Available on PC through Steam
You shouldn’t be able to compare a vast blockbuster created by one of the world’s biggest studios in nearly ten years of development with a game three years in the making from a much smaller name, but it’s to Torchlight II’s credit that you can. Calling it a Diablo III killer would be classic fanboy hyperbole, but Torchlight II looks and feels just as slick and proves every bit as addictive. There are areas where it can’t hold up to its bigger name rival, but also areas in which – surprisingly – it might actually come out on top.
Torchlight II builds and expands on the original Torchlight, just as Torchlight built and expanded on the work done by much of the same team for the unreleased Mythos and lead designer’s indie favourite, Fate. Like those titles, it’s a classic dungeon-crawling action RPG in the mould of Diablo, but where Fate and Torchlight were constrained to a series of randomised dungeons located beneath a small town, Torchlight II features a larger world with three acts, multiple settings, and a longer quest. The three playable classes of the original now become four, with the Destroyer, Alchemist and Vanquisher replaced by the Engineer, the Outlander, the Bezerker and the Embermage, all now featuring a limited amount of customisation.
If you’ve played any of the Diablo games – not to mention Torchlight, Loki, Sacred or Titan Quest – then you’ll already be familiar with the gameplay. You play a lone hero, roaming through wilderness areas and dungeons, moving by clicking on the ground and fighting by clicking on a monster. Dead monsters mean loot and experience, while gold and equipment can also be gathered by opening chests, smashing urns and moving rocks. In hub areas you’ll find quest-givers who send you off to specific areas on specific tasks (though these invariably involve bashing and looting), and there’s some kind of story to keep you moving along.
Of course, you don’t really play it for the story, but the continuous feedback cycle where you bash monsters to get experience, stronger weapons and tougher armour, that experience, those weapons and that armour makes you better at tackling bigger monsters, and so you just can’t wait to see what they can do, leading to more experience, stronger weapons and tougher armour. Frankly, these games are catnip to a slightly geeky mentality, not just because we can’t resist the dungeons and dragons clichés, but because we also can’t resist finding out whether Vampiric Axe with bonus poison damage is an improvement on Vorpal Blade with bonus fire damage. We just can’t hold ourselves back from the constant spec comparisons and upgrade cycles.
The good news, then, is that Torchlight II has a very satisfying feedback loop. Monsters look mean, but on normal difficulty levels can be smashed to pulp in droves, and the dungeons throw out loot and experience like The Daily Mail Online throws out stories about celebrity weight problems and soap stars in bikinis. You can barely go ten minutes without opening the inventory window to see if you could equip some better bracers or up your damage-per-second rating by some piddling amount. Everything has an exotic design and a ridiculous or convoluted name, and the idea of having armour sets that confer additional bonuses is a touch of genius – who can resist collecting the lot?