Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Torchlight 2: First Impressions



While I’ve never been a fan of the Diablo franchise, I was a great fan of the previous Torchlight, so I was really looking forward to grab the new Torchlight 2. 

With some friends we grabbed a 4-pack as soon as it hit the Steam store and got down to business.

Back to Torchlight… now with Multiplayer

One of the things we most repeated while playing Torchlight 1 was – “this game is so frigging awesome, pity it doesn’t have multiplayer…” – Well, now that suffering has come to an end. Torchlight 2 does feature multiplayer, and does it well. My first multiplayer game was a 7 hour marathon with very fast response and no lag whatsoever.  This was one of the critical points to me, as the battle speed in Torchlight is frenetic.

My first choice to delve back to the dungeons was an Outlander. The ranged, was my first class in Torchlight and I recall I loved the ricochet shot mechanic. So I tuned up a bit my visuals, got my pet (a ferret) ready, and dropped to the lobby where my two friends were waiting. Just then I noticed one of my friends had grabbed an Outlander too. So we ended with two Outlanders and a Berserk in the group.
My second character, a sturdy Engineer girl, with a fellow Outlander friend.

Character Customization

The first thing I loved in this game is the great amount of customization of the characters, either via items or skills. Despite we were having two outlanders in the group, we were different like night and day.

Skills are grouped in skill trees but they have no previous requirements aside from level, so you can freely pick the best of each world to fit into your play style. Never we had to worry about a skill being mandatory to progress and through the 25 levels we upped, only 2 skills we shared: the starting burst shot, and some bat invocation shot.

My friend decided to max his dual pistols and his passives abilities, thus choosing range and damage output as his primary focus. He is not fond of the keyboard so he limited himself to two maxed spammable skills. His pet was a bulldog, his armor, looked like a barbarian archer of sorts.

I, on the other side, love having lots of skills, so I soon found myself cross-building between the different skill trees for a lot of variety. Some Ricochet shots, and glaive throwing abilities, made me less dependent on the weapon, so I kept going from bows to pistols to shotguns as items got better. I paired the damage with utility skills that allowed me to back-flip out of combat and debuff enemies, so in the end I made myself a not so powerful, but far more versatile skillset. My tunic-like armor finished the picture for a complete different character played on the same Class.
My Outlander and his pet - as you can see, nothing to do with my friend´s Outlander.

Difficulty and leveling

One of the things I have to praise Runic for is the way enemies adapt to the parties. While you usually drift through lone monsters meant to be just “time-killers” to be munched upon, they are tough enough to justify using skills instead of auto-attacks, yet weak enough to not suppose a real threat.

When you get to the ambush points or mid-bosses you will face quite a challenge though. While they are not impossibly strong, the enemies can hold their ground and pack some punch. You will have to manage your resources well if you don’t want to be re-spawning at the nearest city.
Even alone you can charge into the horde and obliterate them without mercy.
Even if you stray away from the group, neither you nor your friends will be obliterated as the mobs seem to adapt to the number of present teammates, thus you will always face a decent challenge so the game doesn’t get too easy or too hard.

Leveling is also done at a steady pace, and it never took more than 10 minutes to reach the next level. This is one of the things that keeps me grabbed to the game:  As the skill points flow you have always your eye in the next best thing you can buy from those tempting skill trees.

Explorable Areas

The first impression on the game areas was really nice, the overworld is big and vast, with lots to explore, and if I am to judge by my friends in-game comments it is randomly generated because it didn’t match their previous gameplays.

One of my previous concerns about the original Torchlight was that the dungeons got repetitive due to few environment variations as you delved deeper.
Dungeons are still there and have a lot more detail now.
In Torchlight 2 you don’t get that boring feeling due to the dungeons being randomly fit on the overworld. This keeps you constantly switching from open surface environments (with their day/night cycles), to the tight passageways of dungeons sprawled across the land. 

Loot, portals and the meaning of live.

Torchlight loot is evenly distributed between the players, who don’t see what is dropping for fellow players. This is good because you usually don’t worry nor rage about what other’s drops are, and instead you keep chatting alive with news of notable items that might be interesting to others - or keep in secret items you are too greedy to share.
You can have the weapon but the pok√©mon is mine!! 
Portal waypoints in multiplayer are pretty cool, as each player can keep an active portal, which any player can use as a destination in his travels. To add on that, you can always teleport to your friend’s location from a portal waypoint so even if you die in the middle of a boss fight, you can re-spawn at the city for no cost and then portal your way to the fight in less than a minute (I talk from personal experience on this one).
This means death is almost a zero penalty issue in multiplayer as you will never lose anything from dying as long as your friends keeps themselves alive.

PvP

We’re not much into PvP but once we came back to town from our long dungeoneering we tried some for fun. I really doubt the game is meant to be balanced for PvP, as even at the same level, the ability of the Berserk to wipe Outlanders was out of question.
As long as you stay at the city you can die without worries or penalties so turning the cities into a battlefield is fun from time to time.


An example of badass enemies and cool environments.

Closing Comments

I am really glad I got Torchlight 2 and certainly is worth every one of the 15 bucks I paid for it. While the first Torchlight kinda got old with the time I’m sure I will be playing this one a lot for the next months, especially as soon as mods start being released.
Overall I highly recommend it.  I will not compare it to Diablo as I never played any of them, but for my hack and slash needs it has totally lived up to my expectations.

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