Full disclaimer, I kind of liked Diablo 3. It didn’t captivate me nearly as much as Diablo 2 or even plain old Diablo did, but I can’t be absolutely sure if it’s the game’s fault or just mine. I can be reasonable sure, but not absolutely.
First things first
There was a free Steam weekend for Torchlight 2 from the 10th to the 12th of January, so I downloaded the game on my new low-end computer and tried it out, just to see if it really was better than Diablo 3. Instead of talking about the story or what I did, I’ll just say what my stance is on the Saturday noon of this free weekend.
I might buy it before the sale ends, and I will almost definitely buy it eventually. I don’t at all expect for Torchlight to keep me playing in years to come and I don’t want it to.
The three hours I spent playing through the first act, or at least I think it’s the first act, were simply fun and interesting, so I’d like to see more of that and eventually play through the game completely, maybe even with more than one character.
Again, this isn’t an official game I’m starting and intending to play through right now. This is just something I’ve tried out. With that said, I took some mental notes and I’d like to write some sort of overview or review or something of the sort. Maybe “analysis” would be the best word. There were a couple of things that matter to me here, so I’ll handle it one topic at a time.
My laptop died on me, so I bought a low-end PC as a replacement. It has 4 GB of ram, an SSD where Torchlight 2 is installed on, a Celeron 1620 CPU and it uses the integrated Intel HD graphics card that comes with the CPU.
With most details on low and a resolution reduced from the native 1920×1080 down to 1440×900, Torchlight 2 runs smooth for the most part. I was hoping it would be slightly less performance intensive, but it’s a good-looking game, so I can’t take the requirements against it.
That being said, the loading times are somewhat disappointing. I expected them to be almost instant with the game stored on an SSD, but it takes a couple of seconds to transition between areas.
Comparison to Diablo 3
Yes, I’m afraid I’ll be beating a dead horse here. I just don’t know how to go around it. I’ll handle this one category at a time, again.
Torchlight 2 vs Diablo 3 – Story
I’d call it a tie. Diablo 3’s story was disappointingly cheesy compared to the minimalist, but very atmospheric approach of its predecessors. Deep and intimidating voices with forced epicness worked well in Azeroth, but not in Sanctuary.
That being said, Torchlight 2’s story isn’t any better. The first chapter wasn’t cheesy and everything fits the theme nicely, but it wasn’t interesting either. In fact, it was so uninteresting, I’m having a hard time remembering what exactly was happening. For the most part, I’ve been skipping through it because there was nothing there to pull me in. Diablo 3 handled that part right, at least, though it failed in other areas.
In short, both Torchlight 2 and Diablo 3 have poor stories, each for different reasons.
Torchlight 2 vs Diablo 3 – Items
At this point (keep in mind, it’s only the first act), I’d say Torchlight 2 wins. Item drops are more fun and interesting, first and foremost. Higher quality items also seem to drop more commonly, so there’s more to look forward to.
Special pieces drop more often. Set items have randomized bonuses with only the set bonuses being fixed, so there’s more variety. Unique items sometimes have special effects or need to be powered up by killing a certain amount of a certain type of enemy, and there’s a short flavor text to explain it.
Each item can also be enchanted for a price, adding an extra effect or a couple. This can then be cancelled and re-applied indefinitely by spending more money, so there’s a certain amount of customization and player control to it.
For now, socketing gems isn’t very interesting or fun because the bonuses are minor, but it may get better. It wasn’t very interesting in Diablo 3 either, though.
Torchlight 2 vs Diablo 3 – Skills
I liked Diablo 3’s system, but it definitely removed a lot of the replay-ability. Back when it was new, I defended it wholeheartedly and I understood where it was coming from, but in hindsight, I think the whole point was a bit of a miss.
You see, Diablo 2 was fun enough for me not to have a problem with starting a new character. i didn’t see it as a waste of time or anything like that, just as another source of even more fun. Being able to re-spec at will removed that source of fun, though I’m not sure it would have been fun to replay Diablo 3 with a new character anyway.
With Torchlight 2, I can’t say how it might feel in the future. What I can say is that the skill system looks like the one in Diablo 2, with more emphasis on making most skills somewhat useful and with the addition of spells.
Spells drop from enemies and a limited amount of them can be equipped on you or your pet (I’ll get back to the pet). They can be passive or active and they work just like regular skills, except you don’t level them up. I can’t be sure, but this may give an extra amount of variety to each character. It also doesn’t look like it’s something you can base your “build” on, since these drop at random. Again, this is just a guess.
