When we look back at the Switch in ten years time, there’ll be a lot of debate about the best and worst titles, the choicest exclusives, and the bemoaning of how we still didn’t get Mother 3 in the US. Many people will point towards studios bringing AAA titles for the first time to a Nintendo home, and how that makes certain big players the strongest members of the library, or how Nintendo finally decided to play ball with other kids and it led to the best partnerships of the generation. However, I do hope that everyone, and not just the fanboys, can remember the name Panic Button. Their mastery in making ports of games that seemed unfathomable on the Switch has been legendary, and the greatest challenge – Witcher 3 – is still on the horizon to prove whether they truly have dominion over the games. Before that, though, we must all salute their valiant work and success in taking the last, great title of Runic Games, the IP that’s forever owned by Perfect World, and making it a masterpiece on the Nintendo Switch. I’m talking, of course, about Torchlight II.
Interestingly enough, I’ve seen Torchlight in mobile format some years ago at a Tokyo Game Show back in 2015. At that time, Perfect World was pretty sure they were going to do a straight Torchlight II port (and now they’re working on an exclusive MMO set in the Torchlight world, Torchlight Frontiers), so the demo was, in essence, Torchlight II. It played fairly well, but I don’t remember being especially wowed by it. The biggest draw of the entire exercise was being able to play Torchlight on the go, and that, for the most part, was executed successfully. However, it relied on touchscreen controls, and the hope that players around the world and across platforms would have device-compatible controllers was a bit too far of a reach. As a result, I walked away feeling like it was a good idea, but there wasn’t a great way to pull it off just yet. Thankfully, the Nintendo Switch edition of Torchlight II erases all those concerns, as the buttons and controls port perfectly to JoyCons and 3rd party controllers alike.
If you’ve never played Torchlight or Torchlight II, consider this for a moment. You’ve got a game like Diablo II, the classic hack-n-slash dungeon crawler where you’re drowning in loot at all times. Now increase the loot by an absurd amount. Add a ton of variety to the enemies and make them more fantasy and less Gothic in nature. Also, just surgically remove the central plot because who the hell cares when you’re neck deep in goblins, skeletons and piles of gold? There is a story to Torchlight II, though it’s canonical connection to the first game should not put off newcomers. Torchlight, the main city which inspires the title of the game, has just been razed to the ground by The Alchemist, a character from the first game who used to be a good guy (and a playable character). He’s gone insane, and is trying to find a cure via destroying everything, and you need to find some way to stop him, while also showcasing your abilities to be a fine adventurer yourself. While the plot is a vessel to drive the game forward, players should not feel worried if they lose the thread or misstep within the parameters of the storyline. If you like the idea of getting down and dirty with just a ridiculous amount of equipment, customization, and quests jumping out at you from every single bush, then you’re already 80% on board with Torchlight II.
The main concept behind the addictive gameplay is as follows: enter into an area, seek out enemies and destroy them. You are able to do this through melee attacks, spells, and having your pet do the attacking for you. As you slaughter enemies and take down hordes of baddies, various loot will drop, and it’s an impressive spread from the word go. Almost everyone will drop coins, and quite a few will drop expendable items (health and mana potions, one time magic scrolls, etc.). The biggest draw for the players, however, is the equipment, and Torchlight II has a staggering variety of wearables that crop up, from one weapon in each hand (or one big weapon for two) to rings, belts, head pieces, and even pet tags that boost the stats and abilities of the beast you’re traveling with. Additionally, the equipment can be both cursed or enchanted to add and detract additional specs, like life draining (either yours or theirs) or adding elemental damage. PLUS, equipment can have slots into which you insert gemstones that you find that add even more passive abilities, but be careful: once inserted, you have to pay a handsome price to get those gems back, so be sure you’ve gotten the gear you want to wear for a while before inserting those precious stones.
From a top-down perspective, Torchlight II can be a bit of a scary thing to undertake for solo players, as it can get easy to become a bit overwhelmed with the scope of the map and the number of nooks and crannies you need to explore. Don’t worry, though: there’s no such thing as a single attempt at Torchlight II. I recommend picking literally any of the four classes (Berserker, Embermage, Engineer or Outlander) and setting the difficulty to casual, and then easing yourself into the pool. The best way, the absolute best way to learn about Torchlight II, is to experience it firsthand. Notice how the game bends to your will and changes the perspective on things as you move forward? If you want your mage to be more of a brute than a spellcaster, you can get the equipment and buff the right stats to make it so. If you want to take your time and really focus on every single battle instead of running through the mobs like a man on fire, you can afford some breathing room and time (and your pet can certainly help absorb damage and incoming hits). Also, this gives you a chance to marvel at how the game can change on a dime and be what YOU want it to be. If you want your mage to drop the books and pick up the weights, you can pivot, at any level, to a new vantage, a new perspective, a new whatever you’d like. Hell, if you find the right spells, you can transmogrify your pet into a brand new animal! Once you’re comfortable and feel like you got the hang of it, go ahead and make a new character. Make the same one, make another, whatever, and move up the difficulty meter. Put things on normal and get ready for a long, turbulent ride that can take you almost anywhere.
