Though not too well-versed in the dungeon crawler genre, I found myself a little disenchanted with the genre this summer while playing Heroes of Ruin. The genre itself offers countless opportunities for a game to fall to cliché or monotony, and the ambitious handheld offering suffered for these reasons. I mention this seemingly unrelated title because if it demonstrated the genre’s faults to me, Torchlight II almost certainly reinvigorated my understanding of what makes this sort of adventure such an addicting experience.
Torchlight II starts players off with a quick cutscene, meant to bridge the original to this sequel, but for the most part, the story is rarely the focus. The Alchemist has been overtaken by evil, corrupted to the point that only the player as one of four playable classes can stop this evil force. The impetus for the quest, however, should be of little consequence to you – you’ll meet characters in peril or those seeking some other aid, but your reasons for completing the few dozen hour adventure will most likely be because of gameplay and less because of narrative.
Torchlight II immediately shows off its suite of customization options. Choosing from the available classes – the Engineer, the Outlander, the Berserker and the Embermage. As a frequent lover of all characters magic-based, I played primarily with the Embermage wielding a staff and elemental magic along my travels. And though you may want to hop around into different saves to test out each class, as each definitely has strengths worth exploring, you’ll likely want to stick to one choice.
After choosing a class, its visage and a pet to tag along, you begin to slowly realize how important each choice in the game is. Building your character truly affords you the opportunity to suit the game to your play style. I loved standing back from each skirmish, raining an icy storm down upon the foes while sending projectile fireballs intermittently into the fray. Yet if I would rather boost up my mage’s more melee-specific attacks, I had that option as well. Alternatively, I could have turned all my attention to upgrading one element’s set of attacks, specializing in fire, ice or lightning abilities, and by honing attention and doling out points to only a few skill trees, I discovered a number of far more enticing and powerful weapons at my disposal.
Developer Runic Games smartly addresses the many options it provides players even if the developer does not offer a radical shift to these concepts. Still, it’s impressive to have a pet character run around as an aid in battle and an extra inventory mechanism that can venture into towns and sell items. Weapons and gear can be modified with gems and spells, though these changes are not final once implemented.
The upgrade system for skills, which permanently alters your character, save for a minor respec offering, is just one of the many options the title delivers on when shaping the experience as your own. From stats that can be boosted with each level gained to a host of weapon and item slots to fill to your heart’s content, I had a fantastic time simply altering my character’s appearance and powers. It’s hardly a revolutionary notion, but Torchlight II pulls off these options so well with the slew of choices available that I found it difficult to not become invested in my character, even if the story failed to make me care in such an emotional sense.
Thankfully, the gameplay reflects the desire to continually fine tune whatever playable character is chosen. Where the game lacks in a meaningful narrative, it more than makes up for it in the sheer amount of things to do. Sure, at the heart of it all, I did nothing but click my mouse repeatedly for hours, yet Torchlight II continually threw something new at me every few moments. Whether it was a new enemy to fight, randomized loot drops to collect or another character inviting me on a quest, I rarely spent time in-game simply traversing the landscape. This is not to say that exploring the world is a fruitless endeavor; I found the art style a joy to discover despite its dissonance with my frequently battling.
The game nearly always bombarded me in the wild with enemy after enemy to face. From feral foes to the undead to armored brutes, almost every thing I came across wanted to kill me. The frequency of fighting is at some odds with the art style, but I loved venturing out into the many new environments and discovering a unique portion of the world. The variation in locale creates an epic sense of scale that also contributes to the often occurring feeling I had that the game continued to show me new offerings every few mouse clicks.
Of course, despite this recurring impression, I still found adventuring by myself to be a somewhat more mundane affair. The game truly comes alive when playing with friends. I found the title addicting while on my own, but absolutely engrossing as my friends and I battled our way through catacombs infested with hordes of the undead. The single player experience is not a bad one; far from it, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time as part of a team and would recommend dabbling in both options to find what best suits the level of customization you desire.
Overall, I didn’t come away impressed by Torchlight II revolutionizing the way I play dungeon crawlers. Instead, the title excited me by developing the hallmark mechanics of the genre to such a thorough and complex extent that it becomes difficult to pull away from the experience even in the face of the occasional bothersome slow down. If you’re prone to teaming up with a few friends and raiding enemies for loot, be warned – Torchlight II will likely ensnare you in its addicting trap for hours and hours of clicking.
Here’s the Rundown:
+ Beautiful art style for an expansive world
+ Skill trees, and character customization offers an almost alarming amount of options and specialization
+ Addicting desire to fine tune your character while going alone or with friends
- Don’t expect a deeply engrossing narrative
- Slowdown can disrupt the experience from time to time
8 and 8.5 represent a game that is a good experience overall. While there may be some issues that prevent it from being fantastic, these scores are for games that you feel would easily be worth a purchase.
Torchlight II was developed by Runic Games and published on Steam. It was released on September 20 for the MSRP of $19.99. A copy was provided to RipTen for the purposes of review.