Torchlight II is shaping up to be the kind of game where hours of your free time go to die, almost by accident. Its methodology is a combination of many of the features that led the first one to star status and the implementation of feedback from fans and the community.
The feature that completely wiped out our time with the game was the brand-new LAN co-op multiplayer, which adds the kind of wild, team-based simple dungeon-clearing fun I haven't experienced since Gauntlet ages ago. Players have four different character classes to choose from: Berserker, Embermage, Engineer and Outlander, which is what I ended up using. There are male and female iterations of each class, and you can also give your would-be hero a name. However, the real customization happens as you find better weapons, equipment and clothing to outfit your character.
You can also use different kinds of pets. There are eight new types of pets, each bearing varying degrees of cute (I chose a buff, drooling bulldog). Your pet not only accompanies you on your travels, but can also zoom to town and sell loot that you pick up on your journey, like the first game. However, you can also give your pet a shopping list of sorts, so it can retrieve things you need, such as potions or scrolls.
In addition to the slew of new features is a much larger world that includes a variety of vast landscapes with inclement weather, along with well-drawn temples and dungeons. We were told that roughly half the game takes place outside, while the other half occurs underground. All of the outdoor areas are randomly generated, so each outing will offer a different experience. Up to six players can gather in a game, and honestly, I probably could have used the help, as the game doesn't hesitate to put you within arm's reach of everything from giant sword-wielding skeletons to powerful beasts bearing hard-to-pronounce names.
Fighting and moving took seconds to learn. Simply left click to where you want to go, or on enemies to unleash your standard attacks with weapons of your choice (at one point, I picked up a two-handed cannon). Right-clicking can unleash a more powerful mana-based attack. In the case of the Outlander, it was a glaive that can bounce around, ethereally shredding enemies in its path. It was good to hear eventually that you can use your character in all game types. The array of menus for trading goods, equipping materials and assigning skill points appeared easily accessible on-screen within a few clicks, as was the ability to access healing potions on the fly.
All this in the early going led to moments where time seemed to disappear in the act of wiping out enemies with friends, gathering treasure and goodies and tinkering with characters. <i>Torchlight II</i> is slated to come out this summer.
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