I feel bad, writing a negative review about Torchlight II. Because it’s by no means a clumsy or stupid or awful game. In fact it’s a well-designed and pretty one. I actually found myself enjoying it a lot more than I did Diablo III, a game I’ve rapidly started to view as pretty much the poster child for every damn thing that’s wrong with the gaming industry. If it’s the kind of thing you like, it’s worth the $20 it costs. I don’t feel ripped off.
But I am going to write a negative review of Torchlight II, because I do feel let down. For all its energy and light-heartedness, this is a game that rests on its laurels so hard they crack.
My problem is that it’s a treadmill, and that’s it. If you like the loot/sell vendor trash/repeat gameplay, then hop on and set it to Intense, by all means. What Torchlight II fails to do is make it clear why we should care, or add anything to the genre.
Playing it next to Borderlands 2 was actually fairly instructive. Both games have a fairly similar modus operandi: Go places, kill things, take their stuff. But Borderlands 2 has both the novelty of being an FPS with that strategy, and for having better procedures with its loot. If I pick up a gun in Borderlands 2, it will have an advantage and a drawback, one or the other of which may not be immediately clear. You’ve got to use the gun to understand why it may be a better choice.
There’s also the matter of ammo, as the game forces you to use different guns. The result is a game where your strategy and the way you play is constantly shifting. Even old areas will be cleaned out in entirely different ways when you return to them.
Torchlight II, I really just needed to look at numbers. The game does occasionally sputter to life in this respect, and when it does, it shows what Runic is really capable of. When you have to solve an environmental puzzle, you see the cleverness of the team in spades and you want more of it.
But there’s just no ambition here beyond prettier graphics and awesome loot. To be fair, the loot is often quite awesome, and the graphics are quite pretty, but after a few hours it gets a bit dull. That said, Runic wants $20 for this, not $60, and even though I’m disappointed with the game, that’s a great price for what you get.
But hopefully, after Runic comes back from their break, they’ll turn around and make an isometric dungeon crawler that genuinely pushes the genre. Because they can do it. The talent is there. Just not, this time around, the ambition.