Review by anema86

"About What You'd Expect"

7.5 is the score I'd actually like to give Torchlight 2, but Gamefaqs forces us to round--and this game certainly isn't worthy of an 8, so I'm rounding down.

Summary

Torchlight 2 is your typical Action RPG Lootfest. Most people call games of this genre Diablo clones, and they may be right, since Diablo certainly did define the genre, but it's not fair to label every Action RPG Lootfest as a "Diablo-clone" forever (especially since, if we wanted to do that, we'd have to acknowledge that Diablo is, in fact, a Gauntlet clone itself) anymore than it would be fair to label every FPS a "Goldeneye clone". I was never able to get into Diablo II, and I haven't played Diablo III; the majority of my ARPG gaming was done in a PSX game called "Darkstone" which was the epitome of average. Recently, I've fallen again into the genre with Realms of Ancient War, which, as Darkstone was, is about as average as something can get.

Torchlight 2 involves running around killing things in wild numbers, looting massive amounts of gold, gaining lots of experience, spending gold, performing quests, and upgrading equipment. I don't know whether it innovated the genre or not, as I've been out of it so long (and was never very into it in the first place), but it certainly is better than R.A.W.

Graphics: 4 / 10 (Below Average)

The first thing I noticed when I started up the game is that the graphics are almost identical to Blizzard's Warcraft 3. In all actuality, if you took the town-building aspects out of Warcraft 3, threw in tons of loot and much more frequent leveling, you'd have basically Torchlight 3. This isn't a bad thing; my favorite part of Warcraft 3 was raising my Heroes, and the level restrictions WC3 imposed were irritating. But the graphics are noticeably dated. They are basically what one could expect from an Indie developer which lacks the million-dollar budgets of mainstream companies. Spells look about how they would look in Warcraft 3, which isn't exactly a compliment since Blizzard's game was released a decade ago. But really, graphics are just the shell of a game, meant to simply show the player what is happening. To that end, they suffice.

I can't give the developers of Torchlight II slack on the Graphics because they are an Indie developer. The game has to be held to the same bar as every other game of the current generation, and they fall short of that bar.

Audio: 8 / 10 (Very nice)

The arpeggiated chords remind me so much of Pink Floyd that I'm often on the edge of my seat, waiting for "Speak To Me/Breathe" from Dark Side of the Moon to start. I'm not kidding. The ambient music of Torchlight 2 is *strongly* reminiscent of Dark Side of the Moon, particularly "Breathe." I'm a big Pink Floyd fan, so naturally I enjoy Torchlight's music--the only issue I really take with it is that while playing Torchlight, "Breathe" never does start.

The cat sounds like a cat. The voice-acting is a bit dry and taut, but that's not surprising. Most games get voice-acting wrong. Spell effects and explosions sound great, but they sound great in every game, so "sounding great" has really become the average for those types of sound effects.

Gameplay: 8.5 / 10

Since the Graphics and Audio are merely ways of communicating with the player, it's the Gameplay that forms the core of the game. As far as Action RPG Lootfests go, Torchlight 2 performs fantastically. The world is nicely segmented, preventing the player from gathering 25 quests at once, needing to go to 9 different regions, and having no idea where to begin. Torchlight 2 avoids this by sealing off parts of the world until certain accomplishments are made. I would have preferred a system more similar to Zelda's, where areas are sealed off not by guards or magic portals, but because the player doesn't have an item that will allow the player to get to the other side. Oh, well--it's a minor complaint.

I *hate* the controls. They took far too long for me to get used to. Left-clicking attacks with your weapon, right-clicking attacks with your selected spell, and left-clicking on the map is the only way to move. Do you see the problem? It surfaces very quickly--when you're fighting, you'll often end up accidentally running all over the map instead of beating the crap out of the enemies. If you're lucky, you'll catch the Loading Screen that informs you that you can hold Shift to stop character movement, which is useful--and necessary.

I also kept pushing 'W' while trying to move, which just caused me to switch between my two weapon sets until I finally broke the habit. There is a hotbar, and you can press the associated number to use a spell or potion, which is great, but 'Comma' and 'Period' are needed to change the selected spell that is cast when you right-click. I don't know who thought of this, but looking for Comma while in the middle of a fight is stupid.

*Any action the player has to perform that requires the player to take his or her eyes of the screen is BAD.* Players should *never* have to look at their controller/keyboard. And yes, it's a PC game, which thankfully means the controls can be set up largely to match the player's style, but the customization of controls should be there to allow the player to set up the controls to his or her personal idiosyncrasies, not to avoid a subpar control scheme.

The ability to get your pet to hold items for you is nice, and is a feature I hadn't experienced before. I was thrilled to find that I could also create a Shopping List and send my pet to town to get those things and sell the items it currently held. Your pet's also pretty tough for a cat (or whatever--I chose the cat because I have a cat in real life and like cats), and you can fish for items that give your pet buffs and change it temporarily into skeletons and wolves and stuff.

The loot this game throws at you is insane. Loot pours in constantly, as do experience points. Level balancing is excellent. You'll never have to grind, and you'll never feel like you are grinding. Skill points and stat points roll in quickly as a result, and the developer-approved Respec potion cheat allows you to have a LOT of fun maximizing and building your character. It would be nice to have a potion that allows me to re-do my stat points... I'll have to look into that, because there probably is one.

The gameplay is the usual Action RPG stuff. Kill hoards of enemies, loot lots of stuff, repeat until the game is over. It allows multiplayer both over LAN and the Internet, neither of which have I tried yet.

The equipment system is a bit overbearing and clunky, but like most ARPGs, the stat bonuses on your items don't have as much effect as you'd probably like. Still, games that offer 14 equipment slots and a new piece of equipment to examine every 4 seconds should have a better system of comparing and sorting loot. Most people may not bother to so carefully scrutinize every piece of loot, but we Min/Maxers *will*, and these games are basically designed with Min/Maxers as the target audience.

Can I say again how much I *HATE* Click-To-Move-Click-To-Attack systems? Why in the WORLD can't I move with WASD?

The difficulty spikes and drops randomly, too. One minute you'll be barrelling through hoards of monsters, and the next minute you're getting creamed. There appears to be no rhythm or logic to it. Boss fights are nothing special and are identical to every other fight, only that most bosses summon allies and take a lot of hits to kill. Other than that, I haven't found a difference between boss fights and normal fights.

Enemies don't respawn, so there is a hard cap on Experience and Levels, ultimately.

If you have too many enemies on the screen, if you pull two mobs for example, then the game goes a little haywire, and doesn't know how to handle the player's input. If you're ever surrounded by 30 or so monsters, you're going to die--not because of any fault of your own, but because the game doesn't seem to want to allow you to move.

Pros

-- Loot comes in very quickly
-- Experience and levels drip steadily onto the player
-- Gameplay is fast
-- The pet is an excellent addition to what would have been a hundrum game without it
-- Character customization is very deep
-- Music is reminiscent of Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon"

Cons

-- Hard-cap on levels and experience due to non-respawning monsters
-- Left-click both moves the player and attacks monsters
-- Changing the right-click spell (and a few other functions) require looking down
-- Difficulty varies wildly from one moment to the next, but even when it gets difficult, it's just a matter of having enough Potions to chug and drinking them fast enough to survive.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 11/19/12

Game Release: Torchlight II (US, 09/20/12)


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