Incandescent: Torchlight II Hands-On

By Dan Grill on June 16th, 2011 at 6:53 pm.


Torchlight II fell into our hands at E3 2011. This is what happened.

We’ve been looking for the bandit camp for ten minutes. ‘We’ being me, a berserker, producer Brock as a cannon-equipped Outlander, Brock’s wolf, Doggy, and my ferret, Marmot. “It’s north!” cries, Marsh Lefler, VP of Runic Games. We head north. We kill massed enemies, skeletons, great halberd-wielding beastthings, endless wolf-like things. Almost every thing we kill drops loot and before long we’re laden like junk pedlars. Our pets run back to town with the vendor junk and return laden with gold.

We hit a dead end. “It’s south…” groans Marsh. We head back south, make more monster-babies orphans on the way. We head east. West. We cross hills, burn smaller bandit villages, pass dungeon mouths, traverse rivers. There’s still more to explore. We get separated for five minutes, one of us heads into a dungeon, the other rescues a merchant from brigands, eventually we find the bandit camp. All the time we’re moving, there’s nothing but death; my recording at this point descends into the sounds of clicking, cartoon grunting and my occasional insane giggle.


Night is falling in the game, as we torch the thatch of the bandit cottages and descend to confront the bandit leader. He’s hiding out in a prison, a classic Torchlight enemy – in classic Warcraft style, his size indicates his threat and he’s great hulk of a man who hurls barrels at us. We kill him, eventually, and take his gold, then emerge back into the massive overworld.

Torchlight II is huge.

The size isn’t the biggest change; that would be the addition of overworld to the underworld. The first Torchlight had you going down and down and down from the main town, through increasingly nasty randomly generated levels, as well as visiting secondary dungeons through scrolls. This version has overland areas as its main arena, with dungeon mouths scattered throughout them. We’re playing through one of the two overland areas in the first of the game’s four acts (only one of which isn’t set outside) and it’s mentally large. Even Brock at one point says, worried, “I think you made this level too big. It’s seriously big. There’s a lot of South.”


There’s a huge variety of terrain and associated abominations across it; though not much in the way of welcoming people, save for quest givers. Moreover, the key locations, like everything else are randomly located. Like Frozen Synapse’s singleplayer, the developer merely specifies how many of each element should appear on the mapThis is why it took us 30 minutes to find the first objective, the bandit slavers’ camp – because even the developers couldn’t know where it was.

As we’re starting the Bandit quest, we find one of the random dungeons. These are the thing that’s changed least from Torchlight; they’re crammed with colourful design that passes in a flash as you crush a huge variety of enemies for loot. We’re given a quest to get inside, releasing spirits from their tombs (by smashing them) to open the gate. “One thing try we’re trying to do” says Marsh “is make it more interactive; you don’t just go to town and get a quest to kill five warbeasts, you’ll go out into the wilderness and find a caravan being attacked by zombies and, if you kill them before they kill him, you’ll get the reward.”


This one is full of skeletons of all types, who we batter into pieces, with the more fragile Brock only dying once or twice. At the end is the usual massive boss; an ogrelike abomination who endlessly spawns more skeletons from the pit he crawled out of, and who vomits aggressive maggots over you. The fight’s over quickly, mainly because they’ve given our characters over-powered gear, but there are tons more enemies to come. “The first act alone has more bosses than the whole of Torchlight” says Marsh. Upon killing the boss, he drops a bunch of good player-specific loot – not out of luck, but because in co-op you can only see your own loot.

The second big thing is the drop-in, drop-out co-op, which is so sexy right now. It suits Torchlight II down to the ground though. The game keeps track of all the quests your characters have done together, as well as allowing you to level up whilst playing. It’s also a good opportunity to try out another character class, which was a problem with the first game – like many RPGs, there was no way of trying before buying, meaning most players had no idea what it was like to play the other classes. Marsh admits that “it’s a hard one to solve”; Perhaps the return of the retirement system will encourage players to try out alternate classes.


