Feb 21 2013

My First and Last Day of Torchlight 2

Published by at 11:00 am under Reviews,Video Games

torchlight1

As I try to keep up with every new, popular movie, TV show and video game, there can be a lot that slips through the cracks as there are only so many hours in the day. Last year, one of those things was Torchlight 2, a sequel to a game I very much liked.

I recently bought the game on Stream for the ludicrously low price of $10. Subsequently 8 of the last 24 hours have been spent playing the game, and I already have a level 38 character. But it’s been enough time where I don’t particularly feel the need to play much more past what I’ve experienced already.

Not to say the game is bad, it isn’t. It’s just that with the direction gameplay is moving, I believe I’ve experienced just about everything I’m going to with the game, and I’ll discuss exactly why that is the case below.

The original Torchlight was a such a huge success because it was essentially the sequel to Diablo 2 that everyone wanted. It used many of the same team members, and created an environment that was indeed an improvement in many areas over D2. Granted, it wasn’t nearly as deep, but it served as a demonstration of the type of quality of life improvements we would hope to see when D3 finally did arrive.

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Graphics aren’t the best, but they’re acceptable.

You had a pet that could sell items back at town for you so you didn’t waste a trip. You could respec your skills at any time to try out fun new builds. The game was simply D2, but a little easier to play due to a host of minor changes in the ARPG genre that almost everyone could agree were improvements.

But Torchlight 2 is perhaps the opposite. Diablo 3 is out, and therefore, Torchlight 2 has to be inevitably compared to it. Now, however, the shoe seems to be on the other foot. It’s Diablo 3 that seems like it’s made significant advances forward in the genre, while Torchlight 2 reminds us that despite our complaints, we have it rather good with D3.

Scrolls of Identity and Town Portals are back, something I can safely say no one missed when they went away in D3. We are reminded of what combat is like when strategy involves constant chugging of health and mana potions to stay alive.

The most disturbing aspect of all this however is a way Diablo moved forward, and Torchlight moved backward. The original Torchlight gave players the ability to refund their skill points to try out new an different builds. Many games in the genre are doing this, ie. Borderlands, and some, Diablo 3, have done away with it entirely in order to allow for more customization.

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Mad max?

Unfortunately, Torchlight 2 has taken a firm step backward in this regard, and I can’t  understand why. For a price, you can refund the last three skill points you place. It’s an annoying tease, and a useless one unless you simply invested in a new skill you ended up not liking.

This is most disappointing when you want to try out different builds with your character. I started with an engineer, and was a bit bummed when I saw he was essentially the equivalent of a 2-handed weapon smashing Barbarian. I was, however, heartened to learn that he could also wield a massive ranged cannon, and had a whole other skill set revolving around that type of weapon.

But alas, by that point in the game, I’d already sunk so many points into bashing-related skills, I couldn’t make the switch to ranged. Because I can’t respec, the only way I can experience that type of character is to start from scratch with a new engineer, and go down a different skill path.

Yes, I know that’s the way Diablo 2 did it, but it sucked then, and it sucks now. It only serves to artificially lengthen to game by forcing players to make new characters from scratch. Making four characters of four classes isn’t enough apparently, and the game wants you to make two or three copies of each to fully experience their range of skills. It also makes me extremely hesitant to put a point into ANY new skill. You have no idea whether or not it will be useful, and often the only way to tell is to level it up a few times to make it reasonably powerful. And then you’ll be past the three point refund limit.

In turn, this can make gameplay unbearably static. For the past eight hours I’ve sunk skill points into the same four abilities. All of my engagements involve smashing my hammer down creating a mini-fiery earthquake while being circled by a healing bot and a shooting bot. It’s a perfectly fun build, but I’m never going to be able to do anything else for as long as my character lives. With each ability having 15  levels, you will have to sink ALL your points into just a few to ensure you’re  maximizing your character’s potential. As fun as the build may be, after eight hours it’s getting tiresome, and I really want to see what it would be like to use a cannon. But I can’t, and I won’t be able to unless I re-do my character from scratch.

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I JUST WANT TO USE MY DAMN CANNON.

Torchlight 2 may not improve on Diablo 3, but it does improve on Torchlight 1. There is no singular dungeon that is essentially the entirety of the game. There are actual areas you roam through this time, and I actually like the fact that you can enter and exit the game without the map resetting. You can come back and what you’ve explored will still be explored, and what you’ve killed will still be killed. It would seem to make the game impossible to farm, but so far, I’m okay with it.

