TORCHLIGHT: Indy Dungeon Crawling at its Best

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A loading splash page shows a good example of the feel this game exudes.
A loading splash page shows a good example of the feel this game exudes.
TL1
The bigger they are… the more they squish against a warrior’s might!

I do have to say that I am quite enjoying the Torchlight series.  The easiest way to describe this series is that the games are a “Diablo Clone”.  That is to say that is an top-down RPG loot based game where you select a hero then run around and wreck havoc on all that lie before him or her in hopes that sparkly shiny delicious tidbits of booty drop from the charred corpses of their enemies.

The game is rather simple: You choose a champion, you have abilities, you lay waste to the countryside felling many a monster and creature with your vicious blows and foul magics.  In Torchlight I, the game’s story goes a little something like this:

Magic is both a tool and a plague.  The plague emanates from this one town, infecting the people of the world.  The plague is attributed to a strange mine on the edge of the town.  It turns out that the town is on top of a layer-cake of dead civilizations all stacked on top of each other and at the very bottom lays an ancient evil (it’s ALWAYS an ancient evil, isn’t it?).

You are tasked with fighting your way down to the bottom and dealing with the ancient evil in hopes of curbing the effects of the magic plague.  Nice and simple.

My issue with Torchlight I is that it felt a little “short sighted”.  They had a rather lengthy tree of skill progression that you dumped

MIMIC!!!!
MIMIC!!!!

points into for various abilities and bonuses, but once you defeated the main “big bad”, that was it.  There was nothing to do but dungeon crawl meaninglessly with simple petty quests to fill the time.  The replay value wasn’t that great to keep me going after my logged fifty hours of play that got me through to the end of the main story quest. Overall, I do feel a little bit satisfied, but I did crave more “end game content” that had a little more meaning than infinite randomly generated dungeons.

This brings us to Torchlight II.

Torchlight II is the more recent sequel of the game.  The story that I have played through, I’ve really, really liked.  I have not yet opened it up to the workshop on Steam, as some people have been hand crafting their own quests and other fun adventures.  It has a very Diablo II feel to its scale of epic questing.  The classes are all very different and play very different than each other (I personally am loving the female berserker).

I think the best thing about Torchlight II is that it feels like a distinct step up from Torchlight I in every aspect.  From graphics to game mechanics (especially things like Pathing AI), it is all bigger, shinier, and better.  My one complaint that I have, is that the Torchlight II respec system is… well… not very helpful.  That is to say.  You can’t really re-allocate your points if you mess up.  It makes things pretty hard if you are just feeling out how the game plays around your character.

Nice doggy... Niiiice doggy...
Nice doggy… Niiiice doggy…

Torchlight I did not have any way to respec without adding a mod to the game.  Torchlight II has a built in respec mechanic, but it only lets you respec the last three skill points (the points you get at each level).  This is a problem if you made a mistake early in the game without realizing it, or if you suddenly change your mind and wish to build upon a different talent specialization.

This is increasingly problematic when you have a character like the engineer, who has three different equipment based trees that require one of three items to be equipped to use the abilities (two-handed weapons/cannon/sword and board).  This “last three points allocated only” doesn’t work if you find yourself stuck and needing to respec from the beginning into a different tree to become effective.  Even worse, if you introduce a mod that allows you to reallocate all the points as needed, your character is punished by being labeled in game as a cheater and may face additional consequences.

Story-wise, I am loving Torchlight II (a hell of a lot deeper, no pun intended, than Torchlight I for all the reasons).  A brief synopses: After the big bad of the last game was defeated, a mysterious alchemist finds a way to turn the monster’s still beating heart into a very destructive magical weapon.  He then goes forth and begins to lay waste to the countryside and everything that stands before him.  You are tasked with chasing him down and defeating him, but you don’t even know “who” he is or “why” he is doing what he’s doing.  It’s up to you to find out and stop him.  He’s a bad guy ‘mkay, go get ’em!

I also want to mention that the Steam Workshop gives a large and wide variety of wonderful mods.  Plus Steam will auto-manage those mods for you, so you don’t have to mess with files and folders and crossed fingers like when you mod other games.

Character design is absolutely fantastic! Character design is absolutely fantastic!

From there the plot twists and turns as you slowly uncover the history and motivations of the bad guy’s actions.  It gets fairly interesting and I am quite impressed with the writing so far.  It is a grand step above where they started with Torchlight I.  It’s a good sequel.  Very good, indeed.

-N00basaurus

Berserker

The Torchlight II rogue's gallery is a thing of wonder!
The Torchlight II rogue’s gallery is a thing of wonder!

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