Torchlight II: A Rookie Perspective

Thanks to the untimely blue screen of death that flashed across my old laptop, I recently found myself strolling down to my local computer store and finally investing in a decent gaming PC. Which was sort of an inagural thing for me, since I hadn’t really had a computer that ran anything beyond some low-level games before.

As such, this is the first time I’ve ever had the chance to play a lootfest-style RPG like Torchlight II on PC. I played the original Torchlight on XBLA and loved it, but anyone who’s played both versions will attest to the fact that it’s a completely different animal on both platforms. And after spending time getting used to controls and learning the ropes about it, I’m happy to say that I’m officially a believer in the dungeon crawlers.

The first thing you’ll notice about Torchlight II is its striking visual style. It’s the highest of high fantasy in its aesthetic, but the cartoonish art style lends a very ethereal and stylistic quality to the game’s overall presentation, instantly drawing me in. Enemies are varied and inventive in their design, NPCs are creative and unique, and environments aren’t huge, but feel grand in a sense, due mostly to the game’s art style.

Being a story snob, it’s the plot in a game that ultimately hooks me. In my own personal hierarchy, story is the most important, as it gives me a reason to believe in the world and the character I interact with in a game. However, certain games see that gameplay eclipses story, forcing any sort of believable or compelling plot to take the back seat to the game’s overall execution. Torchlight II is the latter.

The game’s story isn’t great. Now, it should also be mentioned that it isn’t terrible; it just certainly isn’t anything to write home about (but why are you writing home about a game, anyway?). It’s really a patchwork of cliches, from battling beasts to finding sacred scrolls for elders in the town. Overall, it feels shallow and typical for the fantasy genre. And to be honest, I’ve played through multiple hours and still have no idea what the main quest is about or why I’m going around wrecking giant bears and goblin archers.

But strangely enough, I don’t care that I have no idea what the story is. And that’s because the gameplay itself is so good.

Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Every time I boot up Torchlight II and start playing, my dog will raise her head and give me a curious look, and my finger will start to cramp up. Why? Because of the CLICKING. Torchlight is all clicks, all the time, and I love it. Click to move, click to attack, click to switch items, click to unlock chests, click to send your pet to town. Really, for a PC gaming rookie such as myself, the mechanics are a dream.

But I’m not lying when I say that it took a while to get used to. Being a console gamer most of my life, I’m used to having control over my attacks at the press of a button. The lack of integration between me and my character felt a bit unnatural at first, and in the beginning, I found myself asking what the overall strategy even was in this game.

I soon found the answer to that after spending some time playing online with friends and shuffling through the game’s complex menu system: leveling up and building a character. Torchlight II is all about creating a character that suits your play style, and it’s executed with mastery. My  spiky-haired Berserker now deals out some serious damage with a host of impressive magic and weapon-based melee attacks whenever I engage in combat, and it’s becoming more and more seamless and satisfying every time I play. It’s one of those games that allow me to zone out a bit, listening to podcasts or music as I wander around taking random quests and laying waste to enemies as I score criticals and build my character.

And the loot. My goodness, this loot. Torchlight is a loot game through and through, and it has no qualms about it. Kill a slew of enemies, and you’ll be treated to piles of loot, be it potions, gold, scrolls, or weapons. It’s completely generous with its loot, and that’s what makes it so interesting.

Weapons are well balanced and varied to the point that you’ll be constantly dropping and switching through weapons to equip them. I found myself partial to the game’s rare swords and blades, but ranged and heavy weapons are interesting and engaging as well. The weapons drop frequently and all have different strengths and attributes that make them unique and special, giving combat that extra edge in satisfaction.

Probably one of the game’s biggest drawbacks for me, however, is the fact that its tutorial is very bare bones. In fact, it’s so bare bones that there’s hardly any at all. Now, it’s certainly not the most complicated PC game ever made, but it does have certain features and shortcuts that make the game a more painless experience. It took a combination of hints from other players and random button presses to find out shortcuts while sorting through the menu system before I started navigating it without the glazed-over feel I got the first time I opened it up. Maybe I’m just a whining noob, but it still is a bit daunting when you pull that thing up for the first time and have no idea what to do with it.

Despite my minor hangups with the game, I find Torchlight II to be one of the more interesting and unique games I’ve played this year. Due to my personal inexperience with the genre and PC gaming in general, I didn’t feel comfortable discussing the game in a traditional scored-review sense, but I did want to talk about it and my verdict on it as a newcomer to the genre. And my verdict is this: Whether you’re a dork noob like me or a grizzled PC gaming vet, buy the game. If you’re a fantasy fan, buy the game. If you’re a lootfest fan, buy the game. If you like games in general, buy the game. You won’t regret it.


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