Torchlight II – A Quick Fix With a New Addiction

Wonder Russell of Runic Games is unfazed by the bumper crop of AAA PC games releasing in the coming months that Torchlight II must stand out amongst. She and the rest of the studio’s only concern about Diablo III releasing before them is that the team will somehow have to make time to play it. Runic is satisfied that gamers can find a place in their heart for both titles, since Torchlight II features a bright, fun art style, and will be releasing for $20, with sophisticated mod tools releasing shortly after.

The original was created in 8 months under tight constraints, but its success allowed the team to make the game they always wanted to – the entirety of the original could fit within act one of Torchlight II. The game features a storyline for those who need the motivation, but the focus is very much on bashing monsters for loot. Torchlight II’s core gameplay will be familiar to those well versed in Diablo-style loot grinds: NPCs assign story missions and side-quests in a randomly generated world, and players battle through hordes of increasingly tough enemies to fulfill these objectives.

As the PAX East demo progressed, grassy hills and meadows gave way to cavernous underpasses, and eventually a magma-filled underground dungeon. Playing as the melee-focused Engineer class, I foolishly ran ahead of my co-op partner, engaging in crowd control as a skeleton army of about two dozen gathered around me. Trying to put distance between myself and the tougher enemies — while picking off the weak ones — made for a frenetic few minutes of combat, and a welcome change of pace from the earlier, mostly one-hit encounters.

Watch a developer commentary.

Unlike the first game, which was entirely single player, Torchlight II has drop-in/drop-out co-op. During co-op, partners are bathed in pillars of light, which helps them stand out in the chaos, and monsters scale in difficulty and spawn rate based on the number of players in the area. Furthermore, each person only sees their own loot, meaning alliances need not come under strain from resource sharing.

Despite being tucked away in one of the quieter corners of the Boston Convention Center, the Runic crew were having a hard time enforcing the 20-minute time limits. Even in this context, where players can’t keep their characters or their precious loot, people are getting hooked on the core gameplay loop.

Even with their success with the original on Xbox 360, the team is not making any commitments for Torchlight II seeing the light of day on the system. The amount of content means that it simply won’t fit on XBLA, and the PC version will be download-only in the US. A Mac version is scheduled for release shortly after the PC version, but no definite timelines are in place.

Seán O’Sullivan is an Irish writer living in Toronto. If you’d like to learn more about his various musings on videogames and life, or why he was exiled from his homeland, you should get in touch on Twitter.

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