It’s perfect. The End. That’s the first thought that comes to mind after a long session of playing Torchlight 2. It is not quite the perfect game and a few tweaks could make it more accessible, like an auto-run button, but within its genre it is the best ARPG I have played this year. Torchlight 2 is defined by its comfortable familiarity. Runic Games have developed the dungeon crawler we all want to play and will be playing for a long time to come.
Reasons To Play
Flexible and versatile characters
You can choose a male or female character from four classes: Embermage, Beserker, Engineer and Outlander. Each has three skill trees that contain 10 skills each, 7 active that become your abilities/skills and 3 passive that are always enabled. Each skill has 15 tiers that cost one point each and you as you gain one point per level, there are many many build options available that will shape your play style slowly as you progress.
Easy navigation and player option set the tone of the menus
It’s easy to find your away around the menus. You can create up to 5 characters and its easy and obvious how to swap. You can play offline, online or with a LAN connection and again, its easy to swap inbetween – a pop-up box appears every time you log in a character with these three options and you pick one. Playing on-line is a bit more complicated, but still very straightforward. You have the option with a tick box to only display rooms with your friends in them, making it easy to join the right party and setting up a co-op game is a menu based step-by-step process that only takes a minute or two. Best of all, there is no restriction on the difficulty levels of which there are four, you can select whichever level you feel sets the right pace for you. Be aware that the choice is permanent, you cannot adjust back and forth between difficulty levels, upscaling for trash and downscaling for bosses for example, once you select your level, that’s your level for that character and its set in stone.
The loot and its accessories
Much of the satisfaction of games like these are finding that exquisite piece of gear that looks great and has awesome stats just perfect for your character. Not only does Torchlight have lots of loot over four tiers: normal(white), enchanted (green), rare (blue-purple) and unique (orange), you can customize your favourite pieces in more than one way. Items can have up to four gem sockets that can be filled with various types of gems granting different bonuses. If an item has no socket, once you reach Zeryphesh, you can learn a recipe to add one socket to these items.
The combat is even better than it at first appears
The combat has been designed perfectly. Your build creates a play style that feels unique to your character and if you loose a moments concentration, you die left wondering what just happened. Played well, your character mows down huge mobs of enemies, including some really tough ones and can take on the champions with confidence, but miss a few seconds or a click and you have to start all over again post-mortem.
Room For Improvement
Skill points are permanent
The skill points are permanent. You can only ever refund the last three, so wherever you put your points, you’re stuck with it forever. Well, not quite. You can edit the files to refund them with the penalty of a cheat flag being displayed next to your character for multiplayer, but there is no way to do so inside the game. There is no bright flashy warning when you start spending that your decisions are this permanent and that’s the bigger criticism. The work around isn’t as accessible as an in-game option would be, but there is an eloquence to the very easy modding that takes the game outside the game just a little bit.
Terrible story, but who cares
The story follows on from the first title and has something to do with Ember and a bad guy, The Alchemist, that does terrible things that might destroy the world and has to be stopped. Your help is needed to track him down and save the world. The pivotal events are told in beautifully drawn acts whilst transitioning from one area to the next, but the plot itself leaves much to be desired. This is not a plot-driven game or genre and the run-of-the-mill hero tale provides enough of a backdrop to hold the game mechanics together. The real story of Torchlight II is not about The Alchemist, its about your character who begins with nothing and slowly evolves into something new and more and more powerful. A piece of armor here, a shiny new weapon there, a fantastic gem added to an already great piece and skill points very very carefully spent as only the last three can be unspent provides the opportunity to carve your own tale in something other than words. The fun of this is compounded in co-op where there’s no present like a unique level appropriate second pistol for your Outlander, gemmed up and just waiting to be traded and equipped.
Relevant to those who are partially sighted or experience photosensitive epileptic seizures*, visually triggered migraines, photophobia, contrast loss or glare problems, motions sickness or dizziness, color blindness, including red-green colour blindness and blue-yellow colour blindness, visual impairment or visual disturbances – we specifically consider the impact of central field loss, multiple field loss, tunnel vision (peripheral field loss), distortion or blurred vision.
There is a fair amount of flash and the drawbacks of a bright and interesting game is that it’s a bright and frequently flashy game. The biggest offenders are some of the shiny skills – as always the electric trees and skills are bright light and the ice/water based skills are bright white-blues. These can be negated to some extend by choosing the fire or poison based trees and abilities, but some enemy types use them as well, so it cannot be entirely avoided.
Co-op both helps and hinders. It’s great if you can play with a friend(s) who are sympathetic and happy to not use bright shiny trees, however, the more players, the more abilities go off at once on your screen and the brighter it gets. I found it significantly harder to play 2 person co-op than I did single player and was not comfortable to even try adding a third or more players into the mix. I haven’t come across any environmental rhythmic flashing stages and adapted quite easily to the single player campaign by choosing the less bright abilities.
It’s not a definite no from me, but for anyone who suffers from photophobia or visually triggered conditions, caution is advised.
The camera angle is fixed and does not follow the player’s movement. There is a zoom that is player controlled. The smooth camera movement is unlikely to cause motion sickness, particularly as the camera does not follow the movement of your character.
Clarity, Text size, User Interface & Heads up Displays
The text size is generous and the User Interface size customazible in the Options Menu. There are edge of the screen flashes used as warnings, for example a red border flashes to alert players to low health, but it is not the only warning system. For those with tunnel vision, the health and mana orbs can be placed next to the action bar within the central vision area and paying attention to it works just as well.
