Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Torchlight 2: 10 Days In

I think the most telling statement I can make is that this was supposed to be "Torchlight 2 After A Week" and I kept putting it off because I wanted to use my free time for gameplay. This isn't a review post. I'm not familiar enough with the genre or the gaming industry to make a credible reviewer. This is just a post about my experiences playing the game. Fair warning: the post assumes the reader has at least a basic understanding of ARPG games.

 Firstly, the gameplay is awesome. I'm having a blast--except when I spend two levels breezing through mobs and then suddenly find myself underpowered and getting stomped on. That seems to happen every 5 levels or so. And it's not a bad thing at all. It keeps the game challenging and keeps me coming back for more.   It's just that my reaction when I get stomped on is usually like "O.O WHOA, WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT?! GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR...!"

 My first character was an Outlander. I like ranged characters, so I thought that would be the best place to start.  I found that I died a lot until I was able to secure myself some armor with health regen.  There's a skill that lets you cast a tower that will heal the characters and all minions/allies when they pass through the area of effect, but I just suck as a gamer, I guess.  I forget to cast it or I get confused and forget to run through it.  TL 1 had an automatic health regen skill on the Vanquisher that worked a lot better for me.  It didn't give much but it was enough to keep me alive long enough to back off and let a potion work a little.

There's not a lot to say about the gameplay except that it's fun.  The game is a hack and slash RPG.  You run around killing monsters and collecting gold and loot that, for unknown reasons, the monsters are always carrying around.  With a ranged character, your best bet is to stand as far back as you can and shoot until stuff dies.  When monsters charge at you, you smash them and shoot them until you can back off and repeat the process.  The game feels responsive, so I'm not standing there losing health while I'm waiting for the game to realize that I've clicked attack or move or a potion key.  It's hard to express how rewarding it is to click a mouse button and watch a bunch of fantasy monsters blow up.  I don't even know why it's so awesome.  It just is.

The story is still kind of half-assed, but it doesn't matter to me anyway.  All I want is an excuse to run around killing monsters, and that's exactly what I've got.  There are a lot of players who want deep, involved storylines in their games, but if I want that I read a book.  Video games are something I do when I don't want to engage my whole brain.  (Again, these are my opinions and experiences.  They don't reflect on gamers in general or Torchlight fans particular.)

I wasted a lot of skill points in the lower levels of the game.  There are skill descriptions that try to give the player a good sense of what the skills do, but asking a new player to make skill choices without any experience of the game is sort of like asking a five-year-old whether she wants to be a policeman or a balllerina when she grows up.  She has no experience of the world she's being asked to speculate about, and her choices are based on minimal information and what she thinks looks or sounds the most like her style.  There's a skill respec NPC who will give back one's last three points, but here again, this assumes that the player is going to know she should go to town and get them back.

I suppose I could have been smart and just juggled the three points through various skills until I had tried everything open to me.  There are some players I know who did that.  For me, the game becomes work if I do stuff like that.  The load times between towns and rest of the game maps are better than they were in Torchlight, but they're still annoying, and when I'm running through a quest, I don't want to have to stop and go back and forth to town to try out skills.  So I decided to just go with what I had and if I found some better skills later, I would build a second Outlander when I was done with the storyline.

I think I like the side quests better than the main story quests.  The main story gets a little tedious and I can only run through a couple of those before I'm bored and looking for something else to do.  So I spend a lot of time on meta-games (some built into the game, like "look for enchanters" or "look for specific items") and some I make up myself to make my gameplay more interesting while I'm leveling up the characters.

I beat the main story quest with my Outlander at lvl 45.  Then I played through a series of random maps (map room opens up with an option for random dungeons) and leveled her up to 56 before I decided to try New Game Plus (Which is basically a repeat of the story with all the monsters brought up closer to your level and much, MUCH better loot.)

The loot in the first iteration of the story is adequate.  You can continue through the game and win (I did it with my lvl 45 Outlander) but it's not easy by any means.  In NG+ gold drops seem to be increased a lot, and the armor I'm finding is exponentially better* (edit-better yes, but in Acts 3 and 4 I still got creamed. Armor and loot need some help from the modding community.).  As I understand it, each time you win (up to 5 times) you can have another NG+ experience with monsters leveled higher and (hopefully) loot to match.

I've now got an Embermage running through the quest for the first time.  I'm planning to build her around wands (ranged magic weapons) with high elemental damage.  Not sure how it's going to go since I keep going back in to my Outlander.   I've got a Berserker, but I somehow manage to die more with that character even though she has healing buffs that cause her to heal herself pretty much every time she kills something.  I'm just NOT GOOD with melee characters AT ALL.

The main complaint I have--which should be easy to deal with since the game supports mods--is lack of stash space.  I keep finding gems or items I can't use (either the gems don't work with my armor because the armor isn't a high enough level or the items are for another class--or just don't fit my characters' build but I want to keep them for the future) so I end up making a new mule every few game sessions.  I'm probably just a pack rat and chances are that I'll find better stuff before I get to use what I'm saving, but I HATE to sell stuff off and then discover I should have kept it.  The modding tools should be out in another month or so, then I can stop griping about the stash space.

And that's about it for now.  Back to the game!

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