Review by ShinesmanOW
"A tired and safe rehash of things you've probably played before"
Torchlight II (TL2) is an isometric fantasy loot based action role playing game by Runic Games, a sequel to a similar game released a few years back. It is a "Diablo Clone" in more ways than one, as the development team was involved in the classic games that defined the genre. As a "son of Diablo" it might have been interesting, but it's definitely a clone and offers little to anyone who's played other clones before except more of the same.
TL2 is a game with corporate thought process and indie production values, the worst of both worlds. It's OK, but that's not a recommendation.
__Overall: 6/10 (per GameFAQs, "Fair - game is okay, but there are many better")__
While not a terrible game, TL2 is mostly an uninspired rehash of existing loot ARPGs that doesn't offer anything that veterans of the genre haven't seen before. For a person who never played the classics of the genre it'd be a good play, and with a cheap price tag as games go it might be worth a spin. Like the original Torchlight, modding is actively encouraged by the developers and this review only covers the core game, not any mods.
It's a safe and boring copy of existing games, and while it might be technically better than some of the things it copies from, it is still a soulless copy that offers nothing that hasn't been done already except some cheap tricks.
If you've never played one of these games before, you might enjoy it. If you're terrified of new things and just want a safe "beer and pretzels" casual game, it'll probably be decent, and for the price it's not a huge investment if it isn't what you wanted.
In short, the gameplay falls flat for any veteran of the genre because of the "been there, done that" problem. Problems with the visuals (see below) also detract from the actual experience.
The game tries, almost desperately, to introduce quirky little options and capabilities to the loot. Not all weapons in the same class work the same way, for example hammers have a chance to stun enemies and shotguns have an area of effect. There are a lot of unusual abilities on the items, such as weapons that require you to kill a minimum number of enemies with the weapon before all of their attributes are available. The loot tries to be interesting, but other than the weapons it falls into the usual trap of any system where you have 14 inventory locations - individual pieces of gear tend to provide only minor bonuses that make no substantial difference to the way you play the game, and even the most epic pair of pants are ultimately just another pair of pants.
Like the predecessor (and like almost every other Diablo clone in existence), you gain stat points and skill points each level, and like the predecessor you also gain skill points for "fame" levels. Since you gain fame largely the same way you get experience levels, the outcome is mostly that you get more than one skill point each level. There are four classes, each with different abilities, though as in the original they also share a set of magic scrolls that any character can use. In addition to the different sets of skills, each class uses the "charge bar" mechanic differently. The charge bar functions as a Limit Break which gives you additional capabilities. For example, the Embermage can cast spells without using mana while charged.
The game, at least for the first part, is painfully easy even on the higher difficulty levels, and where it isn't easy the difficulty tends to be tedious "drink more potions" challenges where enemies simply have more health and it becomes a battle of attrition. Some of the bosses linked to achievements are indistinguishable from normal champion enemies, and this is a substantial disappointment given that the first game had interesting set piece boss fights which were decidedly unlike normal enemies.
___Story and Setting: 1/10___
It's a loot RPG and expectations are low; those low expectations are dead on. The story is a loose excuse to go kill stuff, and there's no reason to not skip all of the dialogue as fast as it comes up. The setting is painfully generic fantasy with a little bit of steampunk flavoring. None of this is explained, there is no backstory other than "big bad guy is big bad guy doing big bad guy things."
I have not included this in the aggregate score, I'm assuming the developers didn't even try and that most players just don't care.
Overall, the game is about what might be expected from an indie studio, and I've been light about adding this to the aggregate score. The only real complaint here is what boils down to interface problems because of poor visibility.
The art style for the game is cartoonish, and any fears about realistic depictions of violence are simply out the window. This is a choice, and a reasonable one for a casual game, and is not the reason for the low score. The low score mostly draws from the painfully low level of detail on most enemies, and the lack of contrast and detail impairs gameplay because it's often hard to see the enemies. The palettes used tend to be very muddled, and there are no extremes of light or darkness, which makes the game appear very bland.
The lack of realism is not the problem. It is, however, obvious that the graphics were designed to be cheap, not intentionally stylistic.
The sound effects for the game are tolerable, if unimpressive. The music is decent, sometimes even good, but it isn't anything special. The voice acting is uninspired, and to be honest I can't blame the voice actors, it'd be hard to get inspired about this game's plot or dialogue.
The game does what it's supposed to do, and the controls are easy to understand. The copious options in the configuration menu are very welcome. I encountered no stability problems and no obvious bugs, but I didn't do much with multiplayer and most of the reported problems have been with online play.
__Length and Replay Value 8/10__
Since there are four classes and astronomical numbers of theoretical builds as well as a hardcore mode, there is plenty of replayability available. Given the wholesale endorsement of modding, this fairly cheap game could last for a very long time if you find it enjoyable.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 11/12/12
Game Release: Torchlight II (US, 09/20/12)
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