Debuffs and negative effects are also displayed just above the main action bar in the bottom centre of the screen. It does mean that if you either neglect peripheral view or don’t have it, warning signs are easily missed and you have to keep a closer eye on your UI.
Reliance on colour
There is some reliance but all are also punctuated by other non-colour cues. There is no reliance on colour making it perfect for anyone with any type of colour blindness.
- Display: Fullscreen, Windowed, Windowed Fullscreen
- Resolution – drop down menu
- Anti-aliasing, VSync, Rim Lighting, Hardware Skinning, Bloom
Information relevent to those who have a hearing impairment, experience problems with speech perception, suffers from tinnitus and the profoundly deaf.
Subtitles & Closed captioning
Yes to subtitles
Reliance on auditory cues
None, easily played without sound as all audio cues also have visual cues.
- Two sliders: one for music and one for global sound
- Tick box to toggle “Low Resource Verbal Alerts”
Relevant to those who struggle to react quickly, usually associated with certain muscular or neurological conditions, sleep disorders or a side-effect of some medications, those who lack precise muscular control as a result of partial paralysis, tremors, spasms or involuntary movement, those who suffer from chronic fatigue and/or chronic pain conditions, like arthritis, joint problems or repetitive strain injuries who struggle to play for long periods of time or may need frequent scheduled or unscheduled breaks and anyone who only plays with one hand , using either a mouse, keyboard, keypad or adapted controller. Also information for those who have to swap hands or need to regularly rest one hand whilst primarily gaming with the other.
There is some reliance on reaction time, but it’s minimal due to the multiple difficulty setting options. The easier the level you choose, the less your reaction speed matters. Even on normal difficulty, reaction time is generous during combat. Most abilities
Precision & Control
There is a requirement for some precision, particularly as it’s point-and-click to move and to target enemies. There is no autorun key, you can either keep clicking to steer your character or hold down the left mouse key whilst steering to make him/her run. Auto-attack is bound to the left mouse button and again,can either be held down or clicked repeatedly.
Pause and save options
There is no manual save, but the auto-save is generous and frequent.
Easily played with one hand as long as you have a multi-button mouse, otherwise tricky as the action bar is not clickable and the mouse is integral and cannot be discarded.
- Complete key mapping: All game keys can be remapped within the options menu.
- Torchlight 2 is not controller enabled, but as its a PC title, you can use a GlovePIE script if you’d like to use one.
Relevant to those with Dyslexia, a language-based learning disability, Dyscalculia, an acquired brain injury, various neurological conditions, stroke, TIA or mini-stroke, hormonal disorders like hypothyroidism, medication side-effect, depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders, ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), Autism, Aspergers
Reading, language and vocabulary
A reasonable reading level is required for the menu’s, quest text and managing your gear, upgrades, abilities and inventory.
Very little reliance on memory as there are hints, tips and notes throughout the game.
Focus, Organization & Planning
Focus and concentration is important, particularly if you are playing on harder levels where loosing your concentration for just a second is a lethal mistake. On easier levels getting your rotation just right is less important and you can get away with some lapses in concentration. It is an open world with good navigation and very little planning is required as it is broken up into regions that follow each other and within each region, there are only a handful of side-quests in an area and the main quest objectives are clearly marked.
Some organization skills are required to master your inventory and manage your upgrades as a lot of loot drops. However with limited bag and storage space, the amount of items you have cannot get out of hand completely.
Math and computations
There is an in-game currency that can be used to buy new items, consumables and to enhance your current items. You have gold and have to manage your budget, but if you spend it all, go out and play to earn more from drops. It is an easy currency and on the easier difficulty levels, your gear is not that important and as a result, spending your gold is a frivolous pursuit that can be done on a whim without any real consequences. On harder levels, however, you will need to think carefully about which upgrades are the best value for your gold as you cannot buy all and you do need all the help you can get.
There is a no requirement for social interaction for the single player campaign. It can be played off-line entirely and all interaction with NPC’s are scripted and your actions does not influence their reaction at all. You can play co-op with up to 6 players, either with friends or by joining a game on-line and the usual social interaction that goes hand in hand with co-op gaming is required.
Torchlight II is action-RPG masterpiece. It delights with its attention to detail and carefully sculpted skill trees and if you’re here for the upgrades, you couldn’t pick a better place to be. It’s a steal at £14.99 ($19.99) and the dozens of hours of engrossed carnage it has to offer never gets boring. Play alone, play with friends, jump into a game with random strangers, but however you play it, it will be extraordinarily difficult to put it down. It’s very accessible except for a handful of oversights that could have made it even more accessible, in particular an auto-run button and the option to turn the action bar into a clickable action bar. It’s vibrant design and flashy spells will make it less accessible for those with photophobia who really struggle with bright effects, but overall its an incredibly accessible game.
[stars rating=”5″ type=”Game”]
This game review is based on the PC exclusive version.
* As the exact nature of the stimulus that triggers seizures varies from one person to another, we can never guarantee that a game is safe to play. Triggers are often a specific scene in a specific game that may only be a few seconds long and we cannot screen entire games looking for such instances. We can however, point out any possible problematic areas that we do come across, such as rapidly changing images or regular flashing patterns.