When Diablo III hit consoles in the fall of 2013, I knew it was going to be excellent. I was SURE of it. But how could I be so sure that the dungeon crawler would translate well to console? Easy! Someone else had done it first. People seem to forget that two-and-a-half years prior to Blizzard’s living room invasion, the original Torchlight launched as an Xbox 360 exclusive and it was staggeringly good. I’d gone into the Torchlight review (yes, I have been doing this for a long time…) with muted expectations, wondering if Runic Games would be able to translate their stellar PC experience for us controller jockeys. I’ll be damned if it wasn’t my favorite XBLA game of the entire year. So, as you can imagine, when I heard that Torchlight II was coming to PS4 I was all aboard the hype train, conductor’s hat and all. Next stop, Hack-n-Slash Junction!
About Damn Time…
I know what you’re thinking. “How can a game that is nearly seven years old still be worthy of a console port?” While that is a fair question, if you take a look at the dungeon crawler genre in general, both the art style and mechanics of most games are rather timeless. Torchlight II is no exception to that rule. It was critically lauded back when it was originally released, and now it feels like the perfect counterpoint to everything that Diablo III has been doing for the past several years.
Featuring a cartoonish aesthetic and writing that is a bit more on the sophomoric side of the coin, there’s really no reason why this experience wouldn’t work well on console. Considering that Runic Games had already proven proficiency in porting the experience to the living room, all of the pieces were in place to pretty much guarantee the success of this release. Even seven years later, the button-mashy action feels so gratifying that it’s hard to comprehend why it has taken so goddamn long to make the jump.
Taking place many years after the original entry in the franchise, the second outing revolves around tracking down one of the original protagonists, whose been corrupted and turned to the ways of evil. Picking from one of four different classes—which is one more class than its predecessor—players must chase the Alchemist across the globe in search of the Ember Blight. The overall story is piecemeal throughout the adventure, with numerous side quests helping to pad out the run time well past that of the initial installment. But if we’re being honest with ourselves, does anyone really care about the plot line or are we too busy fixating on the sweet loot just waiting to be emancipated from the forces of evil?
A Revolutionary Evolution
If you couldn’t guess from all of my gushing so far, Torchlight II takes everything that the original did so well, then advances it three steps further. This time around not only is there infinitely more game, thanks in part to the random dungeon generation mechanics, but there’s also an entirely new way to play: Online Co-op. Anyone who’s already played Diablo III on console knows what a joy this experience can be. It’s almost as if the already outstanding combat mechanics get even better through the inclusion of a proverbial partner in crime. It’s like Mom always used to say: “Murdering is just more fun with friends!”
The moment-to-moment action is aided greatly by the character customization and class-based power advancement system. Each class has three distinct paths that can be followed, all with their own special latent abilities and specialized attack/buffs. Leveling up characters will continue to unlock new potential skills, which they can then apply skill points towards to further augment the effectiveness of these powers. No two players will have the same character, which helps to even further drive home the variety and gratification that can come from designing your own personal beast-slayer.
This may sound crazy considering the game has been PC exclusive for so long, but there’s just something about how combat plays out that makes Torchlight II feel like it was custom-designed with the console in mind. Everything feels so crisp and finely tuned for controller use that it’s hard to explain why this wasn’t available during the last console generation. The one small exception to this rule comes when trying to dispatch single enemies. If there was a cresting wave of adversaries coming my way, it wouldn’t make me blink for even a moment. Later in the campaign, a vast majority of my area-of-effect attacks were capable of nuking whole hordes of critters back to the stone age with minimal effort. However, if you only threw one quick enemy in my general vicinity, trying to keep it in the crosshairs for long enough to take down felt far more difficult than it should. That said, this could also have been a byproduct of how I spec-ed out my character. So, this may be an issue that is my own damn fault.
If there were one other area of the design that could’ve used a bit more attention, it would have to be the loot management system. Combat will continuously treat players to massive geysers of loot being jettisoned skyward. While the thrill of new gear never wears off, managing the miniscule inventory space began to feel like a distracting chore that pulled attention away from what was an otherwise sublime experience. Fortunately, you can send your pet back to town to sell unwanted loot on your behalf, but it seems like there could’ve been some learnings taken away from the Blizzard titles, which could have been used to make this process a bit more seamless. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no such thing as too much loot. It just never seems like there’s enough room to store all of the shiny new hotness waiting to be equipped.
Watching the Clock
Pretty much immediately after launching the game, I was helplessly engrossed. If you suffer from “five more minutes syndrome” where you’re constantly telling yourself, “well… maybe I can play just one more dungeon,” be very careful. This is the kind of experience where you can start playing as the sun goes down, only to snap back to reality with the sunrise shining directly into your eyes. When playing in the evenings, I legitimately had to set an alarm, just to force myself to go to bed. It’s all-consuming at a level I haven’t encountered in quite some time. Plus, every dungeon generating dynamically means that nothing will ever play the same way twice, so get ready for the infinite replayability loop to steal your soul.
At the risk of sounding overly infatuated, I cannot begin to understand how the hell Torchlight II has aged so well. The art style, combat mechanics, and even loot drop loop are so finely tuned that it feels like the game fits in as well now as it did, seven years ago. With the obvious exception of the big boys over at Blizzard, the argument could be made that this is the best dungeon crawler on current generation consoles. Factor in the price tag of a mere $20, and this becomes an instant must buy. Just do yourself a favor and download this game. You can thank me later. …Don’t worry. I’ll wait.
Torchlight II review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.