Torchlight II is the second offering from Runic Games and is not a rehash of the award winning Torchlight that debuted in 2009 but is a new game with full multiplayer support, based on the Torchlight world. Torchlight II provides peer to peer multiplayer functions with a lobby for players to find each other as well as a LAN mode for players preferring to play that way.
It’s a significantly larger game with more content and character customization, not just set characters to play with like the original Torchlight. Each character can be male or female and some features such as hair style and color and skin tone can be customized. Two characters had been revealed thus far, the Railman, an engineering-themed and rather Steampunk like melee fighter and the Outlander, a wandering nomad using ranged weapons and “low magic,” with the Berserker making its debut this E3. A bulky warrior type with an animalistic bent, the berserker channels the animal spirits of the northern war gods, the wolf, the dragon and the raven. The berserker prefers close combat and we dual wielded claws, called up a pack of wolves as well as the spirits of the dragon and raven to aid us in combat.
The visual style of Torchlight is still there in glorious color, but it looks better, with a significant improvement to the UI and Brock was happy to share that it was highly customizable with the ability to move and re-size each module. “The modding tools will also be shipped with the game,” said Producer Brock Jones, “I wouldn’t be surprised to see various styles of frames come out for the UI pieces.”
For readers unfamiliar with Torchlight, it is an action RPG in the same gameplay format as Diablo II. Indeed, it takes almost all of its gameplay from that dungeon crawler, from the randomized dungeons to the loot drop styles. A fact that is unexceptional when you realize that the founders of Runic Games are former employees of Blizzard North who created Diablo II. However, what they’ve done is create a fabulously fun game without some of the flaws that were contained in Diablo II. In Torchlight II, players will adventure across all manner of outdoor landscapes, from frozen tundra to balmy, palm tree dotted lands, all with randomized maps and explore dozens of towns and randomized dungeon maps. Players can expect varied content of secret rooms, levers, set pieces, shrines, non-monster encounters, moving bridges, traps, pitfalls, chasms and more as we now have outdoor areas and environmental effects of rain and fog.
As Garrett experienced some hands-on play and I wrote and asked questions, we found flammable lanterns and I urged Garret to whack one. He did. It set the building aflame and guards came rushing out that he dispatched quickly. It was a random quest we found as we explored. “There are small encounters like these scattered across the various regions,” said Runic CEO, Max Schaefer, “and exploration is part of the game play.”
He also informed us that they had some great new music, composed and scored by Matt Uelmen who had also composed the Diablo II and Torchlight soundtrack. This time around the soundtrack was performed by a Slovak symphony orchestra.
I questioned whether Torchlight II would see the rampant cheating and secondary item market we saw in Diablo II and Max was pretty sure there would be none of it. “We will ship the modding tool set with the game,” he said, “In fact, it’s the same level designer that we use. Players will be able to make their own levels, or create their own weapons if they want.” The hope is that the community of players will moderate themselves and players will gain a reputation for playing “clean” or not. Runic also hopes to be able to run “mod-free” sessions for players.
Ninja-looters will also be a non-starter. Players will only see their own drops and no one else’s. Torchlight II will also have fishing and pets in game and we saw the wolf and ferret from Torchlight. Pets can be assigned spells, carry a back pack and can be sent to town to sell your junk for you. They will attack on your behalf, but will retreat if hurt and cannot die. A nice touch to keep the game fun and compelling, as the pets are there as companion animals and to enhance gameplay, not make every class a “pet class.”
Runic expects the multiplayer gameplay to be one where players drop in and out of the adventure. Characters are persistent and quests are tied to them, they will move seamlessly from the single-player world to the multiplayer world. Therefore, each person joining the multiplayer game can go soloing in the game world or joining up for more fun, loot and harder bosses. As mobs scale by player proximity, not merely being on the same map, players won’t have to fight through mobs scaled for a party when trying to join their friends in another part of the map. Some of these outdoor maps are huge and currently, players can create a portal to town which their friends can step into to get to them, but there are plans to add a “Portal to Group.”
Another feature of Torchlight II which will extend game play and re-playability, is the retirement system. Once you max out the level of your first character, you can continue to play with it, or retire it and hand down some specific perks and benefits to the new character. With all these additions, improvements and multiplayer support, Torchlight II looks to be even better than Torchlight without straying from all that made its predecessor a great game.
The game will be released as a download on Steam for the PC later this year, followed by a MAC version. If they follow the Torchlight path, the game will then be ported to Xbox Live and then Runic continues to work down their five-year plan towards Torchlight, the MMO… which is a pretty exciting concept in and of itself.