It’s been eight years since the original Torchlight, developed by Runic Games, launched on Xbox 360 and there is no doubting its credentials in the dungeon crawler genre, with the only major complaints being that it didn’t last long enough and the story lacked. Switching the focus to Torchlight II though, a game that’s been sitting pretty on PC since 2012, and it’s finally arrived on Xbox One. Many have drawn comparisons to the pinnacle of dungeon crawling, Diablo III, so it’s fair to say that expectation levels are raised due to all of the praise Torchlight II has received.
But will Torchlight II be the action-RPG dungeon crawler to illuminate your gaming sessions for the foreseeable future, or has so much time passed that it’ll merely provide a flicker of enjoyment and feel outdated?
Before becoming enthralled in the world of Torchlight II, a new hero must be created for the quests ahead. There are four different classes to choose from, each possessing unique skills and differing base stats for Strength, Dexterity, Focus and Vitality attributes. Deciding whether to be the Berserker, the Embermage, the Engineer or the Outlander is the first big decision. For some reason, the game doesn’t actually explain what each class brings to the table; even though you can probably guess, you’re going into it blind which is a bit of a shame.
Essentially, the Berserker is a melee type who’s capable of summoning the spirits of wolves; the Embermage primarily casts powerful spells from range; the Engineer dabbles in the art of melee, whilst also being able to construct bots for assistance; and the Outlander mixes it up between ranged weaponry specialisation, curses and the mastery of a glaive. That’s ample choice to suit your particular playstyle, especially when the individual skill trees are factored in, but I’ll uncover more on those in due course.
Don’t expect to find much customisation in how your character is visually represented however, as the options are limiting and this is one of very few occasions that the game shows its age. Nevertheless, for the most part, I embraced the life of a generic looking Embermage with a trusty bulldog to fight by my side as a companion pet; other choices include an alpaca, a wolf, a molten imp, a chakawary, a ferret, and more.
The story begins with a delightful cutscene showing the previous heroes – the Alchemist, the Destroyer and the Vanquisher – putting an end to ancient creature Ordrak at the climax of the original Torchlight. Just when you think the war on evil is over, word comes through in the aftermath that the Alchemist is behaving strangely and wreaking havoc across the whole of Vilderan, starting with the town of Torchlight. As the new hero on the scene, you must follow the path of destruction, deal with the monstrosities left in his wake and find out why the Alchemist is causing such chaos.
Right from the outset you’ll bounce from quest to quest, engaging with numerous NPCs to do their bidding in return for a reward and edge ever-closer to the ultimate goal. Despite many of the quest givers providing a decent amount of text and, occasionally, voiced dialogue to add purpose to the adventure, everything gets lost in the action and it won’t take long until you’re skimming the text to get back to the fight. I think the problem is most of the NPCs aren’t interesting enough and the writing itself doesn’t draw you in.
The action in Torchlight II plays out from a birds-eye view perspective and initially, the only attacks at your disposal are a basic one and a skill. A variety of skills, spells and potions can be changed to different buttons at any time via the binding section, enabling you to create a setup that suits. Even with the eight slots for binding, it just doesn’t seem enough and this often leads to leaving out a few useful spells or skills.
Anyway, the assortment of unique skills that can be unlocked by levelling up is nothing short of impressive. Blasting foes with icy hailstorms, shocking them with a large ball of lightning or throwing fireballs never gets old. Factoring in the construction of healing bots and turrets, as well as the summoning of spirits and cursing abilities of other classes, it’s clear that Runic Games have done a terrific job in regards the skills. Just make sure you don’t run out of the precious mana as it’s a crucial fuel for using these skills.
On the contrary, the melee aspect is a bit of a letdown, mainly because the hit detection seems a little iffy and the aiming isn’t exactly easy. There are times that’ll see you wielding a sword against rather weak enemies and their health just doesn’t budge. So if you want my advice, grab a pistol, wand or even a cannon and just fire attacks off from a distance, which is remarkably more effective and surprisingly accurate in comparison.
