Torchlight 2 Hands-On Report

While at Runic Games, and in the days since then, I’ve had dozens of people ask me what I thought of Torchlight 2. To my chagrin, I still don’t have a good answer. I enjoyed playing it, and I was impressed by the quality and the numerous, evident improvements over TL1. But that seems such a cop out; “It’s like TL1, but much better in every way.” Surely I can do better than that?

The most obvious comparison that comes to mind is equally-lazy. TL1 to TL2 is very much like the progression from Diablo I to Diablo II. The first Diablo game was set in a series of dungeon below a single small town. The dungeon completely changed layout and largely changed monsters every four levels, and there was no exploration and no surface level combat. All that pretty well applies to TL1 as well.

I’m not saying TL1 = D1: TL1 had skill trees with much variety between the classes, rather than D1’s simple spellbook system, and on the other hand D1’s item system and especially the story and the tone and theme were much better than TL1’s. In terms of the general scale of the games though, and the progression in types of levels and overall design, TL2’s expansion on the world and size and style of TL1 is quite similar to D2’s, all those years ago.

(Just to complete the analogy, Diablo III seems to be basically the same as Diablo II, in terms of scale and scope and depth of story, though obviously the game mechanics have received a huge overhaul.)

So my comparison is lazy, but at least it’s comprehensible. Torchlight 2 is a vastly bigger, more complicated, more varied, more interesting game than TL1. I haven’t played enough of it to say if it’s vastly better than its predecessor, but all signs point to yes, from what I’ve seen so far.

What This Article Covers

This is not one of my typical mega-reports, for a variety of reasons. For one thing, I haven’t been following Torchlight 2 that closely, so I don’t have the encyclopedic level of knowledge about the game to write such a detailed analysis. Even if I did, I wouldn’t, at least not on this site, since you guys are here for Diablo III content. While many of you are curious about other related ARPGs, you probably don’t want or need 8000 words detailing every skill and monster and level and quest.

So, instead of going that route, I’ve written up a variety of observations on things about Runic Games, or Torchlight 2, or what the devs told me about it during my visit, that I found interesting. And with any luck, you will too. They’re sorted by subject, so feel free to skip to the stuff you’re most interested in.

Click through to continue…

Torchlight 2’s Development

I could write a great deal about this, as Travis Baldree and some of the other devs spoke about it at length, both at the studio and during conversations we held over lunch and dinner on Monday. But to keep on track, I’ll try to give a fairly short version.

Torchlight 2’s development began almost immediately after TL1’s Xbox port was completed. I think some of the studio was already working on TL2, since the Xbox port (which sounded like it was more trouble than it was worth, from various comments I heard) required all of their coders, but much less from their artists or writers or other employees. Hence I suspect they were already working on TL2.

At any rate, the full team was churning away on TL2 as soon as the Xbox version was done, which was around 16 months ago, by Travis’ calculations. So why isn’t it done yet? After all, they produced TL1 from start to finish in under a year… but you have to realize that wasn’t entirely by choice. As Travis told me, an imminent lack of money forced them to really rush the game out, with numerous features completed literally days before the launch. I think this contributed to a general lack of polish, especially in things like the last act, the end game content, the higher level items, some of the skills, etc.

Another complication was the numerous digital sales partners Runic Games lined up. This helped get a broader sales base for TL1, but it made patching very difficult, since many of the vendors tacked on their own DRM system that added numerous technical hurdles to the patching process.

As a result of the rushed nature of TL1, the difficulty in patching it, and the months they spent after that reworking the game for the Xbox 360, I think the Runic Games devs were *very* ready to start work on TL2, and very motivated to make it a much better game than TL1. Their initial estimates of completing it in a year proved overly-optimistic, but that’s a good thing for the game.

They could have made a larger, better version of TL1 and released it this summer. They could have released a pretty good version of TL2 this fall, or certainly by Christmas. Instead, as TL2’s development continued during 2011, and they realized just how much potential the game had, and the continuing sales of TL1 kept money in the bank, they decided to take their time with TL2 and really polish and balance everything. Though no one said anything about release dates other than “soon/when it’s done” during my visit to their offices earlier this week, I was not at all surprised by Travis’s official delay post.

Comparisons to and Worries About Diablo III

There are obvious comparisons between TL2 and D3, and though we’ve often heard comments from Max Schaefer about how different the games are, especially with the online-only, no-modding, RMAH features of D3 vs. the fact that TL2 is very mod-friendly, is playable offline, and is your actual property once you buy it (you’re just renting Diablo III, since if Blizzard ever bans your account you’ve got nothing), I don’t think many of us were convinced. Yes, most D3 fans would prefer to own the game, to be able to play it offline, and perhaps to remove the RM from the AH, most people see those as peripheral issues, with the gameplay as the core issue. And most people, at least the ones reading this site, are automatically ranking Diablo III ahead of any other game, including TL2.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the people at Runic Games, and a fair number of Torchlight fans, would beg to differ.

While at Runic Games, numerous TL2 developers, as well as several of the other fansite invitees (all of whom cover Torchlight much more closely than I do), asked me how TL2 compared to Diablo III. The Runic Games folks had their own opinions on that, since as has been rumored, Blizzard did indeed send them a bunch (30) of beta keys some weeks ago, which let everyone there get a taste of Diablo III. Following that trial, the sense of urgency and hurry the TL2 devs were feeling… largely lifted.

I know that this seems unbelievable, as everyone (certainly everyone I’ve seen comment on this site) has been assuming that TL2 had to release well before Diablo III, that the Runic Games people were surely quaking in their galoshes about all their potential customers being lost in Sanctuary and ignoring TL2 entirely, etc. If so, they’re very good at hiding it, since not a single person asked me to estimate when Diablo III would be released, or asked if my site’s readers were paying attention to TL2, etc. They really weren’t concerned with that, and they honestly do not seem to be worried about when D3 will be released, and if it’s coming out before or after TL2.

Perhaps they should be; I mentioned this while recording the podcast yesterday, and both Wolfpaq and The Eliminator flatly said they were not going to buy TL2 if it didn’t come out before Diablo III. At least not right away; they both allowed that perhaps some months later, if Steam put TL2 on sale, and if they wanted a break from D3, they might pick it up.

