Torchlight 2 +Gone Home: Exploring an in-depth house and a shallow world.
Updated: Jan 7, 2019
Another batch of short games means another double review for all you lovely readers, I normally want to do these double deals with games that carry some sort of theme, with AD 2044, King of Fighters 2002 PC port and Game Tycoon 1.5 the theme was poor quality and now the theme is exploration. The rubbish factor is a minor theme but the major theme is going to be exploration. Let’s get started.
Torchlight 2 is a top down dungeon crawler RPG, actually lets not be coy around this. Torchlight 2 is Diablo 3 if all the dark fantasy imagery and atmosphere had been replaced with that cartoonish art style that had so many of the Diablo fans afraid Blizzard would afflict on the Diablo IP . I am stalling I must admit, because Torchlight 2’s story is rather.....unremarkable, it is saving the world from X threat (the player from the previous game know as the Alchemist), you have to save guardians who were corrupted by the Alchemist and each act has you travel to a different land. It is so uninvolving and lacking in atmosphere. I cannot for the life of me remember anything about the world nor did I ever really feel that I am exploring a place but rather a very pretty simulation of a high fantasy setting. The story never succeeds in drawing me in, which is not to say that there is no creativity in this game (More on that later). The story and lore is weak to nonexistent, the voice acting is mediocre with everyone appearing to be as bored of the world as I was, and the occasional bad grammar “When (character name) made to leave” makes me wonder if Runic games was as bored or uncaring about the lore and story as I was. The bosses just come and go with very little ceremony or gravitas, are not that difficult to kill and always seem to end with a clear sense of anti-climax.
However the game play is quite fun, playing as an Ember Mage gave me quite a number of cool spells that allowed me to blow up my enemies in a number of fun ways. Not brainless enough for it to be boring but not too complex for it to be annoying. Each class has three taps of seven abilities and three passives. The passives can be upgraded fifteen times and active abilities have three tiers of five upgrades. This does seem like a good idea until you realise that you only gain one upgrade each time you level up or gain enough fame (I never understood what fame was for asides from gaining a upgrade point when it gets to an arbitrary level) this was not that good of an design decision in Diablo 3 but at least there you could level up quickly. In Torchlight 2 the gap between levels becomes longer and longer which means that you are forced to upgrade only a small number of abilities unless you wanted to have a wide selection of weak abilities, it stops experimentation and forces you to stick to a certain build of modestly weak to powerful spells, it also makes the optional quests inescapable as dungeons have level recommendations and if you do not meet those recommendations then you will be pounded into the ground. However I do like how the game compensates for the longer dungeons by giving you a pet at the start of the game to carry excess items as well as sell and buy items for you (mine was Heady the head crab) I like this as you do not have to stop exploring the dungeon to sell off items every now and then, it keeps the pace up.
The game does have internet gaming and Lan, I was not able to use the internet as no one joined my game but the servers are running and people are using them. Just not that many of them sadly as there were (at time of writing) only two online games and both were private. Props to whoever has been allowing to servers to remain live as certain other companies would have shut them down by now.
Game does look nice; the cartoonish art style has aged very well in spite of basic textures and limited animations. The enemy designs are quite creative especially in act three where we have scarecrow witches summoning scarecrow crows and voodoo dolls, headless woodcutters and werewolves. That act had the wonderful air of a fairy tale gone wrong and I would have loved to have seen more of it.
The game functions well, I cannot find any bugs, glitches or performance problems at all, a very good PC port.
Torchlight 2 is not a bad game per say, it is not a good game either. It is just very mediocre, enjoyable enough to where I did not rage quit but I doubt I will play it again. Maybe try Path of Exile instead.
Now moving onto the next item we go from a save the world story to a smaller story about exploring a single house.
Katie Greenbriar returns back home after a long time travelling the world. Upon coming home her parents and younger sister Sam is not home. From the first person perspective Katie wonders around the house discovering what happened to her family in the years during Katie’s globetrotting journey. I really like the story, the short length (you can finish this game within an hour or less) is perfect for this story, there is a keen sense of mystery and wonder, Katie is not just a camera man mopping up a more interesting story but a character with drive and curiosity, we are just as unfamiliar with the house as she is and we do not completely know what happened to her family much herself. Unlike Torchlight 2 I felt I was in a living breathing world that felt more important and more real then Torchlight 2 could ever hope to be. Sam and the rest of the cast are very well voice acted and written.
The game play is very basic; all you have to do is move and pick up stuff with E. There is some very basic puzzle solving. That is kind of it really and it is not difficult in the slightest. It’s fine that is all I can say really, the game play works to push the plot along and that is about it.
Graphics are basic 3D assets that serve the game fine, they do not look ugly. It’s ok. Technical aspects are round about the same, only some minor stuttering. There is nothing to really complain about here.
Gone Home has a beautiful heartfelt story at the centre of rudimentary game play, while that can be a problem if you are a more game play focused player I would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys short narrative driven games.
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