Review: Torchlight II delivers a fantastic experience from beginning to end

Following in the footsteps of its predecessors, pets return and provide both a moral and physical support for your character. Your primal companion travels alongside you and assists you in battle, most of the time dealing a considerable amount of damage, as well as tanking quite a bit of hits. While you’re stuck with the pet you choose when you create your character, it can take on various animal forms due to various caught fish in the game which shapeshift your little buddy. In addition, your pet serves as a delivery man of sorts, since you can stash your items into your pets inventory and then shipping it off to sell them. Your pet will leave your side only for two minutes and will return with gold streamlining the selling process since you no longer have to return to town to sell goods. 

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While old things return, new systems make their debut in the sequel, one of which is called the Charge Bar. Each class comes with a meter at the center bottom of the screen. By killing enemies and attacking them, you can fill up your bar and then expend the amount you accumulated for something special. For instance, Outlanders receive a buff that makes them considerably formidable. This bar further distinguishes the classes giving it that unique “umph.” The feature is interesting to say the least since it adds both diversity and depth to a genre lacking in innovation. 

What is combat without enemies to fight against? There are plenty of enemies for you to wrestle with in Torchlight II and while they may seem like pushovers in the early stages of the game, they’re hardly so later on. While it’s simple to just brute force your way, using skills, dodging, and kiting will help to move encounters along much faster. Each enemy won’t up put up a challenge in mere numbers, both in quantity and in the amount of damage they dish out. Special abilities such as pulling you in, pushing you away, or homing missile enemies will mix things up making sure you’re on your toes. If you do happen to fall it’s a hefty sum of gold to respawn where you’re at so it’s advised that you fight well. 

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Gold isn’t quite easy to acquire in the game, oddly, and this is due to how much gold is required in order to deck out your character. It takes an exorbitant amount to enchant weapons, disassemble items, or do anything. Luckily, you can easily get by without spending any gold and saving up your money for whenever you want to splurge for whatever reason is your best bet. 

Although Torchlight II stands up extremely well in terms of customization, combat, and loot-grabbing addictiveness, the game fails to deliver narratively. The intricate and stylistic cutscenes that feel like a Saturday-morning cartoon sets the premise for a fight between good and evil. Beyond that it’s quite unclear what exactly you’re fighting for, personally, leading to a huge disconnect between you and the world. 

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Not all things are sad in regards to the story. Due to its narrative, Torchlight II takes you to locales with varying visual aesthetic. This nice change of pace holds monotony and boredom at bay. You never overstay your welcome in one place for too long and often times you’re swept away to a new land at the perfect time. It’s still disappointing that the narrative ruins what could’ve attributed to an otherwise stellar game. 

Torchlight II doesn’t reinvent the genre nor does it takes leaps and bounds to push it towards a certain direction. Playing it safe with new and old systems that refine what’s already there, you might think that the game isn’t worth your time. However, the time that could be invested in this addictive, fabulous, and fun title, is well worth it. The verdict is thus: great!

Simon is a freelance gaming critic/journalist. He features a weekly column on GameZone called Nitpick. Follow him on Twitter @kayos90

Fun. Addictive. Consistent. Action-packed. These are all words that describe Torchlight II and it’s not hard to see why one would think so considering what the game attempts to do, it does well. Although the dungeon-based loot genre saw a massive increase in interest due to Diablo III’s release earlier this year, Torchlight II is a remedy for those that found problems with the former game. Packing in all of the bang that the genre is known for and streamlining many features while maintaining complexities for a measly 20 dollars might be a steal, even for those wary of the genre, so should you dive in? 

From the get-go, you have the option to choose one of four distinct classes. Whether you play as a magic user or a ranged damage dealer, it’s hard to go wrong as no class feels boring or useless. It’s all about what type of character you want to play. If you feel melee is up your alley then choose an Engineer or a Berserker and if that’s not your cup of tea then you have two other classes to choose from! 

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Even within your designated class, you have an abundance of skills to choose from to specialize your character. This allows for you to play with the same character over and over again and not get bored since you only have so many skill points you can use for your character. While Torchlight II doesn’t penalize you for unlocking random skills – there are few skill trees for each class – you’ll get the most damage and utility if you find an efficient build and stick to it. This doesn’t mean that one should focus on a cookie cutter build that he or she finds online but promotes experimentation and messing around. After all, one didn’t find excellent builds without trying things out. 

The various skills that you find are one way to customize your character but another deep and intricate part of the system are the stats that you allot when you level up. You get five skill points every single time you do and dedicating these points are just as important as you dedicating skill points for your skill tree. Just like the aforementioned system, the stat points are there for your experimentation. If you’re an Embermage, it’s highly encouraged that you focus on Focus considering this is the primary damage stat for this class. On the other hand, if you really want to, you can also build a tankier character with Vitality – though it’s not advised. 

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Of course, a loot-based game wouldn’t be anything without loot and in Torchlight II, the amount of loot you get is awesome. Searching for loot in games sometimes feels like a chore as 90% your drops are often standard items with the remaining percentage being the more rare items. This means that the rarest of items are hard to come by. This isn’t the case with Torchlight II. While you will be working and “farming” for good loot, the rates are good enough that you’ll feel the urge to keep on looking for more loot. It’s balanced out so that the players won’t feel too depressed about getting useless items and getting that “OH MY GOSH IT’S SO AMAZING” item. It also helps that the items you get are often times more useful than not. 

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The usefulness of the item is great due to the sheer variety of items that your characters can use. Although there are level or stat requirements – which works phenomenally due to it being either/or- every class has a variety of weapons to use or armor equipment that’s always useful. The only items that are truly useless are the ones you don’t care about and in that sense, the game rewards you every single time an item drops. 

In order to acquire loot you must be prepared for battle, but more importantly you must fight effectively. The combat in the game is a simple point-and-click system, as true for any game in the genre, utilizing mouse clicks for standard attacks and button keys for skills. You can map any of your skills to any of the number keys, or delegate them for items. It’s fairly standard and Torchlight II doesn’t mix it up in that regard.