Meanwhile, the character classes and experience trees allow for a little extra depth. The Engineer is a heavy-hitting melee dude, but one made more interesting by his adoption of a pseudo-magical steampunk technology, while the Outlander is more your ranged weapons specialist. The Bezerker is your fast-paced, in-your-face marauder, while the Embermage is your classic, spell-throwing damage-dealer. Beyond the basic weapons, however, each has a range of secondary talents, allowing them to unleash heavy magical attacks or summon beasts or robots. Allocating points to your main attributes and selecting or unlocking skills with each new level, each class can be tailored to a bewildering variety of different builds.
Pets win Prizes
And like Torchlight and Fate before it, Torchlight II provides you with a constant companion – though now you can have a wolf, panther, ferret or bulldog instead of the cat or dog of the original PC version. Pets play a number of roles, helping you fight, but also acting as a go-between you and the merchants in towns, selling your spare loot and returning with potions and supplies. Like Diablo III, Torchlight II doesn’t want to make you do anything that might pull you out of the action. You don’t have to slip out of a dungeon just because your backpack is full or you need to resupply, while mobile questgivers and generous waypoints keep backtracking down to an absolute minimum.
Visuals and Atmosphere
Diablo III has the edge on Torchlight II when it comes to levels of detail, the story and the brooding atmosphere, but in some ways Torchlight turns this to its advantage: it cares enough to deliver compelling reasons to hit the next dungeon, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are flashes of humour and geek-culture references everywhere, and the visuals have a lighter palette with lots of big, sweeping, flashing effects. And if the look is a bit cartoony, then the landscapes still contain majestic vistas, and there are some superb artistic touches if you look. The dungeons are superbly paced, and while the combat doesn’t have the depth of Diablo’s more involved skill systems, you don’t really notice in the heat of battle. Torchlight II is just a whole lot of fun.
That’s true when played solo, but double if you’re playing online with someone you know. Here we have a few grumbles. The game supports 2 to 6 player online action, but there’s no matchmaking – just a basic browser that gives you a rough idea of the level of the players involved. Loot is sensibly arranged so that you get your own share and don’t have to scramble for it, but all the same it’s a bit of an anonymous experience when played with strangers. With friends, however, we can imagine it taking off, and it’s possible to password protect games to stop strangers cutting in and taking spaces.
The icing on the cake is the price. You can buy one copy of Torchlight II for just £15, or gang together with three mates and buy a four-pack for £45. There’s no messing around with any always online nonsense, and the game plays well at high detail levels on fairly modest hardware (we've been playing it maxed out on a laptop with a mid-range mobile GPU here). This makes Torchlight II a bargain, whether you’ve had your fill of Diablo III or not. If you have ever enjoyed an action RPG, then you almost need a reason not to buy it.
Torchlight II isn’t necessarily a Diablo III-killer, but it’s a beautifully crafted, hugely addictive and richly lovable rival. It’s a game full of colour and bold personality, with deep character advancement and masses of gameplay, and the introduction of online play only makes it better. At £15 it’s a steal, but find three friends and buy the bundle and you have one of the best deals in PC gaming.