Like Orcs Must Die! 2, Torchlight 2 is more of the same, a bit improved, with multiplayer. I don’t know about you, but that is all I wanted from it. Where OMD2 went for “more difficult,” Torchlight 2 has gone for “more diverse.”
In Torchlight 2, you play a hero who makes monsters explode by clicking on them. There is slightly more to it, but that is the basic gameplay. I left-click, rat-man goes boom. If there are many rat-men, I right-click a few times, and they all go boom. Occasionally you find a champion or boss, which is a big fight requiring lots of dodging or hardcore tanking. I picked the guy with the guns for my first run, so I tend to stick and move using range and speed.
There is a plot. I don’t know yet if I care, because I am not here for that. From the sound of it so far, the Alchemist (my class, woo!) canonically cleared Torchlight 1, found himself still infected with ember blight, and went on a rampage across the countryside with the heart of Ordrak. Congratulations, you now have a reason for your own rampage across the countryside.
I have yet to explore the gameplay at any depth. So far, it feels about the same. Advancement works the same way: stat points and one skill point per level, plus one skill point for each fame level. Invest your skill points in skills and passives. It is structured as a menu rather than a tree. For my first run, I have focused on one AE attack plus passive bonuses. Some of the enemies I kill turn into ghostly bats that fight for me for ten seconds, so I can accumulate a purple, flapping army when I steamroller through an area. I fed my ferret a fish that permanently turned him into a mole-thing with a stunning attack, which helps when I am kiting some giant ogre. I have found the pistols to be much better for my playstyle than the larger guns; while shotguns are satisfying, they are also slow and short-ranged.
That is one skill from one path on one class. You get four class options this time. You get some character customization options: sex, appearance, color. You also get a nice little menu of starter pets, like the aforementioned ferret.
Every time I load my character, I get the option to play single-player, LAN, and online. Given that the game just came out, I have not had a chance to connect to friends for multiplayer, and I have no idea how they will be resolving level differences. I am learning by doing in this case, rather than researching.
The graphics are on a similar level to the first game. Blown up to character creator size, they look fairly bad, but the simplified visuals work in game. I am not visually oriented, so I will not have much to say here, except that the faces just looked bad at character creation. In-game, there are impressively swirly and interesting effects, although I am not always clear which parts have game effects and which are just impressive swirls. I like that you get color-coded x-ray wireframes when fighting behind a wall or object; it cures many potential camera problems.
The pet mechanic remains great. I do not like Diablo-style loot, in high volume and with random stats, but it works better when I can grab everything, sort through it every 5-15 minutes, and send the pet back to town to sell it. This time, you can give the pet a shopping list of items to bring back. Nice.
Fishing is back with a psychologically interesting change. Pools of water outside town have a limited number of “charges.” I think that will actually cause an increase in the amount of fishing done in dungeons. Some people must have sat in 75th level of a dungeon and fished for hours, but I think many people saw fishing as a non-scarce resource, maybe dropped a couple of worms in the pool, and moved on. Through false scarcity, you are encouraged to exploit the pools fully. They have also added consumable explosives to catch all the fish at once.
There are outdoor areas. So far, the dungeons are just portals to a few levels of indoor activity. The outdoor areas have a more open feel, appropriately.
Torchlight welcomes modders, so the exact opposite of Diablo III’s lockdown. Given that the game has not been released as I type this, there is not a lot of modded content available yet.
While lighter in tone, Torchlight 2’s gameplay is the spiritual successor to Diablo II that Diablo III does not seem to have been. Or maybe it is just my circle of friends that stopped caring about Diablo III within a month.
Thanks to the folks at Runic Games for unlocking my copy a few days early. Day One review, woo!