Torchlight II Beta Impressions

Torchlight II Beta Impressions

The Torchlight II  beta has come and it has gone. Now that it's over, we've gathered our thoughts together to share with you, the internet. Check out our impressions below. Allen-

As the beta for Torchlight II neared its end, I decided it was high time to dig into the sequel to Runic Games’ 2009 action RPG hit. As was the case with the original game, Torchlight II shares many similarities to Blizzard’s Diablo franchise, as players control avatars from a top down perspective, fighting enemies, collecting loot and playing through a story set immediately after the first game.

Based on what I’ve seen, the knee jerk reaction is that the sequel offers everything that made Torchlight a fun game. The scope of the game has been increased and instead of exploring the depths of Torchlight’s mine, you’ll have free reign to travel the world in order to stop a greater evil that has stolen Ordrak’s essence. Moving from town to town, you’ll find yourself tackling all sorts of quests, many of which send you to various (randomized) dungeons filled with all sorts of monsters and treasure. Combat has been left relatively unchanged, as major abilities are mapped to the mouse buttons, but additional skills and inventories can be called up from the central hotbar. Always at your side is a stalwart pet who will aid you in battle and by feeding different kinds of fish, it will take on numerous forms to further aid you in battle.

Loot continues to play a large role in the game as consumables, weapons, gold and armor spring forth from every object in the game, be it monster or pile of rocks. You’ll find your gear constantly updated as better gloves, belts, shields and weapons become the spoils of battle. Identity Scrolls are needed when locating epic gear and Teleportation Scrolls can be used to quickly get you back into town to heal up or sell unwanted items (of course, you could just as easily send your pet off to do that for you). Ultimately, the gameplay feels relatively unchanged from the first game and as I mention several times in the video below, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

While the larger game world may entice players, online co-op will certainly sweeten the deal. Although an Internet match was the only game type available during the beta, players can choose between Single Player (which should assuage any Diablo III server fears), Internet and LAN. I found that the online multiplayer was quite unobtrusive and despite joining games created by other players they tended to go off and do their own thing, leaving me and my pet to my own devices. Granted, coordination between players can result in some fun Borderlands-style moments as friends can chat while tackling quests and monsters together. 

While betas are typically known for glitches, bugs and other technical mishaps, Torchlight II felt pretty stable and I never encountered any problems. All in all, the game is shaping to be just as solid as the original and should do quite well for itself when it is eventually released this summer. While you wait, Runic is offering an incentive to those who pre-order: Steam is giving away a free copy of the first Torchlight and Perfect World Entertainment is offering a beta key to their upcoming Dungeon & Dragons Neverwinter, an action RPG/MMO.

Jonathan

Having played the Torchlight II beta, I've come away with at least one epiphany: Torchlight II is more Torchlight. So to a large degree, if you’ve played Torchlight (or Diablo or Titan Quest or a billion other isometric dungeon crawlers) you’ll know what to expect. But that’s a good thing. You still click to attack enemies and you still have the smartest pet in all the land, one that can go to town and sell your ever-filling inventory of loot. The biggest change from the original game is the inclusion of co-op. You can now roam the world of Torchlight with up to five other players as you hack, slash, shoot, loot, dive, dip duck and dodge. You can even carry a big wrench if you play as an Engineer.

I found one problem with my time with Torchlights II’s beta: it’s not easy to do a “quick match.” Like many other co-op RPG before, T2 has you browse a server list and join a game. No big deal right? Well, it wouldn’t ’be if the game didn’t spawn in a town without any idea of where the other players were. And the world of Torchlight is pretty big. Obviously, my qualm has little bearing on groups of friends that want to play together as you can simply all join at the same time so that you can stay together. I’m simply not one to organize play sessions like that and would have really loved to see the inclusion of some sort of match-making.

But that’s okay, because Torchlight II is still really, really fun and I’m sad that the beta is over. But, hey, it did its job It got me excited for the game’s (hopefully) soon-to-be-announced release and to see what all of the new classes are like. I mainly played as an Outlander, which is a cross between the first game’s Vanquisher (i.e. rogue) and Alchemist (i.e. mage).  I only reached level 24 out of 100, but my Outlander Geralt and pet panther Guenhwyvar could already do some really interesting things. For instance, every time a killed an enemy, there was a chance a shadow demon would spawn and fight by my side. In hectic battles, it was not uncommon for me to have four or five shadow demons fighting with me in addition to my pet. And that was just one of my passive skills. Needless to say, I do look forward to more.

One big change that I noticed from the first game is the addition of a charge meter. Each class has its own meter that fills as you kill enemies and degrades when not. But unlike most other games, it’s not all or nothing. You don’t have to fill the meter to do a super attack. Instead, as the meter fills, it incrementally adds buffs to your character until it is full. I found this to be a really nice system that encouraged me to relentlessly attack enemies so that I could then attack faster and more efficiently.

On the graphics side, I think the game looks great and seems to run even more smoothly than the first one. I’m a big fan of the art style and glad to see it intact from the first game. There seemed to be a few more post-processing effects in affect, which made the game looks incredibly vibrant and sharp. Plus, the portion of the world I saw was already more visually diverse than the whole of the original Torchlight. So if this is the beta, the final product should look quite beautiful.

As Allen said, Torchlight II available for pre-order from Steam and Perfect World and will be available for $20.

As always, leave your comments below. What did you think of the beta?

Teen Services Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.