How true is that of the general TL2 potential player pool? I have no idea.

So why were the devs asking me about Diablo 3? Mostly out of curiosity, since they all thought TL2 was a very different game in feel, in pacing, and in difficulty. And they’re right, at least compared to the Diablo 3 Beta. After playing several hours of TL2 on Monday and Tuesday, I played a few hours of Diablo III on Wednesday night, while TL2 was still fresh in my brain. I played a new Monk, the only class I had yet to test extensively in the beta, and honestly… I was kind of bored. After TL2, the slow, simple, easy, almost ponderous nature of the early game in Diablo III was blindingly obvious. I kind of felt silly; how had I not noticed how ploddingly slow the game was until then?

TL2 isn’t a frantic chaos right from the start, by quite early on there are levels with considerably more monsters, more types of monsters, more action, more clicking, and a lot higher difficulty than anything in the entire Diablo III beta. Obviously the D3 beta is just the early part of the game, it’s the easiest part, it’s accessible for non-gamers to get involved, etc. All that stuff the devs keep repeating.

That said, I had more fun, in terms of the overall gameplay and action and pacing, from levels 1-10 in TL2 than I’ve had over that same time frame with any class in Diablo III. That’s obviously a conditional statement, since we know that Diablo III won’t still be wobbling forward on training wheels (gorgeously-textured, highly polished training wheels, to be sure) in Act 3, or Act 4. And certainly not in Hell or Inferno difficulty. I have every hope (if a bit less confidence) that the game will eventually be much more busy, complicated, fast-paced, and fun, and that while the beta is a great showcase for the overall polish and quality and story and graphics… it’s not a useful preview of the actual gameplay.

That said, level 1-10 is hardly enough to scratch the surface of Torchlight 2 either, and I’m sure that just like Diablo III, its late game will be a lot more fun than the early stuff.

More Diablo II than Diablo III is Diablo II

Torchlight 2’s main features are much more like those of Diablo II than those of Diablo III. Which means TL2 much more like D2 than D3 is like D2. I’m reminded of those “Hellgate: London is the spiritual successor of Diablo II” comments we used to hear from Flagship Studios, but I’m not going to bring that up because um… yeah.

As for Torchlight 2, with features like heath and mana potions, health and mana bulbs, skill trees, skill points, and manually-assigned attributes, all features not found in Diablo III, the comparison is pretty obvious.

This isn’t necessarily a good thing — though many of us in the Diablo community initially objected to Diablo III’s removal of stat points, skill points, mana potions, etc, I think most people have since come around to accept and even appreciate these feature changes. Thus Torchlight 2’s use of those D2-style game functions is traditional, but it might seem outdated, when (if?) we ever have the full versions of Diablo III and Torchlight 2 to compare side by side.

Personally, I’m on the fence about several of these issues.

On the TL2/D2 side, I still miss manual attributes. I hardly notice level ups in Diablo III, and certainly don’t notice which attribute points I just gained, nor do I really know what they do, since they’re automatic now and are very easily overlooked. I also enjoyed skill points, both to see my character’s power grow, and as a form of character customization. The skills weren’t perfectly done in Diablo II, with diminishing returns, low level skills that grew quickly useless, annoying prerequisites, and excessive synergies. But it was fun to save up skill points and feel my characters growing rapidly in power as I started loading several high level skills at once.

On the D3 side, I didn’t much miss potion drinking and excessive leech (though there’s no early leech in TL2 and drinking potions was better than being bored from the easy non-difficulty in early D3). Also, I love the variety of skill runes, I like the custom resources for every class, and I especially like the improved skill trees and the separation of active and passive skills in D3. (Though they should have kept “traits” as the name for passive skills.)

My biggest complaint about TL1 was the crappy skill trees, which had too few actives and too many utility passives with tiny % bonuses. Amongst Diablo III’s biggest improvements is the way you get so many active skills early in the game. This gives you a lot to do and encourages you to constantly change your attacks (thankfully, since the early game is boringly-easy for experienced ARPG players). Torchlight 2 follows much the same skill tree system as TL1, with 3 tabbed trees per class, each with about 10 total skills in 1/5/10/15/20/25 tiers. That would be okay, except that again, there are nearly as many passives as actives, and I thus found myself using the same one or two skills per character during my whole play tests.

My one true request of Travis; more active skills, fewer passives, and maybe a different organization system for them. I do not at all mind Diablo III keeping the passives hidden away in the back of the bus, invisible until Clvl 10 and then mostly forgotten afterwards. That is how it should be. They are second class skills. (Even though points in them are often more important and impactful than in actives.)

Difficulty On Demand

So what was so much better about Torchlight 2 than Diablo III, then? The pace and action early on, mainly.

As I mentioned above, very early into Torchlight 2 you are seeing very fast and fun action, with lots of enemy targets on all sides. This isn’t exactly dangerous, since their AI isn’t good enough to swarm you, but it certainly looks and feels more intense than anything in early Diablo III. Very soon after that, in the early (huge!) surface area, you find numerous pockets of monster packs that will put you to the test, and numerous dungeons that have challenges well beyond anything in the extended tutorial that is the Diablo III beta.

Not that Torchlight 2 is some masochistic struggle; the difficulty is optional since you can select (and change between games) the difficulty level you wish to play on. Easy, Normal, Hard, or Very Hard. According to the devs and the other testers, who all played much more TL1 than I did, the difficulties are basically a notch higher, e.g. TL1’s hard is roughly equivalent to TL2’s normal.

My first game I played an Embermage in a LAN game with all 4 of the other media guys there. It was super fun, but so crazy with all five of us running around the same areas that I couldn’t really judge the difficulty. In my second game I played solo with the Outlander and went with all archery skills. It wasn’t very difficult, but it was fun. (Though I’d have to put the Demon Hunter higher in fun factor, at least since the v5 patch fixed her Hatred problem and moved Rapid Fire to a much lower level.)

