by Derk Bil
previewed on PC
It began in Torchlight
Talk about Torchlight and you will be hard pressed to resist the urge to bring up the Diablo franchise. In some ways the two franchises could be considered siblings, after all, many of Runic Games’ founders stood at Diablo’s inception back in the days of Blizzard North. Of course I did not know this when I first grabbed myself a digital copy of the game. I just saw a decent looking Diablo clone and a cheap one at that. I have spent an incredible amount of hours playing the game as it turned out to be that proverbial diamond in the rough. So Torchlight tasted like more and I could hardly contain my excitement when I read the announcement of Torchlight II.
With two hundred fun-filled hours under my belt I was left with the feeling that all the game was missing was multiplayer. Chats with my Steam buddies – half of which have bought the game as well – showed I was not the only one pining for a multiplayer component, far from it even. Fans have asked for multiplayer so much that Runic Games have announced that Torchlight II will ship with a co-op mode so the game can be enjoyed with friends. A player versus player mode may appear in the game through the implementation of an arena but it didn’t strike me as a main concern when the developers were demonstrating the game to me at Gamescom last month.
Some of the existing gameplay mechanics will be modified to support the new multiplayer mode. A good example of this is found in the maps that players could buy from vendors or receive as rewards for completed quests and then use to access new areas and dungeons. In Torchlight II you can make copies of these maps and distribute them to your friends so that you can both venture through the same dungeon together.
And there are new classes to be played too! Goodbye Alchemist, Vanquisher and Destroyer. Hello Railman, Outlander and two yet-to-be-announced buddies. The Railman is a 2-handed melee class that, contrary to what one might expect from a tank, doesn’t look very Schwarzenegger-like. This is because the Railman wears an ember-powered suit that fuels his abilities; he’s a bit like Iron Man in that respect but with that Torchlight steam punk flair to it. The Outlander is a ranged class that dabbles in magic. The name of the class has something of a Mad Max-ian ring to it while its appearance reminded me more of some nomadic spiritual geek, freshly arrived from the nearest desert.
There’s more to character customization in the sequel than there was in the original. No longer are you forced into playing one particular class if you insist on your avatar being a foxy female or a bulky brute. In the first game you could pick your characters’ name, one of the three classes and choose from either a cat or a dog to go with it. In Torchlight II you will be able to pick your class, then decide on your characters’ gender and then do some further customizing. The pets also return, accompanied by some new friends, like ferrets for instance.
Playable classes from the original Torchlight may make a return of some kind, but likely as NPCs, not as playable characters. Perhaps the success they had in the first game has gone to their heads and they went from savior to scourge, who knows. Either way, Syl, the sage who was featured in Torchlight will make her return and guide you as you venture through Estheria and all that lurks below its surface.
Quite some effort was put into making the world outside the dungeons broad and eventful. Whereas the surface areas were rather safe in the original game, Torchlight II’s will be riddled with beasties that attempt to lay waste to you. Some will simply be draped all over the map but others may spawn from a spell cast by a boss creature looking to whoop your ass for disturbing his peace. Venturing outside also means having to deal with everyone’s favorite subject: the weather. Outside areas now have day to night cycles as well as random weather effects.
You may get the impression that Torchlight II will be a completely different game. It is true that there will be many changes but everything that made the old game great will still be there in the sequel. Random dungeons, using your pet to sell off excess goodies, the ability to modify your game using fan made mods, the retirement system where you can heirloom one of your characters’ prized possessions to its successor, fishing and a tweaked user interface will all make their return. Achievements, an admittedly last-minute addition to the game, are conjured up for Torchlight II again but will be a far more streamlined experience this time around.
Runic Games also contracted an actual scriptwriter for concocting a story to go with the game. Considering the story in Torchlight was perhaps a bit cliché – even if quite amusing – I am sure a fleshed out storyline will be welcomed by many. My expectations are running high for this sequel which is slated to make its appearance some time before Diablo 3 will be released.