Amongst the baddies and beasts lying in wait throughout are skeletons, bandits, goblins, assassins, trolls, spiders, wraiths and a whole load of other bizarre creatures. Variety is in no short supply, with fresh enemy types filtered in regularly, providing new attacks to avoid and great design choices to easily differentiate between them. The boss-like enemies are brilliant too, with the evil djinni Ezrek Khan posing a real test and looking badass, whilst the lion/dragon hybrid Manticore stands out as well. A lot of effort has gone into including a diverse bunch of enemies and it pays off, that’s for sure.
For the most part, you’ll roam around a selection of overworlds and dungeons, taking on anything that looks slightly menacing. The overworlds range from the snow-covered Frosted Hills to the desert-like Salt Barrens, but there are a fair few of these large areas to traverse and they are full of chests, enemies and dungeons. The latter of which provide some tricky objectives and challenges, such as destroying creature’s nests and wiping out entire floors of demonic beasts. One of the best though sees you having to slay swiftly and stay within a well-lit area, which moves, in order to avoid receiving constant damage – it’s just completely different to the rest.
Killing the enemies can reward XP, gold and items, with XP allowing you to level up and improve both the character attributes and unlock/upgrade skills. What I’m not particularly fond of is just about scraping by and making it to the recommended level for quests – and that’s by seeking out and eliminating every single foe in an area. Generally, the slain creatures don’t respawn, so you’ll not be able grind either really.
As for the items garnered from chests and fallen baddies, it’s fair to suggest that the inventory will be full in no time at all. With one-handed and two-handed weapons, rings, necklaces, boots, helmets, gloves and every other piece of armour imaginable, there’s plenty of choice when kitting out your guy (or lady) for the conflicts to come. There are a ton of bonuses to look out for as well, with particular equipment sets and rare or better items adding to attributes, providing elemental protection and such. I’m amazed at how much variety is in place and some of the armour looks damn cool to wear.
The bad news is that item drops are hit and miss, as one would probably expect due to the random aspect of gaining loot in an RPG, but it’s a tad frustrating to get great gear that’s of no use to your class. You could always sell the unwanted equipment and amass a large amount of gold to spend at one of the merchants in the safe area hubs like Zeryphesh. Unfortunately, merchants tend to stock a load of useless items that are either way too high of a level requirement or simply common junk that’ll offer little benefit. The hubs are good for stashing stuff for later though and it is in these places that you can buy enchantments to really add something special to a weapon or such.
So far nothing that has been mentioned already is too disconcerting, but it’s now time to shine a spotlight on the more troublesome side of Torchlight II, starting with the online multiplayer aspect.
The sheer thought of dungeon crawling alongside others around the world is exciting, but despite my best efforts, I’ve not managed to share my ventures with anyone. I host a game, no one joins, I join a game, it puts me into the game on my own and nobody ever comes in. It’s a lonely existence in which there is either a lack of people playing it or the matchmaking is broken. I’d hazard a guess at the latter.
More pressing issues include a penchant for the game failing to load up at all, enemies getting themselves trapped within the environment – rendering them unkillable – and a bug affecting the New Game Plus save files. Fortunately a patch is apparently in the works to fix the New Game Plus problem and bring about other improvements, but at the time of writing it’s still present for those who have completed the main acts.
Onto better things and the visuals don’t look bad at all, with environments given distinctive looks and enemies easily recognisable due to their appearances. It only falters in close-ups of your own character, whose model is a bit rough around the edges. The audio tracks have that adventurous vibe, providing a soundtrack that creates an atmosphere that doesn’t intrude or annoy. Disappointingly though, the voiceovers come across as boring and often get drowned out by the backing track.
For all the minor irritations, and a handful of slightly more concerning issues, Torchlight II on Xbox One is still a very good action-RPG that delivers in many of the key areas. You can’t complain about a lack of things to do as it’ll drag you in to its world of mindless fun and addictive looting for hours on end. The enemy variety, the inclusion of skills aplenty, a shed load of items to find and a selection of dissimilar locations ensure this is a worthy dungeon crawler. That’s as long as you’re able to overlook the multiplayer failings, the bugs, the limited bindings and the easily forgotten lore.
With all aspects weighed up, including the reasonable price point, you should certainly give Torchlight II a go and let it light up your life with what is an addictive dungeon crawling experience.