by Zee Salahuddin
previewed on PC
Hack n’ Slash
Hack. Slash. Pummel. Shoot. Stab. Hammer. Cut. Break. Explode. Pulverize. This is the true core of the Torchlight series. I can talk at length about the environments and music (more on that later) and the myriad of features both old and new, but at the end of it all, Torchlight II is one of the most satisfyingly bloody games I have ever played. Every move, every attack, every counter, every ability is designed to create a sense of bloodlust and mayhem on your screen that can make the hours go by in moments. Runic promised an old-school hack-‘n-slash game, and in that, they have not disappointed.
Loot drives you forward, a never-ending conveyor belt of shiny new items that make you stronger, bigger, better, only to throw stronger, bigger and better enemies at you. The bloodshed never ends, the numbers keep getting larger, the loot keeps getting more epic, and you move from one point to the next, spinning, weaving, dodging, slicing, gutting, punching and slugging everything foolish enough to stand in your way. There have been times when I have found myself, bleary-eyed, sore from sitting hunched over for hours at my screen merrily slashing away at the monsters, only to stretch, rub my eyes, and press on, for those monsters won’t kill themselves!
Perhaps the best compliment I can give to the combat mechanics in Torchlight II is that the game makes you feel like a hero. Never so over-powered that you can feel comfortable pulling an entire battalion of baddies, but just enough to make you feel like you are the superior force in the room. Hordes of enemies reel from my crushing blows, and it all feels incredibly, ridiculously satisfying.
For the most part, Torchlight II seems like a major improvement over its predecessor. The graphics looks top-notch, cartoonish, but without getting too cute. The only area I managed to explore in the beta was Estherian Steppes region, but even in that space, the variety in environments is sufficient to show that the developers have really started to expand on their beloved universe, with creepy crypts and monster-infested temples below the surface to snowy mountains and barren wastelands above.
Diablo III may be an AAA title, with gorgeous and diverse environments, and massive production values, however, I can’t help but feel that the whole gothic identity makes the game feel like it takes itself too seriously. The greatest thing about Torchlight II is that despite its cartoony appearance, and its grim take on eviscerating enemies by the hundreds in repeated renditions of carefully choreographed chaos, it never feels like it is trying to be anything other than what was promised: a great hack-n’-slash in a lush world filled to the brim with stuff for you to kill and loot!
The areas, much like in Diablo, are randomly generated and the layout can vary dramatically. However critical elements, such as quest objectives, NPCs, quest-related monsters, bosses etc., will always spawn for each iteration of the world.
The music is crafted by the great Matt Uelmen, with carefully engineered, deep and moody tracks to accompany you in your hunt for loot down dimly-lit corridors and amidst piles of bloodied and beaten bodies.
Really, the only thing that actually feels out of place for Torchlight II is the fishing. I never understood the need for this mini-game. In a game designed to endlessly rampage through legions of arachnid, demonic, undead and otherworldly monstrosities, and collecting the piles of loot they drop, I don’t understand the design decision behind something as bland as fishing.
There is no release date yet, although the words “summer 2012” have been reported on more than a few occasions. Priced at only $20, there is just about no reason for you to not try this little gem and see what a dash of imagination and creativity from a little studio that could, can bring to the video gaming industry.