Throwdown: Torchlight II or Diablo III?
Third and I both recently delved back into the depths under the town of Torchlight. Though I can’t speak for Third (but I can order for him at restaurants), I have to say I’m even more impressed now than I was the first time I played through the game. So much so, that, as I told Wade (to his confused mixture of disappointment and disbelief), I am now officially more excited for Torchlight II than I am for Diablo III.
And the music comes to a screeching halt. Hit the jump to throw it down.
When Torchlight was initially announced/released, it was (inevitably and invariably) compared to Diablo. The comparison was an easy one to make (for lazy internet gaming journalists…like me), but it was due to more than just similar gameplay. Runic Games was founded in 2008 by Travis Baldree, Peter Hu, Max Schaefer, and Erich Schaefer. Max Schaefer and Erich Schaefer were co-founders of the now defunct Blizzard North, the company responsible for all of the existing games in the Diablo franchise. Following the release of the Diablo II expansion, Lord of Destruction, several key members of the Blizzard North team (rumored to be unhappy with parent company Vivendi) left the company to pursue other ventures, among them Flagship Studios. Flagship Studios released Hellgate: London and was developing a second game when the company disbanded due to financial troubles. Despite their initial difficulties, the group decided they had a good thing going, reformed under the moniker Runic Games, and, in 2009, released Torchlight to great critical and commercial success. Still with me? We’ve now come full circle. It’s worth noting that we have never seen a Diablo game that didn’t involve many of the people now working at Runic Games. So, to call Torchlight a “Diablo clone” is both unfair and inaccurate. Torchlight is more like Diablo‘s half-brother from another marriage. But which brother is best?
If you haven’t played Torchlight, go do that now. It takes the formula you know and love from Diablo and makes improvements that are so intuitive, you’ll wonder why things weren’t always this way. Don’t want to go back to town every time your inventory is full? Send your pet. He’ll bring back the money. Don’t want to waste precious skill points on the useless skills early in a tree just so you can get the later, greater skills in said tree? You don’t have to. The only skill prerequisites are level based. There’s also a pretty great character “retirement” system, and feeding fish to your pet to transform him/her into different creatures finally gives me a reason to care about fishing in an RPG. Or at all.
Let’s talk dungeons. Although Tristram (everyone’s favorite little gateway to the underworld) will always have a special place in my heart, Torchlight definitely gives it a run for it’s money. Because you’re just underground and not, you know, in Hell, Torchlight is able to use a variety of different environments to keep things interesting. Mines quickly become lost ruins, forgotten jungles, abandoned Dwarven forges, and other, more ominous, settings. Again, because it’s not, you know, Hell, the mines can feel dangerous without feeling depressing.
How about user support? Runic Games seems to have embraced the Torchlight fan community, offering a free editor and encouraging the use of player created mods. The universal criticism of Torchlight was that it lacked multiplayer, and (in answer) Torchlight II will have it, via both LAN and Steam. Diablo III, on the other hand, will most likely follow Starcraft II and require mandatory Battle.net registration. You know, Battle.net? The one without LAN play. To quote Hitler, “you think Blizzard actually fucking listens to people”?
Blizzard is famous (or notorious) for their “it’s ready when it’s finished” mentality. And, admittedly, their games are always incredibly polished. In contrast, production on Torchlight lasted under a year. I would argue (and I am arguing it now) that Torchlight is as well done as any Blizzard game I have ever played (taking into account the development of technology over time). And if that’s what Runic Games can do in eleven months, I can’t wait to see what they do with the increased time and moneys they’re spending on the sequel.
Of course, this may be much ado about nothing. Torchlight II comes out this Spring. Diablo III may, eventually, come out. Who do you like?