Just a few months ago, I called the XBLA version of Torchlight the most fun I’d had gaming so far in 2011. Portal 2 dethroned it, and I’m afraid that this fall’s Neverwinter is going to bump it slightly more, but none of this changes the fact that Torchlight will still be one of my top 2011 games. At E3, I was privileged enough to sit down and play through one of the random events (that was not so random for the sake of the demonstration) that make up Torchlight II’s explorable overworld, and I had an absolute blast.
Everything in Torchlight II is improved from Torchlight. Unfortunately, those improvements are not currently planned to translate over to XBLA. The desire is there, but the current priority is PC and Mac, so XBLA is taking a sad back seat. On PC, Torchlight II provides exponentially improved load times through smarter memory management and brings higher resolution textures and environments to the player’s screen. The game is no longer a series of dungeons with the central quest hub of Torchlight; the dungeons still exist, but are now joined by an explorable overworld full of random events and random dungeons that may or may not appear the same for every player. The game consists of four acts, includes LAN support, free online matchmaking, and mod tools for player campaign creation within the Torchlight II world.
The biggest improvement, of course, over the first Torchlight is the inclusion of multiplayer: something I felt would have given the first Torchlight a 100/100 score. Torchlight II’s multiplayer will most likely allow 4-8 party members (including yourself). If you complete a quest in someone else’s multiplayer game, it carries back over to your game. If you enter a dungeon first, you become the instance host. If you drop-out, the instance host is moved to another player. Online multiplayer can be played with mods applied as well (to the game, not the player; it’s not a cheat). The best thing about Torchlight II’s multiplayer, in my eyes, is the way loot is handled. whenever any loot is dropped/discovered/etc., a full set is spawned for each playing character, completely invisible to the rest of the party. This ensures that each player is rewarded for their efforts, and the actions of a greedy party member can’t deprive the rest of the party of the spoils of battle and exploration.
Torchlight’s characters (Alchemist, Destroyer, and Vanquisher) make appearances in Torchlight II as quest-givers, and are not playable. Instead there will be four new playable characters, three of which have been announced: Berkserker, Engineer, and Outlander. The Berserker is very animalistic and is highly attuned to nature. The Engineer wields a mighty hammer that can be charged for massive attack power. The Outlander is an acrobatic character, focused on speed and agility, and can work wonders with traps. New pets will be available as well. These characters will be taken through a linear story, with the option for exploring the massive overworld and its random events on the side, if the player so desires.
Torchlight II has a lot going for it: it’s an improved version of Torchlight, and Torchlight was already a great game; it’s cheaper than most large RPGs, but will still provide, at minimum, the same amount of play as Torchlight (more, if you explore the overworld and participate in random events); and it’s just plain awesome. Runic Games has taken the Diablo-esque RPG and given it new life with their unique Torchlight take. I can’t wait for the 2011 release to arrive.