Torchlight II is a fantastic game to look at as well as play, and I say that from the perspective of someone who values a good balance of presentation and style. Moving from the initial, woodsy overworld into the multi-terrained dungeons even within the first Act is something to behold, and it’s a pleasant surprise to how much variety exists in terms of exploration locations. While you never encounter a sort of environmental trap setting, you still need to contend with waterlogged temples, crumbling tombs, shining obelisks and plenty of dank, shadowy corners where all manner of beasts attack. The art styling also carries into the monsters themselves, as auras and hues indicate that there isn’t just one hundred or so basic monsters to combat. There’ll be higher ranked creatures who are imbued with different attributes and enchantments themselves, culminating into massive boss creatures that dominate the screen and send shockwaves with every step, every swing of the hammer. You might *think* you’ve encountered a boss, but, in reality, it was only an elite monster: a real boss creature (like the ones that signal the ends of the Acts) will take incredible amounts of time and planning to deal with, often resulting in your death and resurrection (at a hefty price) multiple times, especially if you’re trying the game solo. Thankfully, you never have to go at it alone.
People often look shocked and dismayed when they see I’ve put over 100 hours into The Binding of Isaac on the Switch, and it can be a bit difficult to explain why I like to keep playing the same game again and again, unlocking a bit more every time. Torchlight II has the same kind of addiction factor, though I argue that, in terms of replay, it’s closer to Siralim 3. The main quests and storylines will take up quite a bit of time, sure, but that’s just when the game is warming up and getting you ready for postgame. The ability for randomly generated dungeons to be purchased and utilized makes for people who enjoy the crawling to be able to dive back in, again and again, to see just how much loot they can discover. The New Game Plus is just absurd amounts of fun, as liquifying the enemies of the first two Acts with a Berserker who cleared the whole game has a satisfaction level that’s unprecedented. And did I mention that there’s online and local multiplayer? You will almost certainly be able to match up with players, as the good price tag, the portable nature and the Switch exclusive pet (the unicorn, love that thing) can easily entice players who already own Torchlight II to double dip. The multiplayer experience allows for you to use your existing solo character (or make a new one just for online adventures) to go out and raid with friends and strangers alike. You share experience from successfully felled bosses as long as you’re in proximity – no hiding on the edge of the screen – but the loot is first come, first serve. What results is a sense of camaraderie that is so tenuously balanced you could be celebrating the joint effort in the first breath and cursing the greed of whoever got the Eye of Grell before you even realized it dropped. Oh, and yes, not all of the loot will drop all the time, so you’ll want to go back and kill the same bosses again and again until you’ve got it all. You wanna be the best damn raider ever, dontcha?
One of the biggest pulls of Torchlight II on the Switch, and the reason that I’m so happy with Panic Button, is that it plays so damn well. There is almost no load between areas and Acts, the game responds at a moment’s notice, and I have yet, after several hours, to see a spot in the game where the number of mobs, explosive magic or sheer amount of activity causes slowdown. It’s not just that this is a great indie title that was polished and cared for on the PC to this level: it’s that there was some serious consideration about what was important and valuable for players coming over, either for the first time or the 500th time. The game simply works, and works well, and not in the “it’s not on fire so that’s fine” sort of way. Torchlight II sits comfortably on the Switch like it was built there first and has had the time and love that the Steam and GOG versions have seen. Plus…seriously, have you seen the unicorn?
If you liked the idea of Diablo III but either couldn’t get behind the price tag or the massive amount of storylore that comes with it, Torchlight II is the game for you. It’s perfect in quick bursts of solo raiding and looting, or for a full evening of sharing and arguing over loot with friends and strangers. There’s never an end to the fun, and there’s always the chance that the next chest will have the greatest battleaxe or boomstick that the game has ever seen. You just need to gank it faster than the others. It’s worth the price and is absolutely worth all of your time.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Torchlight II Review
Gameplay - 9/10
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 9/10
Replay Value - 9/10
User Review( votes)
The Switch continues to expand with endless, boundless games, and the granddaddy of party looters comes home to roost, and it looks so damn good.