Torchlight II

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Perfect World
Developer: Panic Button
Release Date: Sept. 3, 2019


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Switch Review - 'Torchlight II'

by Cody Medellin on Dec. 9, 2019 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

With all new character classes, an expansive overworld, new quests, monsters, and lots of new dungeons, Torchlight II finally lets you play with your friends in the world of Torchlight with an expansive co-op multiplayer experience.

Seven years ago, Torchlight II arrived on the PC and became one of the favorite alternatives to Diablo III, which was having a convoluted launch and alienated fans who were expecting a beefed-up Diablo II. A year later, when asked about the possibility of a console launch, Runic Games shot down the idea despite already having the original game on the Xbox 360. Plenty has changed within that time period, especially in regards to the property. Perfect World handles publishing duties for the series now, with the original developer gone and the newest game in the series, Torchlight Frontiers, being developed by a new team formed from the remnants of Runic Games. Also, the seemingly impossible has happened, as the porting wizards at Panic Button have brought Torchlight II to the Nintendo Switch.

The story requires a little bit of knowledge about the first game to make some sense. The Alchemist, one of the hero classes from the first game, has become corrupted by a dark energy. His power has increased to the point that the town of Torchlight is in ruins, and his former comrades don't have enough strength to stop him. As a new hero, your job is to track down and put a stop to The Alchemist before he ruins everything.

As in many games of the genre, you start off by creating a hero. There isn't much in terms of customization, but you have four different classes to choose from, and some are very different from what's available in other titles. The Outlander deals primarily with firearms, while the Berzerker mostly favors melee attacks. The Embermage is the magic class, while the Engineer uses some melee attacks but lays down turrets to do the bulk of the work. The pets, on the other hand, is where you'll see the broadest selection, although this is mostly cosmetic since all pets function the same way. For example, you can go with an alpaca, a bulldog, a ferret or even a panther, just to name a few. Switch owners can choose a big burly unicorn or the headcrab from Half-Life as a pet — a bit of a surprise since that seems like a Steam exclusive instead.

From here, the core gameplay loop should be familiar. You get a mission from someone in the field, which leads to a waypoint in another land or a dungeon. Along the way, you'll pick up more side missions from characters that you meet, but most of your time is spent killing anything and everything along the way. Killing does lead to XP, which leads to powering up, but the real treasure comes from the massive amounts of loot you gather from every chest and downed enemy. You equip the loot to get stronger, which leads to more missions and more powerful enemies, who grant even more XP and better loot. It's a cycle that is the trademark of the genre, and the loop remains fulfilling, so the moments when you're not getting anything of value are few and far between.

There are two things that are done differently from other dungeon-crawling action-RPGs, and both of those things are seen as positive changes instead of negative ones. The first is your ability to use almost any weapon or equipment, regardless of class. Your Outlander can use a giant hammer, while the Berzerker can stand back and use pistols. There are still a few weapons that are only suited for certain classes, but this amount of freedom allows players to make some varied character builds.

The second change comes from the usefulness of pets. No matter which pet you choose and which behavior you task them with, they're invincible, so having them attack enemies without needing to heal them makes the solo game feel like a co-op. More importantly, those pets are perfect shuttles for unwanted gear, as you can have them return those items to sell at the base. The time is relatively short between sending them off to sell items and their return, and the gold coming from their treks is nice, but this feature does more to encourage loot collection, since you'll never need to leave anything behind due to a lack of storage space.

About the only thing missing is some proper post-game content. Diablo III has seasons, which go through the campaign again with different challenges. Both Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 and Victor Vran come with challenge arenas to provide endless ways to use your skill in addition to some DLC campaigns to extend the adventure. Nothing like that exists here, so you're relegated to creating a new character and restarting the adventure. That isn't completely detrimental, but it's something to keep in mind.

While everything is set up to make Torchlight II a very solid dungeon-crawling action-RPG, there is one area where the game stumbles: multiplayer. To be fair, the performance is excellent online, and even with the max party count reduced to four (as opposed to six on the PC version), the experience is memorable in all the right ways. Local play for up to four consoles is also here, which works better than online mode, since you aren't forced to come up with creative ways to communicate with online party members. There is no local multiplayer for one console, however, a big disadvantage when the likes of Diablo III, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, and Victor Vran all have that feature. As a result, this becomes more of a solo game if you and your friends aren't up for investing in more Switch consoles and a copy of the game for each.

With the team at Panic Button handling the port, there's little doubt that the game would retain the look of the original, and that's exactly what you get here. It certainly helps that the world was originally extremely colorful, as the style translates well here in either docked or portable mode. Textures look excellent, and it is very easy to tell what everything in the world is. The character designs for both heroes and monsters look very nice, and the use of lighting and particles, like exploding corpses, still looks great for something that's seven years old. Best of all, the game is completely locked at 60fps, with no hint of slowdown even when a bunch of stuff is happening on-screen.

The sound, however, is where things falter a bit. You'll notice this first with the initial cut scene, as it runs one second behind the movie. The music evokes medieval fantasy very well, but the default volume in the options is so low that you'll need to crank it up to hear anything. The effects are meaty, however, and the scant amount of voices isn't bad, just running under "good enough" status.

If you can brush aside the lack of single console multiplayer, Torchlight II remains an addictive action-RPG experience. The combat system isn't needlessly complicated, but it remains engaging due to the ease with which you can access each of your powers and the depth of the skill trees for each class. The loot is plentiful, and the ability to sell or use everything almost immediately means that you aren't going to pass up loot like you would in other titles. Whether you play alone or with friends, Torchlight II on the Switch is absolutely fun, and its low asking price makes it hard to resist even if you're knee-deep in similar titles.

Score: 8.0/10

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