by Daniel Reeder
Friday was the one year anniversary of the release of Torchlight II, which I picked up recently as a part of a Humble Bundle weekly sale. I'm glad it did, because to be honest I think I badly underestimated the game when it first came out. Turns out this thing kick's Diablo III's ass.
Torchlight II is a 3rd person button-smashing-kill-everything grindfest game of the "action RPG" (Role Playing Game) genre. Basically it's a Diablo clone - or so I thought. I will put it in context. I played maybe 30-40 hours of Diablo III and enjoyed it for maybe the first 4-5 hours. It's a pretty game and it sounds cool, but the gameplay is dull and repetitive and you have to be logged in to play. Overall Diablo III failed to capture players' interest as efficiently as the previous Diablo titles. Despite the hype and all the work that went into it, Diablo III was badly lacking.
Everything missing from Diablo III can be found in Torchlight II -- a game built by a team of just 14 Devs (Developers).
The entire game is gorgeous. It's cartoonish, but gorgeous. The soundtrack and sound effects fit the style of game very well and the reality features (time of day cycles, weather effects and stuff like that) are nicely done. Since TL2 could not be as graphics intense as D3 (smaler development team, lower budget), Runic Games had to focus on gameplay to make up for the lack. Unlike D3, in which you had be logged in all the time, there is an off-line option for TL2, including LAN capability.
LAN?! What blasphemy is this? There is an industry trend that is taking games away from offline mode. You have fewer opportunities to just go buy a game and play it. If you can't log in for some reason or have bad connectivity, you're out of luck with D3 and similar games. Not so with T2. (Note: Diablo III will be coming out soon on console and the console will have an offline mode but nothing appears to be changing whn it comes to PC). Apparently companies believe no one wants to have LAN parties, probably because cooperative play over the interwebz is so prominent.
They're wrong. Oh, how they are wrong. To me, playing in the same room as your buds, chaps and friends wherever you may be or whatever you might call them, is the best part of the whole experience. That and single player. Did I mention how important an offline single player option is? (Note - the cooperative mode works just fine, if you were worried.)
There are a few other ways in which TL2 whups D3's ass. First, there are more than just 6 buttons to push. That's always a plus. Second, you actually look cool within the first hour of playing. Until he hit something like level 25, my D3 Barbarian looked like a particularly threadbare homeless guy with a sword. Third, there's a Steampunk feel to it that doesn't overpower the fantasy elements (the option of having an Engineer with a magic blunderbuss is how I got my dad to play it with me). Fourth, the amount of content in TL2 is just massive. Diablo III allows you to repeat-grind your way to 60; Torchlight II takes you all the way up to the triple digits, a whopping level 100. Fifth, character options and weapon/armor/gear selection is outstanding (axes, swords, hammers, muskets -- and no worries about caliber or magazine capacity, even if you do live in Colorado).
Fifthly, and perhaps most impressively, Runic Games actually let's their community mod (check out Torchlight II Guts when you have time). That's a rarity these days. Even more unusually, they are multiplayer mods. What this means is, I can go make a dungeon for my buddies and me (or my dad and my cousin when he's home on leave), log in together and go clear it.
I've missed out on nearly a year of playing this. If you're like me and you passed it over, I encourage you to take a second look. It's worth a try - but don't take my word for it. Download the free demo and check it out for yourself. In the meantime maybe other games will take notice and leave the offline function alone *cough* SIM CITY *cough*.