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October 2nd, 2012, 11:59
Torchlight II

Torchlight is one of those games that its high praise and popularity always makes me wonder. It was an ordinary Diablo clone you see every year without any special features, (Actually, it lacked multi-player which is an important feature for this kind of game. ) and all of its other aspects like visuals, classes, story, characters, dialogues, quests, etc. were either standard, derivative, mediocre or below average. Why it was treated like it was the next big thing while there are many other clones that are as good (if not better) is beyond me.

Now, Torchlight 2 is definitely an improvement. Instead of dungeon descending structure of Torchlight (similar to Diablo 1), Torchlight 2 has vast environments and each one has various dungeons in it which sometimes have more than one floor. This way, the whole running and hacking and slashing is less repetitive and more encouraging. Also there is more of everything. There are more classes (4), more pets to choose from (8), more items and enemies and overall, more hours to burn. There is multi-player too of course which adding it was definitely a no-brainer.

Torchlight 2's story is pretty simple and shallow (anything other than that for an ARPG is a BIG surprise.) Alchemist, one of three characters you could choose in the first game, is corrupted (Diablo 2 anyone?) by the heart of Ordrak's emberblight essence which was the main source of corruption under the town of Torchlight. He gets mad, destroys the town and decides to do some stupid nonsense involving threatening the world and such which you have to prevent blah blah blah

Cut-scenes of the game which push the story forward and are shown at the end of each act are made by Klei Ent. , developer of stylish games, Shank and the recent arcade hit Mark of the Ninja. Although it's a good sign that Runic cared enough to give the responsibility to another professional studio, cut-scenes are not distinct or long enough to make it worth the cost.

Torchligh 2 classes are very different and their 3 tabs of skill in their skill tree are also different. I personally played with an embermage which I found most of its skills useless. But the few ones that were useful were both powerful and fun to use. Each skill has 15 levels and after each five level, a new ability or aspect of it is unlocked. ( 3 in total ) The interesting thing is that in your first play-through, you can't max (or even make it near max) any of the skills, even the initial ones. After the first few upgrades, the gap between the levels you get allowed to put a point in a certain skill gets bigger and bigger. So if you want to see the full potential of a certain skill, you'll have a long way ahead of you.

Torchlight 2 has the highest play hour/level up ratio in any RPG I know. In my near 3o hour play-through in the elite difficulty ( lower difficulties will take a lot less time. ) I was at level 53. Level-ups happen fast in T2 and this makes it a very fluid game with a fast pace. It also adds to the addiction. You're always like "one more level and I'm done for now" but you'll notice you can't ignore the lovely progress bar. It's just moving so fast.

Another thing that adds to the fast pace is the fact that nearly all of the side quest givers are at the entrance to the place where you have to finish the quest. This saves you from a lot of backtracking and checking the town to see if anything new is up.

T2 uses an interesting method for item requirements. Instead of having a restriction on both character's level and stats like other usual RPGs, T2 turns the "and" into an "or". Means you either need the right stats to use an item or the right level. For example, you can use a weapon 6 or 7 levels higher than yourself if you focused on increasing your strength. I don't know if T2 is the first game to use this method, but anyway, the implementation is great and it never breaks the game's balance.

Torchlight 2 visuals are pretty similar to the first game, but with more variety and it's also a lot smoother. There are 4 different areas in the game and each one is different compared to the other. Snowy plains, desert, forest and a mixture of a mine and a forge and all of them are changed before outstaying their welcome. Also dungeons of each section have a great variety and they range from spider nest and cockroach ridden sewers to temples and magic vaults. Overall, T2's graphical style (both for environments and monsters) has a nice vibe to it, albeit a bit cliché-ridden and generic.

Torchlight 2 soundtracks are very forgettable and none of them really stick in your head which is a shame considering the fact that Torchlight town's music in the first game was very good. Also some notes in some tracks are very similar (identical) to Diablo 2's soundtracks which is maybe Matt Uelmen's way of paying homage to his previous more memorable works. They better hope Activision/Blizzard doesn't sue.

Overall, T2 is an entertaining and addictive ARPG which rarely gets boring (because of the fast pace which is already mentioned) and that's a big plus for it, but being a pure Diablo clone, delivering all the goodness and badness of this overused sub-genre, is not enough anymore.
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