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Friday, May 17, 2013

Freshly STEAM-ed: Torchlight 2 Review

A look at the Steam store's hidden gems and buried skeletons.

A good looter is hard to find these days, wait...never mind. They're friggn' everywhere! The act of "looting" is one of the most voraciously addicting aspects of gaming and all developers know it. The trick is developing it well. It can be too generous, too stingy, too repetitive, too predictable, and it only works if all those aspects are in check. In other words, its chemistry.

An action RPG like torchlight, despite its large roster of characters to build, places to roam, enemies to kill, and quests to fetch, its only as good as it's loot system. So my reaction to the game after running through two characters over a few months is...favorable. It's occasionally great, but in the face of Borderlands and even Darksiders II, I see room for improvement

"Two barrels? Psh, its been done."

It's far less expensive than those other two games, $40 less, even. But after a good long while into a new game+ I was bored. I was just doing the same things over and over and over because the game wouldn't let me try out any other tactics. It had made me set in my ways against my will because there were serious problems with the leveling process. In that, you can read your skill trees front to back but still have no real idea what your new skill will be like until you've invested in to it halfway. That takes hours, and if you had more than three points spent on a useless ability there was no going back. The vast array of skills and abilities demand experimentation, but the game allowed no room for it. Worse still, they guzzle so many skill points to be worth a damn that you would have to spend an entire play through nurturing five out of  30 skills to stay in fighting shape. That's boring. 

This is a picture of twice as much time as you're ever going to want to spend with one character.

But again, loot is the name of this game, and great loot heals all wounds. But sadly, that fared even worse. 6 times out of 10 when I came across a "legendary" piece of loot, it was for another character. It was a cheap, irritating, way to force me to play multiplayer and trade with others. Which would have been fine, except none of my friends who have a PC play this game (enough anyway). So all it accomplished was taunting me until I lost interest in continuing to loot. Which also translates into not playing the game because that was the whole damn point.

It's strange it left me so cold, because I really wanted to love it. In fact, there are many things I still admire about it. It's charming score, its fluid (delightful) animation, its crisp sound design (pistols especially), and the way the monsters feel like natural species in their element rather than things made up to kill you. Brilliant people made this game, and it is one hell of a game, the last thing I want to do is to sell TL2 short. Its necessary to point out that all my grousing comes from long term exposure. Meaning none of these complaints floated to the surface until after I had beaten it twice. I'm not complaining about it being bad, I'm angry at how close it came to being perfect.

"So what do you guys think? Too blue? ...Its too blue, I get it. Good talk."

Yet, while I was busy complaining about the lack of my ability to re-spec my character, the developers patched in the ability to do just that. Which brings up the best feature about this shindig: Steam Workshop! If there is a problem you have with the game, a vast community of modders have most likely already fixed it. Further still, there are entirely new characters, pets, bosses, dungeons, and equipment ready made to sweeten your pot. All are free and are downloaded directly where they need to be without you needing to open up the hood of your root folder. Just subscribe and sit back while it streams.

So if you're looking for a solid looter on the cheap, there is no better place to look to than Runic game’s stylized little romp. I may be hard on it, but that's just because I love it and want it to improve. I'm sure the right concoction of mods to smooth out my grievances exists, so I guess I better start mixing, I hope to see some of you in there.

"You did not just step on my new boots!!!"

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