Personal Rating: "Worth Playing"
Traditional Rating: 8/10
Genre: Isometric Action Role Playing Game
Torchlight II returns in its biggest and boldest form yet but does it break new ground for the genre (look to Path to Exile if you want to see the next evolution of this genre) or is it happy to set about the well-worn battle path laid down by the Grand-General of action RPG's himself, Diablo II? Over the years many have tried to emulate the success of the Diablo franchise - but sadly - most got mired in muck and then were promptly forgotten about! Anyone remember Space Siege, Silverfall or Legend: Hand of God? No, I didn't think so.
Both Diablo and Torchlight share more in common than you would initially think when looking past both games visual representations. Where Diablo is the dark and broody Grand-Daddy of lootin' action RPG'S, Torchlight is its more quirky, colorful and humorous idiot son. That doesn't, however, make Torchlight the inferior of the two by any long stretch. Torchlight and Diablo both come from the same lineage, sharing many senior developers who developed both titles over the course of the last 25 years and this clearly explains why it's the most successful action RPG outside of Diablo. Sure - Iron Lore came pretty close with Titan Quest but until Runic Games formed and gave us the first Torchlight there wasn't much of a success rate for these kinds of games at all. As deceptively simple as they are to the naked eye getting the balance right between clicking, looting and progressing has proven to be more than just a challenge to other game development houses out there who tried to jump onto the action RPG bandwagon.
Torchlight II does very little to tinker with what makes the genre so popular and often sticks so closely to the design-blue print that was Diablo II that it even mimics its explorable areas (forest, desert and swampy marshland). Once again the story is a whole hog of mumbo-jumbo that most will have forgotten once they leave the starting area. This is the series only real short-coming as I can distinctly remember being thoroughly entertained by the cut-scene narrative that drove Diablo and Diablo II forward but I can't say the same for Torchlight and its flimsy paper thin plot I could jot down on a napkin. I know that it can be argued that one really doesn't need much narrative when it comes to this genre but a little would go a long way in keeping me invested. Runic drops the ball here again and I am still sitting here trying to remember what was the whole point and whether I really care to recount it.
Torchlight II's release was also surrounded by a more portentous event that almost shadowed everything gaming that year - the much anticipated 12-year-long-in-the-tooth-wait for the return of Diablo in Diablo III. While many initially thought it would be suicide going against Diablo III in the same quarterly release calendar , history sometimes favors the underdog and while Torchlight II got showered with praise from critics and gamers alike, Diablo III got publicly mauled for its new and improved skill-trees, its always online requirement - even when playing single player, the MMO-styled Auction House and its next-to-never loot drop of rare and unique items. You could argue that Torchlight II was the better game upon release for giving gamers everything they wanted from this genre - even including a LAN option which is always a welcome addition - but after a few heads being rolled at Camp Blizzard, Diablo III has slowly evolved into a finer form than the disaster it initially was and it's for this reason I actually enjoyed Diablo III more than Torchlight II but that's just personal taste because Torchlight II is still a blistering sequel that manages to capture pretty much everything about what makes these kinds of games the addictive experience they are.
It's also worth noting that Torchlight 2 comes with Steamworks Workshop mod integration and since release the community has been bustling away making user-generated content that whilst I haven't personally tried out is sure to keep the game going for a number more years before Runic attempt a sequel.
Gear up and get your clicking finger ready because Torchlight II is a resounding success!