The Torchlight 2 beta has been running for about a week now and it is available to anyone who has a Runic Games account. Find more on how to get into the beta here. The beta let you play as all four classes: Bezerker, Embermage, Engineer and Outlander. The Engineer was who I spent the majority of my time playing and it is essentially the tank class, but you also have support abilities like spider mines, healing bots and walking turrets. Each class has multiple tech trees, each with a focus on a particular aspect. The Engineer has a tree for 2h handed melee weapons and melee in general, one for bots and cannons, and one for shields. The only class you might not be able to discern what kind of class they are from their name is the Outlander. The Outlander is what you would call the nimble class, which is often a thief, rogue or assassin, except the Outlander is a mix of quick ranged combat, guns, and magical abilities. All of the classes have some interesting abilities and are quite useful in every situation. I like the classes and they all feel pretty good, especially since they make it hard to specialize just in one skill tree when there are so many tempting skills. It is quite nice to run into another player of the same class and not feel like they are just a copy of your character.
The world of Torchlight II is a huge improvement upon the first game. I know I wrote about it before in my overview, so if you read that skip on by this, but instead of the confined dungeon, caves and ruins of Torchlight you now have wide open tundra's, plains and many different types of outdoor areas. There are of course still dungeons, caves and ruins to explore, but now the world feels more rounded and dynamic. Speaking of dynamic Torchlight II employs a similar world generation system as Diablo 3. Each area you go into has many different possibilities, which could be a rare dungeon spawn, npc's, monsters, changed paths or loot. It's not quite to the same level as Diablo 3, but I haven't ventured through each dungeon and area of the beta enough to figure out just how much is procedurally generated. Regardless it is quite impressive for a company like Runic Games to be able to employ this type of system and it seems to be well made, although I would love to see how it works in singleplayer.
Graphically Torchlight II is pretty impressive, but some people will obviously be turned off by the colorful graphical style that is nearly the opposite of the Diablo 3's dark graphical style. You can mess with the UI quite a bit and clean it up if you wish and the interface in general is really easy to use. There are some fairly generic dungeons in the game, but they do have quite a bit to liven them up and make them feel less static. The outside areas of the game are huge, filled with enemies, littered with loot and look great. The last open area in the beta is a snowy tundra and it looks quite good. You may think some of the graphics look a bit dated, but in motion they are impressive, especially for a smaller game like Torchlight 2. Take a look at this video and see how everything looks.
The beta let's you play up until level 21 and up until the end of the first act. There are many bosses in the game, unique rare enemies that are like mini-bosses, and a great deal of different enemies. I played through the majority of the game with one other player, someone I randomly started playing with at level one and ended up adding to my friends list, but by the end i was playing with five other players. The game does a good job distributing loot specifically to each player and you can easily give other players items if you think they could use them. I also really like how it scales enemies based on the difficulty and based on how many players are in the game. By the end there when there was six players in the game the enemies had gotten really tough and I was dying quite frequently, but death isn't harsh unless you turn on hardcore mode. Torchlight 2 is certainly very accommodating when it comes to different difficulties and making it super easy to play with other players.
The last point I wanted to touch on was the story. Torchlight 2 has many different quests, main and side quests, and they taken you some interesting places, but the story is neither enthralling nor repulsive. It is there and it serves it's purpose, but not much more. Some of the NPC's have voice overs, while others just have text and it's perfectly acceptable for a game of this level to not have a full fledged triple A 100% voice acted story. If there was one part of the game I am apathetic about it would be the story. Fortunately gameplay is quite a lot of fun, building up your character is exciting and exploring the world is interesting. One really fun thing they do with the story is with some of the side stories. There are random dungeon spawns out there that do make me interesting in the story. For instance in the beta I ran into a pirate cove that was obviously supposed to be from the movie The Goonies and a cave that was referencing The Thing.
People are always picking Diablo 3 or Torchlight 2, but you don't have to pick just Diablo 3 or just Torchlight 2. Both games have a lot of strengths, many of which are similar, but they are also quite different and feel like unique games that have their own merits. The point is that both games are good games. I like them both, they are both a lot of fun, they both have great co-op and they both have interesting worlds, but they are not the same game and you need not only decide upon one if you are fan of Action RPG's, especially since Torchlight 2 doesn't come till June or July, while Diablo 3 comes out tonight/tomorrow on May 15th. Of course if you cannot afford Diablo 3 and want something similar that also is high quality then you are likely to pick Torchlight 2, seeing as how it is only $20 compared to the $60 that Diablo 3 will cost you. If you have any questions about the game feel free to ask and thanks for checking it out.
Main Website: http://www.torchlight2game.com/
-Written by Sean Cargle