Things got real in my last game though, when I played a Berserker, selected Very Hard, went with dual fist type weapons. It was so fun. I nearly died twice in the first opening valley section that you fight through on the way to the main town for Act One. The Ratlings and other low level beasties didn’t show too much brain, but their brawn was greatly enhanced, and when they hit, it hurt

It was a good pain though, since I’d done it on purpose, and I soon realized that I had to advance carefully, string out the enemies to engage them one or two at a time, use my skills wisely, keep my finger on the red potion button, and generally play with a care and diligence worlds distant from anything I’d yet shown in the Diablo III beta. If I was reminded of anything from the Diablo series, it was playing an untwinked character newly arrived in hell in Diablo I, where I was honestly in over my head and had to be prepared to flee from any concentration of enemies.

Obviously not everyone finds that type of play fun; the Diablo III team has certainly never acknowledged the possibility of it, unless you think we might see something of that nature in Inferno, but even then you’d be using a Clvl 60 character with all of your skills and equipment available to you. There’s no way to find that sort of challenge in the early game of Diablo III; even playing naked you’d have less difficulty, and I’ve never much enjoyed intentionally gimping my chars to find some difficulty; what I like is when I’m playing as well as I can, and a game is *still* hard.

I don’t know if I’d enjoy going through the entire game with that kind of struggle, but it was tremendous fun during an hour of the Berserker, even though by the end I was nearly broke, with all my gold going to health potions, and the prospect of having to replay an early area for more eq and gold, and to get my Clvl up above the Mlvls I was facing.

As I mentioned on the podcast, after playing that Berserker Tuesday morning, I spent a few hours playing a Diablo III DiabloWikiMonk on Wednesday night, and found the character tedious and grindy, until nearly the end of the beta. Even with junky equipment, my only real decision was which DiabloWikiCombo skill to choose in order to kill everything with a single hit, while looking in puzzlement at the low level defensive skills I had absolutely no call to even consider using, other than purely from curiosity or experimentation.

Randomized Levels and Outdoor Enormities

The other really cool thing was the size and variety of the outdoor areas. I was able to fairly thoroughly explore one of them twice in my three games, and I would not have known the area was random had I not been told by the devs. 1) It looked hand-crafted, with all the little nooks and crannies; canyons, valleys, rocky knolls, monster villages, ponds with fishing holes, graveyards, random dungeons, etc. 2) It was so large I didn’t have time to fully explore it in either game, and couldn’t possibly have remembered if it had had the same layout both times.

While the dungeons I saw in Torchlight 2 were fairly similar in dungeon shape/size to those of Diablo II or Diablo III, the surface area was much different. Much larger and more varied than any I’ve seen in Diablo III, and so much more detailed and natural and realistic than the big rectangles with perfectly straight borders that made up the surface areas in Diablo 2. (With the possible exception of the Act Three jungle.) The only large surface area we’ve yet seen in D3 was the desert in the 2009 demo, and who knows how its shape and size may have changed since then. I do hope/think that we’ll see some really large surface expanses in D3, though.

As I said, I would not have believed the TL2 surface areas were randomly generated. Perhaps with more play time I’d have begun to recognize the shapes and jigsaw-like pieces that make up the levels, but that didn’t happen during my limited testing time. Some elements of the areas were similar; the little graveyard with a mini-quest, one rocky hilltop where a bunch of demons came leaping down to attack me, and a lengthy narrow pass through a sort of valley, but they were connected very differently, and played differently as well.

The early area was outdoor and grassy, with lots of little hills and canyons and paths through rocky passes and around huge boulders. The terrain is very much a factor in the play; monsters constantly appear atop hills you can not shoot up, and come leaping down to attack you. You can get to the hilltops yourself, after you run around a bit and find a winding path up there, and sometimes you could catch the beasties still on the top and engage a half dozen or more at a time. The point is that the levels are all accessible area that you can explore; they don’t just have spawning points that monsters appear from that you can’t access.

There are lots of smaller sub-areas as well, full of monster camps where the enemy density increases greatly. These seem a bit “lived in” as well; I found a few ogre-sized demons lying down, sleeping near campfires. They got up when I drew near, slowly climbing to their feet so they could fall back down once I bloodily hacked them to bits.

There are plenty of quests in the surface areas, most of them tied to various random dungeons. Quest design is one place that Torchlight 2 doesn’t seem to be expanding much on Torchlight 1, with fairly basic “go there and get something for me” type missions. (The dungeons were usually two levels, with a big boss on the bottom, near the glowing quest item.) The useful twist came from the quest rewards, since the NPCs offered several items and asked me to pick one.

That’s not so amazing, but the big break with RPG tradition came in the items themselves, which were actually quite desirable. Not just some crappy magical boots, but items that were the equivalent of good rares in Diablo III. (Not that there are any good rares in Diablo III, but hypothetically speaking.) The best twist was that some of the NPCs would have four or five items, ask me to pick one, and offer several Set Items. This is part of the game’s approach to the perpetual problem of making more than one piece of an Item Set available while it’s still of a level appropriate to your character.

Combat and Monsters

Combat is fast, fluid, and frequently-chaotic.

Speaking about the design, Travis Baldree stressed his desire to run around shooting and staying very active in combat. He clearly likes it when monsters are coming at you quickly, in great numbers, and usually from multiple directions. This keeps the player quite busy, with always something new happening.

Monsters often spawn from set locations in great numbers, or the normal “scattered around the dungeon” types are supplemented by others that issue steadily out of a drain pipe or leap down from a high wall. This often happens during quite busy encounters, so you’ve got the regular hordes, and then from the lower right (or wherever) a new skeleton or other beastie appears every half second. This keeps the player from feeling real settled or dug in during combat, with always something new happening to change up the battle equations.

Another nice touch that they debuted in TL1 is the way monsters materialize once you are within range. It’s not exactly a stealth/cloaking type thing, it’s just a normal spawning matter, as you move around the map and monsters appear when you are near them. It’s kind of a “fog of war” type of reveal, and it works in Torchlight 2 to keep you from spotting the monsters when they’re still harmlessly far away.

