More backlog battling, after a rather heavy hardcore playthrough of Dragon Age Inquisition, I went on the lookout for something a little less strenuous and more lighthearted. Many people suggested I try out Torchlight 2. Having been a fan of the first Torchlight, I was very open to the idea of trying the second game. Having released in 2012, Torchlight 2 is a few years old now, and the ARPG genre has become more popular since then. Maybe the Torchlight franchise helped spark that resurgence in more ARPG games, with the likes of Path of Exile and Grim Dawn becoming more popular since 2012.
The plot for Torchlight 2 takes place years after the end of the original game. One of the playable characters from the first game, the Alchemist, becomes corrupted by the Ember Blight, from the Heart of Ordrak. The player, set out on a quest to take down the The Alchemist, as he has gone on a rampage and destroyed the town of Torchlight. The plot is progressed through the form of three acts and an epilogue. The three acts are set in different elements. Act one is set in a mountain zone, act two takes place in a desert, and act three takes place in a forest.
This is the sort of game where you have to pay zero attention to the story if you choose so, cutscenes and dialog between characters is skippable, and quests are easily mapped out for you showing you where to go. So if you are wanting something where you can just zone out to, or maybe put a film or podcast on in the background, then this is going to work in your favour. If you do want to follow along with the story, there is a good amount of quest text to keep you engrossed in the plot. Each act is separated by a short animated cutscene that rounds off the story you’ve just gone through and expands into future storyline.
There has been a slight improvement in terms of graphics over the first game, but nothing majorly noticeable. Character models are nicely presented with high quality textures on all armour and faces. The game’s world is bright, colourful but also has moments of darkness and eerie shadowy scenes to fit the story. The game’s UI is simplistic, and shows you all the information on screen that you’d need. With a few further menus to open to get to your inventory, skills and abilities pages. Opening these menus did feel a little clunky at times, such as the ESC key not closing them, or being able to switch between menus when one is open, making you close it, and then opening another. Small quality of life issues that would have made the experience that little bit more polished.
The game did run like a dream from a technical standpoint. In the past with ARPGs such as Marvel, or Van Helsing, I did experience a sort of hitching when large amount of enemies were on the screen, but I did not get there with Torchlight 2. Whilst graphical options are limited, I can almost guarantee that this game will run well on almost any machine you put it on. A nice option in the graphics settings is being able to scale your UI, this is particularly useful when playing on higher resolutions.
Torchlight 2 has a pretty impressive soundtrack. Each zone has it’s own track that will both add emotion and a sense of urgency for the player. Parts of the game are voice acted, such as important main quest givers will have dialog for their speech’, but minor NPCs or side quests do not feature any voice dialog. This is a common practice in games like this, and it did come across as disappointing as the voice acting that is featured in the game is done very well. It would have been nice to get the rest of the game voice acted too.
Sound effects are realistic, but nothing spectacular. If you are replaying this game and just using it to zombie out to, then you’ll more than likely be muting the game to have something on in the background too. So you aren’t missing out on a ton by doing that. I know whilst I was out in the world grinding, I did turn the music and sound down whilst I watched Twitch. I didn’t detract from my gameplay experience by not having in there.
In terms of gameplay, I will only speak of my experience in single player. Torchlight 2 has a co-op multiplayer mode which was sorely missed in the first game, and was one of the main criticism points for it. However Torchlight 2 returned with the multiplayer mode and hearing from friends say that it makes the experience a ton more enjoyable says to me that it was a worthwhile addition to the second game.
The most important factor for me from an ARPG, is having addictive gameplay, as you may have seen in previous reviews of other ARPGs, I am a huge sucker for them, and Torchlight 2 is no different. The fast paced hack and slash gameplay makes for a highly addictive gaming experience. Right from the start of the game you have very little downtime and are always on the go.
When creating your character, you get the choice of four classes, Embermage, Outlander, Berserker or Engineer. Each of these classes has their own archetype and will greatly affect how your playthrough will go. In fact, the game will offer you plenty of replayability as playing each of these classes will feel like a different game each time. I finished one playthrough as a berserker, and am halfway through a second run as an engineer. I can tell you that it feels completely different the second time around purely because of my class choice.
At the start of your game, you have a basic ability bound to your right mouse button, this, along with your regular attack will be your bread and butter throughout the game. You do get the option to change this ability as you progress and learn new skills though. The skill trees for each class are diverse and offer a ton of custom choices to let you build a really specialized character. Although as there is such a wide selection to choose from, after a single playthrough you may find it hard to reach the bottom of the talent tree since you may not get enough levels to do so. The game’s new game+ mode will allow you to fully explore the later abilities in your character's class though.
As in the first game, every class you pick will also be accompanied by a pet. You can choose what race your pet is, whether it be a lion, cat, dog, anything you can imagine really, and the pet will aid you in fights, as well as being your own personal little mule. Simply give all your pet any loot you don’t want, and use the option to send the pet back to town to sell it. As well as selling your loot, you can also send a shopping list back with it, to pick up healing potions, mana potions or scrolls from the vendors in town too. I really liked this mechanic and it stops you from needing to go back to town every time your bags are full, or juggling with a full inventory. Your pet will be away from you two minutes whilst it’s in town, so you can use this time to either keep plodding along with your quest, or just take a short break.
A single playthrough of the story mode will take roughly twelve to thirteen hours on single player. Like I said though, Torchlight 2 offers tons of replay ability with three other classes to play afterwards, each giving a different experience. Meaning to play the game fully, you can easily hit the fifty hour mark.
The quests throughout the game aren’t anything massively different from other generic RPG quests. Most require you to kill a target, pick up an item or go speak to another NPC. Nothing groundbreaking, but this also lends itself to Torchlight being a great ‘zone out’ game.
I do think that the game could have done much better explaining the mechanics though. The tutorial system felt lackluster, and I often had to check things up on a Wiki or options menu purely because the game didn’t explain a mechanic, and you are just left to figure it out on your own. Many people may like that feature in a game, but it left me feeling detached from the emersion to the game world by having to minimize or go trawling through control options.
Speaking of controls, whilst I did run into a few problems with knowing specific key bindings, the majority of the game is easy to control. Move around by clicking and holding your mouse in the direction that you want to go and spam clicking the bad guys. Be warned though after a long session playing Torchlight, you’ll often feel like your hand is about to drop off due to the amount of clicking you’ve done. Usually I don’t get any such problems playing games for a long time, but I found myself needing to take a break from playing simply because my hand was aching so much. Maybe this problem could have been avoided by having controller support, but then again these games always play better using keyboard and mouse.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a good ARPG without loot, and boy do you get a ton of loot. Almost every enemy you kill will drop something, and you get full use out of the pet mule ability as well. Most items you pick up will give you stat boosts, but weapons also might have unique passive abilities which make decisions on whether you should favour stats over abilities all that more tricky. You might find that the weapon you found at level 13 might be better than a level 23 weapon purely because it has a sick ability on.
Torchlight 2 is a much better game overall than the first. With plenty of improvements to the gameplay and replayability factors. Not to mention the multiplayer co-op mode that will no doubt add a further layer of replayability into game. I’ve not talked about it in my review, but Torchlight 2 also has a presence in the modding community too. If you find it’s really your jam, then you can find player mode content just waiting to be downloaded from the Steam Workshop. You could literally spend hours upon hours playing Torchlight 2, and struggle to become bored at the end of it. For it’s low price, Torchlight 2 is an awesome game that deserves to be played if you’ve not already done so.