Isometric click ’em up is a genre that has been dominated by one franchise for the last fifteen years. Diablo. Since the release of the first title in that series back in 1996, the idea of running around clicking on things to make them explode into gibs has been synonymous with a game cover featuring an angry looking red thing glaring out at you. But as the world over waited for Diablo III, their desire to see things explode upon click sat, insatiated, until Torchlight popped its curious head around the corner. Torchlight, a game that could have so easily been lambasted as a direct clone of Diablo and yet was celebrated by critics and fans alike. It satisfied the desires of every gamer who’d moaned that they’d never see the release of Diablo III, perfecting the click and loot formula while retaining a sense of whimsy and humour that Diablo lacked. The introduction of the “pet” mechanic was seen as a revolution to the genre. What it didn’t have, however, was multiplayer.
And that’s where Torchlight II focusses its time and effort – on making its multiplayer the best god darn isometric click ’em up fun one can have. With up to five friends. Over either an (offline) LAN or internet connection. Multiplayer in Torchlight II is, quite simply, the single player campaign with friends. It’s not prettied up or laden with an endless number of additional game modes; here, you’ll run through exactly the same quests as you did on your own, and still have a good time even though you’re repeating them.
Just like its predecessor, the dungeons in TII are randomly generated – unlike its predecessor, however, they never feel randomly generated. Dead ends aren’t long, drawn out pathways with no reward. Conversely, I made sure that I ventured down each and every nook and cranny in every dungeon, such was my desire to ensure that I missed out on nothing. Scattered across every map are small interactable items such as rocks that can be overturned. Most of the time, the reward for clicking on these rocks is a measly amount of gold pieces, however ever now and again you’ll be showered in a mountain of jewellery and weapons. After my first encounter with such a rockpile, I ensured that I peeked under every interactable item in the entire game from that point on. Not like it was my choice – I was compelled to. You simply can’t help it. Click click click.
As I briefly mentioned above, the addition of a pet in Torchlight was a complete gamechanger. All of a sudden, exploring the depths of dungeons became fast and efficient. Pick up too much stuff? Bah, who cares. Don’t chuck it, don’t tediously use a Town Portal scroll and manually sell everything – give it to your pet ferret, he’ll sell it for you and you don’t even have to leave the comfort of the dungeon. Well, if you’ll believe this, dungeon crawling has been streamlined even further in Torchlight II. Now your pet (who can be a Papillon this time round – fuck yeah) can not only sell your excess loot, but can purchase certain items for you. Running low on health potions? Just send Mr. Scruffy to pick some up for you. I can’t stress enough just how much this adds to the fluidity of the dungeon crawling in Torchlight II – suddenly, the only reason to stop clicking your way through the hordes of ghastly creatures is… well, there isn’t one anymore.
There is a plot. I think. There’s some evil guy called something silly like the Librarian who’s become evil because of a bad thing that came from somewhere. He destroys the town of Torchlight, and it’s up to you to stop him. I paid about as much attention to the story here as I did in Torchlight or even the Diablo series – what I mean by this is that I watched the pretty cut scenes (which are new to this installment, and really are pretty) then started killing shit. You can play as either a male or female variation of four all-new classes: the Embermage, a nasty combination between sorcerer and warrior; the Outlander, a gun-toting, spell-spinning magic cowboy; the Engineer, a melee-focussed fighter catering to steampunk fans; and the Berserker, a… well, a berserker who goes berserk. For a genre in which you’d expect to see very generic classes, all four feel as fresh as the best sushi money can buy, if you’ll pardon the horrible simile.
Torchlight II is a three act game. Each act has its own home town and adjacent sprawling environment, full of hidden sidequests and explorable dungeons, as well as a unique, delightful aesthetic style. A day/night cycle has been introduced, seemingly with the sole purpose of making sure I realise just how much I hate night time in games because it scares the shit out of me. You can still fish, you can still feed your pet your catch, and you can still chuckle as your once-adorable Papillion becomes a horrible-looking vampire spider.
But it’s really the new addition of multiplayer that ensures that Torchlight II stands head and shoulders over every other game in its genre. Unless you’re really, really unlucky, (or you’ve just accidentally left your porn downloading) you’ll never encounter any issues with lag or unstable connections. It’s always easy to find a game on the fantastic server browser. Random games, however, quickly become unplayable, simply as there’s no direct method of voice communication. Sure, it’s easy if you’re playing with mates and can talk over Steam or a simple VoIP client, but games with unknown players will never reach the same level of enjoyment, simply because there’s no way of discussing strategy. One would argue that the text-based chat system is enough, but no. It’s not. Every second of Torchlight II is simply too fast-paced to type out a message.
Click ’em ups simply don’t get better than Torchlight II. Whether you’re planning on trawling through the world of Torchlight II by yourself or with friends, this feels like a game that was created by fans of the genre. Save voice chat, everything that a click ’em up could possibly want in their game is in this one. Loot hunting is streamlined and addictive, every player receives their own drops to avoid ninjaing, and best of all, it’s unadulterated fun. Runic Games have forced the genre to take a leap in the right direction, and in doing so ensuring that Torchlight II is one of the best games you’ll play this year.
Select Start Media was provided with a copy of Torchlight II by Runic Games.