Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Torchlight II - The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

So... Torchlight II.  I'm in a bit of a pickle, to be honest, because I have already done a preview and it seems like I'd just be duplicating stuff if I sat here and wrote a proper review.  However, I am sure that is what you are expecting, so here’s a quick one if you’re desperate.  “Wow, look at that!  I can do what?  OMG!  Look at that fire!  Ha, isn’t he cute?  Wait a minute, I can get him to summon zombies?  Jesus.  Look at them!  Fantastic!”

So there you go. 

Instead of a review I’m going to list some of the good and bad things about the game, my own personal reaction rather than a full on review.  There are plenty of those out there already, it's hardly a secret.

The Good.

Explosions.  Lots and lots of lovely explosions.  Some of the Embermage skills, in particular, create very pretty and lethal patterns but all of the classes have access to some spectacular effects.  Monsters are blown backwards by your awesome powers and, if you hit them with a critical, they EXPLODE and their blood splatters all over the scenery.

Choice.  Each of the 4 character classes has 3 different skill trees.  So, for example, the Embermage can use fire, ice or lightning.  The Engineer can focus on 2-handed weapons, sword & board or summoning (or any mixture of the 3).  This means that you have to think and plan and all those other good gaming things, and also that you can replay the game with a completely different character (even whilst using what is ostensibly the same class.)   There is real flexibility in how you play the game, and that is good.

Clicking.  There is lots and lots of clicking.  Make sure your mouse is in good working order.  Click where to go, click on things till they die and then click on the resulting loot that explodes from their bodies.  Click, click, click, click, CLICK.  It’s gaming stripped to its essence.  It’s almost therapeutic in its simplicity.  Clear your mind, focus on the void and click until you achieve Nirvana.

Regular rewards.  Every few minutes SOMETHING comes along.  Whether it’s a new level, a new weapon, a piece of armour, some gold or whatever – there’s always something.  Pretty much constant progression, just by clicking on things.  Your character improves, your gear improves, the enemies improve and it only stops when you beat everything.  BOOM.

Pets.  The pets are great.  Everything about them is quality.  They’re great in a fight, you can give them SPELLS TO CAST (so they can summon things to help you, or shoot fireballs from their little paws) and you can even transform them into other creatures for a bit when you get bored.  Not only this, but they take all the useless tat you pick up from your adventures and sell it for you back in town – which allows you to stay out cracking (or burning, or poisoning or freezing) skulls in the wild.  AND, not only THAT, but they can also pick up supplies for you in town while they’re there.  They’re amazing.  They have more functions than a bloody Swiss Army Knife and I love them to pieces.

Guns.  Torchlight hasn't gone for your standard fantasy stuff.  I mean, sure, there are swords and spells and zombies and things, but there are also guns.  Wonderful, shiny guns which are immensely satisfying to use and which blow seven shades of shit out of your enemies.  I would say that more games need guns but you know... that wouldn't be true.  However, that does lead me on to my next point..

Fun.  The game is just really fun to play.  It gives plenty of "WHOA, DID YOU SEE WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!?" moments and it gives you plenty of really cool things to play with.  I found myself picking skills not because I thought they were the best thing for my character, but just because they looked like they would make me cackle with glee when I fired them off.  This is a good thing.  This is a really good thing.
The Bad

Whoah Nelly!  Sometimes the screen can become overwhelmed with mobs of monsters.  It can be hard to see what is going on and your hero(ine) disappears under a scrum of tearing claws and rending teeth.  However, that is what area of effect spells are for.  Don't be stingy with them, the screen will be clear in no time.

The Boss Chests seem to be a bit of a waste of time.  They sit there looking all golden and sparkly and big and great but then you open it up and a green pistol and a small pile of gold comes out.  It’s a bit of an anti-climax to be honest.

The Ugly

Dying.  I’m not sure about the dying mechanic.  When you die in the game you are given a choice of 3 outcomes.  Depending on the amount of gold you sacrifice you can resurrect back at the town (no gold), at the entrance to the area you were in (a small amount of gold) or exactly where you died (lots of gold.)  I’ve pretty much always chosen the last one.  I’ve primarily used gold to enchant items.  The shops never seem to have anything better than the stuff I have already – so I’ve found little other use for it.  Losing some for the convenience of not being bothered about dying seems like a fair swap to me.  On the one hand this mechanic provides the player with a choice, which I like, but on the other it makes death a (slight) inconvenience, which I don’t like.

The observant amongst you will have noticed that the good bits vastly outweigh the bad bits.  Torchlight II is a good game.  There is pretty much no thinking involved (really only in deciding what equipment is better, and what skills to choose) and it is quite therapeutic to progress through the game blowing the crap out of stuff and picking up the lovely, shiny loot .  It’s not going to make you re-evaluate the way you see the world or anything, but it will give you many hours of fun and therapy and maniacal giggling.
Or maybe that’s just me.
I give it 9 chakawarys out of 10.

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