Strangely, the game doesn’t quite understand its own leveling system. For nearly the entire game, I’ve been forced into areas that warn me they are anywhere from 5 to 7 levels above my own level, and therefore are too dangerous to enter. But as enemies don’t respawn, I don’t really have a choice but to trudge forward. Fortunately, the promised insanely difficult enemies really aren’t all that hard at all, and I’ve yet to hit a difficulty wall. I’m not sure why they don’t just lower the suggested level indicators, because the alleged difficulty isn’t there. Maybe it’s a self-esteem boost to tell players they’re performing above their level?

You miss little things that you’ve gotten used to in Diablo 3, a game with more resources. That allows them to do things like customize every piece of armor for each class. When you don’t do that, you can get rather ridiculous outfits like my Engineer who wears fur lined armor with embedded animal teeth like a barbarian. Also, you really miss the easy stat comparison of items, which in D3 shows you exactly how much your armor or damage goes up or down before you need to bother equipping something.

But in the end, like always, Torchlight’s strength is in its value. For all this comparison to D3, Torchlight 2 is now 1/6th the price. And even with all I’ve criticized it for, it’s certainly not 1/6th as good a game. If you’re a fan of the genre, but on a budget, I’d highly recommend it. Just know that you’ll pay the price by having your characters locked in to unfamiliar builds, and you’ll lose some of the more modern advances in the genre that D3 has set forward. As for me? I think I’ve smashed about all the creatures I’m going to if the game won’t let me do anything else.





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8 responses so far

  • SheriffBart

    Engineer is OP in my opinion. Try the embermage for a better challenge. They’re a lot more squishy. You can respec your skillpoints from the console without it affecting multiplayer, so if you really want to try that cannon without remaking your toon, there’s that option.

  • ChiliDip

    I actually enjoyed this game and played almost the same exact build. I was a smashy engineer with a healing bot, flaming hammers and a bunch of passive skills because i found the other active skills to be pretty much useless. I had to use a crap ton of potions since i did encounter difficult enemies but i was on a higher difficulty. I’m a simple man of simple pleasures, i like my games straight forward where i can hit things and watch them explode. While i only played through once since I wasn’t going to go through again with a new build, i thoroughly enjoyed it for the week or two i played.

  • Draugr

    I agree with some of your points, but to pretend that diablo 3 did anything better is really baffling, but I suppose its a matter of taste. They could have been a little more forgiving when it comes to respecs, but I’m okay with them not letting you redo an entire character.

    As for your monsters not respawning problem, I believe there is a toggle you can set before you eneter the game that will repop monsters.

    Music was great of course, when it comes to diablo style soundtracks you can’t beat the original composer! :)

    Utimately Diablo 3 is bland because the way it’s designed regarding the AH and Item drops, I could make other criticisms, but these are the greatest . Diablo 3 will ultimately not have a fraction of the staying power of diablo 2, Which is still being played to this day.

    Engineer is definitely the easiest class.

  • Wermine

    ARPG’s by design, can’t have compelling gameplay for hundreds of hours. At first, when you level up your character, you can have a lot of variety when you test new skills. But when you reach the end game, you are going to pick the best skill set and stick with it. For hundreds of hours.

    Also you can’t have intricate, complex gameplay if you want to be efficient. Usually the most efficient way to dish out damage is also the most boring. I have troubles using a strategy where I use a lot of different skills, move a lot and use a lot of concentration for little effect when my friend just shift-clicks the most powerful aoe skill with ease and annihilates monsters ten times faster than I do.

    MOBA games have engaging gameplay because of team fights and ganks against other humans. ARPG’s just do not (well, some boss fights are intense). It’s just farming and farming and farming. Nevertheless, I still like both game types.

  • Korky

    If you want to see how it’s done: Path of Exile (free, beta, awesome).

  • http://nerdaverse.com theButterFly

    I too picked up TL2 not to long ago Paul, and I was struck by many of the same feelings as you have been. In an odd way it really strengthened my appreciation for the consequence free customization offered by D3’s mix and match skill system. I havn’t spent nearly as much time in the game as you, but came to about the same conclusions as I pumped point after point into the same one or two skills. The problem with a point system like this compared to D3, is that you never know what something is going to do until you try it out. Meaning you’ve potentially wasted a point if you pick the wrong skill.

    I did like the graphics and presentation of the game and found it serviceable. I just found it odd that my time with it would actually make me more fond of Blizzard’s new skill system in D3.

  • Wurm

    http://forums.runicgames.com/viewtopic.php?f=30&t=43248

    You can thank me later when you are blowing apart mobs with that big cannon.

    “It’s all about the Mods, baby; Uhh, uh-huh, yeah” /Weird Al

  • Jeff

    I understand and disagree with your opinion. I like the things you dislike about Torchlight 2, and dislike the things you like about Diablo 3. I also disagree with some of you points, especially since you seem to think you need to MAXIMIZE your skills to be effective.

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