A promise made
Max Schaeffer doesnít kid around when it comes to the Torchlight franchise. Before we were given the opportunity to have a go at Torchlight II, we talked about the immense success of the original. Last time we met, he boasted about that he would get a Torchlight tattoo if the game would sell over a million copies. It did and Max proudly showed a huge Torchlight robot sporting on his calf. How many game developers can claim the same dedication to the games that they create?
Of course we didnít come to see Maxí bodily adornments and were eager to sit down for some hands-on time with Torchlight II. Our first order of business was picking a class. Available in this build were the animalistic Berserker (dual-wielding melee), the exotic Outlander (a mix of ranged and magic) and the sophisticated Engineer - previously known as the Railman. The fourth class will be revealed soon and considering the game already features a ranged class and two melee classes, it is safe to assume that weíll see a magic wielding character added to the mix. I decided on the Outlander which is comparable to the Vanquisher of the original.
Everything is better!
Pretty much every aspect of Torchlight has been improved upon, but the most noteworthy is the fact that Torchlight II will feature multiplayer for up to eight players over LAN or Internet. On the single player side of things, a lot of effort was made to develop a good storyline, addressing one of the few complaints people had about the original.
The graphics received a good boost too and the game looks amazingly vibrant, even more so than the first one. And despite the colorful nature of the game, it still manages to retain its ominous ambiance. The interface has been cleaned up a bit and feels more spacious, yet very true to the style and tone set in Torchlight. Most of those tweaks work out for the better, but I also noticed one drawback: as I got caught up in fighting, I never noticed my health was becoming low. Being on the minimalistic side, there is no giant blood-colored orb showing when you are close to dying. Fortunately, I had a guardian angel peering over my shoulder, reminding me to check my health as I was about to run out. I quaffed the first of many health potions and was able to continue on my rampage without dying. Almost dying illustrates just how easily the game draws you in. Gameplay is both exciting and fluid and I quickly found myself getting hooked on Torchlight, again.
Keep it going
As my character leveled up, I was struck by the overhaul that the various panels had received. First and foremost, the game no longer pauses when you call up an information panel. The game has multiplayer now which means that obscuring your entire screen while pausing the game for every player in the game is simply not going to work. So the game keeps running and panels will only take up a third of your screen, leaving you able to see whatís going on while trying to decide on what skill to pick.
Iím sure many Role-Playing fans that have taken their games online will have experienced the frustration over having to decide who gets what loot. You wonít have to fight over dropped loot here though: your kill, your reward. Any loot dropped by someone you killed will only be visible to yourself. You can still share with others, but only when you drop items on the floor yourself become visible to other players.
This isnít Sparta
Switching characters, I opted to play the Berserker next. This character stands for some of the most frantic gameplay you can find in Torchlight and I lost track of everything except the enemies falling before me. I forgot about my health again but didnít die, possibly due to a bonus from some weapon or a skill that allowed my character to steal health from his foes. Either way, I was mowing down hordes of fantasy critters and loved every bit of it.
I reached a room with a big well in its center. It looked quiet but a little voice in the back of my mind told me something was wrong (other than hearing voices that is). Suddenly, skeletons started emerging from the well, followed by a huge troll-like creature. While plentiful, the skeletons werenít such an issue but the big green monster was another matter entirely. I was fortunate that it was quite sluggish but its vomit-attack was second to none. It was a struggle, but the monster was ultimately defeated, leaving us feel like the heroes we had proven to be.
Damn, itís good!
Max told us that the first Torchlight was priced as a budget title because of the lack of a multiplayer component. For a moment I thought he was gearing up to tell me that this time around, Torchlight II would go full-price, but nothing could be further from the truth. The sequel will sell for a similar price as the original and - considering the hours of fun that provided - Torchlight II will be an absolute bargain. In fact, right before heading over to Runic Games we had some hands-on time with Diablo III. Judging only based on the actual time we spent in both games, it is next to impossible to pick a favorite. An impressive feat, considering Torchlight II is roughly a decade less far removed from its predecessor.