Surely there isn’t a challenger to Diablo 3’s crown on the PS4? Well, many have tried to wear the crown, but only failed and left some of us (me) feeling a little letdown. Well, Torchlight 2 is a beacon of hope (see what I did there?), but what we really want to know is it worth it? I know I am.
Diablo and Torchlight have been battling it out for some time. Torchlight 2 was released on the PC in 2012 – that’s seven years if you were reaching for the calculator, competing with Diablo 3 which was on the PC but also the consoles. It’s even on the Nintendo Switch now. Now, Panic Button has unleashed in onto the consoles, notably the PlayStation 4.
As you can surmise, there’s a lore to Torchlight 2 as that ‘2’ means there was a Torchlight before it. Feel free to read up on it. I never played the original, so I enter this arena all doe-eyed and eager to see if I should fast-track the divorce now and throw hours and hours of my ‘valuable’ time into this action RPG.
The first hurdle was the character creation at the start of the game. Please don’t give me so many choices. There are four classes in total; the Berseker, Embermage, Engineer and the Outlander. More on that later. After putting in my first 10 hours, I opted for the Berserker class. I’ve always identified with the Neanderthal types. Not too challenging and just run at everything with your head. Like real life.
But wait: you have a pet from the start, and there are 15 to choose from. From a panther to an alpaca, I couldn’t decide. After another 10 hours, I went with my heart and opted for the ferret and called him John. No one will mess with me now. Next up is to choose a level – there’s a hardcore mode? Yeah, I’m going to pretend I selected that from the outset.
Apparently, in Torchlight there was a playable character called The Alchemist. He’s the antagonist in Torchlight 2 as he’s gone quite mad, searching for a substance called Ember and generally getting up to no good. He needs to be stopped, and that’s where you come in.
The opening cutscene was a decent little animation. Best I say it was like Samurai Jack with a palette from a teabag. That’s a good thing. More so, it’s the same people behind The Mark of the Ninja Remastered cutscenes. If you haven’t played that, I highly encourage it.
To be honest, the story isn’t really that important. Much like Baldur’s Gate, so I don’t keep referring to the Diablo, it’s a sandbox in that you go around and do many, many side quests. As you can go and do as you please, having a prominent narrative would detract from the fun. Unless you’re double hard, one would assume that most people like to grind in this type of game to level up and unlock the skill trees. If not the skill trees, then at least the random loot. There are some gems in them thar hills.
Torchlight 2 is a top-down action RPG with cartoon-like graphics. It doesn’t cheapen the aesthetic at all. The presentation oh so slightly reminds me of the PS3 game Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning. Bloody hell though; my first encounter with an enemy ended in a visceral ball of explosive claret. Yeah, I left the blood option on, but that was pretty cool but messed up the scenery.
It’s a really nice looking game. The colours really pop and not someone who pays attention to everything when I review a game (I love a good story, me), the lightning effects were sublime. This isn’t on par with say Red Dead Redemption but gratifying nevertheless.
At the start of the game, I saw a HUD with all the allocated buttons – or where I would allocate them such as items and abilities – and trying to get my bearings. While I was looking at the screen, I noticed cloud formations appear as shadows gliding across the landscape. Poetry isn’t my forte, so I’ll just dumb it down and say; it sure looks purdy.
Torchlight 2 on the PC was mouse and keyboard operated, but with the PS4 version, the controller works in lieu perfectly. The left stick can be used to control your character, and the right stick zooms in on the action. The latter looks cool, but when fighting a boss, it’s almost impossible to see what’s happening.
Unlike a turn-based RPG, you run into the action and hack/slash/shoot or cast a spell on anything that moves. Each kill rewards you with XP, gold and loot drops. The loot in Torchlight 2 is much like the Borderlands series and in abundance. It’s random too, so, you never know what you’re gonna get.
I’m a meathead so often go for strength and vitality in a game. Much the same in this game, but you also have magic and dexterity. The skill tree is pretty daunting – not because of the number of perks, but just the amount of time it takes to get your levels up. I haven’t really experienced any enemies respawning so I don’t think you can max out a character in a playthrough. There are several areas you can improve, but sometimes you have to find them.
Around level 20, I realised that my pet could do a little more than I had initially thought. As Torchlight 2 doesn’t bombard you with tooltips and long drawn out tutorials, there can be occasions where you overlook features. Yes, it’s not as in-depth as other RPGs, but something fundamental that I missed could improve your experience.
Your pet can be passive, offensive or defensive. In the physical sense – it hasn’t been brought for the small talk. Usually, I would opt for an offensive, but the AI works so well, I can leave it on defence, and anytime something attacks me John, my ferret, takes them down. What I didn’t realise is you can send him back into town with goods you no longer need to make back some money. This was pivotal as I often ran out of inventory space and had to walk all the way back into town or find a local portal to take them pronto.
This frees up more space for looting, but your pet can also go scavenge for magic scrolls too. As above, a few times you are wandering around that a quick-solution portal would immediately remedy. However, John’s my buddy, and I didn’t want him leaving my side. We were in this together.
Using Dark Souls as a reference, you can mould your stats and equipment that best matches your play style, but skillsets are exclusive to the class and aren’t interchangeable. So the Outlander who can utilise range attacks is different from the Beserkers primal skills that allow him to gain health with successive attacks or instil fear in a wrong ‘un.
Levelling up is low-key. You’ll hear a voiceover if you’ve acquired a new skill and there is a title to say your level has gone up, but there aren’t any reminders to say ‘you have unused points’. It was around level three that I realised I could upgrade my skill tree at that time. Then about level seven, I realised I could update my attributes such as strength. Whacking up my strength, all of a sudden was quite liberating. Now I could kill enemies in a hit or two, instead of 38.
In some respects, Torchlight 2 is the Dynasty Warriors for the RPG world as there’s a lot of button mashing at times. With some of the dungeon areas, it can get overcrowded and you just simply hope for the best or cheese one of your abilities while refuelling on your mana potions. It’s good to have a strategy, but sometimes you have to hope for the best.
Apparently, you can expect to play this for 30 hours the first time around. Gameplay time, much like reviews, depends on the person. I like to take it all in, level myself to borderline OP and complete as many quests as possible. I can’t stand leaving blacked-out areas on a map. So for me, it’s way longer than average. Hey, ladies.
When you do finish it, you play it anew. This time with another class, or the same class but experimenting with the skill trees. Like Dark Souls, you can re-spec your skillset, but with Torchlight 2, you can only undo the last three points you assigned. It’s a little unforgiving as I think we all like to experiment with various builds. It does give you a bit more food for thought on how to apply your points for the future.
There’s enough here to keep you going for some time. No loot is the same, enchant new weapons, don a different combination of equipment for varying effects… the list goes on. Co-op play is always a winner, and if you’re that way inclined, the online options too. Sure, it’s repetitive, but that’s what to expect in a game like this.
Torchlight 2 PS4 Review
Overall - Fantastic - 8/10
- Great graphics; vibrant and playful to complement the blood effects.
- You don’t need a PhD to understand the controls – just jump in.
- Online play and new game+ with different classes.
- Your own pet to accompany you that claws the enemies eyes out.
- Doesn’t have as much depth/variety as Diablo 3.
- Can be a bit of a grindfest to get decent equipment.
- Can be a bit hectic in that you’re aren’t aware your health has dropped or that you picked up a better weapon.
Reviewed using base PS4.