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    As I mentioned on the podcast, Runic Games hooked us up with several review/media copies of Torchlight 2 to test out over the weekend. I haven’t had much time for it yet, though Rush and Tim have been playing away and even live streaming, via our Torchlight 2 site. You can see some of Rush’s first thoughts in a post here. A quick quote:

    I have to say that on first impressions of this ‘preview’ build, this is one hell of an ARPG. The speed of gameplay is outstanding, you are simply driven to keep playing. The pets play a huge part in keeping the game flowing, very rarely was I finding myself on another trip back to town, it just flowed brilliantly. In around five hoursof gameplay with two players we both leveled to around 25 and that’s with skipping over some of the side quests on Act 1 to push ahead into Act 2. We are probably around half way through Act 2 at the moment confirming Max’ comments about a full playthrough taking around 24 hours of actual play time.

    As we were dashing through this evening, the item variety on drops was excellent, a real mix with some great items dropping in places you might not expect which is great for item hunters. The item levels also felt right with decent items dropping just a few levels above your own level which means you had a good stock to pick from as you leveled up, and of they were of all varieties.

    If you want more, Kirk Hamilton has also posted a bunch of his first Torchlight 2 observations in a piece at Kotaku, and he formats the entire thing as a comparison to Diablo III. A quote and thanks to Muriel for the tip:

    If you are into loot, and numbers, then you will love Torchlight II. It’s a hardcore numbers-gamers kind of game, with vast statistics screens showing your characters’ every ability and adjustment.

    Unfortunately, it’s also a lot less user-friendly than Diablo III—there’s no way to immediately tell, for example, how your item will affect core traits like damage per second and armor rating. There are also three subsets of armor types, one for each element, so you’ll have to take a ton of things into account when comparing gear. And you’ll be comparing gear a lot.

    It can all be a bit ungainly and confusing – if a weapon gives you +10 strength but has a slightly lower DPS than the weapon you’re holding, it’d be great to see exactly which one will end you up with the higher DPS (since strength changes your weapon’s damage.) Ditto for pieces of armor that raise your physical armor rating magically. It’s all a little bit opaque, and while the obsessive stat-counting player may like that, there’s so much loot in the game that I can’t really keep track of it all.

    …The stat stuff isn’t the only thing about Torchlight II that’s more hardcore than Diablo III—the game itself is more difficult and interesting, even at “normal” difficulty. This may be because of some mid-game tuning issues, but II’ve found that the latter halves of the second and third acts are difficult, and if I’m not careful, I’ll get wrecked even by basic enemies.

    It bears mentioning that I’m only playing on normal, and I haven’t had any time at all to explore Torchlight II’s post-game—it could well be that the high-level Diablo III stuff is every bit as hardcore as Torchlight II, just in a different way. But for a more casual player, Torchlight II is harder core. And yes, just like Diablo III, Torchlight II offers a “Hardcore Mode” where death is permanent.

    Interesting reads both, but I’ll repeat what I said on the podcast. Any comparisons or debates at this point are necessarily superficial, since the real key/core issue is the end game, the economy, the item system, etc. That Diablo III had problems in those areas wasn’t clear until some weeks after release, and those are the areas the D3 devs have been working to address in the recent patches. By the same token, no one can really comment on how well TL2’s item system works or how the end game difficulty curves… not yet, at least.

    Soon, though. The release date is September 20th, and then everyone can get their hands on the title and really put it through its paces. If you are planning on playing then make sure you head to Torchlight: IncGamers for the forums, news etc.

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