Torchlight II First Impressions

Note: These are first impressions only, not a full-fledged review! Take everything with a grain of salt as I still have much more to play and am learning more about the game as I go along. Also, here be ramblings.

I’m late to the game, but I’m loving Torchlight II so far. Runic Games has again provided an immensely enjoyable action RPG experience with their follow-up to the much loved Torchlight. This iteration gives players the ability to choose from four different character classes — Berserker, Embermage, Engineer, and Outlander — all of which can be female.

I was really glad to see that I had the option of choosing from four different female classes as opposed to only one. The ability to play as a character I can identify with on a more personal level always enhances my experience with a game, and I’m pleased that Runic has acknowledged their female fans in such a big way this time around.

Looks matter

Let’s get the superficial out of the way first. I’m a big fan of the fun, stylized graphics of both Torchlight and its sequel. I love that it doesn’t take itself too seriously while offering just as much gameplay complexity as other games in its genre. Graphics-wise, what I don’t care for in Torchlight II are the cut scenes. They don’t really add much to the story (and let’s face it, no one is really playing Torchlight for the story), and although the artwork is nice, it feels kind of cheap in comparison to the rest of the game and doesn’t mesh well with the gameplay graphics.

A good challenge vs. impossibility

I’m playing as an Engineer with the difficulty set on Veteran, which is one step down from the game’s maximum difficulty setting of Elite (excepting the Hardcore setting, which means permadeath). Veteran is fairly challenging for me. I’ve created an Embermage to play on Elite, but I’m sticking with my Engineer for now.

One thing I really like about Torchlight II is that bosses don’t regenerate health if you die trying to kill them, which goes a long way toward eliminating the possibility of getting stuck and being unable to progress. While I like to be challenged by the games I play, I don’t like being stuck due to poor gameplay mechanics.

The only boss I’ve been unable to defeat was a trio of tar creatures in a phase beast challenge. Phase beast challenges, while extremely difficult, are optional, so there’s no penalty for giving up. It simply means you won’t receive whatever valuable reward is awaiting you for completing the challenge. Sure, the rewards might make game progression a little easier, but they’re not required or necessary.

From what I hear, NG+ offers even more of a challenge, so I’m looking forward to getting to that point as well as trying out online multiplayer.

Variety in everything

Another of my favorite aspects of the game is its variety, both in skill customization and the sheer amount of ways there are to kill something. Not only do you get four character classes to choose from, but each class offers a good selection of diversified skill builds that can easily turn two playthroughs with the same class into two completely different experiences.

My Engineer, for example, is going full-on melee onslaught with a build that uses mostly Blitz abilities. Greatswords, greathammers, and greataxes are her best friends. However, I could totally see myself playing a ranged Engineer with heavy defensive abilities from the Aegis tree later on, and it would be an entirely different style of playing. I would imagine it’s the same with the other classes. An Embermage who specializes in Frost seems like it would be completely different from one who specializes in Fire or is a Frost/Lightning hybrid.

The spells and abilities are also extremely engaging and fun to experiment with. Some abilities build charge while others don’t, and certain abilities add extra effects when used with charge. Figuring out which abilities to use in order to build charge vs. which to use when your charge is full is part of the game’s strategy, and I already have a ton of abilities to play around with. It’s a bit reminiscent of rogue combos in WoW, actually.

I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to share about Torchlight II as I progress further in the game, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

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