by Zee Salahuddin
reviewed on PC
Fight, loot, repeat
The game's combat is a visceral affair. Your character’s abilities, skills and weapons create a complex amalgamation of lively animations. Fire, frost, shock and poison interact to create a devastating cocktail of mayhem and destruction. Every seismic slam from the Engineer, every rapid fire from the Outlander, every frost wave from the Embermage, and every savage rush from the Beserker results a corresponding, satisfying crunch or thud. This crescendo of noises, coupled with the gorgeous visual cacophony, somehow result in one of the most immensely gratifying combat experiences ever crafted.
The swarm of monsters that the game throws at you envelops you, sometimes spawning infinitely, until you shatter their hideout to stem the flow. Boss fights are nerve-wrecking affairs, unrelenting in their ferocity, and full of pleasant (and unpleasant) surprises.
The loot is a never-ending deluge of items and weapons, propelling you from one quest to another. You replace older equipment constantly, endlessly updating your statistics, or adjusting to situations that demand a particular setup. The inventory fills up at an alarming rate and you quickly learn to be picky about what you pick up from the ground, despite having a pet taxi. You can keep two sets of primary weapons, readily swappable at the press of a key, even mid-combat. This means that you constantly upgrade two sets of weapons and switch between them when the situation demands a different strategy.
There are several sub-systems that enhance gameplay in a variety of ways. You have a pet from the start that will fight along your side in every battle and even has its own inventory. At the click of a button, you can send your pet to town to sell what it is carrying and ask it to bring back potions, fishing dynamite, town portal scrolls or identification scrolls. The pet will return in two minutes or less, bringing you the gold from the sales and the items you requested. This eliminates the need to ever go back to town, while you are out in the world rampaging through dungeons.
Fishing is a brilliant tie-in to your pet. The fish you catch has transformative abilities for your pet. You can turn it into a powerful mimic, a sturdy mole beast, a spider that webs your foes or a vicious beast. The effect can last a few minutes, or be permanent, depending on what type of fish you catch. If you do not like the deceptively simplistic fishing mini-game, you can also use fishing dynamite on fishing holes out in the world to collect your fish as it is literally blown out of the water.
There are seven different kinds of gems with a wide array of properties that can be socketed to enhance your weapon or armor. An NPC in town will attempt to randomly imbue your items with magic. Two NPCs recover either the socketed gems, or the item they were placed in. A transmutor is available to create new items using various recipes. A charge bar fills up during combat that boosts your stats and thus subtly coerces you into seeking additional enemies to vanquish at a constant rate.
Multiplayer and grievances
I teamed up with a few friends to try out the multiplayer side of Torchlight II. The resulting audio-visual splendor was enhanced fourfold but otherwise the experience was reminiscent of the single-player game. I do feel that the interface, particularly the chat frame, could have used a little more polish.
There are some minor bugs that are too frivolous and insignificant to mention. But one did catch my eye. As an Outlander, I picked up the Shadowling Ammo skill which occasionally spawns a Shadowling Bat when used. I did not enjoy the skill and re-specced it, only to find that its effect persisted.
For a game this good, it is a bit of a travesty that I cared more about the side-quests than I did for the main story. In all bluntness, I have yet to understand what the main arc of the story was all about. I could not bring myself to care much for the “why” of story, as much as I indulged myself in the magnificence of the “what”. That said, this is the only time I ever have played a video game that featured a weak main story and yet I did not care. The game is simply that good.
Torchlight II is an incredible achievement, the perfect blend of adventure, strategy and mind-blowing action. A simple way to explain Torchlight is to liken it to a conveyor belt. Skill points, character points, charge bar points, monsters and loot are brought to you in a seemingly endless supply, yet somehow making you hungry for more. The game has flaws, but they are so infrequent and so overshadowed by the plethora of redeeming qualities, that they might never have existed in the first place. This behemoth effort puts Triple-A titles to shame with its premise, heart and execution and you would be insane not to play Torchlight II.
Amazing graphics, satisfying sound, riveting combat, tons of customization, piles of loot and plenty of replay value, multiplayer is fun.
Multiplayer needed more UI polish, skill bugs, weak story.