We saw a bunch of early Torchlight 2 reviews that compared the game to Diablo III, for better or worse. Those types of articles have kept coming, and the debate is interesting since TL2 intentionally does many things differently than D3, and many of those things (such as the quantity/quality of loot) are exactly what many D3 fans complain about.
An article on the The Koalition offers six points arguing why TL2 is better than D3. Each point is argued at some length in the piece, but I’ll just snip out the main points here and you can read the article if you want more details.
1) Torchlight II is $20 2) Blizzard isn’t the Same Anymore 3) Runic Designed Torchlight II with the Players in Mind 4) What happened to roleplaying in roleplaying games? 5) Literally Ludicrous Loads of Loot 6) Torchlight II is $20
A short article from The Hindu also prefers at least one aspect of Torchlight 2… the l3wtz.
“How does Torchlight II make Diablo III look bad,” you ask? Well, to start with, the ridiculous always-on online DRM is nowhere to be found, there’s no region locking plus none of the other nonsense that comes with a Blizzard game. Torchlight II can be played while running Steam in offline mode — it even supports co-op play over LAN. Add to that a robust save system (which literally remembers your position in a dungeon), traditional RPG character progression system that asks the player to make actual choices (i.e. put points into attributes like Strength and Dexterity), neat selection of classes, pets and did I mention there’s a lot of loot?
The Forbes gaming blog entitled their TL2 article/review “Let there be loot” which gives you a sense of the direction it takes. They don’t have any real clear preferences in terms of the loot, but the piece does offer one opinion, about the music, I’ve yet to hear made anywhere else. Quotes:
I’m not a big fan of the music in Torchlight 2. The electric guitars don’t work for me, and the score fails to ever really draw me in the ways some other recent titles have. This is one area where Diablo III beats Torchlight II hands-down.
…The story of Torchlight 2, like so many other dungeon crawlers, is entirely forgettable. It’s not bad, it’s just not particularly compelling. I think it’s just industry standard now to make the stories in this type of game pretty bland. Diablo III had a really flat story with a hugely disappointing ending. Torchlight 2 is more fun, and its story is more fun and less melodramatic (thank goodness) but it still comes up short. I think there’s room for a complex, deep story in dungeon crawlers, and so far neither Torchlight 2 or Diablo III has delivered.
I’ve played one character (an Engineer) through all of TL2 and done a few of the bonus maps as well, and aside from agreeing with the numerous articles that say “Normal” difficulty is too easy (I’ll do an Embermage on Veteran next), I’m still not sure where I stand on the two games. (Though I suppose I should make some opinions and write up a more formal review/comparison when I have the time.) Both games are fun and ARPG clicky, but it’s hard to compare in some ways since they’re so different.
Diablo III feels like a much larger, weightier, more formal experience where many, many hours are requires to get into the real game, to start to get a sense of the gear and play strategies required in Inferno, and to fully-appreciate the nuances and see a good number of the random events and areas.
Torchlight 2, for me at least, was much more immediately accessible. You get fun skills right away, and you get skill points to make them work better. I loved being able to spend some points to make my early skills better; instantly more damage, more radius, more fire tendrils seeking out enemies, etc. I like to get a skill I like, use it, get to know it, and improve it over time with more skill points. That was a core element of skills and spells in D1 and D2, as well as most other RPGs over history, and it’s weird that D3 chose to entirely jettison it by removing skill points AND skill rune levels. D3 does a fantastic job with all the variety of skills via runes, but I’d like ways to make them work better as well as differently.
TL2 does a great job with the skill trees, but of course the trade off is a lack of respecs. I didn’t care about that in D2 since I had much more time for gaming in those days, and I thought nothing of making dozens of different characters to try out all the different builds and play styles. There’s no way I’ll ever do that in TL2 (or D3) which makes me appreciate the flexibility that D3’s freespecing allows.
As for the loot… as everyone points out, you find far more numerous and interesting items right off the bat in TL2, with sets and uniques galore. It’s awesome to find items that actually make a noticeable difference in your character (rather than just adding 1% more dexterity or other negligible/incremental improvements as the D3 items do). And it’s awesome to find items in TL2 that you can’t use yet, but that will kick ass once you level or stat up to equip them. When you’re leveling up in D3, all the gear is so obviously meant to be disposable; to provide you with a tiny upgrade that you’ll outgrow in half an hour, that you never feel any attachment to anything.
I found numerous nice uniques in TL2 that I then got enchanted or socketed, and they then became “my” gear. I didn’t want to change those items and I used the same weapon and wore the same chest armor from level 30 to 48 or so, even bypassing several marginal upgrades, since the ones I had were serving me well and they fit nicely. No item in D3 ever gives me that sense of ownership or special usefulness short of the end game, and even then I’m always aware that I could instantly buy something better in the AH.
So yes, I definitely appreciate the style of the item system in TL2, which is a direct descendent from D2, rather than the style we have in D3. (Though D3’s item system seems to move a step closer to D2’s with every patch.)
If you are playing TL2 then hop over to our sister site Torchlight: IncGamers.