Torchlight 2 Hands-On

22 Aug 2011  by   Paul Younger
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Last week at Gamescom we managed to get some game time with Torchlight 2, the upcoming action RPG sequel from Runic Games. Company founder and Diablo creator, Max Schaefer, was kind enough to sit down with us and take us through some of the game’s co-op sections.
This was the first time I’d the opportunity to try out LAN play, a feature that many Torchlight players would have loved to have seen in the original game. Although some eager modders tried to add multiplayer to the original through modding, they never succeeded. Indeed, according to Max, they were never going to succeed as adding multiplayer to the original Torchlight is supposedly impossible. Still, that didn’t stop him having fun watching creative gamers have a damn good crack at it.

Our co-op Torchlight 2 adventure began in an outdoor area playing as the Berserker class – one of the three classes which have been announced so far. Our co-op companion wasn’t anywhere to be seen, but after a bit of wandering around monster bashing and looting, we finally hooked up. It’s straightforward enough to follow your companion thanks to the slowly uncovering mini-map as you explore deeper into a given area. Mercifully, there is no ninja looting; each player sees only their own drops, so when a set of glowing boots appeared they were mine, all mine.
The additions of these new outdoor zones helps bring the Torchlight game world alive and make it feel like a more expansive action RPG than the original. The game itself will feature around thirty hours of gameplay in the main story arc but Max stressed that players will find well over one hundred hours in the sequel thanks to the randomly generated zones, zones that are not essential to the story arc.  Furthermore, there will be different loot and different monsters each time you play.

As the demo continued and following what felt like the right route, we eventually came across an entrance to an indoor dungeon.  The transition between the outdoor area and the indoor dungeon was almost instant with only a slight judder as my companion joined me in the dungeon. We carried on with our exploration around the dungeon, although I did get a little stuck on where to go after clearing the mobs. However I put that down to the fact that Max was busy chatting to me at the same time and I’m not exactly a great multi-tasker.
The original Torchlight looked really tasty with its own unique art style, a style that is quite far removed from the Diablo series that Max had previously worked on. This really works in the original and Torchlight 2 looks even more polished than that.  The graphics are pretty stunning, the characters and animation look great and they have instant appeal, even if they are not ultra-realistic.

Our play session was quite short but it was apparent that Runic could well be onto a winner with the sequel. Max seemed very pleased with the recent announcements for Diablo 3 which is the obvious competition for Torchlight 2. The fact that there are no mods allowed in Blizzard’s title excited Max because Torchlight 2 will be left wide open for the community to experiment with. Runic will also be supplying the Torchlight Editing tools, TorchEd 2.0 and 3D Studio max exporters to help the community change and add content, and this will without a doubt drive the game’s popularity with gamers who love to tinker.
The conversation naturally moved onto the Diablo series, and the first two games are obviously something Max is very proud of.  Diablo 3 however has moved in a different direction with its real money trading and art style change. I got the feeling Max was a little disappointed with some of the changes that have been made, such as the removal of pentagrams and crosses, Max thought that was pretty ridiculous and not in the spirit of what the Diablo series was about.

On the Diablo 3 Real Money trading issues, Max had been following it a bit since it was announced a few weeks ago and he did say it was probably right for Blizzard. Max was also incredibly pleased with this decision and the direction Diablo 3 is now taking because it separates the two products completely. With Runic having a very open game which allows modding, LAN play and no always online requirement, it’s going to attract a different crowd of action RPG players or even Diablo players that may not be happy with the direction the game has gone in recent weeks.
Torchlight 2 will be shipping out at around the $19.99 price point again and will be digitally distributed. Max was very happy with the way the digital distribution worked for the first Torchlight and praised Steam in helping them get their product out to gamers. It’s a model that Runic are wholeheartedly embracing and looks set to continue.
In case you were wondering, there is no word on a 360 version just yet but if the PC version does well it shouldn’t take too much for the team to make it available once again. The Mac version will be released some time after the PC release and Max says that the game will run perfectly well on lower spec PCs and the Netbook mode may make a return in the sequel.

Wrapping up our short session, I had to get a look at Max’ tattoo which he had done when the original game sold one million copies. I asked if he’d get another if Torchlght 2 sells one million and he said he was definitely up for that. We look forward to seeing what Max will get the next time round, because based on what we’ve seen of the game, he better start giving it some thought.
Torchlight 2 will be released sometime this year but Max was not quite ready to spill the beans on when exactly that will be. Watch this space.
Max gets a tattoo in celebration of Torchlight selling 1 million copies.

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