Speaking of which, there are going to be four character types in Torchlight II: the Railman, who wields great two-handed gavels, pin-hammers and the like; The Outlander, who’s rather acrobatic so fills in a hit and run role. And the Berserker who’s both tank and damage dealer. The fourth is, in one of those classic PR moves to build buzz, yet to be revealed.

It’s worth emphasising that nothing has changed about the wonderful pet system. Torchlight inherited from Fate. You pick your pet at the start of your career, and they act as a weakish henchman. More importantly though, they still have their separate inventory and can still be sent back to town to auto-sell everything it’s carrying. Finally, fishing is going to make a reappearance; fish can either be sold or fed to your pet, morphing it for a limited time into a monster (which one depends which fish you get).


Finally, there should be a proper plot this time; “we hired a writer, so we have a story to tell.” We think this slaver attack might be part of that plot – but it’s definitely hard to tell what is and what isn’t, as the plot is rather sketchy at the moment; it involves a return to Estheria and how the conclusion of the previous game affected the characters in it, but we don’t have more details than that.

Torchlight II is looking solid. That said, while the co-op and overland both add to the game, they do sadly moving it closer to a more generic action-RPG like Dungeon Siege 3. We can hope it can maintain its identity and its quirkiness, and come up with other unique systems like pets or retirement to stave off a more generic fate.

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89 Comments »

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  1. Nighthood says:

    Well, it’s Torchlight alright. That’s all it seems to be though.

    • Shodex says:

      I’d say that’s more of a plus than anything. I loved the original Torchlight, and my only two real gripes were lack of variety in the environments and multiplayer. Torchlight II addresses those complaints directly.

    • Nicholas Totton says:

      That’s fine with me. If the first one had co-op and better path finding for the pets I would have kept playing it. Here’s hoping they can fix the pet path finding this time around so I need need to resummon all my pets every two feet because they get stuck on walls.

    • Mattressi says:

      I enjoyed the original immensely (well, the demo at least), however I couldn’t justify buying it because it lacked co-op (which is extremely important to me). Now, they’ve added co-op AND above-ground locations, which is all it would have taken to make Torchlight 2 perfect. This will likely be a day one purchase for me.

      Also, I don’t understand where others are coming from when they say that it risks being ‘just another hack and slash RPG’. People are looking forward to Diablo 3 and, frankly, it looks boring and lacking in creativity. The environments in Diablo 3 are so damned bland and lacking in detail, while Torchlight 2 looks to have well-detailed and interesting environments, plus the unique quirks that I loved in the original (pets, fishing, etc). I’m not a Torchlight fanboy and Blizzard never kicked my dog, but it seems plain to me that Torchlight 2 is the superior game to Diablo 3.

    • studenteternal says:

      Mattressi: I am pretty hyped for Torchlight 2, but to be fair to D3, we should probably wait until they are both out before we declare which one is better :)

  2. Nonentity says:

    Did they mention any information in regards to the improvement of unique loot and/or loot in general? That area always felt the weakest to me in comparison to Diablo and Diablo 2.

    The fact that you could make any item the best item via enchanting kind of broke it for me. The truly unique items were not that fascinating.

    • Xocrates says:

      Well, enchanting had a chance of going wrong and turning it into a basic item, and the odds of doing so in a good item were pretty high so I never really saw enchanting as too game-breaking.

      I lost plenty good items to an unlucky enchant :(

      That said, I also have an item that is absurdly good.

    • Nonentity says:

      Yeah, I know, but it also kind of made unique items lose a little bit of their shine, since you could basically make one with enough money and time. I dunno what it is, but there’s something to Diablo 2 unique items that feels better than anything Torchlight threw at me.

      Unique enchants, maybe?

    • Sardaukar says:

      I swear that part of it is the text colors. Few colors excite me as much as that battered gold title on a new unique item. Even the blue lends some sense of magic to the modifier descriptors.

    • unlimitedgiants says:

      I’m sure they have the same idiot in charge that thought having your items blow up was a good idea. Also, it’s the same guy who thought it would be a good idea to stop having weapons scale higher the deeper you went into the dungeons, but the monsters should scale higher.

