Loot man, I just fucking love loot. I don’t care if it’s guns in Borderlands, space guns in Dawn of War 2, or dead pets in Binding of Issac; I just fucking love loot. Obviously the previous king of loot was Diablo but that was a facet of Diablo 3 that felt seriously underdeveloped and was ultimately undermined by the auction house system. But a new hero of the loot scene has arisen, Torchlight 2; now let me tell you why its shiny baubles are the best of all the shiny baubles (also why it’s a great game or whatever)!
As loot is such a focus of mine we might as well start off with the gameplay and the ways in which you earn that loot. In terms of mechanics it’s basically your standard dungeon crawler but a lot of work has gone into refining those systems. The skills for example are your standard set up of three trees per class, just like the first game, but work has been done to better mesh all these new skills together and provide some benefits for leveling up singular skills to news heights. The game does sadly lack any major respec options (you can pay to refund just your last three skill points) but with the massive amount of points you can end up earning you’ll generally be able to iron out any faults in your build without issue.
The loot is the same chop and drop style every game has ever had ever but they’ve done a better job of making it meaningful here. While junk loot still drops it’s not nearly as plentiful as in something like Diablo 3 and the variety of decent items here is wide and vast. Plenty of boring but competent items will drop but you’ll encounter more than enough unique items to make your equipment set feel interesting. The uniques are named after bosses and/or feature neat effects that you won’t find on the more basic rare and magic tier items. They add a lot of flavour and they aren’t even the strongest items around, those would be the legendary items that are insanely rare but can drop from even normal enemies. I only found one legendary in the course of my game and that was a sick ass wand that just fell from a random skeleton, too bad the class I chose doesn’t generally use wands.
On the note of the class I chose, let’s talk about the new classes. There’s a total of four now (all brand new) and they do a good job differing them from the standard warrior/mage/rogue archetypes. You have the Berserker, a fast and furious melee DPS style character; the Embermage, a fricking mage; the Outlander, a magic ranger type character; and the Engineer, a summoner/tank hybrid. I chose the Engineer and the tacts afforded to me were well varied and fun to experiment with. I could go full damage with two-handed weapons and large radial smash attacks, more back row with cannons and a legion of summoned robots, or a tank up with the good old sword and board combo and some stunning electric attacks. This variety is great because as you may know the game features multiplayer now so up to six players can band together and use their various styles to complement each other. I didn’t really get a chance to try it but for a lot of people “multiplayer Torchlight” is really all that needs to be said for them to run to their Steam windows with money in hand. The only issue I have with it is that it uses a separate Runic account rather than Steam for multiplayer; thankfully you can play single player offline just fine but with no offence to Runic, the last thing I need is yet another random account to keep tabs on.
Moving onto the presentation, things are far more varied than the original Torchlight. As the story now has you travelling all over the realm rather than just putting about underneath one really unlucky town, you not only get new environments but multiple takes on the same type of environment. For example in the desert area you will see pure desert, badlands, ancient tombs, and city ruins where as the swamp area gives fungal caves, stone catacombs, dense forests, and an abandoned sawmill. This variety is only enhanced by the sheer visual quality of the game. The slightly cartoony aesthetic returns but it feels even sharper than it did in the last game and even the gloomiest areas features an array of colour that is a joy to behold. The world feels beautifully alive as well thanks some great attack effects and some fantastic ancillary animation. Watching tremors blaze out in all directions from the Engineer’s Emberquake ability as they rip through the battlefield and knock enemies on theirs asses is always a treat but it’s how the enemies get there that impressed me the most. There’s just a lot of little ways the enemies move, such as the werewolf enemies skulking around on rooftops on before jumping into the fray, that really sell them as something more than just mobs for you to turn into bloody chunks.
Lastly we have the story which is the weakest part of this package but still stronger than it was in the first game. The basic premise is that the Alchemist from the first game has been corrupted by the Heart of the Ordrak (the end boss from the first game) while studying said gory artifact and is now on a rampage to do something bad with it. Now a new breed of heroes must band together with the heroes of old to stop this familiar menace and the trouble he brings. It’s a pretty bog standard story and to be absolutely honest it never really pays off, it just kind of goes through the motions without any real good twists or emotional content. The ending especially feels terribly anti-climatic but to be fair it’s still better than the first game’s barely there storyline and in the end who cares as the gameplay is what we were all here for anyways. One nice thing to say about the story is that the cut scenes they’ve put in (done by Klei Entertainment, the folks behind Mark of the Ninja) are incredibly well done and mesh well with the art style of the gameplay, they’re a nice reward upon finishing chapters.
Put simply this is just Torchlight refined; it’s a bigger world, it’s full of better loot, you can play with more people, and even the end game content is expanded with a neat random map system, new game + mode, and extensive mod tools. For $20 it’s a pretty impressive package and if you’re a fan of the dungeon crawling sub genre, it’s one you shouldn’t miss. Honestly whether you prefer this or Diablo 3 will all come down to a matter of personal taste, both have their pros and their cons but both deserve top marks for the horrible addictions they inspire, as such I’m happy to give Torchlight 2 a 5 out of 5 stars.