Torchlight II Beta Impressions
This past weekend, the guys from Runic Games opened up their servers for a bit of an opent beta stress-test for Torchlight II.
As some of you may or may not know, I'm a big fan of the first Torchlight as you can plainly see here. I dug a lot of things about that one, the simple gameplay, the music, the graphics style, I dug it a lot.
After playing a very tiny bit of Torchlight II I can say for certain that the first Torchlight was just something of a preparatory venture for the developers, Torchlight II is exactly what sequels are supposed to do, upgraded versions of their predecessors. Let's take a very quick look at what the Torchlight II changed, and what it maintained from the first one.
The simple gameplay
TL2 kept the simple interface and skill trees of the original, but obviously made a few changes. There are now four classes to choose from, with a crap-ton of various skills, also there is a new 'Charge' mechanic which relies on hitting enemies to offer you some sort of damage and/or speed boost, which will allow you to hit things faster and harder for a short amount of time.
The items have seen an interesting change; while usually items had level AND stat requirements, in TL2 they have level OR stat requirements. This means that even if you don't meet the minimum level requirement for a particular piece of gear, but you do meet the minimum stat requirements - of which there are usually two - you can use said piece of gear at its full capacity.
Pets - TL2 offers a much wider array of pets, you now have to equip them with specially designed items, no longer can you just give them the rings and amulets that you no longer use.
Fishing - still here, nothing changed, same system, only difference is that fishing holes can only be fished for a limited number of tries.
Torchlight sounded a lot like Diablo and Diablo II, and TL2 maintained that sort of 'tradition', kind of hard to stray away from it considering how much of a reference point the soundtrack from Diablo is, and the fact that many of the top guys at Runic worked on both those games. Coincidentally, the dude who composed the soundtracks for both Torchlights, Matt Uelmen, also wrote music for the Diablo series, as well as a few of other Blizzard games. While the soundtrack is reminiscent of Diablo, it's not in a cheesy, cheap rip-off kind of way, it's more of an homage type of thing, he took the building blocks of those soundtracks and used them for something very similar, while still different here - great music.
Sound design, this is another place where you'll hear many-many sounds that are almost identical to those in the Diablo series, whether or not they're slightly different, or they're royalty free, who knows; fact of the matter is, the music and sound design help to create a good atmosphere for the new-comer, and something a little bit familiar for the veteran who has killed the Lord of Terror more times than he or she cares to mention.
This is where TL2 is most different from the first one. While the developers approached the engine with the perspective of making it fun-looking, TL2 looks more grown up than Torchlight did. Some were not too hot on the blocky art-style of the first - although I love it - TL2 is a bit more polished, a bit more realistically proportioned, and features a bit of a cell-shaded look. It might not be everyone's cup of tea but I dig it.
The graphics and level design go hand in hand, and this is a place that TL2 also stands out above Torchlight. Granted, I've only seen a small part of the game, but the places and dungeons that I did see, were extremely detailed in their construction and very different one from another. This contrasts quite heavily with Torchlight, in which you'd basically play through the same type of setting for a few levels, and then you'd move to a different type of setting for a few more levels, and so on.
Also, the world in TL2 is much larger than it was in the original Torchlight - if anything, TL2 again makes me make a comparison to Diablo 2, seeing as how you have to travel through monster infested common areas to reach various areas/dungeons in the world.
Now an attentive reader might want to say that: Hey, you compare it to the Diablo series so much, it is obvious that they are trying to copy that right?
To which I would answer, that no, they're not trying to do that, they're staying true to the spirit of Diablo's hacky-slashy basics, while paying homage to it and still doing some new things.
All I know is that the Torchlight II Beta has not made me want to re-play Diablo 2 for the millionth time, nor has it made me want to play D3, it has only made me want to wait for its release date when I will be able to play it in single player mode, on the Internet or in LAN... just saying.