I think this is essential in modern aRPGs that allow high resolutions, since otherwise you can see monsters long before they’re capable of fighting, giving ranged characters a big advantage. That’s something I’ve found unsatisfying in the Diablo 3 beta; that my Wizards, Witch Doctors, and Demon Hunters can constantly spot, and usually shoot, monsters at the top corners of the screen, long before they can see me. It feels like an exploit in D3, and it’s nice that you don’t get that unfair advantage in Torchlight 2.

One other monster feature that was much improved over its Diablo III form were monsters with shields. They can block in Torchlight 2, and quite effectively. Skeletal Shieldmen are fun in Diablo III, but only to see the “block” text appear two or three times as your overwhelming offensive onslaught withers them. In Torchlight 2 you soon learn to fear monsters with shields, since they’ll absorb a good two-thirds of your offense, advancing on you while protecting other monsters behind them. I didn’t see any such items, but if there were modifiers that gave bonuses to shieldbreaking, I would so consider loading up on them, even if only on a spare weapon, to switch it in for those key moments. (Yes, of course there’s a DiabloWikiweapon switch hotkey in Torchlight 2. Did you really have to ask?)


First of all, you didn’t really believe that intro, that this would be a short report? Don’t you know me better by now? (It was supposed to be. Really. But I kept thinking of other stuff I wanted to mention.)

That said, I’m only scratching the surface of the game, and in a very scattershot way. Torchlight 2 is nearly as big and feature-rich as Diablo III, and it takes a much more no-nonsense approach to things. If you’re an experienced ARPG player and you want a fast action, fun, variable-difficulty dungeon crawler with a lot of cool features and a delightfully-low price, you will love Torchlight 2. If you got any enjoyment out of TL1, you are guaranteed to enjoy the sequel, as it’s just so much more in every way.

I’m excited for the Torchlight 2 beta (no ETA), and if I had it right now I’d definitely play it over the Diablo 3 beta, though much of that is since I’ve already thoroughly played the D3 beta, and since the TL2 beta will feature more content and can be fun/challenging right from the start.


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  1. Regarding the skill trees and attributes, is it as unbalanced as TL1 was? Were there skills that couldn’t scale up w/ gear or attributes? Speaking of gear, what kinds of mods were there?

  2. Will you be posting a Q&A later (assuming you had one)?  I’m glad to hear they kicked the difficulties up a notch… my first two TL1 characters were wasted on Easy and Normal modes – Hard was normal (if not easy) IMO.

    • There’s a 30m interview I did with Travis Baldree coming very soon, that covers most of that basic stuff. And I’ll be linking to the reports the other attendees wrote, which (I suspect) will focus more on the game details and features than I did in this more general, d3-themed write up.

  3. Wow I’m really starting to think that D3 is just not for me.  TL2 may be my type of game.  Let the casual crowd have their D3.  Give me something with some challenge and quality gameplay.  I’m actually excited by an ARPG again!

    • Torchlight 1’s challenge and quality gameplay deteriorate very, very rapidly. Don’t jump the horse until you see what they actually do with higher level gameplay.

      The most creative thing they managed are monsters that shot red lightning that instagibbed you unless you stacked on Lightning resist… and that’s about it.

      Hopefully, TL2 is a very strong iteration.

    • You must have missed the blizzcon video of some of the in house dev/test team complaining and saying they didn’t have enough gold in inferno because they were dieing too many times. “The first named pack will one shot you.” Yep, must have missed it.
      Get over yourself. TL1 was all false difficulty. Even upping the difficulty in TL2 only proves challenging in the beginning when you have no gear/skill points. Not to mention, TL lets you set the slider from the get go and you eventually out level/gear everything.
      Hell/Inferno: most everything is higher level and peeling your ass off the concrete just to kick it again.

      • “Get over yourself. TL1 was all false difficulty. Even upping the difficulty in TL2 only proves challenging in the beginning when you have no gear/skill points”

        so you also were invited to the event and played the game ?
        looking forward to hear hearing your detailed write up  (really, really soon) 

      • All you’re doing is regurgitating what some Blizzard employees have told you about the difficulty.  Of course they’re going to try to sell the game as super challenging for all the hardcore gamers at Blizzcon. Do you think they would get people excited if they cut to Larry in Accounting talking about how he facerolled through the whole game spamming plague of toads? The truth is we have no idea how difficult Hell/Inferno will really be until the game ships.

  4. Meh, TL2 has all the issues that D2 had.  D3 actually fixes them.

    • Yip, because these “issues” are impossible to solve through iteration, tuning, thoughtfulness or thorough testing. Better just to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  5. Nice review and comparison. I played TL1 which I enjoyed for like 16 hours of gameplay after which I swapped back to D2. Diablo is so deep in my veign that I can’t resist D3. I am playing the D3 beta and yes it’s easy, but it is amazing. The harder difficulties will please us all.

    Ill try TL3 but in the end for me D3 will be my game!

  6. Interesting read, I’m looking forward to the beta. Hopefully I get to test it 8)

  7. Thanx for the very informative post.
    I’m pretty exited for T2, been playing T1 again and really enjoying it even with all its flaws. 
    I’ve actually been a bit nervous about D3 because of all the changes they made from D2, especially when it comes to difficulty.  I really hope I’ll enjoy it.
    At least I know what to expect from T2 and I know for a fact that I will enjoy it.

    • but they haven’t changed the method of difficulty.  Do you guys remember D2 at all?  Normal mode was pretty damn easy.  Especially after the first play thru.  I can roll thru D2 normal without dying quite easily.  Especially with ranged characters.   D3 normal mode is gonna be the same way and I for one don’t have a problem with this.  D3 is the same as D2 in that you play thru normal, then nightmare, then hell, and newly introduced Inferno.
      T2 and T1 took a different approach.  They offer up the difficult setting right away.  Wanna play on very hard from the get go?  go for it.  But when you are done, you are done.  You can’t advance your character to the next difficulty setting.  You have to start over. (am i remembering that right? been a while)
      Both methods have their drawbacks.  Torchlight being you can’t advance and replay the story, D3 being that you have to tolerate normal mode when you are already very good at ARPGs.   The character progression in my opinion is just better with the Diablo method.
      And the dev’s have stated quite clearly.  Hell and Inferno is going to challenge you.  Big time.  (ya i know..remains to be seen.  I for one believe them)


        Can you explain in details the post-game features
        You will finish the normal game at around level 50. Once you’ve done that, you will be able to play through again with your current character with monsters starting at level 51. You will probably be somewhere around 70-80 when you finish New Game+, and will most likely be able to restart again and do New Game++. Marsh didn’t have an idea of how many times you would be able to replay this time around.