Not everything is better, though. While the skill tree system gives more reasons to restart and provides a different kind of fun, it also makes me more picky with skills and less inclined to experiment and try out a variety of active kills. Throughout the first chapter, I’ve only been using the Magma Spear on my Embermage. Part of the reason for this was because this one skill was more than effective enough, but a big part of it is also because I don’t want to be punished for overextending later.
In the end, I can’t say one system is better than the other. There are definitive and very obvious advantages to both a skill tree and a flat “skill pick” system.
There’s one thing I dislike in both games – the fact that skill damage is tied to weapon damage. I like the idea of mages taking their power from beyond the physical. Call it a quirk, but I dislike the idea in general, regardless of how it works as a mechanic.
Torchlight 2 vs Diablo 3 – Collecting loot
Thanks to, in my opinion, slightly better itemization, Torchlight 2 get’s an advantage here right from the start.
Outside of that, I can’t say much. There are chests scattered around the world with indicators on the quality of loot they contain. Some of them are also locked by golden keys, which drop from enemies somewhere in the area. For a fun addition, some chests are actually mimics. Mimics are always a plus in my book, as long as they aren’t annoying to kill. I’m looking at you, Vagrant Story. Boss chests are also locked until you kill the boss guarding them.
All powerful enemies and bosses drop a bunch of items. Unlike Diablo 3, items are not for your class only, but this isn’t a huge problem, since there’s a shared stash. In fact, this is something I prefer. If a great item for a different class drops, it gives me an extra reason to start a new character.
The loot system in Torchlight is extremely fun. Is it more fun than the loot system in Diablo 3, I’m not confident enough to say.
Torchlight 2 vs Diablo 3 – Features
Come to think of it, Diablo 3 is very feature-poor. There’s the core loot-collecting, monster slaying game, the jeweler and blacksmith, with the blacksmith basically being the Diablo 2 gambler, except more grindy.
Other than that, you have the auction house, with which I have a love-hate relationship and I’m having a hard time thinking of anything else. There are achievements, but Torchlight 2 also has those and they are tied to your Steam account. The paragon system, maybe?
Torchlight has no jeweler. Embers (the equivalent of gems) cannot be upgraded. There is, however, an enchanter, which I’ve already explained. Sometimes, you can also stumble into special enchanters within the world, who can then add several levels of a specific type of enchantment to your item.
There are gem destroyers and gem removers. The first empties the socket on your item, but the gem is lost. The second does the opposite. This is just basic, though.
There is a pet system. Each character get’s a pet on the creation screen. You pick their appearance. Pets help you attack enemies, can tank for you, have item and spell slots and most importantly, they have an inventory. You can fill up this inventory with your junk and then send the pet to town to sell it. It takes a couple of minutes, but it saves you the trip. You can also give them a shopping list of basic consumables, so they bring you back some stuff.
The fishing system ties in with the pet system. There are fishing nodes throughout the game, where you can play the fishing mini-game. They sometimes drop useful items, but for the most part, they drop fish. You use this fish to transform your pet into different monsters for a limited time, making it stronger, cooler and more useful.
Unlike Diablo 3 (without the expansion), there is a way-point system. This is a plus for me, but probably a non-issue for many.
Also unlike Diablo 3, the different difficulties of Torchlight 2 are selectable at the start of the game. Opposite of way-points, this is a non-issue for me, but a plus for some.
Overall, I feel compelled to say Torchlight 2 wins in the feature department.
Torchlight 2 vs Diablo 3 – Overall feel
There is such a thing as game feel, and I have to say Diablo 3 wins in that department, though it’s a very narrow victory.
Fights in both games feel great. The screen shakes, enemies fly around and you feel powerful while using your skills and attacks. That being said, I seem to bi miss-clicking on enemies slightly more often in Torchlight. The system lacks polish, and it shows, but only slightly.
After this amazing high-quality analysis (it’s sarcasm, relax), all I can say is that right now, I like Torchlight 2 more. Back in the early days of Diablo 3, I liked the idea of Diablo 3 more.
In a few months, who knows. Torchlight 2 now costs 5€ on a sale, so even the three hours I spent with it would have been worth it. I like it, and I’ll enjoy the game for a while. That’s all that really matters.
None of the games I’m comparing it to are gone. I can always play them.