Torchlight II Review — A Charming and Addictive Adventure
Torchlight II is a great dungeon crawler on Switch even if it doesn't include couch co-op functionality.
Torchlight II first released back in 2012 on PC to high praise whilst gaining a very healthy score on Metacritic from critics and players alike, but porting over a seven-year-old game to the Nintendo Switch could be seen as a dicey decision from developers Panic Button while risking a smear on the games previous positive reception. Thankfully, Panic Button hit all the right notes and not only enhanced the game but breathed life back into the much needed top-down dungeon crawler genre that’s even better on the go.
I didn’t get to experience Torchlight II first hand when it was initially released, although I did watch a fair proportion of gameplay previously. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed what I saw then, I did go into the game now with an amount of trepidation – mostly due to wondering if it had aged well and if the developers would manage to screw up the port. Having put many hours into Diablo III, I seriously needed a fresh replacement and thus started my journey into the fantasy/steampunk world of epic battles and bountiful treasure.
As with most RPG games, you’re first thrown into a customization screen where you can pick what playable character you want to take on the adventure. I chose the outlander who is a nomad and has a host of ranged weaponry that includes the shotgun and bow. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy then you can choose either the Engineer, a heavy melee fighter who uses ember-powered steampunk technology, the Berserker, who uses quick attacks and animal-themed special powers, or the Embermage, a highly trained spell-casting class with elemental attacks.
Each class has a specific meter that fills up as you deal damage and makes you more powerful, which in turn, makes you want to keep attacking everything you see with gusto. As you begin to level up, you earn skill points that let you select a list of active and passive skills that enhance your character’s core fighting style. This is probably one of the most addictive elements in Torchlight II as it will see you reaching for your Switch whenever you can fit in a little time. You gain even better skills as you progress through the later part of the game, too.
Like any good adventurer, you’ll need a pet to not only keep you company but help you take on some of the monsters and ghouls you’ll encounter throughout the game. You can take your pick from a wolf, dog, ferret, alpaca – the list is endless and if you happened to pre-order Torchlight II on the Switch, you got yourself a cute little yapper sidekick. You can always take a more colorful approach with a funky looking unicorn but personally, I stuck with a huge cat called Indi, named after my dog – yes, that is a little confusing isn’t it?
There’s no doubt that Torchlight II’s world is beautifully detailed and atmospheric. The landscapes change seamlessly from the deserts of the Mana Wastes to the werewolf-infested swamplands of the Blightbogs as you explore its depths further. Even if you’re new to top-down action-RPGs, Torchlight II makes it extremely easy to jump into and get to grips due to its simplistic and clear console-friendly UI, navigation, and quest completion. The minimap at the top right-hand corner acts as your guiding star, highlighting clear and precise indicators of quest givers.
Due to having an obsession with finding loot in games, Torchlight II indulged that desire and then some. Everywhere you look there are chests to open, urns to smash – queue me singing “I smashed an Urn, and I liked it” – and tombs to access. Sometimes you just stumble onto a vast stretch of ground that’s littered with coin, much to my delight. I can unashamedly say, I died in quite a few battles just because I didn’t want to stop picking up all the shining gold and treasures – I just didn’t care, dying felt worth it to have a pocket full of sunshine.
The many types of monsters you encounter also drop copious amounts of bountiful treasures that, at times, will give you better weapons or attire than you currently have. If you have played Diablo, you’ll understand how this all works in terms of switching out your gear for the better and having to drop the less effective items so you don’t become overburdened.
Killing enemies is straight forward: just button-mash and dodge some attacks on the bigger monsters until you have perfected a rhythm until they are dead. It’s nothing complex nor anything that breaks the mold but it’s still extremely satisfying – although this is probably due to the loot they drop in my case. I have a problem, okay? The enemy design is a whole work of art in itself – it’s steampunk-fantasy coated with a splash of H.P. Lovecraft that I especially enjoyed.
The narrative that nestles within the game really isn’t anything to write home about and that’s perfectly fine. In a game like this, I personally don’t see the need to over-complicate matters by adding in long-winded stories. The quests are plentiful and enjoyable that mostly center along the same sort of lines as some dude who went into a cave full of monsters like an idiot and now they can’t get out so you have to go in and save his ass. Although the main plot of the story is to stop the Alchemist from permanently upsetting the balance of the world, it didn’t overly interest me – I was having too much fun killin’ and lootin’.
As beautiful, generous and wondrous as Torchlight II is as a single-player game, it’s undoubtedly made to be played with another. Everything in the game can be done in single-player or in multiplayer, and it all seems designed with a completely open-ended approach. My biggest piece of frustration with this port though is that Panic Button didn’t implement a couch co-op mode into Torchlight II. We see less and less of couch co-op implemented in nowadays games and it annoys me greatly that Torchlight II didn’t include this. Even though I enjoyed pretty much everything Torchlight II had to offer, the lack of couch co-op was a huge turn-off for me given that the world within this title is crying out for this feature.
Still, what remains is a fantastically designed hack-n-slash RPG that kept me enthralled for hours on end. It fits right at home on the Nintendo Switch with its colorful, exciting, and inviting world that made it a pleasure to explore, but it was let down by its lack of local co-op features which really is a crying shame for a game of this kind.