Torchlight 2 insights into D3 skill system The Torchlight 2 beta started yesterday, and thus far I've had time to play one Embermage through the full content. It took me about 5 hours of play time, spread over 2 play sessions, on normal (the 2nd of 4) difficulty, and I was not screwing around or doing a full clears. There's a HUGE amount more content in it than in the D3 beta. (I think D3 has more total content though, as it should costing 3x as much with like 50x the dev hours.) Quick observations: Very fun and much faster and more intense play than anything in the D3 beta. I love the huge, complicated maps and all the use of elevation and switchback paths. You're constantly encountering high hills with monsters up on them, shooting down or leaping down to fight you, but you can always wind around and eventually reach that height yourself. And other areas you go down long twisting paths and get to wreck enemies from above with ranged attacks. The item soup of TL1 is much improved, though gear lacks the clear, continual improvement you get in D2 or D3. I found various rares and sets at level 6 or 8 that were still my best items 3 hours later at lvl 21. The lack of any kind of item crafting feels like a void. I like storing up materials or gems or other such things to craft and improve upon. The merchants sell a nice mix of gear, but they desperately need to sort it by type. 5x10 block of completely jumbled weapon tooltip hover shopping sucks. Great scenery and level design. The outdoor areas feel huge and expansive, with all the views from up high. Kind of like the Arreat Summit in D2, except you actually proceed down paths and gradually explore the areas you first see from the summit. D3 feels very flat and played on a pool table, in contrast. Nice monster design and I like the huge bosses, but they need more varied AI. Some properties like waller, vortex, teleporting, etc, to use D3 examples. My mage was almost always able to just retreat or run in circles, D2 style, to avoid getting into melee trouble. It's too early in my play to make any sweeping conclusions, so I'll just focus on a couple of points here. As has been noted before, including by me after I played it at Runic's offices last year, TL2 is much more like D2 than D3 is like D2. I'm talking about play mechanics, and there's really no arguing this point: TL 2's got custom attribute points, skill points, skill trees, very limited respecs, a much faster pace and character movement, health/mana potions, etc. (For better or worse.) I felt more attachment to my one TL2 char than I ever did to any D3 beta char, since the choices I made actually mattered. I was very aware that I could screw up the char or make her stronger, and that my skill and attribute choices made a big difference. Leveling up was very noticed and important, and not just for the, "new rune effect!" way they are in D3. I'm stuck (mostly) with the skills I pick, and the much greater potential danger/difficulty of the game makes equipment choices feel much more important. On the other hand, all those permanent choices feel like pressure. I've been corrupted by D3's freespecs and malleable char formation, and it's hard to go back to the D2 style of permanent skill choices, character-defining bricks that are mortared into place by the application of skill points. The D3 system of instant hot swapping and zero character permanence is enjoyable, especially in a beta, since it allows you to try out every type of class build with a single char. If I had 8 hours a day to play TL2, I'd have no trouble filling that time by repeatedly rerolling and playing different skill choices. I don't have that time, so while I enjoyed building one specific char, I was felt a constant sort of nagging curiosity about what other options I was missing out on by making the choices I did. I never felt that anything like that with D3, and again, this is a "for better or worse" thing. YMMV, etc. I'm far from an expert at this point, but the TL2 skill system seems to be a combo of D3 and D2 style. Your skills are scaled to your Clvl and gear, including weapon damage to spells with the mage, but you also have a skill point every level to invest as you wish. I don't know how it's meant to be balanced long term, but at level 21 my mage had 7 or 8 points in her main skill, which had become available at lvl 3. The skill was set to max out at 15 points, but the frequency at which you can place points decreases as you level up. So I was able to add a point to it at something like 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 15, 19, 24, etc. Not at all the D2 system of a point a level. Thus you can't max out a low level skill and make it overpowered (as in D2) and this also allows them to scale up the skills with clvl to keep them useful late game, or at least mid game.) Was that skill as powerful with 8 points at level 21 as a higher level skill would have been with 5 points at level 21? I have no idea, and lacking freespecs it would take me about 4 hours to find out. Over the recent weeks, I've been on and off debating the skill system of D3 with Azzure. He's a huge fan of the freespecs, clvl scaling up, and removal of skill points in D3, and seems to think it's nearly an ideal system. I'm less sold on it, and I think the D3 system could be improved by some kind of skill permanence and by some kind of skill points. Not the original D2 system certainly, where virtually every skill is either maxed out or a one point wonder, nor do I approve of the current D2X synergy-tastic straightjacket... but I think D3 could be improved with some mechanism that allowed players to specialize or improve some (but not all) of their skills, with trade offs and different weightings. So every single char with the same skill/rune/clvl wasn't exactly identical, as is now the case. We'll have +skill equipment of some type in the late game, and perhaps that will provide all the benefits of skill points with none of the drawbacks, but we can only speculate on that at this point. I can say (from admittedly limited experimentation) that the TL2 hybrid skill point/scaling system seems a big improvement over how skills are handled in D2, and that further research is needed.