Lightning Strikes Twice – A First Look at Torchlight II

Depending on how you choose to view the past decade in gaming, one of the biggest trends to emerge has been the inevitable sequels following the successful launch of a new title.

Depending
on how you choose to
view the past decade in gaming, one of
the biggest trends to emerge has been the inevitable sequels following
the successful launch of a new title. Some of time these sequels are
planned for from the beginning, such as BioWare’s epic Mass
Effect
trilogy, though in many
cases these sequels tend to
feel like little more than an attempt to ride the IP gravy train while
it’s still on the tracks.

However, unlike sequels in
other entertainment mediums, a video game
sequel in particular needs to not only continue the story established
by the initial release but also expand upon the gameplay in meaningful
ways across the board. In other words, while more of a good thing is
never necessarily a bad thing, as gamers we not only want the
opportunity to continue the saga of a beloved game world but we also
want that experience to bring plenty of new tricks to the gameplay
table.

When the original href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/2036">Torchlight
was released last fall, we knew that Runic
Games had the goal of creating an MMOG set in the same world in mind
from day one. But the highly experienced development team also realized
that diving directly into the MMOG scene can be a much easier
transition when doing so with an established IP, thus opted to give
players a first look at the world through a single-player lens.
Needless to say, Torchlight
became an instant favorite of fans and
critics alike, earning numerous awards and
accolades over the following
months.

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So while we knew a style="font-style: italic;">Torchlight
MMOG was a very real possibility sometime
in the future, we were pleasantly surprised to hear the recent
announcement that a sequel to the original Torchlight
was in the works.
The big question on everyone’s minds though, was how will
href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/2658">Torchlight
II

stack up against the original? Will it simply take us
deeper into depths, or will it have the hallmarks of a worthy sequel by
expanding on the core gameplay in meaningful ways?

This is what we set out to
discover at href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/events/gamescom/2010">gamescom
2010 where Team Hammer
had the opportunity to speak to Runic about the decision to
create a
sequel to the original Torchlight.
Not only that, but Torchlight
II
was
fully playable on the show floor which gave us the opportunity to
experience one of the biggest game changers in the new title first hand.

I’m speaking of
course about the inclusion of multiplayer,
and from what we were shown it should give fans plenty to be excited
about. With this new feature you’ll be able to scamper around
the randomized outdoor areas and dungeons in the game with your friends
via LAN or online connection which alone makes Torchlight
II
a worthy
new entry into the series. But the improvements to the overall gameplay
experience don’t end there!

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One of my favorite discoveries
in the live demo
is that the UI has been
given a full revamp, making it much easier for players to quickly
access important functions in the game. For example, in the original
game your pet’s inventory would appear on the far left of the
screen while your personal inventory would open on the far right. In
Torchlight II
both will open side-by-side which makes it incredibly
easy to see what loot you’re lugging around and allows you to
drag and drop items into individual slots between the two far easier.
Call it what you will, but streamlined inventory management in this
type of game is always a massive
win in my books.

Speaking of pets, according to
Wonder Russell, Minister of Culture at
Runic Games, players can expect to see not only a return of their
favorites from the original Torchlight,
but a number of new pets will
be added as well.

Another cool new feature is the
ability to customize your characters
this time around. While customization won’t be full of
excessive amounts of sliders for things like tweaking the eyebrow to
nose hair ratio, it will still give players new options
for the basic appearance of their characters. Most notable among these
options is the ability to choose the gender of your character which
should be a welcome change for those players who want to play a
particular class but don’t necessarily want that decision to
dictate the gender of a character they’ll be playing for
countless hours online with their friends.

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New classes have also been
added
to the mix, as well as an updated
version of the TorchEd editing tools. Not only will you be able to
create your own custom maps in Torchlight
II
as you could in the
original, you’ll also be able to share maps and play them
with your friends online. While we didn’t get to see this in
action during our hands-on time with the game, we certainly look
forward to seeing how the integrated map sharing feature shapes up over
the coming months.

Fans of Matt Uelmen’s
soundtrack from the original game are
in for a real treat in Torchlight
II
as well. The live demo at
gamescom
was using music from the first game, but Wonder let us know that Matt
has written all new material for the sequel, some of which
he’s currently in the process of recording with a live
orchestra.

Overall, Torchlight
II
is
shaping up to be an incredibly fun game. It
retains many of the core elements that made the original such a success
to begin with and still manages to expand on just about every aspect of
the game in interesting and meaningful ways. We’ll be keeping
a close watch on the development in the coming months, but so far I
think it’s safe to say that with Torchlight
II
, Runic Games
is proving to be a PC gaming force to be reckoned with.


To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Torchlight II Game Page.

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About The Author

Reuben "Sardu" Waters has been writing professionally about the MMOG industry for eight years, and is the current Editor-in-Chief and Director of Development for Ten Ton Hammer.

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