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Max Schaefer Interview & Hands On

William Murphy Posted:
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*Suzie looks around and realizes that Bill's not here yet and grins*


Since I got here first, I got to announce that. Perfect World Entertainment and Runic Games announced that Torchlight II would be arriving on September 20th during yesterday's PAX Prime. We were on hand to chat up the team about the exciting development and got our hands on the new and improved Act 2 of the game.

As with the first Torchlight, the game has what I call a "WoW feel" to it. By this I mean that its graphics are less "realistic" (if such a thing can be said about a video game in the first place) and are more cartoon-like. It's a compliment in my book to say this for the record. The style works for Torchlight II. It's easy on the eyes with bright colors and larger-than-life weapons, monsters, buidings, etc. The environments are cool too. In short, the look of Torchlight II is terrific.

I rolled an Engineer to check out Act II, a location where players are sent out on quests into the desert environments. The Engineer is a fun class to play, definitely the DPS tank of the game. Engineers combine sheer strength with technology to deliver a devestating 1-2 punch to monsters. My girl was swinging a hammer with such astonishing speed and power that I literally mowed through the mobs I encountered. The Engineer also comes with the ability to keep herself healed with a turret that follows the player. In addition, she can summon minions to help out.

Monsters, as with Torchlight I, come fast and in big numbers. Players will need to be prepared for fights with tons of action. Having skills ready to deploy will be a strategic necessity.

The skill effects are really beautiful as well. When that big hammer strikes, it does so with a colorful abandon. The devestating attack she unleashed after charging it up was amazing with bad guys being hurled through the air or just flattened where they stood.

Runic has made a lot of nice improvements since Torchlight I. The game plays smoothly and it looks great. It's a lot of fun and is a game that will likely satisfy disappointed or bored Diablo 3 players. It's definitely a game for people to keep an eye on and is a must-have for fans of the action RPG genre.  In short? I loved it. You won't see me much on September 20th.

Bill's Turn

Now that Suzie's had her fun, let's talk about some of the things Max and I chatted over while Suzie slaughtered tons of baddies in TL2. I first asked Max what the team had left to work on. He got very specific: "Two more boss battles tweakings, a room at the end of the game, and final tweaks to our 'New Game Plus' mode." I asked him how good it felt to be able to say definitively that they have three last tasks to shore up before 9/20, and he grinned. "It's all about polish now." For those not familiar, the New Game Plus is what's replacing "Retirement" from the last game. You'll essentially start over at the beginning of Torchlight 2, all your gear, levels, and skills in tact, and play through the game again at higher and higher difficulty.  

Max also told me that their user-content system will be ready shortly after launch. Called "GUTS", it'll allow players to create and share their own TL2 maps and modes across Steam, the Runic forums, fansites, and more. As a fan of TL1, I can already get stoked about the sorts of things players were able to do with the last set of modding tools, and Max promises that GUTS is even more robust.  

Torchlight 2 has only been in "real development" now for 18 months or so, and in that time, the staff at Runic have created a game that is 3-4x as big in terms of content, and 2x as big in terms of story, and also infinitely more balanced and deep in terms of itemization. In short, Max says, they've gotten really good at this. The only thing that's stayed the same from TL1 to TL2 is the price: $20. 

I did ask Max about the decision to allow players to respec this time around, as opposed to making mods or expensive potions as they did in TL1, and he said that while he's still personally against respecs, the community essentially demanded it. It'll be free to level 10, and thereafter it'll cost more and more gold.  His thought is that folks who don't want to respec will avoid it, like he himself will, and those who like that versatility and ability to mess around with skills without fear of re-rolling will be able to.

Lastly, I asked Max about future plans for the studio, and he did tell me that they have some ideas bouncing around the office for new non-Torchlight games, but there's nothing concrete.  They're also going to be working on more content for TL2, possibly expansions, of course free stuff, and more well beyond the game's launch.  He also wanted me to tell you all to be on the lookout for some surprise guest appearances from other games' characters tucked away in the land of Torchlight like little easter eggs waiting to be stumbled upon. 

Get ready folks... in three short weeks, the wait is over.



William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.