The barrels on my pistols burned red hot in the darkness of the crypt. I looked around me at the corpses of the undead. The bodies of skeletons, wraiths and zombies lay scattered in pieces around me, their flesh and bone a reminder to any dark forces nearby that I was on the move. I stood there for a moment: my thoughts returned to home and I wondered when it was going to end.
A warm wet nose gently nuzzled against my leg. I placed my hand against Wolf’s head and stroked his neck. “Not much longer boy. This will soon all be over, one way or another.” We searched amongst the carnage, looking for gold, weapons or any magic items that might be useful on our quest. Shortly after we’d picked our way though the We’d found about two hundred pieces of gold, a strange scroll, and a glowing crossbow. It never ceased to amaze me that even in death, men’s desire for gold still burnt strong in their cold hearts. I’d need to take the scroll and crossbow back to town for someone to look at, but that would have to wait. I pulled out my map and found my approximate location. In goal lay through the northern passage, but there was another passage that lay to the south. The gut was telling me that south was the way I should go.
I cocked my pistols and stepped through the southern passage, with Wolf following one step behind.
So Torchlight 2. Just a very brief bit of background, before we begin. Torchlight and it’s sequel Torchlight 2, are both developed by Runic Games. Runic Games has quite a few members from the original Diablo team that worked at Blizzard, and it clearly shows as you can see from the trailer below.
Now Torchlight 2 isn’t new, but it is currently on sale on Steam for $9.99. I’m bloody glad I did because Torchlight 2 seems to deliver in many of the ways Diablo 3 ultimately failed to, and this is mostly down to two things:
- Cool loot
- and stats
Torchlight 2 doesn’t drown you in completely useless vendor trash the way Diablo 3 does. In Diablo 3 you could grind for ages and not find any cool items for your character. When you did eventually find something cool, chances are it was useless to your character. The game was specifically designed this way in order to encourage you to use the gold and real money auction houses. Great for Blizzard and guys who like auctions, not so great for those of us who just want to play the game.
Diablo 3 doesn’t really have much going on when it comes to stats and character customization. When I first started playing Diablo 3, I enjoyed it but it still felt like a console game due to the simplification of a lot of the original things from Diablo 2. Unfortunately, the downside of this is that a lot of the specialisation that existed in Diablo 2 got thrown out the window, and as a result most of the builds for each class in Diablo 3 feel (even if they aren’t necessarily) samey. Torchlight 2 doesn’t have this problem. For example, I’m currently building an Outlander who is as squishy as hell, but fights extremely well from a distance. I use pets and skills that either slow or get inbetween me and my target so that I can pepper away at them with my pistols. I could have chosen to build a slightly tankier Outlander that gets up close and personal with shotgonnes (no, that’s not a typo) if I wanted to, and the playstyle and skillset would have been completely different.
These two things add up to simple factor that Diablo 3 completely lacks: making you feel like a total badass.
You see, when I play Diablo 3, I don’t feel like my character is getting any stronger or powerful because it’s so hard to find items that actually make you into a killing machine (even if it’s only for a short while). Torchlight 2 has gotten that balance perfectly right. For example, I was nearing the end of a forest area near the start of the game, and it had been mildly taxing. Most of the monsters were pretty easy to kill, but occasionally I’d come across these guys with shields who were pretty tough to put down. While exploring the forest, I went down into a dungeon which was a fair bit harder, but I managed to survive it without dying. I came out of the dungeon, completed the quest and chose a pistol from the three rewards. I continued through the forest area and came upon a group of shielded monsters that had proven a challenge earlier. In a matter of moments I’d destroyed them. I charged through the rest of the forest like a madman, cutting through everything like a hot knife through butter. When I got to the next section, my all powerful pistol had averaged out again. But I still kept on playing. Why? It’s quite simple really. I wanted to find another pistol that would make me feel like, you guessed it, a total badass.
Another minor aspect, which Diablo 3 got kinda right, but this game gets better is exploration. The map very indicates the direction you need to go in order to complete objectives. This little arrow serves one purpose to people like me: pointing out that I should be exploring in every other direction before I head towards it. In Diablo 3 you did mostly get this, but sometimes you’d stumble upon key objectives and then think to yourself “Damn. Now I gotta go back and check out that other path!”
So if you liked Diablo, I’d really recommend you get this while it’s on sale. Really, $9.99 is not the kind of money that you’ll be going “Damn. That was a waste of cash.” Now if I could only figure out a way to get back the $60 I spent on Diablo 3…