As a New Year’s resolution, I’ve decided to stop complaining about Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo III, you know, the long-awaited gaming blockbuster that betrayed its own faithful community by incorporating the developers’ greed into the gameplay mechanics. To help me in this endeavour, some very good friends gave me a copy of Runic Games’ Torchlight II, a “click and attack the monster” action RPG made by the folk who brought us Diablo and Diablo II, the games that garnered the aforementioned fanbase. Thanks again, Kivi and Zeemr!
Now, allow me to partake in the long-standing tradition of throwing my New Year’s resolution out the window mere moments after making it. From the replay value to the use of moderators to the virtual company you’re forced to keep, Torchlight II gets everything right that Diablo III got wrong, and I find it near impossible to discuss this gem without making comparisons to the turd Blizzard Entertainment released last year.
At the start of Torchlight II, you’re asked to select one of four classes for your hero, each with its own set of powers: outlanders have range DPS (damage-per-second); embermages can cast spells; engineers act as melee tanks; and berserkers come with melee DPS. As you gain levels and fame through your adventures, you acquire points to buy new skills or strengthen the ones you already have. This system allows each play-through with a new character to feel fresh, provided you choose different abilities.
Furthermore, Torchlight II enables you to invest your hard-earned points on the attributes of your choice, be they strength, dexterity, focus, or vitality. As such, you can customise your character to your play style no matter how weird. Want to use your berserker as an indestructible tank? The attribute system makes it possible as long as you spend your points in the right spot. In contrast, the evolution of your character in Diablo III is set in stone, so you have no reason to replay a same class unless you want an identical experience.
On the subject of diversity, players are given the choice between ten different animals to serve as their trusty companion, although why anyone would choose something other than the goggle-wearing ferret is beyond me. In addition to fighting by your side, your pet can run to town and sell the loot you find or buy healing potions. Admittedly, one could question the plausibility of a ferret carrying forty pieces of armor or of merchants trading with it, but these companions turn out a huge improvement on the Diablo III sidekicks, who rush headlong into mobs and get killed all while repeating the same five sentences ad nauseam.
Besides, you’ll learn to love your improbably capitalistic carrier pet after you and it defeat the bad guy and save the day as the payoff to countless hours of adventuring. For most games, that would be it, except for the possible reward of getting to start over on a harder difficulty. Although this option is available in Torchlight II, you can also head to the Mapworks and try a variety of randomly generated dungeons, each with a challenging boss at the end. This proves a fantastic feature, as repeating the same content over and over again with the same character can get tiring after a while, regardless of whether you call the most challenging level “Hell” or “Inferno”.
If the Mapworks don’t do it for you, you can browse the Web and find mods created by fans. These alter Torchlight II by adding new gear, new quests, new skills, etc. For my money, mods are a great way of breathing new life into a game, as fans from around the globe can generate new content much faster than a single team of developers. I can’t think of a single reason why a self-respecting game manufacturer would release a title that forbids the use of mods (*cough* Diablo III *cough*).
Whereas the bigwigs at Blizzard Entertainment let down Diablo fans by essentially declaring, “This is our game, and players will do as we say,” the creative minds at Runic Games seem to be projecting the following message with their latest release: “We made this game for you, so have fun!” They’ve taken everything that makes action RPGs addictive and extended it: you gain more abilities, find more loot, level up faster… The only thing that doesn’t get supercharged is the price. With a mere twenty dollar tag, Torchlight II isn’t just great value. It’s a spectacular game.