Torchlight II Beta Preview
Preview by Omar Elaasar.
It's all about the little things.
The details, the small touches, they can make or break the game.
My first impression of Torchlight II? It's got all the little things in place. The first Torchlight was a lighthearted Action RPG loot-fest - the gaming equivalent of popcorn and a movie - best enjoyed with good music or a podcast. This time around I can't bring myself to do that. The game's just too smart, and it would be a disservice to the game to go through it with the music muted. Take the pets for instance. In the first game they served as companions in an otherwise lonely dungeon crawl, tag teaming enemies with you, and taking back unneeded loot back to the shops for selling. Now they can pick up potions and scrolls on the way back.
Brilliant. It's like having your own personal pizza delivery service. Hell, since you never need to leave the dungeons now, you might as well live in the dungeons. There's plenty of company, and it's already furnished with some delightfully ominous decorations.
Let's not forget about your other companions though: your friends. Or alternatively, the delightfully colorful denizens of the internet. Yes, Torchlight II has put down one of major criticisms of the first game, it's lack of multiplayer. In addition to having (entirely offline) singleplayer, you can take your characters online for some co-op adventuring, or to a wonderful LAN party. As of this moment, the offline and LAN features are disabled for the beta, but the full release will allow you to play with your characters in any mode without hassle. A strange thing to celebrate in this age, but there it is.
How about we get back to the small things for now? As they say, â€œthe devil's in the detailsâ€, or as they call him in Spanish, El Diablo! This is where Torchlight's heritage makes itself prominent. Runic, the team behind the series, is comprised partly of members of the team that made the original genre spawning descent to hell. In Torchlight II they prove they understand what makes the genre tick. Each weapon gives off meaty feedback on collision, and each weapon class has several unique animations. Skills open up interesting avenues of attack as well. Playing as the gun wielding Outlander I'd open up with my armor depleting rapid shot, and followed up with my ricocheting glaive for large damage. When enemies got close I'd lay into them with my shotgun before performing a blindness inducing backflip and gunning them down with my dual pistols. Even the passive skills remain interesting. One skill gives you a chance to temporarily change enemies into bats who fight for you, and the Bezerker's passive skills allow you to create a character who deals sustained criticals after a few kills and heals themselves with each hit. It's fast and fluid, though you may want to turn the difficulty up a bit to appreciate it. Even removed of the fountains of potions given to you in the first Torchlight, normal remains a bit of a pushover, more suited to casual slaughter than tactical play. Still, I was able to immediately jump into the harder difficulties, which is something I recommend for someone looking for a challenge.
One outstanding complaint I do have is that skills do take quite a bit of time before they become effective. They are a huge variety of skills split among the three major skill trees for each class, and each skill is split into fifteen levels of expertise. After learning a new skill, you'll have to spend the next couple levels putting points into it for it to truly become effective, especially since leveling gives you only one skill point (you can however, gain another by increasing you fame). It's a small bother, but it does stick out since it gets so many other details right: being able to teleport directly to a friend via way points, shortcuts for transferring items and closing menu screens, upfront mission descriptions and rewards, and unique and random dungeons, almost guaranteed to end in spectacular boss fights. Torchlight II is shaping up both in the small details and in the wide strokes. So far it's looking to be not only a worthy sequel, but a smart, streamlined entry into the genre.