        What is the final decision on the difficulty options? What’s this game+?
        I explained new game+ in the previous sections. Right now there are 4 difficulty options: Easy, Normal, Hard and Very Hard. All of them are more difficult than the previous game. You will be able to change difficulty level whenever you create a game and you will inherit the difficulty from the game you join in multi-player. Drops will most likely be the same… only difficulty will be harder.
        It is possible there might be an unlockable difficulty level.

        • thx for the info

        • Interesting.  Reading the full transcript of those questions at the original site, it sounds like it’s a mix of the T1 system (Easy/Normal/Hard/Very Hard) and D2 (Normal/Nightmare/Hell).  Basically whichever of E/N/H/VH you are on, you can replay through it ~3 times, kind of like VH Normal, VH Hard, VH Hell.

      • Maybe when you were better at the game D2 seemed easy on Normal difficulty.  When you don’t know lightning hurts like a dog then even Bloodraven becomes a death after death after death situation.  I know this because I introduced a number of people to the game.

        Blizzard doesn’t believe in the saying “you can’t please everybody”. 
        I think they should have a selectable “Beginner” difficulty for beginners to the genre. 
        Why do you think they added Inferno difficulty?  Because Inferno will probably be what Hell difficulty use to be. 
        It actually angers me that they make us out to be such idiots, incapable of choosing attributes and skills ourselves in case we make a mistake.  A game should be just that… a GAME.  Where you can LOSE if you suck and be rewarded if you’re awesome.

        • i agree with you that ya…once you get used to stuff it is easier.  In that regard though,  I’ve seen plenty of deaths in D3 on the lets plays when people first run into mobs that they don’t exactly know what will do.  So doesn’t that pretty much make it the same as D2 early game?   My main point is just that I don’t really see that they’ve changed the difficulty compared to D2.  Then again, I haven’t played at all nor have any of us played passed lvl 13.  People are jumping to conclusions and stating things as fact when none of us really know.
          I thought Inferno was the new end game, not the new hell mode.  They’ve said that plenty of players won’t make it thru hell mode haven’t they?
          Not knowing that you only need X amount of dex or int does not equal sucking.  It also had the side effect that eventually everyone followed pretty much the same formula.  So how is that a good thing?  I don’t see it as them treating us like idiots.  I see it as them removing a flawed game design.    The removal of skill points caught me by suprise, but after really thinking about it, I don’t see a big difference in not being able to push + next to a chosen skill.  Not to mention it removes point hoarding which went against the purpose of the design anyway.  It also lead to people not lvling up early skills and using them when it was appropriate for them to use them. It was a fun design at the time..synergies helped make it more fun, but overall, its worth trying something completely new.   And the developers feel like they have improved the game.  For now, all I can do is count on them being right.

  8. Excellent write-up.

  9. I don’t know. Already the first ingame shot ( ) tells me that this game borrows a lot from WoW’s comic style. This image looks like a cheap hybrid of one of the Uldum and one of the ‘Drak troll instances. Diablo 3 already wins hands down with respect to the imagery, in my opinion.

  10. I think they are correct that they don’t need to worry too much about D3. One, because D3 and TL2 pursue very different goals, with D3 going for the massive online community and persistent experience and TL2 going for an all in one, very free approach.
    Yes there will be people not buying TL2 because of D3, especially if it doesn’t release some months before, but TL2 seems to be going for longterm (at least moreso than TL1) and if they support the game well, it’ll find it’s playerbase.
    Secondly, just like WoW gave rise to the MMORPG as a mass phenomenon, D3 could do the same for ARPGs, which would actually help TL2. It’d just be scraps compared to D3, but more than enough to sustain a small studio like Runic Games.
    Obviously, same goes for D3, they aren’t really competing with games like TL2, their goal is far beyond that. They are basically competing with all other forms of entertainment to get people to play it who really haven’t heard much about Diablo or ARPGs in general. Evidence? They expect the D3 playerbase to match WoW’s and I doubt the ARPG scene is anywhere near as big as that.
    PS: Just how many times did Flux mention that D3 earlygame is (too) easy in that article? It almost feels like an agenda and not like a dead horse.

  11. after playing the game, were you and the other players able to give feedback to the devs ? 
    sort of like you were all testers in a mini beta ? 

    example: this monster AI really needs improvement or this skill is too flashy or the sound level isn’t quite right ? 

    • They were constantly after feedback, especially of things we didn’t like. As we played there were 6 or 8 devs sitting in the room behind us, watching what we did, asking questions, explaining things, etc. Travis was in there constantly writing notes on a big whiteboard on the wall, about changes and fixes and optimizations they were going to make.

      We later took part in a roundtable Q&A (audio of that is up on the torchlight site) and afterwards without recording we all talked for another hour or so about our early observations and feedback.

      More details in the podcast i recorded about it yesterday. Had hoped it would be online with this article, but the audio processing took time.

  12. Thanks flux, I’m now very excited for TL2 🙂

  13. That was a good, informative read.  They are still sticking with manual-stats and the TL1-style skill trees eh?  That makes me nervous.  

    Do the skills scale with your attributes?  So if I want to beef up my magic spells, I pump my magic attribute?  (whatever the name of it is)

    I’ve had a lot of doubts about TL2, but this read gives me hope.  I’m excited to see what happens with the game.

    • Yes, like I keep saying, this is covered in teh interview I did with Travis. Should be posted later today. Most of the skills have DPS aspects, so they scale up with your char. The goal is for even low level skills to remain viable into the end game.

