It’s been a few days now since I’ve been able to play Torchlight 2 during their beta stress test event. It was also the first time I ever got to play the game (even though I’ve pre-purchased it in the meantime). And now I’ll share with you my impressions about the game! I haven’t actually read much about the game before trying it out (and before pre-purchasing… *cough*). So, I’m definitely not even half as informed about this game than I am about Guild Wars 2.
Before entering the game
When I created my first character, I liked having a few options to choose from (face, hair style, hair colour, gender). Those choices aren’t ground-breaking. But it’s better than nothing and for a non-MMO, it’s enough for me to have such simple choices. In general, I just prefer playing a female character, so I really loved being able to do that. And then – the pets! My absolute favourite part. I really wanted to play with the ferret but when looking at the other pets, I did have a hard time deciding for the ferret and against the others. Also, some of the other pets (like the cat, for example), can have different fur colours which you can choose when creating your character. Unfortunately, the ferret only has one which was surprising because ferrets typically have different fur colours and I was certain we could choose from different ones. Oh well, can’t have everything, right? And maybe it’s just because it’s beta and they’ll add in more later (although my favourite ferret is the sable-colored one. But there’s still space for more variety. Enough of that, though. There is variety and you have choices.
The opening trailer is… not what I would have expected. It looks a bit “cheap” and doesn’t tell that much about the story or the background of the world which was a bit sad as I would have loved to get more information about the world I was about to enter.
Issues with the game’s settings
The first few minutes of playing the game were really disappointing. The windowed mode doesn’t “stop” above the Windows task bar which means that part of the screen is always behind it. I really don’t like it when games have that. And it’s weird because Torchlight 1 didn’t have that problem. But it’s just a minor annoyance. The major issue comes with the control settings and I’m still not sure what exactly is going wrong here. I need to go into greater detail to explain it: I have a Razer Death Adder mouse, the left-hander edition. Its left and right mouse buttons are switched by default. While I need to use a mouse with my left hand (using my right hand gives me a headache and concentration problems), I use the mouse buttons like a righthander: my left index finger right-clicks and my left middle finger left-clicks. Or, in other words, I use a mouse with my left hand but leave the buttons unswitched. However, since this mouse comes with switched buttons per se, I need to switch them back in the Windows settings. With most games, this isn’t a problem at all (including Torchlight 1). Torchlight 2, however, messes things up. Opening/closing windows works like it usually does (left-clicking the X to close a window, etc.). I had to switch the two mouse buttons in the game’s control settings, though, in order to move around like I did in Torchlight 1 (left-click on the ground to move there) because by default, those controls were switched. Moving items from my inventory to that of my pet, learning spells, etc. is still switched and as far as I know, there was no way to change that. So without changing any settings, the movement and item interaction etc. ignored the Windows settings and used the settings the mouse came with. Opening/closing windows, however, used the settings that I had entered in Windows. It’s confusing and seems unnecessarily complicated! Why not just leave it the way I’ve entered it in Windows? As I said, most other games work fine and I rarely have any issues (League of Legends is another negative example but at least, they’re consistent and everything ignores the Windows setting).
So that was my first evening in the game. I was left disappointed and annoyed because I can’t get used to the switched buttons (that’s why I use them like a right hander does!). The next morning, I had the brilliant idea to switch the movement controls. Once I had done that, the fun with the game started… well, unless I wanted to manage my inventory. But I’ll get used to that. It’s just the movement and skills that were hard to master with the wrong buttons.
Choosing a class
I started with an engineer and it didn’t take long until I found a great item for the embermage. In Torchlight 1, I found countless great items for the alchemist and haven’t played one (yet). The game is telling me something, though, as 90% of the high quality items I have dropped are for the alchemist (which is the mage-like class in Torchlight 1). So when the first really nice item that dropped was for the embermage, I quit the game and created one instead. Oh, that was such a great idea! That class is lots of fun. Maybe a bit too squishy for n00by me (you’ll see in the embedded video) but fun nonetheless. I sticked with the embermage and played her on normal mode. I then created another embermage and played that character on veteran mode until the end of the beta weekend. I didn’t want to spoil the other classes for me. So most of what I’m saying about the game comes from me playing those two embermages, both with frost skills.
What I didn’t like about the game
I had expected the maps to be more open than they are. It did seem like a pre-given road that you’re following. The more I played, the more I realized that this isn’t true. The screenshot shows the paths I had taken already and on the right, it also shows an NPC that I found that way. I don’t think I would have passed him without taking another than the direct route to my quest (there are quest markers on the map showing you where you need to go). So this is just half disliking something. In caves/dungeons, it’s more obvious. I guess I just prefer having completely open maps (like huge fields with nothing in between instead of having mountains road-blocking my way all of the time). I’ve played through the very first (or second?) map three times during the stress test beta weekend and I always saw something I hadn’t seen on my first run through.
