Hah, got your attention with that one, didn’t I? I’ll be honest upfront: I can’t tell you if TL2 will be the better Diablo. A short story: I got into the TL2 beta weekend last week, the beta lasted from Saturday to Tuesday. I played TL2 for about an hour on Sunday and found out the hard way that Print Screen does jack all. Screenshots are bound to F6. Why, Runic Games, why? In any case, from that hour of playtime, I have zero screenshots. But that was cool, because I still had til Tuesday.
Monday morning, I decided to quickly finish my first playthrough of Diablo 3 on normal. I finally made it through to the Lord of Terror himself. Ate dust, tried again aaaaaand….BOOM! With a loud bang and the smell of silicone, my computer turned itself off. Took me most of the week to replace the dead power supply, and by that time the TL2 beta was over. 🙁 So instead of giving you a very detailed look at the beta, you’ll have to do with my rushed first impression.
I enjoyed the original Torchlight quite a bit. It was pretty much a one on one copy of Diablo, just with a different art style, less locales and a really crappy story. It made up for that with fun gameplay and the addition of innovation in the form of your pet companion that can return to town and sell all your shit for you. It was single-player only. Torchlight 2 seems to offer more of the same, but this time you get single-player, LAN and Internet multiplayer. The last two bits should make the heart of every oldschool Diablo LAN player sing. In the beta, you only had the option to use Internet play. It didn’t look quite as elegant as Diablo 3’s multiplayer. Inside a lobby, you can see all open games, and to play you create your own game. You can set the amount of maximum players for the game, and password protect it. Which I suppose is nice, no friends coming in to stomp your game if you haven’t told them the password yet.
Torchlight 2 is a game on a budget, and so the movie sequence at the start was fairly unexciting. In Torchlight, you killed Ordrak underneath the town of Torchlight, which supposedly brought an end to the corruption of the mines. Of course that didn’t work, as someone managed to steal the essence of power from Ordrak, destroyed the town of Torchlight and is now creating havoc everywhere he goes. It is up to the hero to stop this mysterious person. Yeah, so the story? Doesn’t feel much better than in the first part.
But what about the gameplay? In the first Torchlight, you were indoors at all times, first in mine levels, then in lush old ruins, etc. until you got to the final baddie at the bottom level. In Torchlight 2 you actually get to travel outdoors. In my hour of gametime, I got to level 7. The scenery is all green mountains and rivers, with temple ruins thrown in. On the way to the main quest, I ran into a sidequest temple. Areas you can enter are clearly marked as to what level they are intended for. I pretty much had to do the sidequest, because I wasn’t high enough level to move on to the next zone for the main quest. The graphics are very cartoony, and there’s no marked difference or jump in quality from the first game. You definitely have to enjoy the cartoon approach.
One of my favorite features from the first game is back: the companion pet. You can still feed the companions fish from pools to change them, they still sell stuff for you but this time around, you can also have them shop for you! Out of Identify or Town Portal scrolls? Need more health potions? Your pet will take care of that for you. Very handy.
As far as classes go, none of the classes from the original game made it back. We now have Engineer (melee with steampunk gadgets), Outlander (guns and magic), Berserker (melee with animal powers) and the Embermage (all magic, all the time). I played Outlander and went all dual-wielding pew-pew without being forced to wear stiletto heels. Take that, Demon Hunters! From the start, I felt the difficulty curve much more reminiscent of the original Diablos. Health regenerated ultra-slow, and I actually had to start chugging potions. No cooldown on those, so it’s back to chain-chugging like back in the good ol’ days. In the temple ruins, I ran into two champion mobs, and to me they felt like bosses in Diablo 3. You definitely had to be on your toes, and the fights required thought. And that before I even hit level 7.
Character progression is done via skill trees, just like in Diablo 2 and the original Torchlight. Everytime you level you have to assign attributes for your character, and can assign a point in one of the three trees per class. Of course this means the return of various different builds, which was one of the features that gave D2 so much longevity. I remember reading skill guides for the various classes in Diablo 2. There were specialized sites out there to publish guides. But I’ll be honest again: I prefer D3’s much more lightweight system. It gives me flexibility to tailor my character to an encounter, without having to brood over me having misspent my points somewhere. In D3 you get a new power when you level, in Torchlight I often felt I dumped points into an ability without feeling any real impact to the change. It isn’t fun for me. In the end, the cookie cutter builds will win anyhow.
Torchlight 2 overall feels like a very colorful, improved version of Torchlight, which has always been a derivative of Diablo 2. It just feels very oldschool. You still need scrolls of Identify and Town Portals to use those abilities, which probably means that you can tactically use Town Portals in combat again. In the first Torchlight, I had to cheese the final fight like that to be able to kill Ordrak. If you are a retro gamer, then you should find great delight in what Torchlight 2 is offering. It’s a colorful dungeon crawler with outdoor areas and fun gameplay. It’s not really offering any kind of innovation to the genre. It’s as if time stood still. Which some will herald as awesome, and some might be disappointed about it.
TL2 will release an editor at a later time, and people will be able to write their own mods. That’s very interesting, and could give TL2 real longevity. Longevity is something I ultimately feel D3 won’t have, at least not compared to D2. People seem to be tiring of it already, and the auction house seems to be part of that issue. TL2 might not have this problem at all.
For 20 bucks, it’s a steal, so any fan of the genre should pick it up. That’s a lot of gameplay value for little money. Or you could pick up the original Torchlight for even less money, to see if you like the colorful brand of the game. You’ll never come as close to playing Diablo 2 in a modern setting again.
If you would like to see a couple more bloggers talk about the Torchlight 2 beta, here are some more views:
- Pete at Dragonchasers thinks TL2 is the sequel to D2 that D3 isn’t.
- Arb from Arbitrary Genius about her beta impressions
- Paeroka from Nerdy Bookahs feels it’s more Torchlight 1.5 than 2 but generally liked the beta
- Jim from the Gaming Nook liked the beta as well, finding the loot more interesting (I agree!) and wonders why he would pay 60 bucks for D3 when TL2 will only be 20.
So, did any of you play the beta, and are you planning on buying the game? Is Diablo 3 still holding up for you, or did it give you a taste for other similar games?