  14. Your initial opinion on skills has me quite concerned.  T1’s skills sucked.   That was the big thing I really wanted them to improve.
    How were the boss fights?  Tank n spank or did they require some degree of skill?  The bosses in T1 were a joke.  Not much more different than a normal mob..just with lots more health and hurt a little more.  Nothing potion spamming couldn’t conquer.   (D3’s bosses remain to be seen on if they’ve improved much beyond this either but we’ve only seen the “intro” boss.)

    • T1 bosses a joke?  I only played VHHC so we may not be talking about the same thing, but the last boss literally took me an hour with a Berserker.  Nearly died to a screenful of 60 mobs about 15 times – hair-raising experience.  I was in physical pain when it was done!  That said, i wouldn’t want to go through that again.  Much more fun on the summoner Alchemist where everything just died off-screen while i twiddled my thumbs.  😛

      And yes, the comment about skills is extremely disconcerting, given how massive of a weakness the skill trees were in T1.  Skills and items were very weak points, hopefully T2 isn’t just more content, which doesn’t address the core problems.

  15. link to the podcast ?

  16. Nice write-up.

    Unfortunately those skill trees and quest design were the things I hated most in Torchlight along with not interesting items. The art style is too cartoony for my tastes too. 

    From your review I think TL2 will only be a bigger Torchlight with outdoor areas and peer to peer multiplayer (no server supporting = cheats). Also I’m not a fan of really fast paced combat. Even D2 was a little bit faster for me.

    So I came to a definite conclusion that I’ll past TL2. I’m starting to wonder why do all these ARPGs have huge flaws? (Yes, even path of exile. In fact current state of it has more flaws than D3 imo).  Can’t they just make a bigger D2 in 3D with better boss encounters, more content (skills, items, dungeons) and PvP?

    I should convince Valve to make an isometric ARPG set in the middle age.

  17. But the real question is, can my grandma play Torchlight 2?

  18. oh boo hoo…the beta is boring for you.  id give my brothers left testicle to play the beta.  grrr, ppl who havent been invited to the beta cant be happy to read the laissez-faire way you talk about the beta :-X

    • I didn’t say the D3 beta is boring. I said some parts of it with some chars are boring, and stated why. What do you want to hear from beta testers? Nothing but praise and adulation? How useless would that be? How would that give Blizzard useful data to make game changes from?

      Why does the fact that nearly everyone in the beta thinks it’s too easy and therefore sometimes boring never seem to bring any reaction from non-beta testers but anger and jealousy? When a movie critic says some parts of a film could be better, no one says, “Well then you shouldn’t watch movies anymore. Give me your tickets!”

      Obviously non-testers want to be testing, and it’s understandable that you’re jelly, but when almost everyone independently arrives at the same opinion from playing it, maybe you should accept that that’s a fair representation of reality?

  19. I have been enjoying Elder Scrolls: Skyrim for PC. Never played any Elder Scrolls series before but it has been pretty fun. I had to mess around a lot with the mouse and graphics settings before it started working smoothly.

  20. @ permaximum

    I don’t think if copy of Diablo 2 with more content releases today it will be a success because many systems is very outdated.   Skill tree in Diablo2 was not good too.  It doesn’t allow many builds in hell.

    • Actually the skill trees were good enough for me. But as you have seen I wanted more skills this time. That would adress the problems.

      Contrary to general opinion, by putting points all over the place in the skill trees with below-par gear (crap in fact) you can beat Act 2 in Hell. Tried it personally a couple times with different characters (paladin-necromancer). I know I could do better If I had better gear.

  21. This report only increases the concern that I have about starting off in D3. At Blizzcon this year, I played less D3 than any previous year – just two times! I realized it as I was heading home the second night that I had played very little of the demo, and instead was much more interested in the ancillary goings-on. I tried to figure out why, since I pretty much spent all of the previous two years playing the demo. And I think this is what it is – it’s just not very fun to start a new character in D3. Especially when you only have 15 minutes with the demo, you basically have only enough time to find a cracked sash or two, maybe complete one quest, and you’re done.
    The D3 devs would say that D2 was much the same, but I’m not sure that’s true. Yeah, the Blood Moor monsters were punching bags, but you always had the immediate incentive of the Den of Evil and its good reward to propel you forward. Corpsefire was usually a pretty good challenge, and Blood Raven could easily overwhelm untwinked characters. It gets tougher pretty quick. I hope they tweak things a bit come release, but honestly, there’s a chance we’ll all only need to do Normal five times ever.

  22. Great write-up! Good to see that most of the problems TL1 had seem to be fixed in TL2.
    Also, I think you forgot to post the Matt Uelmen track :X

  23. In D2 normal is tough or at least slow going (untwinked) because you have weak skills, no cash, crap gear, annoying stamina bs, slow run speed, no life/mana leech, and before respec (aka most of d2’s existence) you had to save your skill points. But once you got to NM it was easy mode. Everything just died horribly and even if you had -30 res all you weren’t in much danger. I wonder if this means both normal and NM will be useless in D3.

  24. Poster
    Your comparison’s to Diablo 3 Beta are invalid, stop using them, and stop trying to make Torchlight 2 seem better by comparing it something you know 10% about, you havent seen 90% of Diablo 3, and yet you think you can compare TL 2 to Diablo 3, Diablo 1 and 2 were better then Torchlight in every single possible way
    “Just to complete the analogy, Diablo III seems to be basically the same as Diablo II, in terms of scale and scope and depth of story”  — I don’t know who you’re trying to kid, Diablo III is clearly increasing the depths vastly compared to Diablo 2, especially in story, the depth is something they have said is getting ALOT bigger, which we can already tell from 25% of Act 1, open your eyes. I don’t know why you feel the need to blindly be stubborn towards Diablo 3, perhaps your still upset not going to that Media Blizzard event, and you’ve turned on the Torchlight fanboi.
    But ofcourse this is to be expected, Everyone including yourself was just the exact way you as you type descriptions on Torchlight 2, you make it sound so great, just like people did on diablo 3, you have been playing repetive beta content for a long time now, I can guarentee after you have played TL2 beta for 2 months there wont be so much fanboi shade’s in all your descriptive words,  but to not acknowledge that, and to compare everything from Torchlight 2 to Diablo 3 Beta, and say how dull and boring Diablo 3 is compared to Torchlight 2 (overall) is completely fucking stupid and you don’t even deserve a Diablo 3 “FAN site”, please rename to Torchlight2.incgamers
    Worst read in awhile — please leave your bias subjective opinions out of pieces of writings that will be displayed as news

    • Not sure if trolling or….

