Developer: Runic Games
Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (version reviewed), PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: September 3rd, 2019
Torchlight II is so brazen in its attempt to be just like seminal game series Diablo that it’s actually kind of charming.
Diablo is easily one of the most seminal game series of all time. It set the foundation for loot-based dungeon crawling hack-n-slash action RPG adventures. There have been many attempts to be the “new” Diablo over the years in various forms, but that’s honestly like trying to be the new Mario of platformers; the series has been so good for so long it’s nearly impossible.
Still, a handful of worthy contenders have come along here and there, one, in particular, being the original Torchlight. Torchlight came out in 2009 and offered a combination of slightly lighter hack-n-slash loot-based gameplay with more cartoony graphics with a couple of unique twists (like a pet that can attack but you can also send back to town to sell your excess stuff so you don’t have to leave a dungeon) at an attractive budget price for one heck of a winning combination. I barely played PC games at the time and I really got into the first Torchlight.
The follow-up, appropriately named Torchlight II, which was released in 2012 on PC is actually sort of a red-headed stepchild of the game development process. Torchlight II was intended to be an MMO in a sense. There was never supposed to be a Torchlight II. There was supposed to be Torchlight and then Torchlight MMO which some people are still trying to make happen as Torchlight Frontiers (which is still listed as a 2019 release as of now but that seems incredibly doubtful).
Now nearly eight years later, Torchlight II is releasing on other consoles but we are actually kind of lousy with games where you go into a dungeon and get loot with a story that barely matters these days (seriously, that could describe Diablo III, Marvel Ultimate Alliance III, Moonlighter and many other games). What does Torchlight II have to offer the discerning RPG/adventure fan? How about a game that apes Diablo III in a lot of ways but isn’t nearly as much of a commitment at a budget price? Because that’s a pretty good offer actually.
Where the original Torchlight felt like it was heavily inspired by Diablo but still had its own voice, Torchlight II feels like they skated as close as they could to the series that inspired it without being sued. It’s got a little less detailed, more cartoony look and the slightly unique pet system remains, but I have never felt more like I am playing a Diablo game than playing Torchlight II. It walks like it, talks like it, mostly runs like it (it’s arguably a tad faster in combat). For example, when I’m playing Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, it’s a little like Diablo-style action but has it’s own feel and pace that it doesn’t feel exactly like it. Torchlight II very much makes me just feel like I’m playing Diablo.
Torchlight II also has pretty much the same issues in that the story doesn’t matter one bit. Some dude from the first game goes crazy, destroys the town of Torchlight and you must stop him from doing something far worse. Everything is an excuse to mindlessly hack away at monsters and get shiny stuff that’s better than the shiny stuff you got five minutes ago. Even a lot of graphical and customization details are reminiscent of Diablo.
The biggest difference between the two remains the “pet” system in Torchlight II. You select from a decent variety of pets to be your constant companion that can help you out in battle but also carry things back to town. There are pets in Diablo but most of them just literally follow you around and do nothing.
There really isn’t any difference between pets to start so just pick what you want. But not long after I started I had an eagle who was an aggressive attacker that could summon a squad of skeleton archers so your pets can develop in some fun and unique ways.
Torchlight II lacks the long post-game content you’d see in Diablo III but in some ways that’s a welcome reprieve. Diablo III has a dizzying amount of content to the point where though I played the game for quite a bit back when it launched on the PlayStation 4 I haven’t played it in years and I’ve honestly barely touched my Nintendo Switch version. It’s just daunting. Torchlight II has three acts, meaty enough but not insanely long and therefore doesn’t feel like something you’ll never put a significant dent in. There’s a new game plus mode, but that’s about it as far as post-game content.
The good news here is that Torchlight II wears the inspiration on its sleeve so hard but does it quite well. I played the Nintendo Switch version for over twenty hours and never really got tired of my time with it. Also, a bonus to the Nintendo Switch over other versions is that this game is a great fit to play portably. While I did see a rare frame rate drop from time to time, it can handle a pretty insane amount of characters and effects on screen.
Torchlight II makes no bones about the fact that it wants to be Diablo, to the extent that at a quick glance someone may think you are playing the latter series. But it mostly succeeds in trying to be that. It’s got a fun look, shiny loot that constantly gives you new stuff to try out and snappy combat all rolled into an attractive budget price. It doesn’t have the hundreds. Essentially, if you want Diablo but no so hugely intimidating Torchlight II is a fantastic alternative and well worth checking out.