by Josh Butler
previewed on PC
PC correctness gone mad
While all of this will be music to the ears of the initiated, the release date will not. Slipping past the scheduled May/June window, Runic CEO Max Schaefer now expects a July release, naming the Xbox version responsible. ‘Having to do the extra work with the interface has pushed us back a little bit’ says Schaefer, and early adopters who were playing Torchlight long before it graced XBLA may well curse the console for this intrusion. However, for those planning to join the ranks of Portal 2 PC gamers with pitchfork in hand, Schaefer adds that ‘optimisations and technical improvements’ that were made in the Xbox version’s development have now also been implemented on the PC, perhaps offering some vindication for the delay.
Whether this description of XBLA’s influence is indeed accurate or just a tactful attempt to quell the fury of PC gamers scorned, the improvements made since the previous game are already clear from what we have seen. Dungeon crawling veterans currently jonesing for Diablo III may scoff at the humble graphics, but Runic have managed to substantially tweak the new visuals without endangering the popular, super-deformed art style. New lighting touches give dungeons some much needed variety, and the effects associated with your attacks and spells have an increased sense of impact. However, the distinction between titles is most apparent when you escape the dungeons for new overground areas, which include day/night cycles, changing weather conditions, and random events to add a feeling of being in a moment in time while you are questing.
Time, money and goodwill
There is an obvious attempt to give a true feeling of adventure in Torchlight II, which wasn’t entirely possible in the repetitive dungeon trawling of its predecessor. Random dungeons still make an appearance, but with four separate lands currently planned - each with their own cultures, creatures and central town – the progress you make should feel more tangible as you travel from one area to the next. The plot reflects this dungeon break-out, as you leave the town of Torchlight on the trail of the Alchemist – a playable character from the first game - who has disappeared to seek out the corrupt force that is destroying the mystical Estherian race. Syl and the previously playable Destroyer are both expected to make early appearances, which should provide returning players with enough continuity to the previous game as they embark on an adventure away from the eponymous hub town.
Torchlight II appears to be a downloadable title destined to live up to its dungeon crawler pedigree. While many will wait for the inevitable demo and Steam sales to pick it up there already exists a goodwill towards the previous game that could see many players pre-ordering as an act of good faith after the experience they enjoyed so cheaply. Here’s hoping Torchlight II proves itself worthy of not only that investment of money and goodwill, but the time it will inevitably devour from those previously converted.