Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Judas and his brethren; and…
I tore the digital packaging off of Torchlight 2 earlier this week in the hopes that I'd be able to viciously disparage a game I had no anticipation or excitement for. Torchlight 2 was ripe for a savage verbal beatdown, notably in the wake of Diablo III's popular reception and incredible downfall. This was a dead genre and I would make short work of it.
And then I started left-clicking demons and bandits to death with my Berserker. I settled into Torchlight 2 like an oversized bean bag chair and waited for the break… the point where the light would shine through just enough for my scalpel to make an incision. It seemed fitting that I would dissect a game that was forcing me to bash and bludgeon my way through every dungeon-crawling rat in Torchlight 2's world. I'm still waiting for that moment to come.
Torchlight 2 surpasses Diablo III in nearly every way, but the first valuable difference is also the most obvious one: It's only $15. Whether you're playing once through with one class and never return to the game or you've got a group of friends hell-bent on running through at the highest difficulty, you will absolutely get your money's worth. What's more, there's no shameless grab for long-tail revenue (real-money auction house, I'm looking at you).
T2 is the de facto sequel to Diablo II in that it doesn't change too much of anything, remains focused on what people loved about the previous game in the series, and keeps everything boiling at the surface level. You will hop into a game quickly and immediately start killing things, collecting loot, leveling up, assigning skill points, and generally becoming a badass.
As I mentioned before, I rolled a Berserker out of the gate. The Berserker class relies heavily on a rage-meter mechanic that increases your damage and speed after several successive kills. I was in love. I took my crazy-grin avatar into the thick of combat, left-clicked like ma, and watched the blood splatter like a Rorschach blot.
Then I entered a dungeon and fought a high-level boss character and his minions, then I found another, picked up further quests, and only made my way back to town when I couldn't collect any more loot. Then I noticed that dungeons changed when I reentered. Static maps detract from a game designed specifically for multiple playthroughs. As I explored this newly distributed map, I started to run into bosses all over again.
If you're looking for rare loot, rerunning dungeons and defeating reset bosses can make the process infinitely less painful, especially thanks to the random map generation. To contribute to this, random events can be triggered throughout the overworld as well. Activating an altar and spawning a champion out of thin air means no playthrough will be the same twice.
What's more, each class is both different and the same in a number of ways. Mages are obviously more proficient at range combat, while my Berserker likes to get his hands dirty. You might think that classes could be too similar, but the reality is that it makes switching characters like switching between your favorite T-shirts. The more you wear one, the more stories it has to tell.
What's more, if you truly tire of a character you've made in one class, you can retire him or her and retain some of the traits you've managed to build up over a career. Don't throw that Weezer shirt away just because it has some holes in it!
Several other touches, including easter eggs referencing Borderlands and an entire Minecraft-themed dungeon round out and push this package past Blizzard's regretful production. If you've got a few extra bucks and want to revisit the golden age of dungeon-crawling loot-fests in a modern title, Torchlight 2 is your knight in shining armor… or in my case, butcher-knife wielding psychopath.
[Special thanks to Jonathan Leack and NecroWolf!]