Torchlight 2 Review
An improved sequel with more variety, better combat and a longer story mode. Sporadic performance issues detract from the experience
Posted by Ben Thomas (nutcrackr) on Oct 10, 2012 - 4:37am EST (Oct 10, 2012 04:37)
Torchlight 2 shines brightly as a superior sequel with enormous variety. Runic Games have spent the better part of three years developing a game that improves on its predecessor in almost all areas. There is a consistent enhancement to everything from interface to monster design. Randomized environments are expansive, detailed and reward exploration. Character classes are different but the combat remains dynamic and gratifying. If single player isn’t enough, multiplayer allows for some cooperative dungeon crawling.
You visit dangerous lands to search for the evil Alchemist
The campaign begins with the town of Torchlight in flames thanks to a powerful Alchemist who possesses Ordrak’s heart. Odrak was the final boss in the first game and great power flows from within this vital organ. You must find the Alchemist and stop him before he uses the heart to bring more destruction to the land. Players start their journey in the Enclave and begin searching the grassy fields of Estheria. The story is not always easy to follow, but still better than the original thanks to better boss battles and brief cut scenes. The locations and quests are well structured to ensure the campaign flows well.
There is a great amount of environmental variety in this sequel. Each act has multiple distinct areas with different atmospheres. The above ground areas are large so they take a while to explore. There are secret areas too, hiding glorious treasure for those with a keen eye. The world you are exploring is randomized, not just the dungeons. One play through might have you searching a barren cliff side while attacking wolves. A subsequent adventure will occur on windy roads fighting zombies near a waterfall. During my 26 hour solo adventure there was only one dungeon section that felt like déjà vu. This world variety is impressive given the length of the game and the amount of randomization.
Exploration begins above ground and then within multi floored dungeons. Structurally this is quite similar to Diablo 2 with dungeons randomly placed in the world. Quests may send you deep underground to defeat a boss or collect an item. After such a quest is complete, a portal to the surface will eliminate backtracking. These side quests are just as good as the main story and offer great rewards. Three lengthy Acts take you through tundra, deserts and swamps. Once the main story is complete you can try new game plus or use mapworks. New game plus restarts the story with all your skills, stats and equipment intact. Mapworks allows you to purchase randomized dungeons, some with buffs or penalties, for endless adventuring.
You can continue exploring random dungeons with Mapworks
Combat is the main reason you are driven to keep playing. It’s energetic and always pushes you to improve after each fight. All classes gain charge when attacking and this can fuel powerful attacks or provide temporary buffs. Skills remain the focus of the combat, enemies fall much quicker when combinations are used. You’ll need to be agile and pay close attention to health, mana and the actions of those around you. As you move further into the game you have the opportunity to make the combat as complex as you are comfortable with. You dance around enemies, use skills, drink potions and use environmental bottlenecks to improve effectiveness.
The action structure may seem repetitive but the implementation prevents it feeling tiresome. Using a perfect combination of charged attacks against a dozen enemies can see them fall in seconds. If you make a mistake you may have to retreat, recover some health and head back into the action. The combat is rewarding if you use skills correctly. Once the combat moves beyond the original, it’s easy to get excited when powerful skills finish off attackers. Each battle pushes you to improve and you’ll always want to find the next piece of action.