Since the pen and paper days of the 80s, players have been tearing away at foes with swords, bows, axes, magic missiles, etc. Hack and slash titles, at first a fun way to pass time, tend to render a player mindless with the slaughter by the legion. To become distinguished from the rest, crafty creators must blend a memorable story, balance the gameplay, and minimize the pointless grinding. Lvl30.com previously did a review on the game Realms of Ancient War (WAR) that failed to ascertain itself as a noteworthy game, but not Lvl30.com is following up on another HnS title, Torchlight II (TL2). Is Torchlight capable of meeting the aforementioned criteria, or will it prove to be another title that forces players into a state of mind-numbing gameplay?
Torchlight II throws the player into the destructive aftermath left by a mysterious character only known as “the Alchemist.” This introduction is projected through a creative and skillfully animated cut-scene. Upon finishing the introduction, the player will then configure their in-world persona. There are four classes available: Outlander, Embermage, Berserker, and Engineer. These classes cover a lot of styles of play, such as those who prefer melee, ranged or magic; however, the class selection may not cover them all such as those who may prefer all three in one class. One thing that does lack in the character creation process is character customization options, this limits how distinctive your persona is. Despite the lack of customization, the game does give one thing to look forward to – the selection of a pet! There are several to choose from. Once in game, the player will get an immediate quest that puts them onto the trail of “the Alchemist.”
The art style in Torchlight II could be described as cartoonish. The graphic style the developers chose meshes well with the theme of the game and the overall game flow. The introduction animation style is unique in its style and it creates a stark contrast to the game itself. This, however, does not detract from the game’s graphical quality. The developers did a good job with their aesthetically-pleasing games graphics.
Drab, boring characters can be a problem in HnS titles. In a game where the idea is to destroy your enemies by the dozens, giving non-player characters personalities beyond punching bags is not first priority. This lack of interaction adds to the mind-numbing grind factor. With that said, the developers took note and gave personality not only to their main storyline characters, but to some of their sideline characters as well. This helps alleviate some of the grind feeling while playing.
Torchlight’s soundtrack is freely available to download from their website. The songs are wonderfully composed by Matt Uelmen. Most of the songs seem a little down played for an action title like Torchlight II. However, this in no way should be mistaken as a defect in the audio quality, for it is top notch.
HnS titles for the PC differ from consoles in that the controls follow a common pattern. The mouse arrow usually determines where you run, what you kill, what you pick up, and how you interact with the world. TL2 is no exception. Holding the shift key while clicking a bad guy will make sure you hold your ground and don’t run over into another group of enemies to kill them; this is especially useful for ranged characters. However, this can prove cumbersome because there is no range indicator. Players may fire at a bad guy just to watch their ammo fall short of their target. Inventory management is performed via both the character and the character’s pet. Empty slots are equipped automatically, and inventory is swappable by a simple shift+click (I have yet to figure out how a ferret can carry so much armor and weapons; when in doubt, you can blame it on magic). Loot drops ensure that players will have upgrades fairly often that are level appropriate. In contrast, some HnS titles don’t seem to get the drop tables correct. Players can wait several levels before they get something they can use. The camera in TL2 is a little too restrictive for my liking; it does not allow as much viewing freedom when it comes to zooming the camera out. However, this is not an uncommon feature in HnS titles. Finally, Torchlight II utilizes random map generation. A feature that was popular in Diablo 2, and will be loved in this title. A player will be able to play through the first map 20 times, and get a different experience each time.
Multiplayer in Torchlight II is very simple to navigate. A player selects their character, hits the multiplayer button, and they are dropped into a lobby with a list of games to choose from. I only found two caveats while playing multiplayer. First, you may be forced to join a game where the average character level is a bit higher than yours, sometimes 5 or 6 levels higher. This makes your character feel a bit “squishy.” The second is, players seem to be boot happy, for no reason. A player will join the game, and a vote will immediately be performed to give you the boot (I thought this is what password protection was for). These caveats do not detract from the overall multiplayer experience though.
A lot of fun can be had in Torchlight II. From the aggressive, super-charged pets to the lively personalities of NPCs, the game offers an enjoyable experience for players who decide to pick it up. The reliable upgrades help, too. If the developers are to learn anything from this venture, though, they should reconsider the camera restrictions and lack of player customization.
At the cost of $19.99, Torchlight II has great value for players their first time through the game. That value doesn’t stop there. With Torchlight II’s features previously mentioned: such as random map generation, level appropriate item generation, multiplayer, and multiple classes to play through, players will be assured that their money was well invested.
Torchlight II has taken a game genre that is known to make players mindless slaves and have loosened the chains by adding personality to it. Torchlight II is an amazing, well thought-out game, and although it does have a few areas it could improve on, it would almost be a waste of time to improve on a nearly flawless game.
Torchlight II is targeted for a T+ audience. This rating is derived from the fact that monsters can (and often will) explode into chunks when defeated.