      Because my tens of thousands of words of D3 game write ups are entirely free of opinions and subjective evaluations… right?

      • That’s exactly my point, when you first got your hands on Diablo 3 beta, you were describing the game just as you were describing Torchlight 2, then a few months down the line, ( One is bound to get a little bored with Beta content) you describe it wrongly because of the point of view that you’re describing it from, it might be true inside your head at the moment, until you get the full game on your hands
        Let’s just say, I guarentee when you play Diablo 3 Full Release, and then play Torchlight 2 Full Release  ( 5 extra mintues from the 20 minute Beta) You will come back and read your post, and fully realise and understand what im trying to say,  how your describing Torchlight in comparison to Diablo 3’s beta, I think your write-ups became growingly more negative after the media event, mmmm  shame really
        but talk to me after the full release, we will see.

    • “you havent seen 90% of Diablo 3″

      Wait for it…wait for it…

      ” I don’t know who you’re trying to kid, Diablo III is clearly increasing the depths vastly compared to Diablo 2, especially in story”

      …and boom goes the dynamite.

      • Wait for it…. wait for it…
        “””which we can already tell from 25% of Act 1, open your eyes.”””
        Ironically you should read the end of that sentence again.
        dynomite indeed

      • that was a really excellent and logical response 

        how can someone claim that Flux can’t compare D3 with TL2 because Flux hasn’t seen 90% of the game, and at the same time claim the story has vastly increased in depth since D2, when he himself hasn’t seen 90% of the game?

        • who are you? sorry i dont recall talking to you

          That wasn’t the only reason, suprising how your only looking at that part, All I said is Flux cant truly compare Torchlight 2 to Diablo 3, because 90% of the game is still underwraps ?  You’re even agreeing with me, And again, same with that other guy, I only claimed that based on 25% of Act 1 being alot more vast in depth especially with story line / questing, compared to Diablo 2’s start of Act 1  AND because over the last 3 blizzcon’s the Diablo 3 team has made it VERY clear that Depth in that area in particular is going that they are working hard on to have more depth.

          Flux is suggesting that it’s around the same as Diablo 2,  all I’m saying is, how can he possibly know that?? And even suggest that after seeing how much more depth Beta had compared to Diablo 2’s Act 1, flawless logic.
          So please stfu who ever you are.

          • You’re nitpicking and being silly.  Anyone who cares to knows a lot more about TL2’s overall content than the first hour of play time would reveal. Runic has released screenshots and videos galore, they showed  Act 2 in a playable demo at Gamescom this year, the developers have talked about the overall size and structure of the game, they showed us some other areas from later in the game, etc.

            You know… exactly like Blizzard’s done with D3. Funny how that works.



          • I believe you’re actually nitpicking at Diablo 3’s decision-making just as Max and Eric have over the last couple months, you’ve sided with them, I get that, I just don’t think it should be so boldly integrated into your post’s, although it doesn’t actually matter these days with DFans being more and more superior as the days get older
            And again, I havent displayed interest in your knowledge of Torchlight 2, or how you feel the game is playing out.  I have shown interest in how you deem it necessary to bad-mouth Diablo 3 in the process, you still havent tried to justify your claims regarding Diablo 3, rather just keep going back to Torchlight 2 and Runic Games,  Max has teached you well I see
            Funny how that works indeed, seeing as Runic Games is basically Blizzard North renamed — I don’t know what you’re trying to imply with that? the left over Blizzard North members / Morhaime/ Metzen are not allowed to follow Blizzard’s structured way of releasing info on games? or just laughing at Torchlight 1’s gameplay and story line? haha I can’t tell.
            Enjoy TL2 though, you will be missed in D3

          • Well you’ve given away your (not very) hidden agenda here, but I have to point out yet another of your many errors. Runic Games has pretty much nothing to do with Bliz North, other than the same friendly, small studio vibe. The only continuing employees are Max and Erich, AFAIK. The designer is Travis Baldree, and TL1 and TL2 are really his vision and creation, and he had no connection with Blizzard or Bliz North.

            As with all of your other posts in this thread  I get this confusion, but I think you’re probably trolling. After all, this article (and the podcast) were fairly obviously structured as comparisons of D3’s features with TL2’s features. I made clear that I prefer some things in D3 and some things in TL2, as would any objective observer. If all you want is D3 cheerleading, then you’ll probably be happier just reading a fawnsite, like the one you named.

          • I don’t have any agenda, and again, I said basically Blizzard North ( I’m well aware that it’s not 100%) — ironically similar to how you said Diablo 3 is basically the same as Diablo 2 in depth, funny how that works
            And again, I know its obvious that these article’s podcasts are comparisons of Diablo 3 feature’s and TL 2 feature’s, again, you havent directly said anything back to my initial query, I don’t care that you’re prefering TL 2 features over Diablo 3 features ( as do I on the very rare occassion) But it all get’s back to my MAIN point that you have evaded, weither or not any objective observer would prefer the odd TL2 ‘feature’ over a Diablo 3 feature is regardless when it comes to how you find it necessary in the process of comparison’s to bad-mouth Diablo 3 and try to put TL 2 on some Fawnboi pedestal
            Ofcourse wanting reasons for why you falsely bad-mouth Diablo 3 obviously means i want Diablo 3 cheerleading right? sigh your getting pathetic
            But it does relax me knowing that most of your ‘problems’ was that Diablo 3 was too slow until around the end of beta, I’m pretty happy to wait for 2 hours of gameplay/ with a superior story line to keep me entertained ( lol torchlight 1) for it to get fast-paced and better then TL 2’s pacing, but early beta slow pacing is probably based on the bad player though.

