Torchlight II Beta Impressions
When my editor contacted me with the beta code for Torchlight II beta, I told myself to resist comparing it to Diablo III. After downloading the tiny (700 MB) client and logging in with a test character, the very first tip I saw on the loading screen was that scrolls of identification can be used to identify unknown items. This is a feature that was removed from Diablo III (in the form of scrolls), yet kept in (you identify by simply right-clicking the item). And in that moment I knew drawing parallels would be inevitable. But if you have only enough time to read the first paragraph of this preview, know that between the 800 pound gorilla that is Diablo III, and the cute little baby sequel from the studio that could, I mostly wanted to play the latter.
Mayhem is Better With Friends
The biggest addition, undoubtedly, is multiplayer. Torchlight was a great game, and certainly deserves the many accolades it received. However, it lacked a multiplayer component that even the developers later admitted was a shortsighted decision. Torchlight will return with multiplayer for 4-8 people. The exact number seems to be a matter of some debate as Runic officials have been quoted with the numbers 4, 6 and 8 at various points in time. But regardless of the number of players allowed, there will be multiplayer, and it will be glorious.
Unlike Diablo IIIís highly controversial decision to have no offline mode, Torchlight II can be played offline in single-player, via LAN with your friends, or on the official Runic servers seamlessly.
While we are discussing the inclusion of real life friends joining your game and wreaking havoc on the evils that lurk below, letís also give some consideration to the companion pets. In my brief time with Torchlight II, the one thing that I felt needs the most improvement are the companions. I know that a lot of thought has gone into creating these companions. For example, you can dispatch your pet with junk loot to sell to a vendor in town, all without ever having to leave the dimly-lit, dank comfort of the terrifying dungeon crawling with monsters. Not only that, your companion pet can also bring back supplies such as potions so you can continue on your rampage unabated.
That being said, I just couldnít care less about the pets. I have no control over them in combat, I donít care about managing their health and well-being, because they are, for all intents and purposes invincible, and they are as two-dimensional as the companions from the first iteration in the series.
A Class to Warm my Heart
There are four classes instead of the three that we saw with the first Torchlight game. The caster and ranger classes return, titled the Embermage and Outlander respectively. The melee class also returns in the form of the Berserker that likes to go toe-to-toe with everything. The newcomer is the Engineer, a heavy-weapons technology-based class. All in all the characters have seen some major overhauls, and the resulting cacophony from chain abilities creates a symphony that warms my dark side.