      “We can hope it can maintain its identity and its quirkiness, and come up with other unique systems like pets or retirement to stave off a more generic fate.”

      Oh no he didn’t!
      Oh yes he did!

    • Nesetalis says:

      the thing about diablo’s items system… was it was very modular, there were rules to it that made sense..

      oh sure near the end of its reign it began to get insane and hectic with added modifiers.. but at the beginning you had for instance, the armor prefix, vulnerable, rusted, fine, strong, grand, galiant, glorious, blessed, saintly, awesome, holy, and godly.. (Godly Plate of the Whale anyone?)
      if a magical item had one of those prefixes, you knew it gave armor.

      it was logical, it made sense, and the naming scheme was quite memorable. Each magical item could only have two attributes, a prefix and a suffix, uniques on the other hand were hand crafted to be special with multiple attributes. in D2 they added rares and sets.. rares mixed it up a bit, but there were still rules.. certain attributes only showed up on certain items, with a maximum and minimum depending on the items level…

      strict rules for it, is what torchlight is missing, and i hope they do right.

  3. BooleanBob says:

    Good stuff, but the crucial question you’ve obviously dodged here is whether all female characters will have access to handlebar moustaches too?

    Blatant sexism if not imo

    • Sonicberry says:

      I would buy this game so hard if it allows me to create a female character with a handlebar moustache.

    • Nesetalis says:

      what about a Mandelbrot mustache? :O i want one of them.

    • Wilson says:

      Games very rarely have enough options when it comes to facial hair. Mount and Blade did quite well, but I’m sure there’s another game which had a truly impressive selection. What was it…

    • MD says:

      Was it Saints Row 2? I can’t remember exactly how good the facial hair selection was, but the face and body customisation was hilariously good, and I’m pretty sure that included a nice range of beardy variations.

    • mwoody says:

      Fallout 3 had 47 choices for facial hair, because – iirc – they just let one of the designers go crazy.

  4. Kaira- says:

    Well, it has co-op now, which in my opinion was it’s greatest lacking. Hopefully there’ll also be more variation in areas, because that was the second greatest thing the game lacked and made me bored time after time to the point of not finishing it. Still clocked around 30-40 hours in it.

  5. akerd says:

    I want it! It’s a pity that they moved release date, but I hope they will use this time to fix all bugs and to build a solid netcode for co-op.

  6. Marcin says:

    Most importantly: is the monocle class-restricted or is it a piece of generic armor? Because if the former, then I guess I already know what I’m playing!

    When’s this coming out, anyway? I foresee much coop in my gametime when it does.

    • Enzo says:

      Im pretty sure it comes out in July, so pretty soon.

    • paterah says:

      Very doubtful it comes out on July, we would have heard something by now, PCgamer reported it as “you should see it in September or October”. Some other things: it will be available on Steam much like the first game and it will be priced between $20 and $30. Pretty cool imo, it’s a guaranteed day one buy for me.

  7. Premium User Badge

    liquidsoap89 says:

    I hate to be “that guy”, and I know it was E3 recently so everything is flying by… But please don’t turn in to CVG. Recently I’ve been seeing lots of spelling errors, punctuation errors and the like. I understand some of this stuff was probably written quickly while it’s fresh in you minds and stuff, but please, PLEASE don’t fall to the level some of those other sites are at (and just for the record… Even with E3 you’re still doing better than most of those other sites).

    On a relevant note… This game’s looking cool. I never played the first Torchlight so maybe I’ll have to give this one a shot.

    • Cooper says:

      Just. What?

      Spelling, punctuation, grammar?

      CVG?

      You know where you are, right?

    • phosgene says:

      I hate to be “that guy”, <— comma goes into the quotation marks
      But please don’t <— bad form to start a sentence with a conjunction
      spelling errors, punctuation errors and the like <— don't English people use the oxford comma?
      fresh in you minds <— fresh like downy son
      some of those other sites are at <— hanging preposition
      I never played <— should be I've

      I kind of want to punch you in the face.

    • DiamondDog says:

      “don’t English people use the oxford comma?”

