When the first Torchlight was released, the game received nearly universal praise except for one minor problem - it was missing cooperative play. Torchlight 2 is changing that, adding in full co-op support and a rebuilt campaign that should make players feel like they are part of a more epic story. We went hands on with the game in co-op with Runic Games President Travis Baldree at E3 2011 and lived to tell the tale.
As I sat down at the PC the first of two official reveals were told to me. First up is that Torchlight 2 will support LAN play. The second was the third revealed class, the Berserker. The Berserker is a bit of an animal hybrid, hunching low in an attack like stance wielding one of the six new weapon types - in this case the claws. These dual wielded half blades act like brass knuckles with a purpose as you slice and dice through enemies. The Berserker also has the ability to call on spiritual attacks from three lines; dragon, wolf and raven giving into his animal like nature. Weapons themselves this time will offer different stances and animations giving characters a bit more personality, which is evident while wielding the dual blades.
The Berserker class concept art.
There's one class yet to reveal now that the Outlander, Berserker and Railman are public; but those of you holding out for a return of any of the previous classes from Torchlight will be disappointed. Instead those classes will be integrated into the story of Torchlight 2 as NPCs. The good news for gamers is that the classes in Torchlight 2 can be either male or female for full customization.
Another big change which was immediately noticeable in the new game are the giant outdoor environments which connect dungeons. These areas give the game a bigger, more open world feel to them. While some still need tweaking in terms of size, they provide a nice bridge for players. In fact I asked Baldree which feature he felt was the most standout in the game, and these areas were among them - not just for their gameplay elements - but for things like randomized weather effects. He said it just brings a whole new life to the world.
As we battled through numerous monsters in our co-op adventure we triggered a side quest by knocking down a set of crystals located in different areas of the overworld. We then entered a dungeon - or rather - he did first. What's great about the game is it doesn't tie players together to the same zone, players can move freely between areas and aren't in anyway required to stay with a partner.
Speaking of co-op it was about this time I popped the question to Travis. So how many players will be supported in co-op? Baldree told me right now it's eight and "we probably won't decide until last minute, and we'll probably let people change it." Torchlight 2 will scale the enemies dynamically to the number of players in a game and players can drop in and out at any time. Epic co-op!
Speaking of epic, the game is introducing a ton of new armor sets to the mix including epic sets for players to collect. Runic felt the first game fell really short of its potential here and they want to include a bunch of awesome looking high level content.
The game's UI is getting an overhaul too. Surprisingly the inspiration for the new UI, which wasn't on display yet, came from making the 360 version of the first game. "In making the 360 version we found some nice ways to represent a lot of data, " said Baldree, "we aren't going to consolify the thing, but we want to make things less obtuse." If you don't like the UI though - you can change it.
Full mod tools are once again being supported. These are the same tools Runic is using to create the game and they will be released with the title so players can change just about anything they want. Because of the multiplayer aspect of the game, Runic will separate online play into "the wild west" and "standard" so players can enjoy the game however they see fit.
Before I knew it 20 minutes had passed, we had conquered a boss who loved a teddy bear, killed hundreds of skeletons and other enemies and collected countless amounts of gold. The demo had ended and I was yearning for more. There were so many little touches that brought the game to life - enemies climb up the sides, come off walls or through the ground. Small detailed objects litter the world giving it character. Pets make a return though the final count isn't set, our demo was played with a ferret by our side.
Torchlight 2 is the game Runic wanted to make with the original. They've now added full cinematics and an orchestral score upping the production values even further. The current plan is to release in digital form on PCs sometime this summer and include cloud based saves and online stats. It's demos like these that I hate the most, not because the game is bad - but the complete opposite. The game is addictive, beautiful, and fun and it took only 20 minutes to get addicted, now like everyone else I must try to patiently wait for release.