was one of many action role-playing titles that arrived in the wake of Diablo II
's success. Though many have come and went, it was Torchlight that really struck gold in the hearts and minds of gamers all over, offering up an experience that was both familiar and unique, all at the same time. It was an immensely enjoyable romp through countless dungeons that increased in difficulty the longer you played. Random loot drops are always huge draws for games in this genre and Torchlight offered up random loot drops by the truck load. Its random dungeon layouts, unique visual art style, and addictive gameplay propelled Torchlight to the top of the charts on Steam.
From the onset of Torchlight II, you can tell that this is a game that doesn't mess around. You're immediately thrown into a world where you can hack, slash, and magically destroy countless foes until they drop some of that precious loot that fans of this genre crave. After the battle, a scan of your inventory quickly tells you if you have a better item ready to be equipped and then it's on to the next group of foes to test out your shiny new gear. Do this for dozens of hours until the final fight and then you go back and you do it again. See, the huge appeal of games like Torchlight II doesn't necessarily lay with the story. Rather, it's the draw of finding better gear, leveling up, and working towards building a total badass of a character. Needless to say, Torchlight II excels at this like none other.
Though it may be unimportant to you, the story in Torchlight II is told through a few sporadic animated cut-scenes. The cut-scenes were done by the fantastic animation team behind Shank
(Klei Entertainment), so if the unique visual style looks familiar to you, you now know why. When you aren't sitting through a few minutes of cut-scene, the story is played out through interactions with NPCs encountered in your journey. This should seem at home to anybody who has played an RPG at any point in their life. The basic gist of the story is that the Alchemist from the first title has become corrupted by the Ember Blight. The Blight creates a lot of bad monsters throughout the world and it's up to you, our hero, to stop it. Most players will probably listen to the story and read through much of the NPC interactions on their first play through, but will ultimately skip past it all on subsequent romps through the game. The story probably won't win any awards but it's a competent attempt at explaining the who, what, where, why, and how of what is happening in the world.
The game plays as you might expect a game in the ARPG genre to. You have a skill bar that allows you to quickly access your favorite offensive or defensive abilities once you've unlocked them. There is a place to view your health and another place to view your magical reserves. Each of the four primary classes also have an additional bar that fills up as you kill large groups of enemies. This bar simply allows the player to have increased attack speed or improved defenses until a time in which the bar is depleted from a lack of action. If you thought your mouse needed a rest after Diablo III, then it's in for a world of hurt here. Torchlight II's action feels a bit faster paced than what you may be used to in other games in the genre. The clicking of targets allows your character to execute basic attacks while you ready your special abilities. Clicking is also used to move about the game's immense environments. Having both actions bound to one key is sometimes an issue as you may end up clicking on an enemy, throwing your character into an attack, when what you really meant to do was run away to safety.
That is the basic idea behind Torchlight II. You click, you kill, you get loot drops, and you click and kill some more. It's a simple premise but the draw is always in discovering new areas, exploring difficult dungeons, and picking up that rare weapon that nobody else has yet. In case you were still unaware, the loot drops in Torchlight II are random. It is essentially a roll of the invisible dice as to what items will drop from which mobs, though tougher enemies will almost always have a higher chance at dropping rarer items. Sell the items you cannot use, or store them for later use on another character. You may even trade with some online buddies if you would rather not fly solo.
Visually, Torchlight II retains the same colorful and exaggerated art style that its predecessor had. The lighting, texture work, and cel-shaded like visuals are easily recognizable and remains visually appealing through the game's three acts. Magical abilities and other special actions are typically highlighted with bright, flashy displays of colorful visual flair. At times it's almost as if you're playing through a masterfully drawn cartoon, which is a great thing here for the most part. There are times where there is just so much happening on the screen at any given time that it is possible to lose your mouse in the fray.
The visual options for Torchlight II are rather sparse, but it's not really a very demanding game to begin with. One thing I applaud the team at Runic for in the fact that there is an option to disable white level (lowest) items from being highlighted on the ground. This makes it a lot easier to avoid junk gear filling up your inventory when your player is rolling in the finest of blues, greens, purples and gold items.
Continue on to page 2 of our Torchlight II review...