      Well to be fair, he might not live nearby and there’s usually a queue.

    • Premium User Badge

      FunkyB says:

      @phosgene
      If you are gonna grammar nazi then do it right. The comma does not go inside the quotation marks and it is perfectly acceptable to start a sentence with a conjuction in communications at this level of formality.
      However, his point is not invalidated by a lack of practicing what he preaches. This line of argument comes up all the time in Starcraft (see – bringing it back to games!). Someone will make a perfectly valid criticism of a player yet others will deride the criticism by saying “your opinion is incorrect because you are only Gold league”. It may be incorrect, but address the argument, not the person.
      So to bring it back to you, do you think he is correct, or incorrect? Whether he himself can use correct English does not matter as the comments are not held to the same standard as the articles.
      EDIT:
      The Americans do put their punctuation marks inside the quotes. Who knew! Well sorry for that point then, it seems both ways are acceptable.

    • Kaira- says:

      @Cooper

      Sure you meant “pun-ctuation”?

      … okay, I’ll get my jacket.

    • Premium User Badge

      jaheira says:

      “But please don’t”
      Contractions outside of reported speech are ugly.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yeah, you shouldn’t ever use them, especially not somewhere where conversational English may be expected, like a conversation in an online comment thread.

    • Premium User Badge

      JB says:

      DiamondDog wins. That is all.

    • phosgene says:

      FunkyB:

      http://grammartips.homestead.com/inside.html

      In the U.S. we do it the way I was describing. I was unaware the rest of the world does it differently until I looked it up. Sorry.

      If I wanted to address his argument I would have. I don’t have to get into an argument with someone to prove a point. This was accomplished (in some form) by pointing out the fact that no one, no matter how careful, is entirely immune to errors. With that said, I don’t think he’s right or wrong. I think that anyone who will complain that the quality of an exceptionally excellent website is disintegrating because of a few grammatical errors and spelling mistakes is someone I would like to punch in the face. This is all I was trying to get across.

      Good day sir.

    • Premium User Badge

      FunkyB says:

      Well I see what you are saying, but maybe you best avoid the whole face punching thing at all as it is pretty confrontational if you want to avoid getting into an argument :)

      Still, seems we were both wrong over the US/UK quotes thing, who knew!

    • meatshit says:

      You haven’t been reading RPS long if you think spelling and punctuation errors are a new thing.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      I found the whole face punching thing to be pretty funny myself. lol

  8. Pictoru says:

    “we hired a writer”
    that….that…..i just LOVE indie devs

  9. PaulMorel says:

    I can’t wait. It will be the perfect D3 appetizer … although with all the modding features in this game I could definitely see an outcome where this becomes the dungeon-crawler equivalent of TF2.

    • Faceless says:

      I somehow doubt that. Alien Swarm (Source) ultimately became extinct despite the elaborate SDK, and with Portal 2 Valve has to encourage the modding community with a competition.

      It’s a nice thought, but I don’t think that will happen. Not unless it has a hats shop. Or a moustache shop.

    • Kaira- says:

      Torchlight 1 had quite a lot of mods – most of them being custom character classes, though.

  10. UnravThreads says:

    I don’t know if to be excited over this. I didn’t get all the praise for Torchlight. I got fed up with it before I’d even hit 50 floors, and I didn’t think much of the UI.

    I wanted to love it, I really did, but I never did. Maybe Torchlight 2 will change that?

    • subedii says:

      Personally I liked to use Torchlight as a sort of “in-between” game.

      A short time to spare, I want to do something right now, no faffing about. A level in Torchlight was good enough. Get some loot, shoot some monsters, combine some gems, that sort of stuff.

      It’s not really the kind of game I want to play for long periods of time, since it isn’t really what you’d call an in-depth game. Beats playing peggle though.

      EDIT: At the same time, I do worry about the whole increase in size. I actually felt the levels in Torchlight were fine for size. Back when things switched over from Diablo 1 to Diablo 2, it felt like the game lost a lot of its singleplayer focus and charm. It just wasn’t fun to play singleplayer because everything was so huge and spaced out and it took ages to reach the end of anything.

