I spent a large amount of my freshman and sophomore years in high school playing Diablo II. At the time I had never played anything like it; I was still relatively new to the realm of online games, and Diablo II was the second major title I was exposed to – the first was Starcraft.
I have fond memories of the hundreds of hours I spent leveling my Paladin, Sorceress, and Barbarian in Diablo II. When I was given the opportunity to review Torchlight II, I jumped on it, hoping to relive a bit of that time given that Torchlight II is very much like Diablo II.
Having not played the first Torchlight, I did not know what to expect when I first entered Torchlight II. I had been told by countless friends when Torchlight came out that the game was very much like Diablo and was loads of fun; unfortunately, I never got a chance to try the first game as I was far too busy with college. Starting up the game, I found myself presented with 4 classes: the Embermage, a heavily magic-based class; the Berserker, a melee class with animal-themed skills; the Engineer, a melee class that uses magic technology; and the Outlander, a ranged class that also uses a limited amount of magic.
For reasons I’d like to think are obvious at this point, I picked the Engineer. I found my initial weapon to a giant wrench. This pleased me greatly. I was likewise pleased by the fact that I could pretty much kill anything with one hit. Unfortunately, this did not last long; fortunately, the plethora of stats, skills, equipment, and gems served as a quick remedy. The primary stats are Strength, Dexterity, Focus, and Vitality. In general, it seems that the classes primarily focus on two of the four stats. While it is somewhat important to ensure that the non-primary stats are not too low, these can largely be ignored while you pump your 5 points-per-level into the two primaries. Equipment follows this logic in that there are two requirements for every piece of equipment: a level requirement and a stat requirement. If you meet the stat requirements, you can equip a piece of armor far before you’ve met the level requirement. However, if you’re consistently having to wait to meet the level requirements, it’s a good sign that you may not be putting enough points into your primary stats or that you may be equipping the wrong things.
The game is, much like Diablo II, divided into 4 Acts. The jump in difficulty between the acts is pretty noticeable: by Act III I found that were I not careful, enemies could easily overwhelm me. Even when fighting with groups of people, it only took a single moment of being in just the wrong place to rapidly lose all of my health and die. As it turns out, the reason for this was because I was hanging on to unique equipment for a little too long. While uniques are incredibly powerful at the level they’re designed for, they do need to be eventually replaced. Sometimes, if a suitable replacement unique item is not found, you have to settle for replacing it with a rare.
On the subject of equipment, each piece is colorized in a fashion similar to both Diablo II and World of Warcraft. Commons are white, enchanted items are green, rare items are a light purplish-blue, and unique items are a goldenrod hue. Set items are indicated with dark purple text detailing the bonuses for wearing multiple items of a set. Items can also have sockets, which a gem of sorts can fill. Gems generally give good bonus stats to an item; the rarer the gem, the better. Equipment can also be improved by enchanting. There are a variety of enchanters in the game, some better than others, but the basic idea is that they can add additional bonuses to your equipment. There are also special enchanters that can add more enchantments than usual and another that adds sockets instead of bonuses.
There are a lot of ways to improve your equipment and stats, which in turn can make you more powerful. I found that keeping up to date equipment on was incredibly vital to my success. However, it can be hard to get equipment you need. The easiest ways to do this are to either spend gold on a gambler NPC or to trade. Trading in this game is relatively simple: You can trade up to 6 items at a time, plus some gold. There are often games made explicitly for trading and these are often a good way to get equipped for the later acts. In the event that you don’t like interaction with human beings you can always spend money on the gambler. While this sounds like a terrible idea, you tend to get a lot of gold in Torchlight II (especially if you are wearing items with gold find on them), so 2-3 expenditures of 4000-5000 gold can easily net you a set item you need or a unique. Unfortunately, magic find items do not affect your luck with this (proven by a bug that has long since been patched – gambler items are predetermined before you buy them), but the chances of getting something good are rather high, so I end up spending a lot of gold at the gambler. This leads me to my next point.
While gold is relatively easy to gain, it does suck when you run out. From my experiences, the best way of getting gold prior to getting access to the Mapworks (more on this later), is to run a friend through a ton of the earlier quests. Because of the rate you’ll kill things, you get about the same amount of gold (or maybe a little less) than you would by progressing through your own quests in about the same amount of time. Your friend will also gain the same amount of experience that they would have if they had completed those quests with someone of their own level as well. Torchlight II doesn’t appear to impose experience gain debuffs for questing with someone well above your own level.
Obviously, this isn’t the best way to get gold in the game, but it’s the best option prior to beating the final act your first time. If you’re having trouble with your current level quests and you need to buy better equipment to truly progress, then your choices for gold find are definitely limited. However, after you’ve beaten the final act your first time, you gain access to the Mapworks. The Mapworks are a series of maps that have different bonuses ranging from increased gold find to decreased monster damage. They also range in level anywhere from the 50s to level 100. This creates a lot of replay value, as you can fight through all of these maps for a small bit of gold after beating the final boss. You can also farm better equipment in these maps by equipping increased magic find items and going to a map with a magic find bonus.
If perpetual dungeon crawling doesn’t suit your taste and you want something more, there’s a new game+ option that will allow you to restart the game with all the monsters scaled to whatever level you currently are at. This allows you to replay the game with the same kind of challenge as there was before. Failing this, the game officially supports player-created mods, so between everything there are a large variety of ways to replay and enjoy the game after beating it the first time.
The game’s storyline is decent. It’s nothing spectacular, but it gets the job done and is at least slightly interesting. I may be a bit biased in this regard as I did not play the first Torchlight, so that may render the story less interesting to me. The online play also has functional social options for adding friends and such, which help in accumulating people to play with. Although good alone, the game is most fun when played with others, so this is a boon. Finally, there were a few times that the game crashed on me. This happened very rarely, but it’s worth noting.
Overall, the game is fun and well worth checking out. It’s doesn’t take too long to play through the game the first time and it’s easily a game you can play on your own time without having to worry about grinding. The game also supports offline and LAN play – a major plus for a title like this. In a day where these functions are being removed from many online titles, their inclusion is refreshing. The top things off, the game is a steal at a measly $20. However, I feel it should be noted that if you burned yourself out on Diablo II years ago, you may bore of this game more easily than most. It’s still fun to play for short periods of time occasionally, but it may not be very appealing to play for long periods of time, several days in a row.
*Good Replay Value
*Good Social Options
*Might be a little too much like Diablo II
*Equipment becomes sharply antiquated at the start of a new Act
*Dungeon crawling may not be for everyone
*Occasional game crashes
FINAL SCORE: B
Disclaimer: This game was provided by Runic Games for review. At the time of writing, the reviewer had played over 28.4 hours, completed the game, and gotten 47% of the achievements.