In a day and age where Diablo-esque games have migrated into first and third-person action titles, Torchlight reminded us of how enjoyable those isometric RPGs games could be. While much has changed three years later, Runic Games has developed a follow-up worthy of its name. While it may not be as sizable as something like Diablo III, Torchlight II is an astonishingly meaty experience at an incredibly low price for what you’re getting; but is it enough to dethrone the king?
If you played the first game, or any of the Diablo titles for that matter, you’ll feel right at home. The game operates on an easily adjustable isometric camera and puts the player into frantic combat that will need your entire attention further in the story. One of the most valuable parts of any good action RPG is loot, and Torchlight II has a whole lot of it. Everything that can be encountered in this world has a good chance of dropping a weapon or a piece of armor, allowing gamers to customize their own character how they see fit. It becomes addictive just going through item management and deciding where specific items should go. Most have unique traits so the player will always be forced to sacrifice something for another; it’s about how to perfectly balance a character for the upcoming fight while not losing too much in the process.
The combat is probably the best part of the Torchlight II as it blends action and RPG elements perfectly, offering an experience that never leaves you bored (if the right difficulty is chosen). Maybe it’s just progression in the game, but having played through Normal, it took about fifteen hours before the game offered any sort of challenge. I rarely used the keyboard, having a special skill set to the right mouse button, being that enemies weren’t able to bring my health low enough to justify reaching over. I highly recommend players who have experience in RPGs to start off on veteran as a lack of challenge is no fun, and you’re definitely not playing the game for its story. Ultimately though, it ends with a mouse that’s going to be wearied down as this has some of the most addictive gameplay mechanics in any game, especially if you’re playing co-op with three other friends.
The finest part of the combat is just how diverse it can be. Because this is a role-playing game, players are offered four different classes at the start, ensuring no single playthrough will be the same. Having gone through the game as a mage and an engineer, there was a big leap in how combat is structured and the approach that is needed to be implemented. Some may enjoy going in fast and furious while others may rely on enchanted weaponry to do their talking. Either way, the RPG mechanics in Torchlight II allow for a wide variety of choices to be had, and each specific class is varied enough for skills to make a significant difference.
The story in Torchlight II is separated into three different acts, each containing areas that are both massive in size and vary from the rest of the world. It’s almost too big for its own good, as one moment you’re in the chilled snowy plains facing off against an abdominal snowmen-like creature and the next you travel to a dry desert only to run into pirate skeletons ready to pillage your soul. There are very few times where there’s repetition in the environments, and the enemies are properly placed so they don’t feel out of context in the world. It’s a sense of adventure that rivals full-priced games such as Elder Scrolls and Dark Souls.
Unfortunately no game is without its faults as Torchlight II is a little light on its plot. Most of the dialogue is displayed through quest givers and short animated status updates at the end of each act, informing the player on where they’re off to next in the story. You’re literally just plunked into the world with very little context of what is going on. A village was attacked by the alchemist character from the first game and the other two heroes are sent in dire straits. After that, the goal of stopping the corrupt alchemist is set forth by doing a number of quests for NPCs, mainly consisting of clearing out a dungeon or two. The story could have been better presented and explained because the world itself is massive and full of life.
Allowing for actual adventure into an open world, Torchlight II expands heavily upon its fiction, creating a sense of wonder and excitement. Considering the low price point, this is a value that you won’t get anywhere else. While the story could’ve been better told, an addictive combat system and array of side quests make Torchlight II a dungeon crawler of immeasurable size, offering an awe-inspiring adventure that will have players coming back for more.