Review by skeletorissatan
"Perhaps the best Diablo clone ever and possibly even eclipses that game"
Diablo is a game that has been cloned many times since its release in various ways with each clone feeling more sterile and boring than the last twenty as is the case with all influential games. If one was to look back through the years nearly every highly popular and influential game has been ripped off sixty times by lazy developers looking to make a quick profit and cash in on that games success, usually without doing anything innovative with their property. Other examples of this blatant plagiarism that could be pointed to are Grand Theft Auto, Metal Gear Solid and Doom with each of these having received a thousand clones within a few years of their respective release dates. It would be criminal to write off these clones before their release date as occasionally the gamer can be proven wrong with their initial opinion and Torchlight was one of these momentous occasions. This game perfected the random layouts and loot balancing coupled with a tight leveling system that Diablo had worn proudly as its exclusive perfect blend for many years and Torchlight garnered mass praise and critical acclaim and eventually a sequel was pushed into the pipe line and the fans patience for the second installment was eventually more than paid off with a game of the highest possible standards.
Whereas the first Torchlight was a claustrophobic and fairly limited game that provided a great blast of entertainment but lacked in the replay value, the follow-up more than rectifies this with the addition of a lot more items and over-land areas. Gone are the exclusively narrow environments and underground caves, and mixed into this we now have sprawling outdoor landscapes each with their own beautifully rendered textures. The color scheme and cartoon feel of the graphics were two of the things that made the original such an incredible game and this has been massively improved on Torchlight 2. Most impressive was the vast snow-capped mountains area that you are forced to traverse through early into the game. This game is not one that is going to push the limits of even a low end computer from three years ago but more than makes the most of its limited graphical capabilities to create a beautiful lush, rich environment for your character and his faithful pet to explore. The areas the player has to explore are really rather large and fun to explore with a lot of variety in the detail and the effects of various interactions with the environment such as detonating a TNT pack causing half a wall to collapse are beautiful to look at. The cartoon nature of this game is also done exceedingly well and creates a game that is fun for people of all ages without ever compromising the darker undertones of the story. The actual story itself is rather loose fitting with this game and completely takes the back seat as you become lost in fighting your way across large over-land areas and through deep dungeons leveling your character up.
This is also a game that has absolutely perfected the loot system of games such as Diablo and also has probably the best sense of progression and character development of any clone of that game, and perhaps remains even more enjoyable than Diablo was. The balance of loot ensures that you are almost guaranteed loot every couple of kills and will get higher level loot from the stronger enemies and boss characters you defeat, as should be expected. However the actual scaling of the spoils of your combat really is well done in the sense that you will get a decent piece of loot just often enough to ensure you do not become too frustrated when searching for the upgrade to whatever piece of your equipment you have been looking for and yet also the loot is not so frequent that you do not get a real sense of accomplishment when you finally find that one piece of armor you wanted so badly. This game also features a gem system similar to that of Diablo and fellow Diablo clone Titan Quest but in this game it is better realized than in either of the aforementioned games. When fighting enemies you may stumble across Ember shards which can also be garnered through beating some of the quests in the game, and you can then place these Embers into any of your items that have a free slot. Each Ember grants specific properties such as granting additional health or a percentage of health regeneration per second. When you couple this with the various enchantments that certain in game characters can provide the true beauty of the weapon customization in Torchlight 2 is unveiled with there being so many options available that you are constantly trying to decide whether you would rather replace a certain improvement with a different one and risk losing that health regeneration that has helped you for the past half an hour. The leveling and character progression on this game is also really enjoyable to go through. To begin with you select one Class of character at the start of the game, each with their own specific skills and abilities that can be unlocked as you level up by fighting through swarms of enemies and earning experience points. Upon a level you can both upgrade your base statistics and also add a point into one of your characters Skills which can either be skills that activate when you hit a Secondary Attack button and turn out to be completely devastating or they can be skills that are constantly active.
The player also has numerous choices to make when it comes to the actual equipment that they are carrying and use to kill off the enemies. To begin with you have a Pet that you select at the beginning of the game that will follow you around the game and you have the option to set it to ignore enemies or attack them depending on your preferred play style. Some will choose to use them primarily as a pack mule that should carry their equipment and keep out of the fray whereas others prefer to sit back and let their Pet fight for them. You can also gain items that can be equipped to your Pet to make them more powerful and by the end of the game your Pet should not be coming close to running away from a battle due to low health but should be a complete tank that is more than capable of handling itself. The options that are there for customizing items are not exclusive for your Pet either but the character you play has has many slots for various piece of armor, rings, shoulder guards and two different weapon slots. This game has a near unrivaled amount of different pieces of armor and different weapons so that you are constantly kept on your feet about what weapon and armor you want to take with you and then what you want to enchant them with and use the aforementioned Embers on that it is completely overwhelming upon first play and will take a long time to get used to.This is not a bad thing however as Torchlight 2 has so much replay value that you can constantly be stumbling upon new pieces of armor and stashing them in your Private Stash that can then be transferred into fresh games so that if you have a particular piece of out-dated equipment that you think you could use at a lower level on a new game, you can do so. This is perhaps the best thing about the game in that you are constantly being spammed new options to the point you literally do not know what to do with everything the game throws at you.
Torchlight 2 is a flawless modern gaming experience that is a joy to behold and even better to play through. The leveling on it is some of the best that has been found in any game and this may well be a game that actually beats out the game it rips off so heavily. This is a debate that will probably rage until the end of time but the fact is that both Torchlight 2 and Diablo are thoroughly enjoyable games and that Torchlight 2 does a fantastic job of emulating the game play that was found in that classic game and updates it with modern graphics in ways that Diablo 3 could not have dreamed of doing.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 01/28/13
Game Release: Torchlight II (EU, 09/20/12)
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