    • Kablooie says:

      I think one of the reasons I enjoyed Torchlight so much (aside from it’s obvious charms and diabloesque loot) was that my expectations were low. Not that I thought it a bad game, but because of the cheap price I paid on Steam. What a nice surprise it was, and a little lesson for me.
      I’m a loot fiend, too.

  11. _Jackalope_ says:

    Even bigger? Blimey. What’s the max player limit?

    • Baines says:

      Destructoid E3 article says it was 8 players then, but the final number decided was subject to change.

  12. Kablooie says:

    Lookin’ good

  13. Icarus says:

    Yes.

    Oh, so very yes. This was on the day-one-buy list since I knew it existed.

  14. Vinraith says:

    The size of the worlds sounds good, the co-op option is nice to have, and I enjoyed the original Torchlight, so I’m looking forward to this. That said, I’m disappointed at the lack of character variety, and I’m curious to see how the procedural generation stuff stands up against Din’s Curse.

  15. Koozer says:

    Co-op? Sold. Ferrets? Double-sold. Moustaches? Triple-sold.

  16. noom says:

    So much love/hate for action RPGs right now… Diablo never grabbed me, but I ended up sinking a decent amount of time into Torchlight and Titan Quest, and am now even more obsessively playing Din’s Quest. I swear I can feel my brain shutting down while I play.

    *click click click click right-click click right-click click click click*

    • UnravThreads says:

      Aren’t Torchlight et al termed “Dungeon Crawlers” rather than “Action RPGs”?

    • Vinraith says:

      DIablo-likes are usually termed action RPG’s, from what I’ve seen. “Dungeon Crawler” connotes games like Wizardry and Etrian Odyssey.

  17. Jeremy says:

    I’m ready for this, I loved Torchlight but was definitely sad that it didn’t have co-op. This sounds like it’s getting a lot of the issues I had with the first game fixed, when adding co-op probably would have been enough to sell me on it :) Plus, yeah, being able to have a ferret.

    • Flint says:

      You can have a ferret in the first one as well – it was available as a bonus for some copies of the game (pre-order? physical release? something like that) and soon after a mod (blessed by the devs) appeared that allowed you to have one in any game.

      And it wasn’t just a ferret. It was a ferret with goggles and a pilot hat.

      Does the Torchlight 2 ferret have goggles and a pilot hat?

    • subedii says:

      Now there’s a question: Can we give our pets hats?

      This is an important issue for any modern game.

    • Jeremy says:

      What?! Ferrets were in the first game?! I need to get one now.

      *I just looked it up. I need that ferret.

    • Jeremy says:

      Thank you sir. You are a gentleman and a scholar.

    • Kablooie says:

      hahaha! Yesh! Pets with hats.

      I think the Ferret should have a bowler hat.

  18. Moni says:

    Steam says I’ve played Torchlight for 167 hours, so I’m sure I can’t say anything objectively about this.

  19. iniudan says:

    I am comming for the gameplay, I am staying for the moustache and monocle.

    Now where my top hat ?

    • Doesntmeananything says:

      Orthographically and grammatically, very much in style of the article. Bravo!
      :)

  20. Vinraith says:

    In an unrelated note, I’m disappointed by the absence of a “monocles” tag.

  21. Batolemaeus says:

    monocles.
    sold.

  22. karry says:

    Well, thats all good’n’all, but more than a writer Torchlight needed a good game designer. I wouldnt have minded if Torchlight was worse off technically, if the design was on par with Diablo 2. I just couldnt believe it was made by the same people (except the composer, there was no doubt about HIM being the same guy).

    BTW, Torchlight STILL doesnt have all major bugs fixed, probably never will. Yay ?

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      It was made by the same people with a small team in less than a year, from scratch. You have to love Torchlight for what it is: a well-made budget game, not a Diablo killer.

    • Kaira- says:

      Fun fact: Runic Games was formed by Travis Baldree, Max Schaefer and Erich Schaefer, the last two who were founders of Blizzard North, and also credited for Diablo I and II, Max being the lead designer of Diablo II and Lord of Destruction.

