Torchlight 2 Beta Review
This review will be updated periodically with more information as I explore more parts of the game.
So, the Torchlight 2 Closed Beta has begun, with hundreds of keys being sent across the ether of the internet to those lucky, brave few. Since getting my beta key two days ago (May 11th) I’ve been in a semi-conscious storm of limited sleep whilst putting an unearthly amount of hours into this fantastic game. Due to being an action-RPG and the nature of Torchlight 2 itself, this review aims to contain the minimum amount of spoilers and the maximum amount of the knowledge I’ve gathered from playing it. Enjoy!
For starters, Torchlight 2 now offers 4 classes instead the originals 3, and they are all quirky and fun in their own way. The Embermage is your standard spellcaster, dealing mass destruction with hurricanes of lightning bolts, hellfire, massive explosions and general chaos. The Outlander is a gunslinger capable of both long-range attacks with sniper-esque weapons, or short-range attacks with massive, lumbering shotguns or cannons. The Beserker is usually seen frothing at the mouth pouncing on their enemies and giving them a brass welcome with knuckledusters, a close-combat warrior excelling in fist fighting. The Engineer can fulfil many roles, from damage dealing with a massive wrench imbued with fiery death, or as support with the deployment of healing turrets. Each class has three talent trees, with the ability to spec into any which one. Currently, the beta trees are not fully fleshed out, with “?” icons stating skills that are not yet available.
Upon entering the world of Torchlight 2, the first thing that I noticed was the beautiful graphics and art style. The designers have opted for a cell-shaded style, which has been artfully done so as to not make the game appear cartoony, or to detract from the gloomy and creepy setting expected of dungeon crawlers. In fact, this very style has allowed the game to branch out into environments that other dungeon crawlers cannot tread due to their limiting graphic design; such as vast jungle-like ruins with stunning waterfalls that do not detract from the games setting.
The combat in Torchlight 2 is amazing, interactive and surprisingly visceral. The animations of both the player and their enemies are amazing, giving the player a real sense of actually being in a fight instead of clicking until that the enemy dies as in most dungeon crawlers of this ilk. The game itself is a lot more vast than the previous, with multiple environments to explore including caves, dungeons, open-world terrain, towns, villages, forests… the list goes on. A nice touch is a slightly destructible environment. By this I mean only that more items can be broken and looted, instead of just barrels and urns as in the original Torchlight.
What struck me most about Torchlight 2, was the detail of the character models, both player and enemy. This was particularly amazing seeing that there has been a vast increase in the sheer variety of enemies encountered. In the first few hours of beta gamplay, I came across more different types of enemies than I ever did throughout my entire 100+ hour original Torchlight playthrough. Going toe-to-toe with ratmen one second, ghosts the next, followed by skeletal hordes and armies of strange beastmen hybrids adds several layers of depth to the game. The enemies are truly incredible and diverse, with increased immersion gained by the loot they drop. What I mean by this is that, if you kill a ghost, ghost-like items will drop; such as ghastly pauldrons, or a cursed blade. This small detail went a long way in making me feel truly part of the engrossing world. There are also set pieces of armour in Torchlight 2, referring back to the ghastly items, a full set of these would give me +8 focus as an Outlander.
The combat system is much the same as the first, with a few minor tweaks to give the player a greater fighting experience. There is also the addition of something called ‘Charge bars’, which I shan’t lie, took me a little while to understand. Each class has a charge bar on their UI which has 5 possible charges. Charges are gained through fighting and killing enemies, and each level of charge unlocks certain abilities. A charge of one is usually a low-level damaging skill or buff, with higher charge levels resulting in more potent skills. The charge bar seems to be based on the difficulty level of the classes. For example, the Embermage is a basic, ‘noob-friendly’ class, and the charge bar reflects this with a standard generic increase in spell potency as the charges get higher. The Outlander and Engineer, however, are slightly harder classes to play, and their charge bars are a little more complex. Some of their charge bar skills require certain conditions, armour types, weapons types, even enemy types or co-op party make-up; therefore being a little more challenging to fully understand. The charge bar slowly decays over time, meaning that unless you’re constantly fighting, the highest charges are to be used on epic boss fights.
Talking of boss fights, there are mini-bosses everywhere. Everywhere. And this is a glorious thing. Due to the nature of the genre, Torchlight can become highly repetitive and, in some cases, can lose all challenge. With Torchlight 2, this is turned on its head with little mini-bosses dotting the landscape. These guys, whilst not as powerful as a fully-fledged Big Boss, are not to be mocked or underestimated. This is especially true with the unique and interesting mechanics that the bosses have. For example, I was happily killing a wailing throng of skeletons with my beautiful cannon, when this lumbering giant ogre came into view. An intense battle followed, where I just barely killed the blighter; when upon dying he split into two. Now, with hardly any health and fewer health potions, I had to kill these two guys who had the same build and ferocity of the first. Simple mechanics like this can really twist gameplay and quickly turn the tide against the player, which is brilliant. Other bosses I encountered could teleport, freeze me, summon minions and even fly a little bit.
One of the most beloved aspects of the original Torchlight was the players pet. That trusted companion that followed you into Hell’s Dungeons with a smile on its face and your enemies blood as its sustenance. In Torchlight 2, your pets have become even more awesome. As in the first game, pets can eat fish and turn into horrible monsters, they can attack your enemies, store your items, equip their own gear, and venture into town to sell your worthless junk items. However, a tiny feature has been added that I personally think is incredible. So, you’ve stocked your pet up with your unwanted loot to sell, and you notice that you’re running low on health potions. In the original, this meant teleporting back to town, but not in Torchlight 2. You can command your pet to buy things for you when you send them to town. You give your pet a shopping list. Simple, genius and an amazing feature. This means that you’re free to continue bashing skulls and smearing brains, whilst your pet goes ahead and does your menial chores for you.
The best improvement that Torchlight 2 offers over the original, is the addition of multiplayer. Co-op and social interaction in Torchlight 2 is seamless. The developers really did listen to their fans. Chatting, accessing your friends list, emotes, trading and joining a game is super easy to do. Clicking on a persons name in-game gives a dropdown to select these, and a huge game server list allows you to find games from the co-op menu. The co-op is stunning in Torchlight 2, with the players’ skills complementing each other, and allowing some very interesting and fun tactical moments. The loot in co-op is all instanced, so no one can come along and ninja your precious epics or gold – a very nice feature that a lot of multiplayer dungeon crawlers miss.
That’s it for now regarding my first impressions of the Torchlight 2 Beta. I’ll update this as often as I can as I play through the beta, so don’t forget to come back and check up! If you have any questions about the beta, leave a comment and I’ll try and answer them as best I can when I update this review.