02 October 2012

Game Review: Torchlight 2


The creators of Torchlight 2 have said that they improved on the original Torchlight in every way, and I agree. If you haven’t played the first, you don’t have to. Just skip right to the sequel. What about the story, you say? Oh, there isn’t one. Or there might as well not be. The developers of Torchlight 2, who were largely responsible for Diablo 2 way back in the day, were lazy and decided to completely retread. A character from the original game is corrupted by the powerful evil and thus becomes the bad guy for the new game. Except that you couldn’t care less because it adds nothing to your gameplay experience and the animated cut scenes are done cheaply.

I see a parallel between Torchlight 2 and, say, Unreal Tournament or Quake 3 Arena. Both of those old games were essentially the culmination of everything learned about their genre, up to that point, distilled into a no-nonsense package with little fat - mostly meat. And so, with the Action Role-Playing Game genre having been officially “done,” we wait for a new innovation to make it all seem new again, with Torchlight 2 as the current pinnacle.

What’s there to say? Torchlight 2 has mostly everything you want out of an ARPG. And it’s only $20. It’s got varied itemization, replayability, fun spells, multiplayer, and endgame options. Just assume that it’s all good, except for the following criticisms:

1) The story is about as essential to your enjoyment of the game as your nostril hairs are to sex.

2) There are still several bugs that make the release feel amateur; like the price tag is an admission of low quality rather than a moral stance to make an affordable game.

3) Zones load slowly, which is a serious momentum killer. I have an SSD that loads games like Mass Effect 3 faster than I’m comfortable playing, but this game, with its simplistic graphics, requires a good 30 seconds of downtime between areas.

4) The themes aren’t too original. Yes, we have the mines. And the desert. And the jungle. And the generic grassy fields. And the castle. Is it too much to want to be surprised or inspired? I guess.

5) All fights are won by using essentially the same strategy: kiting. Hit the bad guy, run away from his attack, hit him, run away, hit him, run away. Once you have this strategy down, the game then boils down to the min/maxing you do when you select your skills, stats and gear.

6) The achievements are sort of lame. I don’t need to earn an achievement for walking 10,000 steps. This happens during the course of playing the game. I don’t need to be rewarded for doing things that everyone eventually does. Give me an achievement for doing something difficult, like clearing a level on Elite difficulty without drinking a potion. Otherwise, don’t even bother with them. I can’t wait for the day when achievements are no longer a standard feature in every single game that comes out.

With all of that off my chest, I still have fun. A tip for everyone: Engineer with Blast Cannon is super fun but easy, even on Veteran difficulty. For a challenge, I switch to my Hardcore Elite Embermage.

Happy gaming.

Rating: 8.5/10
This game is everything its fans asked for. It could be better, but it's already damn good.

Ups:
  • Endless gameplay
  • Well worth its price tag
  • Satisfying whacks and splatters
Downs:
  • Simplistic combat
  • Slow to load
  • Nothing revolutionary