Three years ago, when Runic Games released the original Torchlight, the Diabloesque style of role-playing game had been in a dire need of a pick me-up. While essentially only an updated version of the original Diablo, Torchlight was a resounding success that reignited fan interest in that style of game, triggering a slew of titles built around that formula to hit the mainstream. Most of those titles though left quite a lot to be desired but the promise of Torchlight II had everyone’s hopes up but then we waited and waited and waited so more.
So much time went by that Diablo III, the 10 ton behemoth of a game that Torchlight II would undoubtedly be compared to, came out and just like that, buzz for Torchlight II was silenced. However something funny happened between the release of Diablo III and the release of Torchlight II, a lot of people became disenfranchised with Blizzard’s blockbuster and the torch was lit once again for Runic’s game. The good news is that they finally delivered and it is a very good game. The bad news is that it is not necessarily the Diablo killer many fans were hoping for.
Picking up where the story of the original game left off, The Alchemist has destroyed Torchlight and is now rampaging across the land. There is something about guardians, special powers and portals to other worlds that gets told but none of it means much of anything, ultimately only serving as a reason to travel from locale to locale. An argument could be made that the narrative in these types of games is always throw away but Torchlight II features a story that oftentimes takes itself far too seriously to come across as so utterly forgettable.
Rightly or wrongly, Torchlight II’s narrative is going to be compared to that of Diablo III, where Blizzard went above and beyond what is expected of the genre. They raised a bar for presentation of narrative and Torchlight II fails to reach it. Fortunately though, the core gameplay is as strong as ever, if highly derivative. Point. Click. Kill. Loot. Rinse and repeat. That is Torchlight II’s core gameplay loop and while not at all complicated, it works quite well at rewarding the player with ever-better loot to utilize (or sell).
Rewarding players on a consistent basis is something that Torchlight II does very well. Whether you log in for a quick 15 minutes and are awarded some new loot for your character or pet, or play a longer session and your character levels up in experience or fame, granting attribute and skill points, the game is always giving the player a reason to continue going forward. Unlike in Diablo III, I never quite felt like I was grinding in Torchlight II as the game was always providing me with something new making me want to play more and more and Runic has made it very easy to do so in more ways than one.
In many ways Torchlight II may seem like the anti-Diablo III as it does not require a constant online connection making it available to play anywhere and is an open and encouraging platform for mods. Runic seemingly took some notes from the complaints about Diablo III and made a super user experience friendly game.
While the gameplay and user experience have been polished to a nice shiny finish, visuals and sound are something of a mixed bag. Graphically, Torchlight II is a fine looking game. It might not be super graphically intensive but its art style really works for it, delivering a truly fantastical world filled with tons of color. On the flip side of that though is the audio in the game, which is truly mediocre. The soundtrack at times sounds like it was ripped from that of Diablo and Diablo II, the voice acting is dull, and the sound effects lack oomph. From a presentation standpoint Torchlight II is just kind of meh, which is a shame because it gets so much of the mechanical parts correct.
Sadly, so much of Torchlight II is derivative of the Diablo series that if one is not already a fan of those types of games, they will find little to like about Torchlight II. That said, everything about the game experience has been lovingly crafted and should bring a smile to the face of those that do enjoy dungeon crawling, loot quests.