|Dev: Runic Games|
|Pub: Runic Games|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
The original Torchlight was kind of like the first Diablo, but better. You had pets that sold your "vendor trash" for you, character classes that were more balanced, and dungeons that didn't kill you as soon as you stepped into them. Many fans came to love Torchlight as "Diablo I done right." Torchlight II is pretty much the same thing, but while Torchlight I remade and expanded upon the formula of Diablo I, Torchlight II remakes and expands upon Diablo II, right down to the storyline. The main characters of Torchlight I have unfortunately gone insane and have turned evil, and it's up to you to stop them.
Much like what Diablo II was to Diablo I, Torchlight II takes you out of a single static dungeon and tasks you with roaming the countryside on your quest. You will be sent to several locales, but in the fifteen-minute demo that we were allowed to play we mostly visited outdoor fields, mountains, and neighboring towns. Yes, there is more than one town in Torchlight II, which makes the world feel much bigger than it was before.
When you start up Torchlight II, you will be given a choice of four different character classes. The first three are basic variations on your standard RPG classes. There is the Berserker, a close-range physical character; the Outlander a long-ranged character; and the Embermage, the magic user of the bunch. Even though these characters have their own unique flavor (for example, the Outlander is a gunner rather than an archer) they essentially play like the basic archetypes that we have come to expect. The Berserker character gets abilities and skills that makes him do lots of damage while being hard to kill, the Outlander gets abilities that allow him to kite enemies from a safe distance, and the Embermage is incredibly fragile but rains down horrible death upon all the enemies in the vicinity.
The newest character class, however, is the Engineer, sort of a combination of summoner classes from other RPGs. The Engineer focuses on building machines to do its bidding. I didn't play the class directly, but I was told that things like turrets and robot minions will be part of the Engineer's artillery. Setting traps will also be one of the Engineer's most relied upon skills.
Each character also has a variety of customization options as well. Characters have several different outfits, colors, and faces to choose from as soon as you generate them. You can also choose from an expanded list of pets as well. Though we tried various different pets during our hands-on time with the game, we could not detect any noticeable difference between the cats, panthers, dogs, tiny dragons, and more. For now, it just appears that pet choice is a cosmetic decision.
Just like Torchlight I, Torchlight II is all about the constant gameplay. After the opening cinematic, you are thrown right into the game and given your first quest. There isn't even much of a tutorial to speak of. The game expects you to know how to play PC RPGs, and everyone at PAX seemed to get along just fine without the game holding any hands.
OK, it did actually hold our hands a little, considering how easy it was. When we started up a game, we chose to play on the second hardest difficulty, and enemies gave us no trouble at all. I'm not even that good at these dungeon crawler-type games, and I breezed through random enemies and bosses with the greatest of ease. In a way, this makes the game more accessible to newbies, but it also causes the game to lose some of its "old school charm."
Now, even though Torchlight I had a cartoony feel to it, Torchlight II looks a bit more realistic. Yes, the characters are still fantasy stereotypes drawn in a Warcraft-like lighthearted style, but the increased graphical fidelity just made me feel sort of detached from the characters. This is really just a personal choice here, but I enjoyed the old graphics more.
Perhaps the greatest innovation in Torchlight II is the ability for your pets to go to down and buy potions and scrolls for you. This goes even further to break up the "beat up enemies, use town portal, buy stuff, come back, do it all over again" formula that Diablo made so infamous. Instead, the only times you'll need to visit towns will be to turn in quests or to pick up some other quests. Basically, you only need to go to town then the story says you need to. This goes a long way toward giving each town in the game its own identity as something more than a hub that you visit whenever you need to sell some loot.
Torchlight II is looking like another great dungeon crawler that should satisfy old school PC RPG fans, and I can confidently say that after having played only the first fifteen minutes. I am very excited to play more as soon as I can.
Angelo M. D'Argenio
Date: April 11, 2012