Runic Games returns to the spotlight with their second hack-and-loot game, Torchlight 2. The success of the original Torchlight was memorable, as it was as much a poke at the Diablo style of games as it was one of them. Bringing back the jabs and pokes, Torchlight 2 sees four new heroes ready to march across the land to save Etheria once more.
At first glance, TL2 seems almost identical to its parent, but the changes under the hood bring a bit more balance to the game than the first Torchlight. The skills no longer stack toward passives, instead focusing on active combat skills. Passive abilities remain, although they use the spell scroll slots on the player and pet. Another major change is that the game is less about hoarding your loot and more about ditching the old in favor of the new as the transmuters are no longer able to upgrade gems. The shift away from loot hoarding is reinforced by the noticably smaller stashes. How does that translate into game play? Item management becomes an issue that wasn’t present in TL1.
New to Torchlight 2 is their co-operative multiplayer, where up to five people can play together in the quest for “phat lewt”. The infamous loot ninjas will be sad to note that Runic has kept those people at bay by instancing loot drops. Players cannot see items that are awarded or dropped for other people. Of course, if your friend picked up an awesome weapon that they can’t use, you can trade for it easily.
The end game has also seen significant changes. Gone is the endless dungeon to crawl through, and in its place is a stronger maps system than TL1. Maps can have positive or negative attributes, like any other item, but those attributes affect players and enemies in the map. Maps with a large number of positive traits for enemies can provide a much greater challenge than base maps, or go with a map that gives players a large boost for quick loot runs. Another significant change is that characters can no longer be retired. Instead, the game allows for New Game+, with each successive playthrough boosting enemy strength.
Torchlight 2 is built on the solid foundation of Unreal Engine 3, as was its predecessor. It retains its cartoon style and brings in stronger dynamic lighting to add to the effects. No errors in design were apparent, and the environments are consistent and well drawn. No frame rate issues were seen, even in heavy combat with friends. Solid performance and fairly strong visual quality make for one of the better experiences in gaming. 10/10
TL2’s gameplay is, at its core, the same as TL1. No major bugs in gameplay were seen during my caffeine fueled gaming. Minor bugs were present, but they were not gamebreaking. Pathing issues are minimal, although they can be annoying when they do arise. Combat mechanics are mostly solid, although a couple of errant behaviors made it irritating on occasion. The game has some replayability with four levels of NG+ to add to the challenge.
Torchlight 2 is a worthwhile successor to the original game. It’s fun to play, either solo or with friends, and has enough replayability to make it a strong buy.