    • “your comparison’s to Diablo 3 Beta are invalid, stop using them, and stop trying to make Torchlight 2 seem better by comparing it something you know 10% about, you havent seen 90% of Diablo 3, and yet you think you can compare TL 2 to Diablo 3”

      why are his comparisons to the D3 beta invalid ?
      he’s played the D3 beta, and he’s played the beginning areas of TL2 

      true he hasn’t seen 90% of D3, but he hasn’t seen 90% of TL2 either

      and he actually does know 100% about the D3 beta, so it is a valid comparison

      • “why are his [Flux’s] comparisons to the D3 beta invalid ?”

        Because they disagree with Ellhis’ preconceived opinion, thus reality must be in error.

    • The beta build is half of Act 1 which was confirmed by Jay Wilson.

  25. to be honest im growing very tiered of waiting on diablo3 and tl2

  26. I didn’t really like TL1. The skills were boring – such as too many passives as Flux mentions, and thus the classes were boring, itemization felt lacking as well, and was also quite broken from a balance perspective.

    Other aspects like lack of story and different areas at least seems to be improved in TL2, but its sad to read that the skill trees might not become much better.

    Also not a fan of the difficulty system. Had hoped they would either move toward classic Diabloish style there, or maybe have mechanics for altering difficulty in-game instead. Such as how Bastion has approached it recently with the option of adding extra challenge in exchange for small bonuses. Not unlike Players X in D2 really.

    I’ve hoped TL2 would be awesome, and I still hope it will, but todays information was quite disappointing.

  27. Best read in a while.  Please keep the opinion pieces coming. I look forward to the podcast.

    Thanks for the link BlastKid.

  28. “That would be okay, except that again, there are nearly as many passives as actives, and I thus found myself using the same one or two skills per character during my whole play tests”
    Ugh, this worries me deeply as TL1 had some of the worst skill trees in any ARPG ever. A massive improvement in skill trees is one thing I’m very much hoping for.

  29. Looks great!

    But seriously it looks like hell.  

    I’ll still shove my fat american dollars down their proverbial throats.  

  30. Blizzard did indeed send them a bunch (30) of beta keys some weeks ago, which let everyone there get a taste of Diablo III.

    Hehe guerilla tactics?  Good way to slow down T2 release date, make sure the entire company plays the d3 beta.  🙂

  31. I think Runic still can’t make really interesting and enjoying unique skill trees, connected with charachter progression in TL2. Active skills from game videos looks boring and generic.

    Also skill systems ruined with stupid potion fest when you spam mana button and can spam any skill without caring about resource system.

    Comparing difficulties between TL2 and D3 beta is absolutely pointless. In D3 you fast run through Normal (designed for new wave casuals) ASAP. Then real game is started, after that no one cares about normal 1st act.
    TL2 first hour harder than D3 one? Who cares?

    Yeah, maybe TL2 it’s a good solution for RMAH & “always online” whiners, but for me, main feature of TL2 is: “coming before D3” and now it’s gone.

    • Harsh but true, as positive as this report was it has just diminished my interest for the game, specially the part about the skill trees, which were mindnumbly boring in TL1 and if it has as many passives (especially, the same passives with everyone) then its certainly a big dissapointment.
      Maybe Runic was way too concerned into pleasing who was not pleased with D3 and sticked with the ancient game design of Diablo 2 and made the same type of skill trees + potionfest all over again, which is a valiant and traditional effort but as much as people whine about those changes, to the skill system and potionfest in D3, when they took the time to analyze most could see it was for the best. TL2 might be moddable but I honestly dont think its that much of a great feature, good mods take some time to be out and many of them are imbalanced and badly designed because they were made by players. And well… I dont know about you guys but I dont think “moddable” was ever a selling point for an ARPG.
      And TL2 IS competing with D3, yeah they have different features, offline, mods, yadaa yadaa, but players will certainly dedicate to one of them, as novelty as the offline, lan and moddable features are, I dont think that in the long run its going to lure people out of D3. I dont want mods to fix ancient game design decisions, I would like to see it well-designed right from the start.

  32. Nice writeup Flux! I am going to disagree slightly about your take on skills, though. The system is much deeper than the previous game. Shared passives have been moved to the stat system and most of the passives that remain are pretty interesting. The outlander, for instance has a passive that makes her shots raise monsters as zombies when she kills them. While I agree, the skill that gave her more range wasn’t awe inspiring, I believe it is the exception. If I were to give the trees from TL 2 a D, I would give these ones at least a B+.

    As far as quests go, they are nothing like the laughable quest system that was TL 1. They are much more diverse and interesting. If I was to offer negative feedback for TL 2, it would probably be for the lack of a mitigation cap and lack of a secure server option. The other core elements you mentioned have been vastly improved.

    • Sounds promising.  Then that just leaves the itemization worries.  Hard to figure that out before release though.

      • From the official podcast it sounds like they’ve gone all out on fixing the item soup of the last game. I’m more worried about the skills though, same as Flux. Hopefully they have time to do something more interesting with the trees.

    • Oops, the line should read “If I were to give the trees from TL 1 a D, I would give these at least a B+.”  Darn iphone posting!=P

  33. Flux, I think you should include a link to the writeups from the other play testers like Jerich (expecially since you say they follow the game more than you and could give more accurate/differetn comparisons).

    Here’s a good link:

  34. If Diablo wasn’t such a big name and wasn’t being made by Blizzard chances are good I’d have gotten TL2 over D3, thinking it’s the superior game in the genre. TL2 seems to be a modern D2 in all respects which is just fine with me.

  35. Reading this
    made me slightly more interested in the game again. Some good changes hidden in there.
    Also sounds like the game is quite far away still.

  36. Well… We all have loved diablo 2. Much time spended playng this game. I have played d2 like five years it was amazing game and when I saw d3 that was like omg I want this game hell much !!!!! after like two years my choise is tl2 till now, gameplays other things and discussion changed my mind from d3 into tl2

  37. ?????? ???????? ??????. ?????? ???? Torchlight 2 😉

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