, Papillion, Ferret, Chakawary (dragon-chicken… thing) and Hawk.
So I quickly picked a female engineer with a pet wolf and a face like a pissed-off high elf and jumped in.
I quickly found that the engineer class specialised in more than big hits with big hammers, which was fairly alien to me because I usually play ranged spellcasters. What wasn’t so alien was my ability to summon little robots to do my bidding, or at the very least to heal me when I start fighting the biggest thing in the room.
You start off in the overworld, which is fairly big and nice-looking, but every person you meet with a big exclamation point above their head will want you to head into the nearest cave to kill or find something. In these dungeons, you’ll find hordes of monsters to fight past before you get to your goal.
Combat hasn’t changed too much since the last game. You run around until you find a monster, and then click on it until it dies. You can (and probably should) use various spells and abilities to assist you in combat, but at the end of the day you’ll mostly be clicking your enemies to death.
The combat also has the strangest difficulty curve. I could bash my way through monsters with ease for about half an hour before coming across an enormous group or angry boss monster that quickly pounded me into the dirt. At least this is an improvement on the previous game, in which even the bosses couldn’t do more than blink before my legion of imps destroyed him.
Despite the improved difficulty, bosses themselves are more annoying than challenging; each one summons an infinite number of minions that love nothing more than swarming around you and violating your health bar. Killing the minions just makes the boss summon more, and focusing attacks on the boss allows the minions to swamp you. In fact every boss fight that I came across ended up with me running around the room with minions in hot pursuit whist I took pot-shots at the boss and prayed to the gods of machinery that my little robot friend would cast his healing spell before I was killed.
I wonder if this strange and wonky difficulty was because of my level, I noticed this fairly early in the game but it became more extreme the longer I played. You see dungeons in Torchlight 2 have handy little indicators outside them telling you what level is recommended to enter them, and as the game progressed I saw that the gap between my level and the minimum recommended level grew and grew. During act 2 of the game I entered a dungeon that asked me to be level 22, and at the time I was only level 16. I still completed the dungeon, the smaller enemies cowered before my mighty hammer and the larger ones never learned to avoid the spider-mines I threw as I fled the room, but I still wonder if this is the reason I could never take a boss in a fair fight.
What makes it even more strange is that I was going out of my way to explore the entire map and kill every living thing without a quest-marker, and I still couldn’t live up to the expectations that all these dungeons had.
The bosses became a lot easier when I started playing online. I was teamed up with five other players and we stormed through dungeons at maddening speeds. Most of the time we didn’t have to worry about health, because every engineer had put at least one point into that little healing robot, and there was almost always one other engineer on the team. There were no loot arguments either, because loot drops separately for each player.
Speaking of loot, the majority of enemies, chests, breakable objects and piles of rocks are likely to drop one or more items, so I hope you enjoy inventory management. You’ll want to start by comparing everything you pick up to everything you currently have equipped in order to determine whether or not you should be wearing it. To do that you’ll probably need to identify the items. You see, some items are not automatically recognisable to your character and if you want to know just what they do you’ll have to use an identify scroll.
Once you’ve separated what you’ll use now, use once you reach the required level, and put in the shared storage area for another character to use, you’ll want to sell the rest. Luckily you can send your pet back to town to sell all the spare gear you picked up and to buy any potions or items you need. Firstly, how do I train my dog to do this? And secondly, why do shops exist in the over world if all the things I want to buy can be purchased through my dog?
Finally, the cell-shaded visual style looks absolutely gorgeous. You may have to zoom in to see the detail put into every object and character, but I don’t recommend it because that’ll hinder your ability to see the dragon that inevitably found you at that precise moment. The environments have a lot more variety than in Torchlight, which had one town and one dungeon (it was just really big). This time round you have dozens of dungeons to explore and each one feels utterly unique, from a pirate-hideout to a crystal-filled mine and then to a variety of temples. Each one is utterly unique and absolutely gorgeous.
Torchlight 2 is damn good. Between various classes and online play, there’s more replay value here than in a lot of higher-priced titles. I still think the difficulty is off, but it rarely moved past difficult and into irritating. Even if you’re not into RPG’s, Torchlight 2 might be the one to convince you. To everyone who does like RPG’s, then pick up Torchlight 2.