They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In the case of Runic Games’ Torchlight 2, sequel to the 2009 best-selling dungeon crawler of the same name, the imitation is that of Blizzard’s best-selling Diablo series. With good cause of course, as part of Runic Games’ team members hail from Blizzard, the developer responsible for the Diablo series. That’s why it’s no surprise that their newest installment, available on PC for a bargain price of $20.00, sticks so close to the formula that’s been a massive success. The question then is, does Torchlight 2 do enough to justify a purchase, or is it simply the same game reskinned? The answer is a resounding yes … and no.
Confused? Understandable, given that Torchlight 2 is a new game with certain improvements over the original. The first noticeable difference, one that was painfully absent on the first go-round is the inclusion of multiplayer. No longer is your quest an individual experience, as now you can now delve into the world with up to five others and receive added benefits. While enemies are more plentiful and certainly more difficult, the items they drop and the experience earned is far in excess of what you’d receive if you choose to go it alone. And don’t worry about stealing items or weapons you see lying around the world because each player will see only their own personal loot, which helps cut out the greed that other players undoubtedly possess.
Speaking of loot, its existence is really the driving force of the game, as it is for most in the Dungeon Crawler genre. Essentially, if you’re a player looking for a deep story Torchlight 2 is not for you. The story, done well enough to justify a second game, is explained simply as ‘throwaway’. Animated cut scenes play out between each act, giving players a good idea of what is happening in the world and what the overarching story actually is. You see, in the first game players adventured into the depths of the town of Torchlight to destroy a great evil, whereas now it’s been revealed that one of the former heroes orchestrated the entire event to gain supreme power. Now it’s your job to stop the traitor, all the while completing the countless side-quests, dispatching limitless enemies, and developing your character using a wide variety of skill options.
The gameplay itself is strikingly similar to its predecessor and the Diablo franchise as a whole. On a superficial level, you click things until they die, then pick up whatever it is they’ve dropped. It’s a simple explanation, sure, because far more goes into the process of ‘clicking things’ than simply doing it. As they level, each character will gain points to place into particular skills that unlock new combat options or increase the effectiveness of already unlocked skills. The trickery comes in when players start realizing that some skills compliment others and help make the game easier, something needed as you progress through multiple playthroughs.
Thankfully, the art style of Torchlight 2 has stayed relatively the same from the first game, utilizing bright, vivid colors throughout each level, regardless of the scenario. Caves, areas typically dark and dingy, feature colorful enemies that help offset the normally drab aesthetic. Complementing the dark recesses of the world are grassy plains, murky swamps, and other regions that are teeming with life, both hostile and passive, each featuring beautiful design decisions that help players feel like every area is unique in its own right. Character skills too, take a cue from the surrounding world and trigger different elemental attacks like fire or poison all while subjecting the player to an amazing show of beautiful explosions and deadly effects.
Torchlight 2 doesn’t do much to innovate on the role-playing, dungeon-crawling genre, but what it does is deliver a finely tuned experience for a bargain price. It’s clear that the team at Runic Games has poured an enormous amount of time ensuring that returning fans feel comfortable and find minor changes, while newcomers have no unexpected surprises or twists that would turn them off from a good time. While the gameplay is solid and the loot is ever-flowing, the absence of a deep story will turn some away. No game should ever hinge on a character’s equipment progression as the key reason to continue playing, but thankfully the gameplay is solid enough that players will get their money’s worth.
Overall Score - 8 out of 10