Saturday, May 19, 2012

Torchlight 2 Beta Weekend

I've been excited about a new action RPG called Torchlight II for some time now.  The first Torchlight was released in 2009 as a single-player, low-cost experience that gave gamers a quality action RPG at a time when there weren't many available.

Torchlight 2 brings it to multiplayer, but is still expected to be a low-cost alternative to the Diablo games.  There is a direct comparison to Diablo, though, because the development team on Torchlight is primarily comprised of programmers from Blizzard North who worked on the first two Diablo games (including the composer, Matt Uelmen).  While the atmosphere is lighter and more cartoonish than Diablo (even Diablo 3, which was colorful enough that they made these shirts for them), the gameplay remains intact.

When I opened my email this morning, I had received an invite to participate in the open beta stress test for Torchlight 2, running this weekend only.  The timing seemed incredibly odd, because of the relationship between Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2 -- why would you hold a stress test beta on the first weekend of the official release of your biggest competitor?  As suspected, when I logged in to try it out, there weren't many games being played.  I don't think they're going to stress the systems very much this weekend.

Still, I got logged in and started to play.  A few things that stood out for me after playing Diablo 3 exclusively for the past three days are that they kept the skill and character customizations from the old Diablo games (but at least let you re-spec your skill trees).  That sort of customization is really missing in the new Diablo game.

Other things are smaller, but noticeable...I like that I can pick up items even when I'm holding the shift key down to stay in one place (even if that sends my pet to pick it up).  It's mildly annoying in D3 to have to move to pick everything up.  Likewise, from an aesthetic perspective, I like that you can still attack with your weapon when you're a mage.  Again, a little thing, but a nice difference.

Oddly enough, Torchlight can also be harder.  You can start in Hardcore mode and on a higher difficulty level, and I found myself using health potions much more frequently than in D3, where they were just a collection item to sell.  That's mostly because the health globes in Diablo keep you moving without the need for potions, and possibly because I started Torchlight on Veteran difficulty, but again, a noticeable difference.  Same with the waypoints and identify scrolls -- you use them in Torchlight, but in Diablo, you don't need waypoints after you learn the town portal scroll, and you can identify everything with a right-click (which tells me they should have just auto-identified...but I'm sure they had a reason for not doing it that way).

At any rate, it is a fun distraction, and I am still looking forward to the final release.  There is definitely room in my gaming library for both titles, and both will get some play.

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