The lore and the story aren’t too obvious either. Before Diablo 3 was released, we read up on and watched the cinematics from Diablo 1 and 2 in order to catch up and know what’s happened (Deckard Cain is one of the characters appearing in all three titles, by the way). The story of Torchlight 2 didn’t draw me in after watching the trailer. It took until the fight against General Grell to get into the story a bit more and I am interested in finding out what’s going to happen next. However, there haven’t been any key characters so far that I would recognize again. I had just expected the story to be a lot better than they were in Torchlight 1. Oddly enough, I found the story a lot better in Torchlight 1, at least at the beginning… then it became rather boring because, after all, it was just about going deeper and deeper below the town. I haven’t seen much from the game, though (got to Chillhoof), so I can’t really say if the story is good or not. But that’s why this post is called “first impressions”.
Another thing that disappointed me were the graphics. I had already seen that they’re similar to Torchlight 1 but it seems that they’re exactly the same. I liked them in Torchlight 1, so it’s no big deal. I just thought we would get to see something a bit… well, improved. Although I love the pets and their animations, so that certainly made up for it. On the other hand, of course there had to be at least one female character that doesn’t have enough money to buy decent clothing. No game without them, right? It’s not a reason not to buy a game for me but I’d just like to either not see it in every game I play or have some more men wearing the same armor. You know, equality and all that…
What I liked about the game
Except for the story, the negative things aren’t big. But what about the things I did like? Well, there are many. I really like the customization, as I said above already. The pets are awesome! Cute and functional. You can send them back to town and they automatically sell the items in their inventory. Something new was added as well: They can now also buy healing potions, mana potions, etc. So, you only need to get back to town if you want to hand in a quest or put items into your storage (of which you have one as personal storage and one as shared storage between your characters).
The performance seemed to be great. We could only play online during the stress test beta but it was for testing the login servers, etc. so it made sense. Once the game is released, we will be able to play offline or via LAN. So we won’t have to play online if we don’t want to. That in itself is getting quite rare these days, so it’s worth mentioning and definitely one of the reasons why I don’t feel bad for buying the game. While playing the game during that weekend, I didn’t find any bugs at all. The performance was smooth, there was no lag, nothing ruining my game experience in any way. I am always amazed when a beta – even if it is just a stress test – is as smooth as this one was.
This (video above) made me squeal. It’s just a detail but details like this are needed to bring a world to life. The same with the random NPCs appearing in corners of the world, giving you quests (like the ghost seen in a screenshot above). The NPCs that I fought against were varied, had lots of different skills and I saw my “favorite” made it to Torchlight 2 as well: Mimics. Oh, how I hate them! They’re chests and until you’ve put your greedy fingers on them in order to loot their insides, you do not see a difference between them and regular loot chests. That’s so mean! Especially as they can dish out quite some damage. But it makes the game more fun for me. Is this a real chest? Should I heal up before touching it? There’s other things like bombs, poison, etc. that can damage you when you open a chest or destroy some ancient vase.
The mobs and especially the bosses seemed to scale. I’ve uploaded a video of my fight against Chillhoof. He’s level 17 there. But I’ve seen him with different levels in other people’s videos. Same with the non-boss mobs. More about Chillhoof later… but it is a great thing to see that mobs are scaling. Too bad I don’t have much more information but I have to admit, I just didn’t feel like looking up all the information and reading about it. Sometimes, it’s just nicer to get yourself surprised while playing. I also love that you can choose a difficulty setting when creating a character. Normal mode was okay, but I had the most fun on veteran. True, I died too often on that mode as well… so often, in fact, that I was broke (again, more about that later…). But it was fun! When’s dying in a game ever so much fun? ;) When entering an online game, I could also choose the difficulty setting. I wonder if you can create a character and play it on normal mode but then join an online game with the same character on veteran mode? That would be quite nice as you could change your mind about the difficulty setting in a way.
All in all, I have to say that the game feels like a better Torchlight 1. I’m not sure it’s what I would have expected from a Torchlight 2… it’s closer to a 1,5 (considering, for example, that it seems to be exactly the same graphics). But that’s just a minor detail because it is a fun game! I like Torchlight 1 but I love Torchlight 2. It’s definitely worth its price (20€) and I can’t wait for its release!
As mentioned above, I fought against Chillhoof. This was on veteran mode and my character was below level 18. I would assume she was level 17 but I’m not 100% sure. As you can see, standing in front of those frost attack cone made me die instantly. This video is actually really good as it shows you… how not to do it! I kited Chillhoof in an area that was less than ideal for it. I have seen lots of other videos with players that were much smarter and fought him where you find him – which is a larger round place. They just moved sidewards in a large circle while Chillhoof more or less just turns around further with every attack. Instead, I decided for the headless chicken route, which, let’s face it, is what I always do and it’s never a good idea. If only I could change my playstyle in games (this is also the reason why I favor heavily armored classes). My character also didn’t wear any special items. I had what I had found and what I had gotten from quests during one day of playing her. I have seen videos of characters getting a full frontal attack and they hardly lost any life whereas I was dead instantly. So I assume it’s either the higher level, more hitpoints, better items or all of those. I’m not complaining, though. I sat here laughing while bookahnerk was cheering me on. I don’t mind screwing up and having a less than perfect run. ;)
Now, please excuse me, I’ve got an alchemist to create…