    • Steven Hutton says:

      I hate to agree and rag on a game that I really, really love. But I do agree. I got through most of torchlight by hammering all of my points into one ability and then spamming the hell out of that one, now ridiculously overpowered, spell.

      There didn’t seem to be a lot of incentive to diversify and ultimately the game got a smidge borinig because of that.

      That’ said… I’m totally going to go play torchlight right now.

  23. Premium User Badge

    Daiv says:

    Why oh why can I simply not get enough of right-clicking on things until a death animation plays?

  24. Premium User Badge

    Phinor says:

    I wish we had a release date. This would do well as a mid-summer game but I have a feeling it won’t be coming in July.

  25. Yosharian says:

    I don’t see how co-op and ‘overland’ make it more like DS3…

  26. sokkur says:

    If you could have an army of minions this would be a whole diffrent game.

  27. Temple says:

    Scale looks better, for me the torchlight camera was too close to the character. Or was that just me and my crappy resolution, did you guys have better joy with your better monitors?
    After playing Fate and getting bored quickly (ok about 12 hours in). Then its follow up and getting bored, the demo of Torchlight instantly hit the boredom switch and so I never went for the full thing.

  28. WingNutZA says:

    Staring monocles tag?

  29. magnus says:

    When,when,when? There’s so many games coming out, some kind of timescale would help my priorities,

  30. Premium User Badge

    shoptroll says:

    You guys had me at mustaches and monocles. Sold.

  31. jeremypeel says:

    All I can think about is what good use could be made of this engine for a tactical, story-based RPG. I’m beginning to accept that this isn’t my genre, but if it looks nearly identical! Even in the last couple of weeks, Divine Divinity managed to throw me enough Baldur’s Gate-shaped bones to keep me playing for far too long (and if I sound bitter, that’s why).

    The Icewind Dale series remain the only ARPGs that have managed to hold my attention. So ironically, I have kinda high hopes for Dungeon Siege 3…

    • Kaira- says:

      Somebody correct me if I am wrong, but at least Torchlight the first was made with OGRE 3D, which is open-source 3D engine, and I guess Torchlight II is made with the same engine?

  32. Neurotic says:

    So where do we stand now in relation to the Torchlight mmog?

  33. Bodylotion says:

    Would be cool if u could just create ur character

  34. JackShandy says:

    Why does it need a gear? What possible purpose does that gear serve?

    • Wulf says:

      I was thinking along similar lines, but my drive is more to explain why these things are rather than to question/dismiss, so… I sat and thought. it has no real purpose, I think we can arrive at that conclusion, but since there seems to be an uptake of steampunk technology in Torchlight II, the gear could be a more symbolic element.

      Sort of like what the warriors of a mechanist culture might use, still clearly a melee weapon, but with nods to their culture. I believe that there are gears on some of the guns in Gears of War, and those are vestigial too, they serve no purpose, ad there are gears on one of the charr guns in Guild Wars 2 as well. But in GoW they’re a part of COGS or somesuch (I forget) so it has symbolic significance there. And the charr seem to be all over gears because their revolution seems to be largely clockpunk, they dig gears, so it has symbolic relevance there.

      I think that the gear, to some mentalities, is a symbol of power and/or industry, and something to be displayed even if it is vestigial and pointless.

    • Chris D says:

      I wear gears now. Gears are cool.

    • Wulf says:

      Yeah, pretty much that.

    • Tacroy says:

      When the hammer is wielded, the gear spins at puissant frequencies which cause the thaumic web inside the crystal head to gain or lose weight as needed, affording the user more finesse than is normally available in a war axe.

      Also it looks cool.

  35. lunarplasma says:

    Pre-order exclusive should be a honey badger.

  36. Torgen says:

    Steampunk, co-op Torchlight?

    Can haz demo now, please?

  37. kuran says:

    How much will this sell for? I remember Torchlight 1 being such an easy purchase because it was Mac/PC comp. AND cheap as chips. Will buy this day 1 nonetheless.