Torchlight 2 is the best spiritual successor to Diablo 2 that I have ever played. Runic Games took everything that I enjoyed about Blizzard’s dungeon crawling masterpiece as a child and updated them for the modern gaming market. That being said, the key tenets of Diablo-esque games are in tact. Whether it is the joy of watching a giant boss explode into a fountain of coins and loot or comparing each new item against your current set of gear, fans of dungeon crawlers will have a blast with Torchlight 2.
Before I get to into this review, I want to mention a mechanical feature in Torchlight 2 which many will overlook, but that I think is the most important reason that it is greater than the other ARPGs on the market currently. Torchlight 2 has singleplayer. I know it is a very sad world that we live in in which I have to say that the inclusion of singleplayer in a singleplayer game is a feature, but with games like Diablo 3 and Path of Exile running the ARPG market currently, being able to play TL2 without ANY lag or desync what-so-ever is a blessing. The Online multiplayer is also very easy to get started, with tons of filters for matchmaking and an easy to use friend’s list. It should also be noted that you can play TL2 over LAN.
At first glance, Torchlight 2 may seem to be a trimmed down version of D2, as it only has 4 classes as opposed to the traditional seven. While it is true that there are less options from the start, each class feels very open-ended, both in how one allocates skills and how the classes are played. Think of the classes less as predetermined playstyles and more centers for aesthetic gravity. An engineer looks and feels like an engineer should, but that doesn’t stop them from switching between shooting a giant, two-handed cannon and smashing people with a flaming, tech-hammer.
While the stat and skill allocation process remains very similar to Diablo 2, the stats themselves do very different things and players are not restricted to a linear approach to their skill trees. What I mean is that putting points into higher-level skill trees does not require putting points into lower-level skills that precede it. Each class also has 9 passive skills to put points into, which drastically change how a character plays. One of my favorite additions to D2 formula is that skills have tier bonuses, which is to say that after putting 5, 10 and finally 15 points into a skill, that skills unlocks special effects, more than just additional damage or a lowered mana cost. Choosing how many points to put into certain skills to gain certain tier bonuses is very important to min-maxing your character.
Monster and landscape diversity is the name of the game. No longer are you forced to fight endless hordes of demons or imps; Torchlight 2 is full of very interesting designed monsters and NPCs. The graphics are absolutely stunning albeit cartoony, in a World of Warcraft-esque way and the spell effects are fit to match. If you’re looking for a game to test your new PC, though, you might be better to look for the latest Crysis.
As far as I’m concerned, the story is great. What I mean to say is that Runic Games allows you to play the game without shoving the story down your throat. All I know is that it involves the protagonist from the previous Torchlight as the main antagonist, which is exactly the same story as in Diablo 2. I’m sure there is something great underneath it all, as there are some M. Knight Shyamalon twists throughout the game, but I was too busy enjoying blowing things up with my friends to care.
Now, this is a review, so I’m obligated to at least mention a problem that I had with Torchlight 2, even though it is incredibly minor. The ability to respec your skill points is limited initially to your last 3 skills that you’ve learned. That being said, there are rare potions in the game that allow you to respec skill and stat points, but more importantly, Torchlight 2 is part of the Steam Workshop, allowing easy access to any number of player-made modes that allow for easier respeccing, as well as a plethora of other mechanics, from new classes and items to graphical enhancements and additional settings.
My favorite addition to the D2 formula that Torchlight 2 presents is the importance of exploration. The zones are huge, without being confusing, which allows you to go exploring to find secret areas, dungeons and loot that the tunnel-visioned players might miss. A great example of this is the phase beast. These very rare monsters run around the landscape waiting to die. Once dead, the phase beast spawns a portal which teleports the player to a special area. In these phase beast zones the player or players are tasked with an objective, which range from simple enough to just complex enough to not be annoying. Once the objective is complete and the monsters are all slain, the whole area explodes in a rain of gold and treasure. This short and often overlooked experience best exemplifies all that is good about Torchlight 2.
In closing, you should buy Torchlight 2 right now. If you have friends, buy it for them or at least suggest it to them, as multiplayer is easy to access and a ton of fun. TL2 stands in the very cramped ARPG dungeon crawler market on the shoulders of giants and still manages to shine bright by taking all that was good about a classic in the genre and making it even better.