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I own a heck of a lot of games, and as a result I tend to play only a very short amount of any random one before the next one comes along. While I would like to get over this and finish more of the games I own, in the meantime I have started Snap Judgement to make use of the impressions I get from the start of a game. I do believe that the start of a game is one of it’s most important parts, and if it doesn’t catch you, then even if the end of it is awesome, you’re not likely to continue on. Hopefully my comments and opinions will help someone on the fence about trying a game!

Amount Played for Review: ~3 hours
Platform: PC

Whoa, a review of a beta? Hey, why not.

With the release of Diablo 3 being SLIGHTLY ahead of Runic’s schedule, they decided to get ahead of the game and do a beta weekend for their upcoming sequel from 18 to 21 May. Since I’ve already preordered the game, I decided to get in on it to check it out!

Torchlight 2 starts off with wanting to improve on the things that people had an issue with in the original game. Firstly, they actually have a co-op mode! 6 player, in fact. You can play either off-line, over a LAN, or through an online game. You can also make online servers that anyone can join, much like the old Diablo 2 system functioned. Players can drop in and out on the fly, and it seems like there’s a bit of scaling to handle additional players. And the best part? Loot is generated per-player, so the drops you see are for you and you alone.

The story of Torchlight 2 carries on a little bit after the end of Torchlight 1, where the big baddy has been released, and is now making a swath of destruction across the land. You, as one of 4 new classes; Embermage (elemental caster), Engineer (melee/gunner tank-ish that can summon drones for damage or healing), Berserker (dual-wield melee), and Outlander (gunner). Though the weapon niches is very fluid, as it seems all classes can equip everything, though each class has a skill that increases the effect of the class’ “favoured” weapons, while other skills require certain weapons to be equipped.

On the subject of weapons, Torchlight 2 has a wide range of different weapon categories, from your typical swords and axes to more unusual ones like a variety of guns (pistols, shotguns, and CANNONS) and the normal pool of magical weapons like staves and wands. The cannon, by the way, is pretty ridiculous. I got a unique one on one of my characters, and it was like a super powerful shotgun, utterly obliterating every enemy that happened to stand in front of my character. This is, actually, a good attribute of most weapons; it seems that the good majority of weapons have some passive AoE on them, be it partial damage or full damage, to help with handling the massive swarms of enemies that your typical Diablo-like has.

But not everything they’ve done was modernization changes. At the same time that Diablo is streamlining the character management to get rid of cruft that is no longer really necessary in the genre, Torchlight 2 still embraces the old idea of statpoints on level up and talent points. At each level, you gain 5 points to distribute across your 4 stats: Strength (increases weapon damage), Dexterity (Crit and dodge rate), Focus (MP and elemental damage), and Vitality (Health and block). Equipment also requires certain amounts of various stats to be able to be used, however Runic also throws in a nice touch to this and also gives these pieces of equipment a minimum level that lets you bypass the stat requirement.

Like Torchlight 1, the skill system isn’t really so much a “tree” per say, since there’s no requirement to put points in previous skills to get later ones, which is a great improvement over Diablo 2’s system. However, I’m still not sure I like the idea of getting skill points each level to toss into powers to level them up anymore. That said, there is still not a large number of skills, and depending on how you want to build your character, you can even ignore most of the skills entirely, helping you further. For example, the Engineer’s three skill trees include one based on two-handed weapons, one based on summoning drones, and one based on one-handed weapon/shield tanking. This means that if you’re planning to be a Sword and Board tanker, you have an entire tree of skills that you will be ignoring entirely.

That said, the Outlander’s 3 trees are all things that you could theoretically use no matter what guns you’re using, but you can ignore parts of each tree if you’re using different types of guns (for example, many of the Outlander’s weapon skills only work with pistols, bows, crossbows, and shotguns, so if you want to use cannons or rifles, you can’t make use of those skills at all).

But these are kind of minor things. There are people who are upset that Diablo 3 is streamlining this, even if I think they’re a bit silly. In that case, Torchlight 2 is the game for them, bringing back the sensibilities of the Diablo 2 era, while modernizing the engine. And also loot. Lots and lots of loot. Speaking of loot, another thing I really like about loot in Torchlight 2 is that items on the ground will only say what type of equipment and rarity it is (ie Shortsword, Ring Mail, etc), and then it’ll say what the full item type is in your inventory. As well, entirely unidentified items are a bit uncommon, because you can identify items by being of a certain level automatically, though Unique rarity items always require the use of an identification scroll.

Overall, if you are a big fan of the action RPG/loot gathering style of game (IE Diablo clones), then Torchlight 2 is definitely right up your alley. The game is currently available for preorder on both Steam and at Runic directly. Preordering through Steam gives a copy of the original game for free, while preordering directly through Runic gives beta access to Cryptic’s upcoming MMO, Neverwinter. Steam also currently has a special where you can get 4 copies of the game for the price of 3, to give away to your friends (which also gives 4 copies of Torchlight 1), so you can all play together when the game comes out (hopefully) sometime this summer!

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